Ai Yori Aoshi Vol. #5: With All My Heart - 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: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Ai Yori Aoshi

Ai Yori Aoshi Vol. #5: With All My Heart

By Chris Beveridge     October 10, 2003
Release Date: October 14, 2003


Ai Yori Aoshi Vol. #5: With All My Heart
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
When Aoi falls ill, everyone at the Sakuraba mansion falls apart trying to fill her shoes with the necessary household chores. Then, Kaoru invites Aoi to visit someone special, she finds herself being introduced to Kaoru’s mother’s grave as someone important in his life. As their love for each other truly blossoms, Kaoru and Aoi encounter a severe frost {or test}- Aoi’s father forces Aoi to return home in an attempt to separate her from Kaoru forever!

The Review!
The first season of Ai Yori Aoshi ends by focusing on what really works best in this series, and that’s the relationship between Aoi and Kaoru.

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:
Originally airing in the spring of 2002 and 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 as well as a lot of the blues, noticeably Aoi’s hair, providing more and more depth to the character designs.

Packaging:
The front cover for the final volume brings us a really great looking shot of Kaoru laying back while Aoi snuggles up against him, both with just the right looks of happiness on their faces as they embrace. 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 a larger sized image of what the reverse cover uses as the artwork. The reverse cover for the last one provides a really nice shot of Aoi in her kimono partially disrobed on the floor showing some skin.

Menu:
Done up 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 other areas moving. Moving to submenus is nice and fast and access times are good.

Extras:
For the last volume, the extras are minimal but there’s something good in here. The last episode gets the translated English credits presented since they’re left proper for the actual show. But the really neat little extra comes in the form of a bonus four minute episode that brings the characters back for a bit more fun.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the varied but overall good fourth volume due to the two part storyline, the final volume here brings things more into perspective by providing a comical standalone story and then wrapping up the first season throughout the remaining three episodes.

The standalone story isn’t all that bad either. The premise is nice and simple with everyone waking up late due to Aoi not getting them going in time. It turns out she’s got a fever and is feeling ill, so everyone will have to pitch in and do their part. The result is some of the standard comedy moments, such as Tina overstuffing a washer with not only clothes but boxes, shoes… teddy bears. Taeko whips up some Japanese cuisine for Kaoru for dinner, such as one of his favorites, but adds her own style to it by covering the meat in chocolate sauce. Kaoru himself gets an awakening in doing some of the general cleaning and learning just how much Aoi does.

While the basic idea of the episode is to show that Aoi does a lot and the others haven’t realized it (or apparently worked a lick of real “labor” in their lives either), Kaoru’s attempts at trying to get as much done as he can and come to an understanding about Aoi and what she does brings Miyabi over to his side even more. This turns out to be an important development in what is otherwise a pretty standard filler episode.

The three part storyline is the end of season type that brings you to the situation you knew you’d always see but wondered how it would play out. After having spent so much time at the mansion and away from home, Aoi is summoned back to her parents residence and away from everyone she’s gotten to know well. Miyabi plays it quiet and doesn’t tell Aoi much, so Aoi sees it as a simple trip there and back in a day, just in time to join everyone for the moon watching party they’re planning for the full moon. While everyone in the group is surprised, the viewer isn’t when Aoi doesn’t return in time and there’s no seeming indication she’ll be coming back at all.

When Miyabi returns alone and confronts Kaoru over Aoi, she reveals some interesting bits about how she’s felt about him, not only since meeting him but since she first me Aoi and heard about her engagement to the Hanabishi heir. Though her feelings have changed since then, she confronts him about where things stand and about how he really feels about Aoi. With that done, she takes him to where Aoi is so that the two of them can figure out what’s going on.

While Aoi has had the permission to “play” at the mansion after her mother acquiesced to her demands much earlier in the series, her father has decided enough is enough and has set up a new engagement for an arranged marriage. Aoi is defiant, but it’s not enough against such an imposing father. With Kaoru’s arrival, she struggles to find more within her to help them as the two of them revisit their childhood time together, the times that started the bond that’s survived so long. It ties together a number of items, including Kaoru’s mother and more of his time at the Hanabishi household, but in the end it really talks about the emotions of these two characters.

Ai Yori Aoshi has been one of the more frustrating series I’ve seen this year. It glides so easily between moments of pure brilliance and utter mediocrity that I’ve actually shaken my fist at the TV over it. The time spent with Aoi and Kaoru in the early part of the series is fantastic and moves the plot ahead swiftly whereas other series would spend their entire run just covering that. But then it falls into the mediocrity trap of introducing various stereotype friends and others to fill things in and add the broad comedy element.

Some of it works, but when you introduce a new girl in each episode for a few episodes, the lack of subtlety really doesn’t help in the long run. But in between all of Tina’s boobie grabbing and Taeko’s clumsiness, we turn our gaze back to the two leads who give each other loving smiles and nods throughout, or engage in more real and honest moments with each other. This is what makes the series worth going through the mediocrity.

Of course, some of the fanservice doesn’t hurt either!

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Bonus Episode,Episode 24 English Credits

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP 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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