I had always thought that Ai Yori Aoshi was in this weird space where the show’s premise doesn’t work on a fundamental level, but if the show were shifted just a teensy bit, it could have been this kind of deconstruction of the harem comedy genre. It’s a common belief that it’s usually “obvious” which girl is going to win in these kinds of series due to things like prominence in promotional materials, book/DVD covers, etc., but here it’s explicitly obvious in the storyline without the need for air quotes.
Which is why the series kind of doesn’t work. Kaoru and Aoi were brothed since they were kids. She’s “won” before the first season even started, and “won” in the generic sense at the end of the first season. But for some reason, everyone keeps up this whole harem charade. It’s completely impossible for any other character to “win”, but everyone still routinely acts flustered around Kaoru or get incredibly embarrassed when Chika goes around randomly being like “HAY GAIZ DO YOU GAIZ LOOOOOOOVE KAORU?!”
At the same time however, I kept feeling that there could have been this inkling that the series could have pursued some kind deconstructive aspect. It could have been about the whole futility of “ZOMG WHO WILL HE PICK!?” when it becomes pretty obvious to all the characters very early on that he has “picked” Aoi. Or perhaps, about how the series loses any kind of “what if?” shipping capability when there really isn’t any possibility for the other characters? For example, nobody will ever choose the loli, because she is always literally half the guy’s age. One other possibility: showing the inherent futility in many of the stock character types in these kinds of shows.
The latter was why I couldn’t actually care about Tina’s story at the end of the series. Along with the aforementioned reason that Aoi won before the show even started, Tina’s an exchange student. She will be leaving sooner rather than later, so she can’t even have the ability to “win”. Rather than feeling pathos, I wondered why she would get so emotionally involved in something that so obviously wouldn’t work.
Also, when she was telling her tragic backstory to Aoi about how she couldn’t fit in culturally in high school in America because of having lived in Japan, I laughed and thought “Cracka, please. Don’t even start with that. You have white privilege!” That and the fact that the weeaboos in her school would’ve been ALL OVER THAT SHIT once they spotted the oversexed blonde with giant boobs that acts Japanese.
Would I watch it even if I weren’t forced? I was indifferent about continuing after I finished the first season.