Get the best aspects of the series, and then some...
Thomas Lent | Hayward, CA United States | 04/07/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The harem aspect of this series has always been a crutch for the most part because the romance between Aoi and Kaoru could hold the story together on its own. Don't get me wrong, the over the top humor is good. But, as these final episodes show, it's the moments that involve this young couple's time together that make the series shine.It's too hard to give details about this disk without spoiling the story. But be rest assured that many of the themes expressed in the first few episodes in the series are echoed here near the end. But is it the end? Episode 24 winds up including some preperation for a second season. While some conflict is resolved, some things were not allowed to happen. Doubts are left dangling over each character.On a side note, Aoi's father is the most powerfully developed character I've ever seen. In a matter of seconds his character, disposition, and power is unavoidably revealed. This is another moment when the English dub falls short. Compared to the intensity of the Japanese track, the English voice is that of a teddy bear. More could have been done to assert this character as a dignified and unapologetic man of power."
Returning to the family - but which one?
Michael Valdivielso | Alexandria, VA | 05/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In this last DVD of the series, we get the last four episodes. The episodes are as powerful as the first five, serious and touching, with some humor. First Aoi is ill and the household learns just how hard it is to run the manison. Then Aoi and Kaoru get closer as they visit the grave of Kaoru's mother.
The last two episodes deal with Aoi's family trying to pull the two apart. These last two episodes were powerful, where we meet Aoi's father, yet different than what I pictured the ending would be like. Not a bad ending, just different.
There are extras, including a tiny five minute long, all in Japanese, 25th episode. Also, the inside fold-out promises another series to follow. Called Ai Yori Aoshi "Enishi"(Fate) it should be coming to DVD in early 2004.
A great, surprising, ending to a perfect series."
One of my favorites
khryoleoz | 05/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am too familiar with and well aware of the areas in which Ai Yori Aoshi may be criticized. And on an intellectual level I would agree. There is absolutely no purpose to Tina's overtly perverse and rude behavior, which was for all intent a grossly distorted crack at American conduct. Taeko may have been more amiable had the character not been a stereotypical clumsy but well-meaning goof of a beauty who is the most endowed among the cast. And Aoi is so subservient, deferring her own wishes, ambitions and aspirations to a weakling that had abandoned her in the first place that it defies reality and suspends disbelief. And its most significant failing may be said to be its dishonesty. To begin with exposition of a profound romantic premise that after four episodes takes not just a detour, but a full 180-degree turn to become something less and driven by slapstick and fanservice is just deceitful and misleading. As a romantic drama, the title is guilty of all its shortcomings.
But what if the original intent had not been to create a romantic drama, but to sell a product that is highly popular among male demographics? And what if success in this business venture was to be found in illustrated literature that falls under a genre in which a harem was not only common, but fundamental? Moreover, what if author and artist Fumizuki Kou was a skilled and gifted writer able to conceive strong situations that test his characters and thus move his readers? And, that despite his need to eat and pay rent or the mortgage, his respect for his own artistry forbids him from producing entirely unsubstantial material, that he devises a plan to bring about warmth, richness, and dimension to the product. And that he does so by setting its foundation on the love of two childhood friends bethrothed to one another but separated by bitter familial politics. But he would decisively and canonically establish an exciting destiny for these two no matter who was thrown in the mix. And to highten and strengthen the dramatic impact, he would develop the two in the most engrossing fashion by sparsely placing throughout the series the tender, touching, inspiring, and captivating moments of intimacy shared between them. And as the two of them engage one another, we are exposed to their thoughts and emotions, raw in the pursuit of the other's well being but founded on a compelling desire to be the source of nourishment to the other. Finally, their interaction would be pure, honest, mutually exclusive, and courageously untainted by any form of wanton and gratuitous sexual provacation (Tina's antics notwithstanding) as is common in today's smut being passed off as romance. What if the powerful romantic elements of Ai Yori Aoshi was merely a component used to enrich the product belonging to a genre from which there certainly was no shortage?
