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Ai Yori Aoshi #2
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Written by maehara   
Wednesday, 11 August 2004 00:00
Ai Yori Aoshi - Volume 2Continuing to march in step with the anime release, volume 2 of Ai Yori Aoshi sees the romance aspect shift into the background & the harem aspect take over. The question is, which version handles the harem better?

11 - Dousei ~Cohabitation~
Aoi's back, and ready to move into Kaoru's city pad - but her family have other ideas, and have decided they'll live in one of the Sakuraba family summer homes. It's a huge mansion, but Kaoru's dreams of a happy life together with Aoi don't last long - Miyabi will be living with them as chaperone, and poor Kaoru's been assigned to the servant's quarters...

12 - Hoyuu ~Friends~
Let the harem begin. Introducing Tina (American-born, but Japanese-bred, and with one hell of an appetite for alcohol) and Taeko (latest member of the college photography club, and natural born klutz). To celebrate Taeko's arrival and Tina's return from America, the club are throwing a bit of a party, but Tina's industrial-strength moonshine leaves Kaoru flat on his back, while Aoi sits at home wondering what's happened to him...

13 - Ooya ~Landlady~
After carrying a comatose Kaoru home, Tina makes herself at home in his room - which more than surprises Aoi when she comes looking for him next morning. Just to rub salt into the wounds, Tina has been Kaoru's friend for years and has 101 stories about him, leaving Aoi to wonder just how much she really knows about her fiancé. Meanwhile, Tina somehow manages to make herself the mansion's first lodger when she decides to move in permanently...

14 - Kakaku ~Travellers~
Time for the photography club's annual outing, and this year Aoi's tagging along. Problem is, they left Taeko to do the organising, so things don't go quite according to plan... Once accomodation mix-ups are resolved, though, it's down to the serious business - alcohol, and Taeko's official initiation into the club. This involves sending her out into the forest to take a photo of the area's local ghost - but Taeko, with her woeful sense of direction, soon manages to get lost...

15 - Gen'you ~Poltergeist~
Kaoru and Aoi head off in search of Taeko, but only end up getting lost themselves. Although they do eventually track Taeko down, but the time they do it's too late to try and find their way back to the hotel, so they end up camping in an abandoned mountain hut. Seems Taeko found her ghost, though...

16 - Kadou ~Housekeeping~
Taeko's been kicked out of her job as a live-in maid, so she comes to Aoi looking for help - or more accurately, a job & lodgings. Aoi's happy enough to take her on, but first she has to get past Miyabi, whose standards are quite high. Given Taeko's inherent clumsiness, it seems this job may last even less time than her last one...

17 - Matsuri ~Festival~
Cultural Festival time, and the photography club's putting on a coffee shop - the main attraction being Tina and Taeko in some very skimpy outfits. Their reputation is ruined, though, when Tina takes her love for wild animals a bit too far and unleashes various bugs, snakes and lizards on the customers, leaving them with no shop, no customers, and the prospect of no funding for the coming year. When Aoi tries to cheer them up with some of her traditionally-made tea, a plan is hatched for a new money-making scheme...

18 - Kizuato ~Scars~
Welcome to Japanese Style Teahouse AOI, the photography club's second attempt at fundraising - with a little help from Aoi. Two problems, though - running the tearoom means Aoi and Kaoru don't have much opportunity to see each other, and having to wear a traditional outfit again brings some painful memories back to Kaoru...

19 - Aibiki ~Rendezvous
The Cultural Festival continues, and Aoi and Kaoru still aren't getting much in the way of quality time together. Even when he makes the effort to buy her some lunch, poor Kaoru can't get Aoi to take the time to enjoy it with him. By the end of the day, though, both of them are really missing each other, and Aoi finally gets the chance to spend some time with Kaoru...

It does surprise me how well the manga & anime volumes match each other, although that's not really an important thing. With the anime, AYA's almost schizophrenic nature was infuriating at times - is it a romance, or a harem comedy? - but it was just taking its lead from the manga. Difference is, the manga seems to handle it better - the short scenes that both versions have where Kaoru and Aoi finally manage to get away from the rest of the cast & spend some time together just seem to work so much better in print than they did on-screen, and it's a difference that really makes the manga stand out. We're only talking short moments, a page or two each time, but they're significant & add a lot to the story. The same short scenes are in the anime, sure, but for some reason they just didn't have the same impact there.

Otherwise, this is pretty much by-the-numbers for a harem story, with the character introductions for Tina and Taeko taking up most of the volume, along with the obligatory Cultural Festival sidestory. It's all pretty much playing to the stereotype for this sort of story, but it does it quite well - even without the love story underneath, AYA would be above average - just. With Kaoru & Aoi, it becomes addictive reading. Well worth getting.


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