Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger ordered "Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi" at Sushi King. Seconds later all of the waitresses gave him a group hug and started arguing over who got to serve him.
How long can they keep a secret?
Put one guy into close quarters with several fetching women and hilarity is bound to ensue, right? The harem subgenre of anime can be tricky. Harem animes often devolve into argument fests: bursts of static, loud and meaningless. They can err on the side of forced sensuality, cheapening the story and making the viewers feel kind of sleazy. It isn't easy to make a harem anime that provides fan service while keeping the affair wholesome and romantic. Ai Yori Aoshi managed to do just that. Will Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi be able to repeat the success?
Facts of the Case
Kaoru is a young man who has sworn off his family. He lives with a gang of women who all board at the same house. Aoi, the comely but demure landlady, is secretly betrothed to Karou, but they can't tell anyone. Of course, every gal in the house has the hots for him. His balancing act is to act natural in the face of their come-ons while stealing as much alone time with Aoi as possible.
In fairness to Ai Yori Aoshi fans, allow me to state that I'm not familiar with the series. If this review is vague in some areas, it is because I am vague in some areas, such as the foundation of the plot, why these women are living in the same house, and basically who everyone is. I looked up the basic premise on the Internet for this review (www.animeondvd.com, to be exact), but that doesn't give me firsthand knowledge.
That said, the exquisite craftsmanship that has gone into Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi is readily apparent. The characters are finely detailed, as are the backgrounds, foregrounds, middle grounds, and credits. Colors leap off of the screen, dazzling us with their pristine warmth and depth. If nothing else, you can marvel at the care that went into these episodes. Music and sound effects enhance the atmosphere of romance, making Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi come alive. It is an aurally and visually pleasing experience.
Many an anime excels at the details but fails in the delivery. Thankfully, Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi has something going on upstairs. The show thrives on stolen moments and delayed gratification. Aoi and Kaoru seem to truly love each other, but because of circumstances they are also a mystery to each other. They cannot reveal their love, so their shared screen time becomes charged with private undercurrents. The two seem unsure of each other even as they long to touch each other. This sweet tension provides the show's heart. Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi captures the feeling of burgeoning love and bottles it up for us to savor one episode at a time.
One episode at a time…
• Episode 2: "Friends"
• Episode 3: "Tennis"
• Episode 4: "Evil Spirit"
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I gather from fans of Ai Yori Aoshi that the emphasis on Enishi suspends important questions pending from the first season. Thus, if you are curious about the resolution of these issues, Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi's lackadaisical approach carries with it a measure of frustration.
Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi Volume One feels episodic rather than continuous. I prefer anime seasons to have a plot that builds, moving toward a climax or resolution. If Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi intends to be an episodic series, then this complaint lacks weight, but it has enough of a continuing story to suggest that the creators intend it to be nonepisodic. If that is the case, the episodes are decidedly lacking in forward momentum.
The DVD is scant on extras. The only real extra is a 15-minute bonus episode called "Miyuki," which features Aoi as Santa Claus. This episode is crafted with the same care and sweetness as the rest, but it also contains magic and levitation and other strangeness that firmly separate it from the show. Even I could tell that it was a stretch of the Ai Yori Aoshi universe. But hey, that's why they call it a bonus episode. As far as extras go, this is precisely the sort of thing I appreciate. I'll take a bonus episode any day over character sketches and clean opening credits.
Sweet, romantic, but with a streak of ribald humor, Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi is one of the best representations of the harem subgenre. Excellent visuals complement stereotypical-yet-interesting characters. Four and a half episodes represent good value. The opening of season two takes a lackadaisical approach to the central plot, but if you can overlook that you'll be in for an unassuming treat.
Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi is mandated to pick up the pace a little and get more consonants into the title.
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Scales of Justice
• Bonus Episode: "Miyuki"
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