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Ai Yori Aoshi #3: Hugs and Kisses PDF Print E-mail
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R1 DVD Reviews
Tuesday, 17 November 2009 00:00
Ai Yori AoshiFor all that Ai Yori Aoshi has a dedicated following, there's a real criticism often made that it strays too far from its relationship roots into harem land after the opening batch of episodes. Is this the volume that proves the point? Yup...

11 - Debutante
It's the arrival of another girl to the harem - 16-year-old Mayu Mizuki, who just happens to have a crush on Kaoru after he was particularly kind to her when she was younger. Her arrival is purely by coincidence - with Mayu having been living in England for a while, it's been a long time since she last saw Kaoru. Now she's back in Japan for university, and when she realises she's ended up at the same school as her long-lost love, she's determined not to let him get away again...

Hello girls!Mayu's lost love

12 - Kiss
While Aoi's stuck at home, thinking all sorts of horrible thoughts about what Kaoru and Mayu might be up to, Kaoru's playing babysitter - Mayu's been left living alone while her parents are working in Europe, and now that she's found someone she knows and trusts, she's not about to let him go, even if that leaves her looking like a possessive little brat. The longer Kaoru's away, though, the more Aoi begins to worry, and Kaoru's unaware of the pain he's putting her through...

Don't tell AoiLooking for answers

13 - Star Festival
It's Aoi's birthday, and Kaoru's determined to make it one worth remembering for her. Unfortunately, that also means that he's got to work very long hours at his array of part-time jobs before he can afford the gift he wants for her, leaving Aoi wondering if he's trying to avoid her. It's also time for the local Star Festival, and Tina and Taeko are both looking forward to a good night's partying, combining the festival with Aoi's birthday celebrations - but Aoi's not exactly in the mood for enjoying their efforts...

Star FestivalNice dress

14 - Servant
Mayu's over-bearing monopolisation of Kaoru continues - and seeing how happy a decent boxed lunch makes him, she decides that maybe if she became a little more domesticated, he'd want to spend even more time with her. But Mayu's more used to people running after her than in doing cooking and suchlike herself, and after her first attempt at making a meal goes horribly wrong it's clear she needs a little tuition. After hearing about Aoi's skills, she decides that's who she's going to learn from - whether Aoi likes it or not...

Unhappy girlDreamworld

15 - Feelings of the Heart
While out with Aoi on a shopping trip, Kaoru gets nostalgic and goes back to his old apartment, which is still empty. The trip prompts a number of memories for both of them, and also leads them to look at their feelings for each other. Unfortunately, while they're reminiscing, an estate agent comes by to show the apartment to a potential new resident - leaving the lovebirds to quickly find somewhere to hide...

Happy smileWhat're they up to!?

First reaction to Mayu: Great. An annoying brat... In the majority of her scenes, Mayu has to rate as one the the most selfish & self-centered characters in the history of anime - but fortunately that's not all there is to her. She's a creation of her upbringing & a lonely girl at heart, and there are a few scenes played out over the course of the disc that help the audience to see glimpses of the far more lovable person under the hard exterior & feel some sympathy for her. There are also a good comedy moments - her personality clash with Tina, and trips into her imagination about her & Kaoru's 'future' raised a smile. I did eventually grow to like her, but if you're the sort that doesn't like outwardly annoying characters, then this disc will be a real chore to watch. There's also some truly horrible-on-the-ears Engrish as Mayu tries to show off her English-speaking skills to Tina, unaware that Tina's been brought up in Japan - and to these English-speaking ears, it's as brutal a butchering of the language as I've ever heard in anime. As an aside, Aoi deserves an award for putting up with Mayu's antics, but that's another matter...

Getting back to the heart of the show, eps 13 and 15 both give us some more of AYA's reason for being - the relationship between Aoi and Kaoru. You can't help but love the all-too-brief moments when the lovebirds can be alone together & not worry about hiding their relationship - and there's a really good one of those at the end of episode 15 that make the misplaced comedy that fills most of this disc almost worth sitting through.

Overall, then, volume 3 is a mixed bag. 3 episodes of typical harem stuff, which is still fun to watch in its own right, but you can't help but have a nagging feeling that it's not what Ai Yori Aoshi is really all about. Then you have 2 episodes that get back to the core of the show & give the fans what they really want - the relationship between Kaoru & Aoi - and it's worth picking up the disc for those 2 stories alone. I just wish the balance of comic / romantic stories was tilted more towards the romantic...

Rating - ***

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