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Ai Yori Aoshi #1
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Written by maehara   
Tuesday, 27 July 2004 00:00
Ai Yori Aoshi - Volume 1Another look at the origins of one of the anime series I've been covering, with the first volume of Ai Yori Aoshi, or 'True Blue Love' as TOKYOPOP have opted to subtitle it...

1 - Enishi ~Connection~
While travelling home from college one day, Kaoru Hanabishi meets a young, traditionally-dressed girl who's obviously having some trouble finding her way. Being the considerate type, he offers to help her find her way to her friends house - only to find the address she has is a vacant plot of land. Taking her back to his apartment while she figures out what to do next, he's amazed when she hands him a photo of her friend - and finds out it's him. The girl is Aoi Sakuraba, childhood friend of Kaoru's, who's come to marry him...

2 - Iinazuke ~Betrothed~
Aoi announces she's come to marry Kaoru, so they can go back to the Hanabishi family together - problem is, Kaoru has no intention of going anywhere near his family. Convinced Aoi's been roped in by them to persuade him to return, he asks her to leave - but when she runs into some trouble outside his apartment, he finds he can't leave her alone...

3 - Shitone ~Bedding~
With misunderstandings cleared up, it's getting late, so Kaoru allows Aoi to stay the night. While the initial plan is for Aoi to use the futon while he sleeps on the floor, it doesn't work out that way, and Kaoru finds himself in the late-night grip of a very affectionate Aoi-chan...

4 - Yuuge ~Dinner~
Aoi's main aim in life seems to be to become a traditional Japanese wife - and she's been putting a lot of work into mastering all the skills that would be expected of her in that role. All she has to do now is put them to use... Kaoru has to go back to university, but Aoi's insistent that she'll take care of dinner for him. Seems she's done a lot of research on Kaoru's likes and dislikes - and he's not complaining...

5 - Yudono ~Bath~
More ecchiness as Aoi follows Kaoru to the bath, insisting on washing his back. It's all innocent enough, but a badly-timed slip leaves the two of them in a compromising situation just as Aoi's minder, Miyabi, arrives - and she's not happy. Not just with the position she finds them in, but also because Aoi seems to have left home without her family's permission...

6 - Kotowari ~Reason~
Faced with having to go back home & lose Kaoru again, Aoi tries once more to persuade him to go back to the Hanabishi family. Kaoru's forced to explain his determination never to go back, and tells her of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his adoptive family...

7 - Wakare ~Farewell~
Miyabi takes Aoi back home, leaving Kaoru with only dreams of what may have been. It's not long before he receives a phonecall, though - it's Aoi, who has managed to give Miyabi the slip & wants to see him one more time.

8 - Ouse ~Meeting~
Aoi's determined not to have to leave Kaoru, and he's more than happy to have her around. Having learnt of his reasons for leaving the Hanabishi, she realises that their original arranged marriage doesn't stand much chance of happening, but she's prepared to give up her own position with the Sakuraba family, if Kaoru will have her, and asks Kaoru to exchange vows with her...

9 - Chigiri ~Vow~
Not that Kaoru's in any position to exchange vows - he's come down with a heavy fever & isn't at all well. In a move that would be more likely to raise his blood pressure & temperature than lower it, Aoi decides to help him in the traditional Japanese way - skin to skin...

10 - Kinuginu ~Morning After~
It's crunch time for the young lovers when Miyabi returns - this time with Aoi's mother in tow, who is surprised at the determination that Aoi shows when she explains how she intends to stay with Kaoru. Realising her daughter's grown up, she agrees to speak to her father, with a view to allowing to two of them to continue living together...

The ten chapters here cover pretty much the same terrain that the first DVD volume of AYA covers - meaning this is the serious, love-story aspect of the story, before Tina & Taeko arrive to turn it into a harem. To many, this is the best part of AYA, with the harem parts being distracting filler. Problem is that, to me, the anime does a far better job of conveying the emotion that this part of the story carries - reading through these chapters I just didn't get the same emotional connection to the characters that I remember having when watching the story.

The artwork is also disappointing - while the drawing style is clear and easy to follow, the character designs again aren't quite as good as their animated counterparts. It seems this story is a clear case of me having been spoiled by the anime enough for it to affect my enjoyment of the manga...

That said, the underlying story is still very good, even without the impact it should have. There's also a hugh amount of character development for Aoi & Kaoru here, giving you all the information you need to understand where the two characters are coming from.

Overall, then... I'm not sure. I enjoyed it, I love AYA, but this just doesn't work as well as the anime does. I'm thinking it'll work better in conveying the harem side of the story (based on the first few chapters of volume 2 - review soon), and it's a good was of revisiting the story in bite-sized chunks, but for this volume at least it definitely feels like something in missing.


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