This is how I view Ai Yori Aoshi. It is an enjoyable harem anime based on a fine manga. As a harem anime, it would then be expected for one male to end up in situations where he is living with many women. Yet, the title sets itself apart in execution, as it profoundly explores and develops that romantic component that was sorely neglected in Love Hina and diverted away from in Tenchi. It is also ludicrous to judge the character of Aoi Sakuraba in light of western upbringing and not consider the cultural context from which she was conceived. Whatever it is that one may say about her only demonstrates one's position about the culture, and not fallacies about her conception. The Aoi and Kaoru moments were few indeed, but they were moving and utterly delightful, and their rareness made them all the more special when they did occur. I have nothing but the deepest affection and fondness for Ai Yori Aoshi. I've not seen anything as breadthly emotional in a romance, not the books I've read by jaded authors nor any film or video to which their efforts I ascribe superficial. This title is one that I continue to watch over and over again. If the elitist viewer can get over him or herself, there is much to enjoy in this fine production."
Aoi-a kind and pure person who heals one's heart
Daniel J. Hamlow | Narita, Japan | 07/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The final four episodes demonstrate how integral Aoi Sakuraba is to her fiancé Kaoru, and his classmates, housekeeper Taeko and overall party girl Tina Foster, as well as friends Mayu and Chika. She more than anyone forms the core of this informal "family." More on that later. Everybody learns how Aoi-chan is the house's central pillar when she catches a high fever and is laid down. They pull together and do her chores, something observed by and which touches Miyabi-san, the manager and person in charge of Aoi's education when she was a child. Kaoru and the others realize how much they have taken for granted that the house and yard is so clean. He thinks, "Aoi-chan always smiles, thinking about everyone. She doesn't make one sour face as she does such hard work. Aoi-chan is really amazing." Gee, where can I find someone like that?
Yet Aoi is too hard on herself, apologizing to Miyabi-san for not being good enough, and to Kaoru for not being a good enough fiancée. Come on, Aoi, anyone can get a fever. You've been working too darn hard!
Miyabi then gets a phone call that upsets her. There follows a chain of events where she takes Aoi by car and days pass without them returning. The strict, ultra-serious Miyabi-san is gentler here, as she finally seems to have accepted Kaoru and vows to protect him as well. It seems that Aoi's father, Mr. Sakuraba, has found an overseas trader for Aoi to marry. If Miyabi seemed strict in the series, Mr. Sakuraba makes her look like Shirley Temple. She even gives the two some time so they can escape. True, that means Aoi can never return to her family, but at least they'll be together. However, the two decide to face Mr. Sakuraba together.
Intercut between that scene are cuts of each of the girls thinking about Kaoru and listing his good points. Tina sees him as an awkward guy who can't lie to himself. Taeko thinks he's straightforward and so bright. Chika feels so much at ease with him, making her forget anything bad that happens. Mayu sees him as someone with a kind heart who's strong. "He knows more pain in his heart than anyone else." That touches on the sub-theme of loss. Kaoru lost his father in an accident and was separated from his mother, whom he never got see before she too died. Indeed, when Aoi is confronted by her father, Kaoru has a nightmare of losing her, making him realize something is wrong.
For the most part, Tina is the optimistic cheerleader, soothing the usually bright Chika. However, she and Mayu's arguing is a clear sign how Aoi and Kaoru's absence affects the others. She tells Chika, who wonders why she and Taeko are preparing dinner with enough food for Aoi and Kaoru despite not getting a call from them, that "getting dinner ready so they can come home and welcoming them with a smile--that's what it means to be a family." Indeed, Aoi refers to Miyabi as part of their "family."
There is another subtheme of the past revisited, as Kaoru takes Aoi to visit his mother's grave. However, another magical moment has them visiting the woods where she and Kaoru played when they were children. Some more gaps during that time are filled in via flashbacks. Both were nervous of each other when they first met, but Aoi was glad to see Kaoru laughing and playing. To Kaoru, Aoi resembled a doll with her shiny hair, so he delighted in playing pranks on her to see her react.
We finally discover the root of Aoi's name. Her father tells her, "The day you were born, the sky was a piercing blue. The color blue heals one's heart. Kind and pure. Such a meaning lies within your name."
The story goes on for a bit after the final resolution, with an epilogue. It's another flashback of Kaoru and Aoi as children, which hinted at another series of adventures. A small bonus episode, "Speaking of Dreams," takes place when the usual gang are eating lunch during cherry blossom watching, and share what they dreamed of being when they were kids.
A wonderful way to finish the first season. Followed by a second season, Enishi.