Kaoru Hanabishi, an ordinary college student, runs into a beautiful young woman dressed in an old-fashioned kimono, lost and flustered in the complicated Tokyo subway system. After taking great pains to escort the woman to her destination, he discovers that she is really his friend, Aoi Sakuraba, whom he had promised to marry almost two decades earlier...Except that the engagement had been annulled by the Sakuraba clan when Kaoru left the Hanabishi clan, after years of abuse from his grandfather. Aoi — who had loved him since childhood and dreamed of marrying him — is unable to accept the annulment and tracks down Kaoru to find out why he doesn’t want to marry her. After they meet up again as adults, and he properly falls in love with her, they decide to reaffirm the engagement but are forced into an unusual situation: in order not to shame the Sakuraba family, they must keep their relationship a secret even as they move into a Sakuraba mansion with the help of Aoi's guardian, Miyabi Kagurazaki.Sureenough, almost immediately a group of college girls move into the mansion, one by one -- and all of them fall in love with Kaoru. (Except for the ones that were already in love with him long before the beginning of the series.) Hilarity Ensues, as Kaoru and Aoi (who pose as tenant and landlady) try to keep their relationship a secret.Ran from 1998 to 2005, with an anime adaptation in 2002 (and a follow-up, Enishi, in 2003). See also Umi no Misaki, the creator's subsequent (ongoing) series, also a harem-based romantic comedy but with very different relationship dynamics. A Visual Novel with an original story taking place in the anime's continuity was released for PlayStation 2 in Japan in 2003, and a special English-language version was released for PC in North America by Hirameki International Group Inc..
Accidental Pervert: What's Kaoru to do, with all these clumsy, often-half-dressed girls chasing after him every which way? Something of an inversion in that it's nearly always the fault of the girl in question. Also arguably subverted, in that everyone knows and admits that it's not Kaoru's fault.
A couple of them — Chika and Tina — even attempt to use the situation to their advantage in their pursuit of Kaoru. One fairly innocently, the other ... considerably less so.
Achey Scars: Kaoru's, courtesy of his ol' mean grandpa.
Adaptation Distillation: At least as far as the anime covers, it resequences certain events, yet maintains a coherent story flow.
All-Loving Hero: Aoi loves everyone, and everyone loves Aoi. Pretty much every female member of the cast aspires to be like Aoi. Ironically, however, Aoi seems a bit oblivious to the depths of devotion of her own mentor, Miyabi.
Almost Kiss: Several instances of interruption by others when Kaoru and Aoi are about to kiss.
Art Shift: Frequent in Imagine Spots. Also when any character is embarrassed or, sometimes, just witnessing someone else being embarrassed.
Barbie Doll Anatomy: In the manga partially averted - there's not much to see down below, but the girls' nipples are always visible when they are topless (and sometimes visible through their blouses / swimsuits).
In the anime version, everyone has Barbie Doll Anatomy. Except Tina (very briefly) in the episode where she and Kaoru get stuck in town and have to spend a night together at a love hotel.
In the manga Aoi and Kaoru are together like they wanted. But they have both been expelled from their families.On the one hand, Aoi says she and Kaoru are happy. She also says that she doesn't get to see him as much as she might like because he works long hours to support them. There is also the big fact that the True Companions have been split up, although Aoi says they do get to see each other sometimes. Maybe call it a Happy Ending with bittersweet caveats.
Cannot Spit It Out: With the notable exceptions of Mayu and Chika, pretty much all the girls, in their feelings toward Kaoru. Especially Tina, who's loved Kaoru for years.
Also, for a different reason, Kaoru and Aoi are unable to reveal their relationship to the other characters. Hilarity Ensues, especially for Tina.
In "Moonlight" and the preceding episode(s), Tina's inability to admit she's leaving Japan to return to her family home in America — or even, when the time comes, to say goodbye.
This is in character for Tina according to the various bits of backstory revealed earlier in the series; most notably when it's revealed that Tina's abrupt disappearance on her year-long around-the-world backpacking trip was the result of her inability to deal with her feelings for Kaoru. She also claims later to have seen something between Aoi and Kaoru right away as a major reason why she still couldn't spit out her feelings to Kaoru even after coming back.
