Ai Yori Aoshi – Enishi

November 25, 2006

If you haven’t watched the prequel, most probably you’ll still manage to get by after watching Ai Yori Aoshi – Enishi. Yup, I somehow felt that there isn’t any major significant difference in this sequel. Yup, probably you won’t be able to tell the difference whether this is the prequel or the sequel.
 
So is there anything much? With only 12 episodes, which is half the number of episodes from its prequel, I can pretty much say that this sequel in a way felt like an ‘extension’ to the prequel, if you know what I mean. It’s just to satisfy hard-core fans of the series with a little more adventures and relationship bonding here and there.
 
Well, this series takes place approximately 2 years after the end of the 1st season. Uh-huh, 2 years since Kaoru and Aoi’s fateful meeting with Aoi’s parents. Okay, so you may need to watch the prequel just to know how things ended up this way. Let’s start things off with a short recap.
 
Kaoru Hanabishi and Aoi Sakuraba are supposed to be engaged since childhood. But Kaoru ran away from Aoi family’s household because he cannot stand their abuse as he’s an illegitimate child of one of the clan members. Many years later, Aoi manages to track him down and they started mending their relationship. Under the guidance (and watchful eye) of Aoi’s tutor, Miyabi, they began a new chapter in their life and adventure living in the Sakuraba’s summer mansion, along with other interesting characters as well. In the end, Aoi’s dad decides to break them up but Kaoru is determined not to run away anymore and face up to his past. Fortunately, her dad accepted him and now the 2 can go on living happily ever after.
 
In this sequel, Kaoru’s already a graduating student in his college and is busy than ever with his assignments and projects, the rest of the occupants of the Sakuraba’s summer mansion are still there with their ‘one kind’ and weird habits. Oh, by the way, the mansion gets a new occupant as seen in the first episode. Who could it be? Well, it’s no other than Taeko’s innocent and genki little sister, Chika.
 
Yup, she decides to move in with the whole gang, probably because she didn’t want to miss out on all the fun she had with them in the prequel. Of course, she has a liking for Kaoru too, but she sees him as an older brother, that’s all. By the way, Kaoru’s photography club pals, the train obsessed maniac Suzuki and cosplay fanatic Satou made their only appearance in this episode and won’t be appearing for the rest of the series. You’ll see them helping Chika unloading her stuffs into the Sakuraba’s summer mansion, and that’s it. No more Mr Satou or Mr Suzuki. I guess they’re really not that important, huh?
 
Also, why is the sequel called Enishi? You’ll find that out in the first episode too as innocent Chika probes every occupant in the mansion about their feelings for Kaoru. Aww… Of course, those girls like Tina, Taeko and Mayu are too shy and embarrassed to explain it to her as you know, deep in their hearts, they too love Kaoru as much as Aoi does. Yeah, they’re reluctant to tell her their true feelings. And when Chika asked Aoi about it, she mentions about some invisible bond that binds her and Kaoru and the rest of the other occupants together. That bond is called ‘Enishi’. Ahh… I see. Furthermore, Aoi explains that her Enishi with Kaoru has been bonded a very long time ago, thus in a way that’s why the 2 are quite close together. Well, I’m not sure if Chika really understood all that in the right way, but in the end, she’s determined to ‘love’ Kaoru as her big brother more than ever.
 
And as mentioned, the rest of the episodes in the series sees the gang going about with their adventures and how they bond even closer with that. Probably that’s what the whole series is about, friendships and relationships. So in episode 2, Chika brings 2 of her classmates, Natsuki and Chizuru, to let them see first hand the guy (Kaoru) she’s been living with. Well, the 2 didn’t really get to meet Kaoru face to face but instead met the other occupants of the house and had their share of fun along the way. But in the end, they’re glad to know that Chika has many wonderful friends.
 
Somehow in a way I felt that this was going to be a Chika series because in episode 3, she tries to learn how to play tennis for some upcoming sports event. So who’s gonna train her? Surprisingly, it’s Miyabi, who once was a good tennis player. Well, I suppose she’s an all-rounder, excelling not only in business but sports as well. Maybe the producers felt that they need to give Chika her fair share of air time since she made her appearance only after half way through the series last season. This is also the case in episode 8. Chika and her 2 buddies are gonna enter some regional swimming competition relay and they need to practice real hard. Fortunately, they have a coach who’ll guide them through. It’s Tina! Surprise, surprise. With her help, the trio manage to pull through. Yay!
 
