Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi: Destiny Vol. 3
Since its premiere, the numerous releases of Ai Yori Aoshi as an anime (the manga is available through TOKYOPOP) have been either good or rather mediocre. Unfortunately, the final volume of the Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi chapter has fallen into the latter category, plagued by sentimentality and terrible dialogue. While some parts were entertaining, the majority was not.
The first two volumes of Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi were very much of the harem genre, focusing on the shenanigans that ensue between Kaoru and the numerous girls he lives with while he and Aoi are waiting to be married. This volume focuses much more on the relationships between individual characters. The DVD starts off with an episode centered on the ever-blossoming relationship between the betrothed Kaoru Hanabishi and Aoi Sakuraba. Their "landlord", Miyabi allows them to go on a date since the other house residents are out doing their own things. The couple goes to numerous locations around the city. Later that night, they check into a hotel, and the conversation between the two once they enter the room is just about everything that I've heard before from Kaoru and Aoi. Nevertheless, it's always a good thing to see them interact as their relationship grows.
The story moves right along, and the reunited group travels to a spa resort for some rest and relaxation. I did not expect such a small amount of fan service! Usually Ai Yori Aoshi has excessive amounts of it, but it's been kept to a minimum on this release. The focus is off of Kaoru and Aoi and back onto the entire group while they indulge in the pleasures of the various baths that are available to them. Kaoru is sitting in the "reserved bath" when he hears Aoi and Tina, the American girl enter. As expected, he hides, and this show's trademark awful dialogue kicks in as Tina discusses her sad past with Aoi. Tina is the primary focus of this disc, and her past in both America and Japan is finally revealed, as well as why she must soon return to America.
Before she leaves for America, she and Kaoru go out for a walk so they can be with each other one last time, while they have the cheesiest, sappiest, most overly sentimental conversation I have ever had to endure in my entire anime-watching career. The phrase that comes to mind is: "Look Kaoru! There's some cardboard! Let's slide on it!" At this point in time, I almost turned the DVD player off.
Following the standard romantic comedy cliché, much of the next episode follows the remaining members of the household in Japan and Tina in America moping for a good fifteen minutes because of their separation. What happens next is obvious, so I won't go too deeply into it. The series ends with a "speech" from Aoi about the bonds that tie us all together, a speech that somehow combined horrible, low-budget soap opera music with voice actors that are trying too hard. The bad voice acting of this anime is in both languages, so there is no avoiding it.
Not all is bad though. It continues Ai Yori Aoshi's tradition of being absolutely beautiful, with a gorgeous color palette and excellent animation. The character designs are awesome, and the backgrounds are also great, except for the occasional house that is blatantly CG. Blatant CG bothers me.
Geneon has done a great job on this release in terms of video quality, DVD menus, and packaging. The DVD comes with a reversible cover, and a nice mini-poster of the extremely sexy Aoi. Geneon also included a very nice extra: a live Yoko Ishida performance filmed at Anime Expo '04.
Aoi Yori Aoshi Enishi isn't a bad rental if you have a craving for a harem or romantic comedy show and have seen everything else in the genre. However, if you haven't seen other anime of this genre, there are numerous shows that I would easily recommend over this one.