Can't Hold Her Liquor: Aoi, who is near-unconcious after 3 beers. Kaoru as well, unless that Gargle Blaster Tina brought back was a unique case. Taeko, on the other hand, tosses it back with no trouble.
Christmas Cake: Miyabi, seemingly. Given her devotion to Aoi and to the Sakuraba family business, it's not clear when she'd ever have time to date. On the other hand, given the intensity of her devotion to Aoi, it's not entirely clear she'd even want to.
Aoi, before the series begins, when she learns that her engagement to Kaoru has been broken. Played straight in the sense that Aoi gets her man. Mild subversion in that it wasn't Kaoru but rather her family who broke the engagement, so in a way she was pursuing a love interest she had already won.
Drives Like Crazy: Taeko treats driving an actual car like doing it in an arcade. The maneuvers we are shown are actually quite skillful, but scare the bejesus out of her passengers.
Dudette, He's Like In a Coma: Tina and Kaoru are forced to spend a night in a love hotel (chaste, since they're only friends), on account of rain and having missed the homebound trains. While Kaoru is asleep, Tina silently debates with herself about kissing him. Judging from her thoughts the next day, she went through with it several times — and seemed alternately happy and regretful about taking advantage of him. Kaoru didn't notice.
Saionji might be an even more extreme example — he doesn't even seem to have opinions of his own — but it's difficult to know for certain, since he's Mayu's butler / chauffeur and we never see him off duty. He seems not to resent it at all when she says, "Have I ever told you why I hate Japanese men? They're rude, filthy, and simple-minded." Shortly afterward, he asks Kaoru to "please be a friend to Mayu-sama."
Gratuitous English: Tina and Mayu have both spent a lot of time in English-speaking countries, yet neither speak it very well. Mild Lampshade Hanging when people keep asking Tina if she is really American.
Lampshaded more obviously when Tina and Mayu first meet; and Tina momentarily forgets how to speak English.
Green-Eyed Monster: Mayu Miyuki. The other members of the Unwanted Harem evoke jealousy, envy, and resentment in her heart, and she inspires similar feelings in some of them — especially Tina. Of course, Mayu's all-around nastiness toward Tina doesn't help matters.
On the other hand, Miyabifeelsresentment toward Kaoru for hogging Aoi's attention all these years, and she flat-out tells him so. She also feels jealousy on Aoi's behalf whenever she sees him with the other girls.
Aoi feels jealousy much more readily over time in the manga, especially once the harem reaches critical mass with the addition of Chika. She doesn't show it as much given the pronounced pressure from her family to keep a lid on the relationship. She finally admits it to Kaoru later on, and the pressure of having to keep the relationship a secret while watching other women be so openly affectionate puts a great strain on her.
Inverted by Chika. At first she encourages her Those Two Girls friends Natsuki and Chizuru to leap to the wrong conclusions about the nature of her relationship with Kaoru. Later, when they call him her boyfriend, she corrects them and says he isn't — but wistfully. She'd love to be able to tell them he is.
Aoi also has an atypical relationship with this trope: whenever any member of The Unwanted Harem inquires about her feelings for Kaoru, she gets flustered and denies them. The initial reason is to keep their betrothal secret so as not to create scandal for the Sakurabas, but as the series progresses it feels more and more like an outright Idiot Plot.
Identical Grandfather: An old photograph reveals that some presumed-ancestor of Taeko, who looks identical to our Taeko even down to the glasses and maid outfit, had an unrequited crush on some presumed-ancestor of Kaoru, who looks identical to our Kaoru.
Lovable Sex Maniac: Tina, considering she's groped every female in the cast except Mayu, as well as practically assaulting Kaoru on a couple of occasions.
Love Hotels: Tina and Kaoru have to stay in one overnight when they get stuck in the city.
Love You and Everybody: In one episode, Chika inverts this trope by cornering each of the girls and badgering them to find out if they "love" Kaoru, only to end the episode with the gleeful proclamation that everyone loves Kaoru. Since Children Are Innocent, to her that counts as a happy resolution to the issue.
Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Averted. Although definitely a dream girl, and arguably pixie-ish, Aoi is decidely not manic, or overtly quirky, or even all that chipper except when basking in her love for Kaoru. And if Manic Pixie Dream Girl-wannabee Tina ever had any chance at a beyond-platonic relationship with Kaoru, her abrupt disappearance for a year — ironically, in part to try to get her act together for Kaoru — completely sabotaged it.