Okay, it wouldn’t be fair if there weren’t adventures from the other girls as well, wouldn’t it? So in episode 4, the gang hear some weird noises from an unoccupied floor above Tina’s room. And they thought it’s a ghost! Well, they can’t just sit around and do nothing, right? Yup, they had to investigate it. And surprisingly, it seems that Taeko is some sort of a supernatural expert. In the end, they found out that it’s actually Uzume (their pet ferret) making its home up there. Plus, they discover some old furnitures in the abandoned area and a picture of the mansion’s early inhabitants. One of them looking so much like Taeko. Hmmm… But don’t worry, even though this episode is somewhat of a little horror-themed, it isn’t that scary at all. At points you may want to laugh at their antics.
 
It’s Mayu’s turn in episode 5. What do I mean? Yeah, in this episode, she decides to ask Kaoru out on a date. Only thing is, she asked right in front of the other house occupants! Oh, the shock, especially Tina. Would she approve it, since she and Mayu are both loggerheads. You see, Mayu’s mom sent her some nice looking dress all the way from Paris and Mayu would like to wear it on some special occassion. Uh-huh, that is, a date with Kaoru would be perfect. And since Kaoru’s too kind not to refuse, he agreed to do so. Oh, I hope Aoi doesn’t get too worried. I mean the guy she fell in love with is a very kind person, right? So that’s to be expected, right? Anyway, since it’s Mayu’s first time on a date, she’s been having problems of what to do on a date. She seems nervous trying to make her date with Kaoru go right. But Kaoru’s such a nice guy, he didn’t mind. I suppose in the end she manages to calm down and take things easy when she played one of piano recital to Kaoru.
 
The girls try to compete for Kaoru’s attention to try and spend some ‘Kaoru-time’ in episode 6. However, Kaoru’s so busy with his college assignments that he has rarely time to spend with them. When they find out about these, they try to help him in his assignments only to make things worse than they are. Not until Aoi chided them for being a hindrance that they leave Kaoru alone to finish his assignment. Just like in every other episodes, it all ends well and the gang celebrates. Typical.
 
After that gruelling assignment, it’s summer vacation time as Kaoru and the gang decides to take a well deserved break in episode 7. Unfortunately, Mayu can’t tag along much to her disappointment as she has to go to her own vacation. The funny part is where the gang needs to split into 2 cars for the trip. Aoi and Miyabi in one and the rest in the other. Well, it’s smooth driving for the former but not so the latter. Why? Because Taeko’s driving it! Wait a minute? A clumsy maid like her has a driving license?! How did she pass? Actually, she doesn’t have a valid one. She just got her driving ‘skills’ from some video game outlet. Wargh!!! It’s a hell ride for the rest of the passengers. Reminds me of Yukari of Azumanga Daioh. Even Tina was reluctant to go on board at first, but the car that Miyabi’s driving is only a two-seater. Shucks. They should’ve rented a van. Anyway, the gang are glad when they manage to reach their destination safely. Phew. But not without those after-effects.
 
So the typical have their fun outing, have some barbeque next to a stream. And fortunately, Mayu’s summer vacation is also the same place as the gang as her gloomy spirits are lifted when she caught a glimpse of them (actually more like Kaoru) and proceeds to join them, much to Tina’s dismay. Yeah, the 2 still bickering. Later that night, they played some indoor games and one of them is some sort of like where a few players randomly draw sticks with numbers on it and the one with a ‘king’ symbol gets to tell the player holding stick number xx to do stuffs. Each of them gets their turn and fun. That is, until Tina (with the ‘king’) asked to confess his/her first true love. And the unfortunate ‘victim’ is Aoi. Oh, the horror. She’s reluctant to tell. She can’t possibly tell or else, their landlord-resident relationship facade will be jeopardized. And based on the game rules, you have to tell the truth or else. But Aoi mentioned that she can’t say, much to Tina’s disappointment. I guess Miyabi and Kaoru are relieved in a way.
 
Later, