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Ai Yori Aoshi Vol 2

(return to disc)

Content rating: 7
Posted 2003-12-07 by StupendousMan
Endorsed by kurt on 2004-01-14 16:37:00

Disc 2 of Ai Yori Aoshi brings another five episodes of gentle sweetness to the table. It contains the same curious mix of true-to-life romance and occasional fanservice T&A as the first disc. I try to ignore the latter and concentrate on the former. Fortunately, for me, the relationships manage to overwhelm all the ill-considered hijinks and leave a pleasant aftertaste that lasts hours after viewing.

The main cast of characters was introduced in the first set of episodes. Here, we see them start to grow on each other. In episode 6, "Family Traditions," Taeko auditions for the job as housekeeper of the Sakuraba mansion. Klutz that she is, she repeatedly bumps into things and knocks them over -- including herself. The ensuing parade of panty and chest shots repeatedly takes me to the brink of annoyance, but a serious moment always seems to arrive just in the nick of time. I was touched more deeply than I'd like to admit by Taeko's pleas to Miyabi-san to give her one more chance, just one more chance: excellent work by Mizuhashi Kaori , Taeko's seiyuu. Her voice conveys the desperation of worker who knows that she's really not up to the task, who is used to failure, yet still struggles to maintain her dignity. Taeko explains that she wants so badly to succeed at the job because her mother, who brought her up alone against the odds, whom she worships, was also a housekeeper. I suspect that Taeko's mother would probably prefer that her daughter find some more rewarding line of work, but it is touching. At the end of the episode, Aoi and Miyabi share a little moment which reveals the bond between them: Miyabi loves her charge like a little sister, almost like a daughter. She doesn't say it, but we can read her face and body like a book.

Taeko plays a major role in the next episode, "Spiritual Illusion," in which she attempts to lead our little band on a minor vacation. She's just a bit too ditzy to be believed; I don't think any real group of people would have followed her around for more than an hour or so before putting someone else in charge. I wonder yet again why so many anime writers bring their characters to a hot springs resort, and then send the camera into the women's bath, if they don't have the guts to take off the towels. I'm not panting for a view of naked teenaged girls, mind you; I'd just prefer to watch the characters in other surroundings where they will actually wear appropriate outfits. Have the girls chat while playing tennis or walking through a park, and skip the whole business with the hot springs, okay? There's a nice bit at the end of this episode when we see the photographs Taeko has taken of the "spirits" of the temple. Unlike the pictures taken in previous years by other members of the Photography Club, all of which were obviously faked, hers show realistically amorphous, mysterious blobs of light. Perhaps only she (the only one who really believes the old ghost stories) is pure enough to see the spirits? This idea isn't discussed in the dialog; it's just a minor detail left for the viewer to figure out for himself. I like that bit of understatement.

Episode eight, "Cherished Treasure," adds Uzume the ferret to our merry band. Miyabi seems set against him from the start. I kept thinking as I watched that we would learn of a sad incident from Miyabi's childhood, in which she lost a beloved pet, which had hardened her heart against all cute little animals. But, as it turns out, I was wrong. Rah! Another cliche avoided. Of course, there is a different sort of very common scene involving Uzume which I ought to criticize, but, since it did reduce me (against my will) to a sobbing wreck, I'll give it a pass :-)

"One Night" revisits the "they've left the two of us all alone" plot, Kaoru and Tina being the couple stranded by themselves at the mansion for several days. At first, it appears that it will be the same ol' same ol' "he-can't-keep-his-hands-off-her story that we've seen before. But the story turns off the beaten track when they visit a shine and spend some time at a festival. Tina has been watching Kaoru more closely than one might expect, and she has figured out his feelings for Aoi. She's jealous, but she manages to let it go, much to her credit. A nice little look inside her heart, done with admirable subtelty. I do wish that she'd stop with the breast-grabbing, though.

The final episode, "Place of Learning," is especially interesting to me since I work at a university and have spent most of my life within the walls of academe. Aoi -- after having found the elusive taiyuki(*) -- goes to the University to share them with Kaoru. She's timid and shy, wondering if she may even enter the gates and walk inside. That's a nice touch: it can be awkward to be the outsider in a new place, surrounded by people who belong. I've felt that way myself many times. She and Kaoru are so sweet together -- sigh. One thing that bothers me about the depiction of student life is that, well, no one seems to have any real interest in learning. I wish we might just once see a student absorbed in her work, or taking notes assiduously in class instead of sleeping or whispering to his neighbor. Yeah, yeah, I know, many students really are more interested in other things (and believe me when I say that I know this), but surely it wouldn't hurt to show just one student who loves the subject? Would it?

We get five episodes, which is good, but the extras aren't as good here as on the first disc. There's a reversible cover with a tad too much gratuitous skin for my taste. The insert, on the other hand, features a foldout picture of Aoi at her blushing best, plus a note on western influence on Japanese residential architecture -- well done! The art gallery is nothing special, though, and the coming attractions don't feature any surprises. On the whole, the package is still a very nice deal.

(*) What is it with taiyuki? They pop up in Azumanga Daioh, The Cat Returns, even MegaTokyo. Are they really that good?

Equipment used when writing this review:
Sony DVD player, JVC 27-inch TV, stereo speakers

Content: 7 Video: 7 Sound: 7 Packaging: 8 Menu: 8

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Other reviews of this disc:
Ai Yori Aoshi Vol 2 by jonahlee (Rating: 7.80)

Disc 2 of Ai Yori Aoshi seems to be about complications in the romance between Aoi Sakurab and Kaoru Hanabishi. In the last of disc 1, and old friend of Kaoru from his photography club convinced Miyabi to let her stay at the house. She...(continues)

Content: 6 Video: 8 Sound: 8 Packaging: 8 Menu: 9

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