Ai Yori Aoshi The Complete Series is part of FUNimation’s anime classics collection and consists of Ai Yori Aoshi and Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi. At first glance the series appears to be just another harem anime, filled with fan service, but beneath its shallow presentation there is a rather good tale of two young lovers. Our protagonists, Kaoru Hanabishi and Aoi Sakuraba, both the offspring of two financial conglomerates, were arranged to be wed as children but due to personal reasons Kaoru left his family and lost contact with Aoi for years. No longer a member of the Hanabishi family it would be disgraceful for someone of such a low social standing to marry Aoi and as the series progresses our lovers encounter more and more obstacles.
As more girls are introduced and eventually move into the Kaoru/Aoi household, things get a little complicated, with some very serious moments of tension, and moments that make absolutely no sense at all. The amount of fan service J.C. Staff managed to squeeze in is ridiculous, it’s not as crazy as Ikki Tousen, but they don’t skimp at all, from huge breasts to lolicon. Social stereotypes are everywhere, from the loud mouth American to snotty rich British girl. It’s also apparent that the creators believe every Japanese man loves a traditional Japanese woman. Aoi is almost always the center of attention due to the fact that she wears a Kimono and appears frail, although her outwardly frailty belies a much a stronger woman.
The series isn’t all fan service though, the story is a fairly decent one although it flops at times. A house filled with emotionally confused young adults, only one of which is a man is bound to have a lot of drama going on. Or so the viewer is led to believe. A lot of times the “drama” feels forced, and occurs in short bursts. It does help that Kaoru, the resident lover boy, is a really nice guy. He doesn’t fit the usual bill of raging pervert and has his eyes only on Aoi, most of the time. Along with the occasional random, accidental groping a few of the girls make various sexual advances on him. One episode even shows a little nipple, but the atmosphere is very serious and should not be taken lightly. That being said, the series is only rated TV 14.
Ai Yori Aoshi: The Complete Series is broken up into two seasons, the second is subtitled Enishi, when used in this particular context, it means the bond between family. A perfect description since the series leans away from just the singular relationship of Kaoru and Aoi, towards the family like bond between the entire group. The struggles of Kaoru and Aoi are still there, but there is a lot of one on one bonding between the other females within the household. As they come to realize why they love Kaoru, and that their feelings are much deeper than mere puppy love.
The set has some good extras, including two bonus episodes, the obligatory, clean opening and closings as well as music video and live performance by Yoko Ishida. The latter takes place during 2004’s Anime Expo in California. Lastly, the set includes a lovely reversible cover of Aoi, Ai Yori Aoshi The Complete Series is available now from FUNimation.