Marshmallow Hell: Kaoru is sandwiched between Tina's and Taeko's considerable chests in chapter 36 of the manga.
He also gets a dose from Aoi, thanks to her more-prodigious-than-advertised assets and her tendency to grab things in her sleep.
Aoi's surname (桜庭 Sakuraba) means "cherry-blossom garden" — she informs Kaoru that her family is named after a grove of cherry trees they've owned for centuries — and the name Aoi can mean "hollyhock flower" (which is the kanji she uses to spell her name, 葵) as well as "blue."
Meido: Taeko. Chika and Mayu get into the act, too.
Ms. Fanservice: At first, Taeko, as the fetish model for the photography club. Later, when that arc gets dropped, Tina.
Or, you know, pretty much the entire female cast.
Missing Mom: The Hanabishi clan took Kaoru from her, at age five, when his father died. A few years later, she too died. Not just that, but his grandfather destroyed all her photographs and belongings. All of them, that is, except a jewelry-box key young Kaoru gave young Aoi as a Very Special Present.
Mood Whiplash: The show bounces bizarrely between lighthearted (if not outright filler) fanservice and poignant romance. In the first season and much of the second, most of the poignancy comes from the backstory of Aoi and Kaoru. During the sequel Enishi — by which point most of the reasons for Aoi and Kaoru to worry for their future, and to keep their romance a secret, have been resolved — the poignancy tips increasingly toward Tina.
Nobody Poops: Averted once in the manga. Chizuru, trying to calm herself down and get over her fear of swimming, is shown sitting on a toilet with her swimsuit actually pulled down, implying that if she's not pooping, she's at least peeing.
It also does nothing with Tina's learning about Kaoru and Aoi's Official Couple status, though one could say that the conversation Tina and Aoi have on the roof implies to the viewer that Tina's cool with it.
Not What It Looks Like: Subverted, as Kaoru gets into improper situations, but the girls actually listen to his explanations and realize it's not his fault. Sometimes even realize that it's not his fault even without explanations.
Aoi always gives him the benefit of the doubt.
Miyabi's first appearance didn't even give Kaoru time to explain before she gave him a beatdown.
Obake: One haunts the mansion, terrorizing the girls (especially Tina) while they try to sleep. Well, except that it turns out to be just Tina's ferret Uzume.
Likely comes from a chapter of the manga where Aoi tells Chika that as a group, they're all tied together by a karmic relationship called "enishi." Something that would have similar connotations to calling the sequel "True Companions" instead.
Or perhaps not. While they're definitely pretty, they're not freeloaders; each pays rent and / or helps out around the house. Moreover, they don't fit the parameters of the trope because what they're really after is Kaoru himself, not what they can get out of him (i.e. room and board — which, as mentioned, they're not getting anyway free, anyway). When first introduced, Tina Fosterappears to fit this trope, but that's only because she hides her true motivations.
Puni Plush: Only on occasion. Usually it's when a character has been humiliated in some way. Often accompanied by a Face Fault or similar slapstick.
Puppy Love: When Kaoru and Aoi meet and fall in love as toddlers. In this case, after many a setback, the ship did eventually set sail.
Conversely: it really should have been obvious to everyone that there was more going on between "Kaoru-sama" and "Aoi-chan" than just a tenant-landlady relationship. Leaving aside her odd deference toward him and his odd familiarity toward her ... how many words can Aoi go without mentioning Kaoru?
A possible Retcon, but late in the manga Tina reveals she had known from the instant she first saw Kaoru and Aoi together that something was up between them, which contributed heavily to her most recent bout of Cannot Spit It Out with regards to Kaoru.
Sempai/Kohai: Whenever addressing her elders, Taeko uses "sempai" either as a designation or as an honorific suffix. That includes Kaoru, even though in her Tragic Dream the two of them are destined to fall in love. It even includes Aoi, who, according to back-of-the-envelope calculations, ought to be younger than Taeko. But Aoi is of much higher caste than Taeko, and is also both her landlady and her boss, so in this case, "sempai" may nothing more than a sign of respect and esteem. See also The Nick Namer.
