Ai Yori Aoshi(藍より青し?) is a Japanese seinen manga written and illustrated by Kou Fumizuki and serialized from 1998 to 2005 in Hakusensha's Young Animal. The manga and anime series features an extensive cast of characters. The male protagonist is Kaoru Hanabishi, a university student, is the eldest son of Yūji Hanabishi, the head of the Hanabishi Zaibatsu. The female protagonist is Aoi Sakuraba. Aoi is the only daughter of the owner of the Sakuraba Dry Goods Store (later renamed to Sakuraba Department Store). Kaoru's family and Aoi's family had expected for Kaoru to marry Aoi, but after Kaoru walked out, the marriage was canceled.
The primary male protagonist of the series. He's a fairly average person and he doesn't fit the mold of the stereotypical male hero in most harem anime series. For the most part, he's shown to be a fairly good student, and isn't prone to emotional outbursts unlike other leading males in harem anime. He's generally well liked and is a member of the photography club at Meiritsu University. He resents the Hanabishi clan for their inhumane treatment of himself and his mother, which was due in turn to that clan's disapproval of his parents' relationship. Kaoru's mother and father never married, and he was an illegitimate child. His back is scarred from when he was tortured with a bamboo cane for trying to prevent his grandfather from burning mementos of his dead mother. After exiling himself from the, Kaoro has led an average, if not lonely, life. When Aoi arrives he is, at first, perplexed at her visit, not remembering almost anything prior. The idea of marriage takes him aback, but very quickly likes, and even eventually looks forward to it. Eventually, Kaoru marries Aoi
The primary female protagonist of the series. She's generally very shy and demure, addressing Kaoru as "Kaoru-sama". Also, she's usually portrayed wearing a kimono; specifically, an indigo one. Because she's a very good cook and keeps her house in a very clean state, she's seen as a Yamato Nadeshiko (traditional Japanese beauty). As a Sakuraba, Aoi was forced into an arranged marriage with Kaoru and because he left the Habanashi, she (having fallen deeply in love with him), chased after him. Unlike other female leads in harem anime, she works to control her jealousy and is generally successful. She's very devoted to Kaoru, however, and will do all in her power to prevent being separated from him. In the beginning, Aoi was willing to warm him when he had a fever, becoming nude in the process (she made sure he wasn't looking). When Aoi, Kaoru, and Miyabi moved to the Sakuraba's summer estate the public appearance Miyabi wanted was that Aoi would be the landlady, herself the manager, and Kaoru a tenant. When Tina Foster moved in, Aoi and Miyabi became a real landlord and manager. She has a "bad" habit of clutching things in her sleep. Eventually, Kaoru's half-brother proposes to Aoi; when Kaoru stops the engagement, Aoi decides to abandon her family to be with Kaoru.
Tina was born in the United States, but spent most of her life in Hakata, a ward in Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. She attends Meiritsu University with Kaoru, and was the one who convinced him to join the photography club, of which she's also a member. She moves into the servant house that Kaoru is staying in because she had no place to stay after returning to Japan from a year-long trip around the world. She has a habit of greeting females by groping and fondling their breasts from behind, which most people find very uncouth (and frustrates Kaoru to no end). She's loud and outspoken and very protective of Kaoru when it comes to Mayu. She's also very fond of drinking and has an enormous capacity for alcohol...but still pays the inevitable price in hangovers. She has a white pet ferret, named Uzume, which most of the cast finds very cute, except, initially, for Miyabi. She is afraid of dark places.
She eventually moves to the United States for four years, only to return to Japan to visit the rest of her friends.
Aoi's appointed guardian and caretaker, she spent most of her life looking after Aoi and helping in her upbringing. She's also very active in the running of the Sakuraba Department Store. After her parents get killed in a car accident, Aoi's mother raised Miyabi to be her caretaker. Miyabi soon becomes the manager of the Sakuraba summer house. Despite her initial misgivings of Kaoru and his friends, she eventually accepts him because of the feelings that Aoi and Kaoru have for each other. Four years later, Miyabi has been adopted by the Sakurabas. She's also a manager of a department store owned by the Sakurabas.
Taeko is a new member of the Meiritsu University photography club and eventually moves into the Sakuraba summer house as the housekeeper after being relieved of her previous housekeeping job. Her most prominent features are her very large breasts (that never stop growing) and her clumsiness. She was so clumsy that Aoi had to convince Miyabi to hire her, as she had a tendency to break a lot of valuable objects, but she tries to do her best. Tina commends Taeko for her effort and tells her that she is getting better. Taeko explains that the reason she wants to be a housekeeper so badly is because when she was very young, her father died and her mother had to raise her as a single parent. Taeko's mother was very proficient at keeping house, and Taeko wishes to achieve the same proficiency that her mother had. She also develops feelings for Kaoru as the series progresses. She likes to put chocolate in all the food she makes, even in fish. In an episode of Ai yori Aoshi: Enishi it is indicated that Taeko has an interest in the supernatural as well as training as a miko. Four years later, Taeko works at the department store where Miyabi is the manager.
