Ai Yori Aoshi

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Available via Funimation

Ai Yori Aoshi
Released By: Funimation
Released: 4/10/02 [Original Japanese Air Date]
Reviewed: 1/11/16
Rated: 15+

Story

In this series, a college student named Kaoru is headed off one day when he encounters a girl named Aoi in the train station having troubles. After helping her out he finds out that she’s looking for a boy she knew as a child who happens to live near him. It doesn’t take long for both of them to realize that he is that boy and soon Aoi casts off her family and decides that she wants to be engaged to Kaoru.

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The Good and the Bad

Earlier this month I had a night where there was nothing going on so I decided to do something that I rarely get to do: watch something older that I always meant to but never had the chance. On a whim I chose the series Ai Yori Aoshi and hit play. What followed was a mad scramble to put as much of this series into my brain as I could possibly manage as fast as I could.

The series starts very simply, a man and a woman are reunited after years apart and awkwardly start a relationship with each other. Over the course of two seasons consisting of thirty six episodes, the relationship develops more and more as the two fall more and more in love with each other. What’s particularly impressive about this is that it happens in the midst of a harem series setting.

Ai Yori Aoshi is a very strange series and the more I think about it, the more I think that I really should never have liked it in the first place because it does a lot of things that I normally hate; it starts slow and by the end almost none of the characters besides the leads have developed much past their original selves. Despite this however, this is a series that managed to charm me and make me fall absolutely in love with it and everything that did (or didn’t) happen within it.

There is no hiding or denying it: there is fan service in this series. It can be quite on the nose at times as well. While watching the first season I even noted on Twitter that it seemed as though the characters’ hands were magnetically drawn to breasts since it seemed like every time there was a pair on screen someone was reaching out to grab and fondle them. Apparently in the early part of last decade this was considered edgy humor. Honestly though, compared to what anime series in the middle of this decade are doing in order to be edgy it wasn’t really all that bad. It was never funny but I actually appreciated that the fan service never really got much worse than that.

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Also appreciated is the care that animation studio J.C. Staff put into creating this series. This is a series that has aged fairly well over the last fourteen or so years. While it might not be as polished and shiny as something ufotable would produce today, the character designs and backgrounds in this series were certainly nothing that I would consider bad in the least. In particular I really enjoyed the traditional look of Aoi and her kimono.

The one thing that took the longest to get used to while watching this series was the dub cast. To be honest, a pretty fair portion of the cast gave poor performances in the early going though once again I’m forced to wonder if the problem was the cast or with the ADR Director for the series Kaeko Sakamoto. Every time a character was introduced into the series, the performance was very rough with names being pronounced in different ways at various times, lines sounding flat, accents sounding either over done (in the case of the American character Tina) or under done (in the case of the English character Mayu) and other problems that would constantly plague the cast. As the series progressed everyone figured out their roles and it became much easier to listen to the dub but in those first couple of episodes I was very tempted to switch over to the Japanese track and stick with that for the entire run.

Music

Composed by Toshio Masuda, the soundtrack to this series absolutely blew me away. Taking on a life of its own, the background music within this series filled it with joy and sadness in all the right places. It heightened the emotions of moments and made them shine like brilliant jewels.

The one complaint that I have about the music in this series is that the opening theme song sounds very similar to another theme song that Masuda worked on around this time, the theme from Mahoromatic. Every time the opening theme started, I was seriously taken out of the moment because all I could think about was how similar the two songs sounded.

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Overall

This is a series that I am very sad that I didn’t watch sooner. I mean really, why did no one tell me that this was such a good show? This is a shining gem of a show from the past and if you like romantic comedies, this should be placed pretty high on your ‘to be watched’ queue. If you’ve never taken the time to give this one a chance, you’re only doing yourself a disservice. Don’t be like me and wait forever to watch this one, go treat yourself and watch it tonight.

Final Grade: A