Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi Vol. #3 (also w/figures) (of 3) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, November 08, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, November 09, 2004
What They Say
What a time for surprise for all of the friends! Kaoru and Aoi go on a date together and spend their time reminiscing and enjoying each other's company. The two end their evening at a hotel . . . Later, the residents of the Sakuraba mansion decide to go to a spa resort and Kaoru winds up seeing more than he was meant to! Digital cameras can be so much fun - the gang decide to take some pictures of themselves, dressing up in costumes and outfits that turn out to be very fun. Tina then takes a trip back home to America, leaving the rest of the household worried and missing her . . . will she ever come back?
As the series comes to a close, the subject of bonds continues to be strong as Tina's character is greatly explored.
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. The show seems to provide a lot more depth and feeling to it than the first season did and we ended up cranking this up a fair bit more than most normal shows to enjoy it all the more. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout both language tracks and the music comes across great here.
Originally airing in 2003, this series is presented in its original full screen aspect ratio and is simply stunning. The first season was one of those shows that had taken the color palette and really made it come alive and look incredible vibrant. This season manages to outshine that one by a fair amount and has simply blown me away. From the opening to the ending, I can't get over how lush and gorgeous these colors are, both in the foreground character animation and in the background designs. They're so full and solid, free of cross coloration and aliasing, that it's just a treat to see it like this. The presentation definitely affects how you take in the show and Enishi's presentation is stunning.
Kaoru and Aoi return to the main covers once again and we get a nice shot of her reaching around and holding onto him, producing some nice smiles and a sense of warmth to them. In keeping with the style, the original logo is kept along the bottom as well as the romaji version of it while the volume numbering is up higher and on the spine as well. The back cover gives half of its space to a sizeable character shot of Miyabi with the summary to the left of it as well as a few smaller images before going into the various production and technical information about the release. The episode numbers and titles are also provided here, making it easy to determine which volume is which. The insert starts off with a number of small images showing pieces from the episodes on this volume while the chapter stops line down the right side of it. The insert opens to a two-panel shot of Aoi outside holding her hair back as the breeze blows cherry blossoms her way. The back of the insert has some information on Geneon set to a cute picture of Mayu in her white dress standing in front of a piano. There's a lot of detail to the background here that spruces up the shot a lot. This release also has a reversible cover, with the alternate cover being a shot of Aoi and Tina together smiling in their hot springs outfits.
The menu design is nicely done with a booklet for the main central image where the selections are lined up over while around it you have various pictures of the girls. There's some quiet sounding instrumental music playing along to the falling of the small fall leaves over the menu as well. It's all very simple and very much in-theme to the show. The menu layout is very easy to navigate and access times are fast and problem free. The disc read our player presets correctly but went with the first English subtitle track which was signs and subtitles and not the full translated track to match to the Japanese language it loaded correctly.
The extras are minimal but there's some good stuff here. The first extra is a US exclusive I believe with footage of Yoko Ishida singing to the two songs from the show at Anime Expo 2004. This is a fun piece to watch and a really neat extra bonus. The other included extra is the textless closing sequence for episode nine which has some fair differences between it and the other ones.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ah, the frustration that is Ai Yori Aoshi. While Enishi didn't capture exactly what I wanted out of the series but rather followed aspects of the manga series as closely as could be, they did give me damn close in a number of areas. In the original series, the first four or so episodes of the show were ones that were just great to watch since it took the conventional relationship/romance story and started it off with the characters expressing their feelings for each other instead of playing the cat and mouse game for the length of the entire series.
After that, and through much of Enishi, we'd get a variety of harem-style comedy episodes with a large cast of women who have varying levels of affection for Kaoru. They all want him in their own way and Kaoru is the kind of guy who grows well enough across the show so that you don't question their feelings for him like you do some other shows. But at its heart, you know it's all about the Aoi and Kaoru relationship and this volume gives us some of that key material again, including an episode right at the start where the two of them get the entire episode to themselves as everyone else is off doing their own thing. The two end up on a small trip together that even Miyabi agreed to as Kaoru got the tickets as a thanks from a professor for his hard work.
The time the two of them spend together, which doesn't have any hard plot to it other than going to different places and just being there with each other, is a really nice change of pace. There are no quirks or unexpected surprises. You don't have other characters showing up and causing them to run off to hide from them. You have a young couple, very much in love but with solid boundaries on their relationship, who are free in the big city to see what they can see and to build memories together. It's so conventional that it's unconventional in the anime world to do this. The time they spend together as well as their internal monologues are done simply but perfectly. The entire ambiguity of their time together towards the end is perfect as well.
Surprisingly, a lot of this volume is given over to Tina. Of all the women in Kaoru's life outside of Aoi, she's been there the strongest most recently for Kaoru and has a strong attachment to him. But it's in these episodes that we get down to the core of her character and understand her situation. Being an American that's lived in Japan since she was five, she left there after about ten years and spent her high school years in the US as she had no friends in Japan. But in America, her time there kept her apart as she was more Japanese than American and her mannerisms and style overcompensated. Feeling like she belonged in neither world, it's easier to see how Tina could see the same in Kaoru when she first met him and how it would attract her, particularly since Kaoru is in much the same boat as he's left the world of the Hanabishi and is trying to figure out his own way.
Seeing their first meeting played out and learning how Kaoru impacted Tina so heavily is some of the better character development of the series since she brings it up with Aoi in one of the hot spring scenes, not quite as an explanation of why she feels that way but more to to let Aoi know that she doe have such strong feelings for him and in the end just wants to see him be happy. But as we learn that Tina has made plans with her parents to return to the states after she graduates, which is very soon, it all takes on a somber feeling for her as she keeps that to herself and plays it out life as usual. With everyone having made up a strange sort of family in the mansion, it's not unexpected how things turn out once she leaves without telling them. This turns into one of those rare shows where you can really do feel that there is a close bond between them all, even Mayu.
Of course, with the manga going, there's no conclusion here other than for the arc we're presented with. While I do have some problems with the show, they do manage to win me over in a couple of key ways with the characters. Enishi has been both up and down but overall it does leave me wanting more of it to be done. At least unlike the old days, if no more is done I can actually go read the manga I have, but I hope the show did well enough to merit a few more episodes once the manga moves forward enough. Their ability to strike a balance between the serious Aoi/Kaoru episodes and the general comedy episodes got much better as Enishi progressed and I'd hate to see that go to waste.
Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi is a series that is easy to see why it appeals to people but also why it turns a number of them off. With Aoi still for the most part being massively subservient to Kaoru and doing anything and everything for him and with him in mind, that goes against the mindset of many in how they want to see women live. For those able to get past this or to look at it in context to the show itself, especially when you see just how much in love the two leads are as it progresses, that sort of falls to the side as just a trapping of the relationship and not the heart of it. Enishi's a bit uneven overall but the series did a good job of bringing the bonds between all the characters to the forefront and concentrating on a few of them with just the right way. While I'll be happy if this is the end of it, I'd love to see more of it made.
Jaapanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Closing (Episode 9),Yoko Ishida at Anime Expo 2004 Performance
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Ai Yori Aoshi