Ship Tease: Now and then, but surprisingly little for an Unwanted Harem comedy. Unless you count one-sided ships, which aren't known for their smooth sailing.
Significant Birth Date: Aoi was born on the day of Tanabata, which celebrates the once-a-year meeting of Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair) across the Milky Way. It's the Japanese equivalent to Valentine's Day.
Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Nearly every female in the cast, toward Kaoru — at least three of them (Aoi, Tina, Mayu) from years before the opening of the series.
A Valentine's Day chapter of the manga had the girls providing Kaoru with chocolate. Lots of chocolate; so much, it made him queasy. But Miyabi surely wouldn't want to give him chocolate. She gave him cocoa. "...I guess that's Miyabi-san's way of caring about me."
Smug Snake: Kaoru's half-brother, who outright abducts Aoi and manages to arrange for the manor to be closed down in an effort to make her marry him in place of Kaoru, so he can inherit.
Social Services Does Not Exist: Kaoru's grandfather was apparently in the habit of beating the hell out of him with his cane while goons held him down and burning his deceased mother's last worldly possessions, just to show his tyrannical disapproval of her marriage to Kaoru's father. Kaoru should be nominated for sainthood for just running away without first snapping and murdering his grandpa, like any normal person would have done when pushed that far.
Supporting Harem: Made clear by the fact that the lead girl has already won within the first few episodes. (Just the rest of the Harem doesn't know, and for various reasons they feel they need to keep it a secret).
Take My Hand: Kaoru and Aoi in the first season opening. In the first version, they fail, but in the second, they succeed.
Take That: Some of the in-universe video games seem to be light-hearted jabs at real-life video games. These may be more examples of shoutouts. A rare nasty example would be the in-universe movie "Pretty Horse," which seems to simultaneously a parody of movies about young girls and their love for horses — and also a pointed jab at Julia Roberts.
Tanabata: Aoi's birthday. Also occasionally pops up as a plot point.
Theme Tune Cameo: In one episode, Kaoru of all people sings karaoke to the end theme. A different song (sung by Tina) plays over that episode's credits, perhaps indicating some kind of theme conservation law. Also, episode 15 starts with Aoi humming the opening theme.
Tomboy and Girly Girl: Most clearly paired off are Those Two Girls Natsuki (tomboy) and her bff Chizuru (girly girl). The other examples are somewhat more mix-and-match. As the two youngest recurring characters in the original anime series, Chika (tomboy) and Mayu (girly girl) could be paired off. One could make a case for Tina and Aoi. That would leave Miyabi (tomboy) and Taeko (girly girl), although pairing them off is odd in that the two of them don't interact much.
Another way to divvy them up would be Miyabi (tomboy), who looks after Aoi (girly girl); and Aoi's would-be rivals Tina (tomboy) and Taeko (girly girl).
Worth noting: Tina is herself a mix of Tomboy and Girly Girl. On the one hand she likes groping girls and playing video games and drinking too much. On the other hand, she adores animals and has long, flowing hair and wears sexy (if casual) clothes.
Which presumably makes them the Half-Wanted Harem.
Unrequited Love Lasts Forever: As shown in the Distant Finale, despite Kaoru's marriage to Aoi, Mayu still hasn't given up on him and visits their house at least once a month, often getting on Aoi's nerves in the process.
Vitriolic Best Buds: In the manga, Chika's assessment of the relationship between Mayu and Tina. Mayu loudly expresses outrage: "Just so we're clear, she will state it outright: Mayu absolutely hates Tina-san!" But then...◊
Miyabi is physically capable of throwing Kaoru across a room — but the sight of Uzume bringing her a large dead bug makes her climb onto his back and wail, "NOO!" And Uzume, like a cat, brings her lots of bugs as a token of love.
Tina has a phobia of thunderstorms.
Witch Species: "Sataoi" from Miyuki is just one of many "Santas" that bring the gift of pleasent dreams on Christmas.
Aoi wanted to be Kaoru's since childhood. She's got the skill set and general attitude of a Yamato Nadeshiko, but her whole situation with Kaoru would be entirely different if she weren't assertive enough to defy her family's authority. She makes it abundantly clear that her ultimate devotion is to love, not a particularly traditionalist viewpoint.