Here you will find honest, intelligent manga reviews for shojo fans of all ages.

Jun 27, 2009

Ai Yori Aoshi - Kou Fumizuki

Ai Yori Aoshi is a tale of childhood love, and how it can endure even through time and circumstance. A seinen manga written by Kou Fumizuki, it was serialized in the publication Young Animal from 1999-2005.

Synopsis: The main character Kaoru Hanabishi is a bastard son of Yūji Hanabishi, the head of the Hanabishi Zaibatsu, who dies when Kaoru is only five years old. Due to harsh circumstances Kaoru leaves his wealthy family at a young age and lives on his own. One day he is returning home from his college courses, when he sees a young lady in a kimono that looks lost at the station. It turns out she is his childhood fiance, Aoi Sakuraba, whose family owns the Sakuraba Department Store franchise. Although their engagement became void when Kaoru left the Hanabishi, Aoi has always loved and cherished his memory since childhood and has sought him out now that they are both of a marriageable age. When her family discovers that she has found Kaoru, they demand her return home. Aoi declares that she wants to stay by Kaoru's side, so her parents send her to live on a western style estate with a guardian. Kaoru is to live on the estate too, but as a tenant in a separate building, and Aoi is to appear as his land lady. Kaoru's college friends intrude upon the estate, and eventually the story becomes a harem with several girls living on the estate all falling for Kaoru. He and Aoi are forced to keep up appearances, denying to others their feelings for one another. Eventually the Hanabishi come for Aoi and she is forced to make a choice that changes her life forever.

Review: It is apparent when flipping through the pages of any of the chapters that this manga was definitely aimed at the male population. The fan service abounds....everywhere. You cannot get through a chapter without some cleavage staring you in the face. Plenty of naked females. One of the college girls, Tina, is even a groper. I'm sure it's appealing to guys, but as a girl, it's somewhat obnoxious. However, if you can get past the fan service, there is actually a touching story about some very well developed characters. Aoi comes across as a very naive girl, and rightly so since she has been sheltered most of her life and groomed to become the wife of the Hanabishi heir. Although Kaoru had a harsh childhood, he doesn't let that keep him from being a sweet and caring guy. As their relationship develops as young adults, their experiences together help shape the people that they eventually become. Aoi learns to become a stronger woman, and Kaoru realizes what having a "family" is really all about. I find that Fumizuki is very crafty with flashbacks. The important childhood moments between Aoi and Kaoru are inserted at very poignant times. The panels are well drawn and you'll hear no complaints about the anatomy....well except maybe the excessive breast sizes. :P During the story Fumizuki has to age the characters over four years and while reading you don't really notice it, but if you take a look at the first and last volume the changes are apparent. That truly shows the talent of the artist. Overall the artwork is very nice. I highly recommend this series as long as you don't mind the fan service. The relationship between Aoi and Kaoru is so very sweet.

Romance Rating: Lustful - As if I haven't emphasized it enough already, there's plenty of nudity. Some intimate moments between Kaoru and Aoi, too.

Media Status: Ai Yori Aoshi is rated mature and available in 17 volumes from Tokyopop. There are two anime adaptations of this series, both produced by J.C. Staff and directed by Masami Shimoda. The first one called Ai Yori Aoshi contains a total of 24 episodes. The sequel series is titled Ai Yori Aoshi: Enishi and contains 12 episodes that take place three years after the the first episode of the original. Both are available in English dubs from Geneon.


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