Something of a prodigy, Mayu attends the same college as "Hanabishi-sama" purely by accident. Meiritsu University was chosen for her by her father and she initially thought poorly of it. She is in love with Kaoru because he cheered her up at a party when she was 12 years old. At that time, Mayu's parents informed her that they would be missing her 12th birthday because of business overseas. They gave her a stuffed rabbit as a gift because her father has made a habit of giving her stuffed toy animals as gifts for years. Mayu's parents had been holding a party for their business partners, and no matter what Mayu said or did, her parents simply did not have the time for her. Dismayed, Mayu ran off into the woods, bumping into Kaoru and dropping her rabbit as she fled. Kaoru followed her and tried to cheer her up, but she exclaimed that her parents did not take care of her at all, and that they also did not love her. Kaoru then uses the rabbit (which he named "Ussaa", a contraction of usagi, the Japanese word for "rabbit") as a puppet to cheer up Mayu, telling her that her parents do love her very much, and that even if they do not pay as much attention to her as they should, it's better than having no parents at all, like himself. This left a significant impact on Mayu, and she kept and cherished Ussaa to the current day. Mayu is still very lonely, because her parents are always busy working. She tries as hard as she can to do things that would make Kaoru happy, such as learning how to cook from Aoi so she could make lunch for him.
Mayu shares a rivalry with Tina, whom she considers uncouth, and whose presence she cannot stand. The two characters are opposites in many ways. Where Mayu is serious, Tina is playful. Where Mayu is uncharacteristically open in her unrealistic desire for Kaoru, Tina is uncharacteristically shy in her (almost) reciprocated love of Kaoru. Where Tina is an American who embraces Japanese culture, Mayu is Japanese and embraces Western culture. When Tina accidentally bumped into her during their first meeting, Mayu reprimanded her in English, while the out-of-practice Tina struggled to recall an appropriate retort in her native language. Even their introductions to Kaoru are mirrors of one another. Kaoru did much to lift Mayu out of her loneliness, while Tina lifted Kaoru out of his own loneliness and apathy following his defection from the Hanabishi clan. Four years later, Mayu was shown to have grown into a beautiful woman (possibly another nod to her given name), living in England, although she still bickers with Tina when they met. She has not, however, given up on Kaoru, and visits roughly once a month, causing Aoi some irritation.
Taeko's younger cousin. During the summer she spends most of her time working in a cafe down by the beach. Because of this, she's very tanned except for tan-lines caused by her swimsuits. She notices that Taeko has a crush on Kaoru and spends a lot of time trying to fix the two of them up. She occasionally has mild feelings for Kaoru as the series progresses, but for the most part, looks up to him as an older brother.
Four years later, Chizuru and Natsuki are at Meiritsu University. They are presumably students at the University. Chika has grown her hair longer and no longer wears it in two ponytails. Chizuru and Natsuki look much the same.
The pet ferret purchased by Tina but eventually becomes attached to the one person who initially rejected having anything to do with it, Miyabi. Its arrival at the 'boarding house' was predictably chaotic, with its accidentally destructive behavior causing Miyabi to develop an intense dislike for it, partly because in the episode it is learned that the tough-as-nails Miyabi is secretly afraid of insects, and Uzume has a tendency to present them, cat-like, as presents to her. Her anger at this discovery of her secret vulnerability being made by the other residents is short-circuited by being the only one who can save the animal's life when it becomes trapped and is in danger of dying. The name Uzume was derived from Ame-no-Uzume, the goddess on Japanese Mythology who was responsible for luring Amaterasu out of the Heavenly Cave.
One of Chika's good friends in high school, who took swimming lessons from Tina along with her schoolmates. She's very afraid of the water, but managed to overcome her fear and learned how to swim. She is the shy one of Chika's group, often overwhelmed by adult matters (of the trio, her mind is the most prone to perverted thoughts) and prone to constant blushing and the occasional fainting fit.
Another of Chika's good friends in high school. She considers Chika to be her chief rival and is often jealous of the love-love relationship that she and Chizuru assume Chika to have with Kaoru. She is about the only person who can beat Chika at swimming besides Tina Foster (who nicknames her "Nakki").