Ai yori Aoshi Vol. #07 (Mania.com)

By:Mike Dungan
Review Date: Thursday, June 09, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, January 11, 2005



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Kou Fumizuki
Translated by:Alethea Nibley, Athena Nibley
Adapted by:

What They Say
Its hot fun in the summertime as the gang heads to the beach...but what to wear? While Kaoru accompanies the women on their search for the ultimate swimsuit, Mayu and Tina are at it again, competing for Kaoru's attention. Chika heats things up when she joins the crew for some sizzling good fun, but Kaoru and Aoi sneak off by themselves - Aoi has something "special" to show him!

The Review
Packaging:
The cover is a subtlely sexy image of Aoi removing her kimono, set against a photograph of pink flowers. The Japanese logo is used in the top left corner, complete with kanji, but the English translation is right next to it. The back cover uses a Polaroid of Taeko and Chika lounging in swimsuits, again against the same photo of pink flowers. The inside front cover has a cute image of Aoi and Kaoru in swimsuits reproduced from the Japanese dust jacket, and the inside back cover has a great image of a laughing Chika in a straw hat, holding a watermelon. Again, it's from the Japanese dust jacket. Tokyopop has gone to the extra effort to give us these images, and it's much appreciated. The cultural notes that were a Tokyopop created feature from previous volumes is sadly no longer included. The art reproduction is quite good, though the printing look just a little light to me. Three more chapters of the hilarious AiAo Theater gag strips are included, mostly centering around Miyabi's search for the Heart of Japan via smashing watermelons with baseball bats.

Artwork:
Kou Fumizuki's art continues to impress. His characters are very uniquely designed, with a look all their own. The women are cute and voluptuous, and faces are round and expressive. He's fond of using heavy black and white in character's hair for an almost woodblock-like look. While his skill at incredibly sexy fanservice is obvious, he's also capable of bringing out surprising beauty, such as a two-page spread of Aoi seen from below, or an impressive image of Taeko on page 120. While she's nude, it's the beatific expression on her face that makes it stunning.

Text/SFX:
Jamie Rich's adaptation reads well, without any awkwardness or obvious spicing up of dialogue. Sound effects are not translated, either on the page or in a glossary in the back. It's the one real disappointment with Tokyopop published manga. Some signs are translated and the art edited to replace the Japanese text with the English translation, but not all signs.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Summer has arrived, and with it, the need for new swimsuits. This is a chance for Tina and Mayu to compete once again, this time to find the suit that will most impress Kaoru. New swimsuits means going to the beach and the perfect excuse comes from an invitation to the beach from Taeko's niece, Chika. Chika lives with her grandma, and they run a little beachside cafe in the summer. Kaoru, Aoi, Miyabi, Tina, Mayu and Taeko all head to the beach for some sun and fun. Chika is a junior high-aged girl with a dark tan and a cheerful, outgoing personality. She's a bundle of energy, and immediately sets to work trying to hook up Taeko with Kaoru. Her plan succeeds a little too well when the two get unexpectedly trapped in an outdoor bath naked and together when Tina and Mayu decide to use the bath at the same time. It all backfires on Chika in the end. Aoi isn't enjoying the beach quite as much as she could be. She secretly bought a swimsuit, but she's too embarrassed to wear it in front of everyone. The ever observant Miyabi gives Aoi just the encouragement she needs to meet Kaoru under the moonlight so she can model it for him. Chika doesn't give up on setting Taeko up with Kaoru, and engineers things so that the two of them attend a summer festival together. It feels so much like a date, Taeko can't relax, and her nervousness just ups her natural clumsiness to near lethal levels.

Back at home, everyone gets a surprise when Chika shows up at their doorstep. She has a ton of summer homework to do, but she's been having so much fun at the beach, none of it's done. With everyone's help, she's able to get it done in time. In the process, she proves to be a very intelligent and capable person, impressing even Miyabi. In the next chapter, everyone is getting freaked out by strange noises coming from the attic, which is sealed and the key long lost. Taeko loves the supernatural and decides to investigate, getting everyone in on the action, dressing them all up in Shinto clothing. The cause of the noises isn't as scary as Taeko would have liked, but the chaos makes for some fun moments. In the final chapter, everyone spends some time talking about the dreams they had as children. There are some that are just too perfect for words, but there are a couple of surprises as well.

Comments
Ai Yori Aoshi continues to walk the fine line between tender romance and outrageous harem comedy. Speaking of outrageous, in this volume's nudity sweepstakes, everyone gives up the goods. Aoi, Miyabi, Taeko, Tina, Mayu and even newcomer Chika gets naked for the reader's enjoyment. There is more to the story than fanservice, though, and Chika's appearance highlights it. At it's core, Ai Yori Aoshi is about family. Not necessarily the family one is born with, but the family one makes for themselves. The mansion that Aoi and Miyabi live in truly becomes a home when Kaoru, Tina, and Taeko move in. Even Mayu is a part of this extended family. Chika is an only child, but she has a heart made for a big family, and she's found it with Aoi and company. It's this warmth that appeals to me. Well, that, and all the beautiful naked women. Strongly recommended.



Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 192
ISBN: 1595323708
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left