Ai Yori Aoshi Vol. #2: My Dearest - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Ai Yori Aoshi

Ai Yori Aoshi Vol. #2: My Dearest

By Chris Beveridge     April 16, 2003
Release Date: April 22, 2003


Ai Yori Aoshi Vol. #2: My Dearest
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Miyabi, Tina, and now Taeko. These are the girls living in the Sakuraba Mansion with Kaoru and Aoi that are not Kaoru’s girlfriends! While Kaoru succeeds in remaining faithful, the misunderstandings and challenges from these girls and the crazy situations they experience may still lead to bodily injury for our hero. Between ferrets and wild bathhouse parties, clumsy housekeepers and romantic evenings alone with women you are trying not to date, Kaoru can’t stay out of trouble! Then again, his pain is our entertainment…

The Review!
After a very strong opening volume, things settle down a bit more here, but the direction still stays very much the same.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series features a very good stereo mix that mostly takes advantage with the music and the ambient sound effects to provide a good experience. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout both language tracks and the music comes across great here.

Video:
Airing in the spring of 2002 and in fact just ending in September of 2002, this show is very recent and the source materials bear that out beautifully. This show is very rich in colors, especially with the lead character in her hair and her kimono, that it shines very well. There’s no cross coloration visible and aliasing is barely an issue. Flesh tones in particular come across extremely well here, providing more and more depth to the character designs.

Packaging:
Continuing what was started in the first volume, we get another clear keepcase and reversible cover. The front cover provides a nice partial cast shot with the supporting women of the show plus Aoi with them outside the house with the logo on the bottom in both Japanese and English (Though not an English translation of the series name, which is Bluer than Indigo). The volume title and volume number also appear on the cover as well as the spine. The back cover provides a number of screen shots and a good summary of the shows basic premise. The episode numbers and titles are listed prominently as well as a good block of the discs features and extras. The insert provides pictures from each episode alongside the chapter stops. The insert folds out to present a really great picture of Aoi smiling while set against a blue sky and falling sakura blossoms. The back of the insert provides information about the kind of mansion that the cast lives in. The reverse cover goes for the more scantily clad image of Aoi, Taeko and Tina in various states of undress at a hot spring. Can you guess which cover I’m keeping facing out?

Menu:
Done as photographs, each menu page has either a single or a couple of images of photographs with the characters on them while the backgrounds have different areas of a traditional Japanese home. The main menu is the most active with music playing and falling sakura leaves while the images in the photograph change. Moving to submenus is nice and fast and access times are good.

Extras:
Pioneer continues to up the ante a bit here in the extras department, much to my happiness. We get a nice textless version of the opening sequence but we also get the original credit sequence. I love the inclusion of that, especially since it shows just how closely Pioneer was able to duplicate it with their translated version that runs in the actual show. The US trailer is included here as the unofficial trailer and there’s also a small but good conceptual artwork gallery.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the first volume of the show, we really fell in love with the way the first three episodes focused heavily on the introduction and sudden romance of Aoi and Kaoru. We particularly liked that while Kaoru isn’t exactly the big man on campus, he’s not like most other anime males in a show like this who’s spending time just trying to get into college and ending up in bizarre situations. While it’s not an entirely realistic depiction by any stretch, it’s far closer to real-world than a lot of shows get.

Of course, we were also dismayed by the end of the disc at the way the cast was growing and introducing more elements that we had hoped would not be brought over to this show. After taking in five more episodes here, I’m still feeling that concern, but not as strongly as I was then.

This volume kicks off by adding yet another member to the household. Taeko, the young woman introduced previously as the latest member of the photo club who would do all the cosplay gigs, also spends her time as a live-in maid. Unfortunately for her, she’s just been fired and kicked out, so she ends up at the Sakuraba mansion where Tina is, as Tina had promised to give her advice should anything such as this happen. Of course, you can see exactly where it’s going, and yes, she does become a maid for the house.

The fun ensues though as Miyabi ends up riding her as rough as she does herself, but Taeko has a hard time managing it. All the basics are beyond her regular skills, so she ends up trying extra hard. All of this provides the setup for learning her past and seeing how her mother, a single parent, influenced her life and gives her the impetus to do the kind of work she is now. It’s not a terribly bad episode, but the only thing that really brings it down is some of the continual klutziness of Taeko, which invariably leads to her skirt flying up and giving us a panty shot.

Being that this is a Pioneer show, that means there’s a hot springs episode. This particular episode was rather fun since it focused on the photo club going out for the trip as a way to celebrate Taeko’s membership. Aoi comes along too, which nobody complains about of course. A lot of this episode works well in that it’s centered around Aoi’s desire to spend time with Kaoru in a beautiful place, which is what a lot of the area turns out to be once they find it and start exploring. There’s a fair amount of drinking and hilarity as well, since one of the requirements of new members is to visit a particular shrine and get pictures of the ghosts that surround it.

Between two episodes, Tina turns from completely annoying to much more bearable. The first part has her bringing home a ferret to live with her, which completely upsets Miyabi. She refuses to have anything to do with it and for the most part insists that it must be gotten rid of. Aoi manages to actually override her in her own subtle way, but Miyabi avoids the little ferret completely. Unfortunately, said ferret has a real attraction to Miyabi and ends up causing her much grief. Things end dramatically though, which manages to bring everyone a bit closer together.

Though Tina is a small focus in that, it’s a later episode that really works towards redeeming her in my eyes. Through various circumstances, practically everyone is gone for a whole day except for Kaoru and Tina. Miyabi lets Kaoru stay in the mansion instead of the guest house as long as he takes care of things properly. With just the two of them there, Kaoru naturally starts having naughty thoughts about Tina, but does his best to keep them to himself and behave. Tina ends up having a little fun with him in a few areas, but for the most part she’s oblivious to what he’s going through. Once a big storm blows in though, the two end up becoming much closer and Tina starts to reveal more of her hidden nature.

The main draw to the series for me continues to be the blossoming romance between Kaoru and Aoi. That had such a strong up front role in the beginning of the series that it seems like something is missing when they move away from it. That romance is still very much here throughout these episodes, but not quite as prominently throughout them. When it does resurface, it brings you back to exactly why you enjoy this show so much. But as we’re still in the first ten episodes, it’s also a normal time to give the secondary cast some time to shine and show their strengths and weaknesses to be built upon during the second half of the series.

While I’m not as head over heels as I was with the first volume, I’m definitely still enjoying this series quite a lot. Gorgeous visuals, particularly those eyes when they do close-ups, a fun score and a generally charming cast means I’m enjoying this. I can’t wait to get more.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Creditless opening,Ai Yori Aoshi trailer #2,Concept art gallery

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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