Ai Yori Aoshi Vol. #4: Truly Yours (of 5) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, August 31, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, August 19, 2003
What They Say
Romance is not dead, it’s stalking Kaoru... First, everyone goes to the beach where Kaoru discovers that everyone but Aoi has worn a sexy swimsuit to attract his attention, then Taeko’s cousin, Chika, tricks Kaoru into taking a bath with Taeko! Later, a trip to the zoo becomes a day with Tina followed by a drunken night in a love hotel! Will Aoi really believe they simply fell asleep? Fortunately, Aoi has some hidden talents, some that she saves just for Kaoru and others that she uses to save the college festival!
The next round of five episodes starts off perfectly – it’s off to the beach after trying on some swimsuits! Fanservice really wins out here.
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.
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.
The front cover for this release has a good shot of the new character of multi-tanned Chika while Aoi is in the background along with the beach side restaurant, trying to give off the same young energy as Chika. 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 somewhat basic image of Aoi in her kimono giving a happy smile, one that makes her seem even younger than normal. The back of the insert provides information on the seaside clubhouses that are all over the beaches there during the summer. The reverse cover this time provides a really nice image of Aoi, Tina and Taeko in their kimono’s.
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.
A similar set of extras makes an appearance on this volume. The second opening to the series gets its textless presentation as well here. The eighteenth episode has something different done for its ending credits, which means we get the translation for them separately as static menu screens. There is also a thirteen page conceptual artwork gallery that deals with some of the secondary characters.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The fourth volume of this series brings us much closer to the end of things with its five episodes, going through the late teens of the show. Things do go rather well here though as it’s pretty heavy on the fanservice since we get a number of episodes at the beach.
The two part section is probably my favorite on this release since it lets two of the characters get some really good growth going on here. The decision to head to the beach during the summer has been made so there’s lots of shopping for swimsuits. Of course, it’s only going on between Taeko and Tina since Miyabi has no intention of wearing a bathing suit and Aoi simply isn’t comfortable showing off so much in front of strangers. Taeko and Tina’s shopping session gets seriously extended and a bit twisted when Mayu turns up in the same store trying on a variety of suits, trying to find the one that she can steal Kaoru away with. Competition naturally ensues.
In the end, they all get a chance to show off their swimsuits earlier than expected as Taeko’s grandmother has written to her and invited her back to her restaurant/inn this year, which of course she operates right on the beach. Everyone’s pretty excited about it but there are some reservations that creep up as well. While most of them bought their swimsuits, Aoi managed to sneak away for a few minutes to get one as well but she hasn’t had a chance to really give it a whirl yet.
The beach itself is a bastion of fun for the cast. The cast grows when Taeko’s cousin, a young and energetic girl named Chika, becomes attached to the group for the duration (as well as visiting later on during this volume). She brings more energy to an already hyper group but she does it with a purpose. She sees the way Taeko continues to look at Kaoru and decides to help push her favorite cousin towards him more knowing that you have to be aggressive in romance. Taeko is pretty oblivious to her cousins machinations and ends up in all kinds of nearly compromising situations with Kaoru, situations that she continues to blush over and secretly enjoy.
While this is going on and Tina and Mayu continue to show off their swimsuits to prove who is sexier (and Miyabi tries to get her summer watermelon), Kaoru and Aoi eventually get their own moment together. With a small knowing push from Miyabi, something I just didn’t expect to happen, Aoi manages to get Kaoru alone in the late evening and the two end up in a grotto where things turn simply beautiful in more ways than one. The time the two spend here, albeit brief, harkens back to the early energy between these two with the tentative steps that Aoi takes towards Kaoru. This sequence plays out so beautifully and tenderly as they each reach out to each other helps elevate this series beyond the typical harem style show. There’s just something that’s so hard to describe about how it makes you feel.
These two episodes really overshadowed the remainder of this volume for me. There’s some good material across the rest of it, particularly for Tina who finally gets some more exploration and depth added to her as well as more behind her attraction to Kaoru. Of course, throwing a woman into a wedding gown will cause most any woman to start thinking about relationships more and most men who see a woman in one to either panic and flee or begin thinking about the future more.
Chika also returns during an episode and we get another one that deals with the school season getting underway again and the pretty predictable festival aspect to it with each club having to set up its own restaurant and all that. Both of those episodes had a heavy been there done that feel, but the last one more so. At the end of the disc, I kept going back to the quiet few moments in the grotto between the two leads. That scene has just left such a major impression with me. That quiet tenderness between the two and the ability to move forward once they’re together is something that a lot more series should take not of. It’s definitely a plus these days that more and more shows are getting beyond that “will they or won’t they” relationship plots and exploring the real fun of the relationship.
With this release, it’s hard to believe there are only five more episodes to go and the first season is all over with. While it hasn’t kept up entirely with the promise of the early episodes, it’s sneaked in enough great moments to keep it very interesting and to keep the anticipation for subsequent volumes.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Ending 2,Art Gallery
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: B+
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.
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Ai Yori Aoshi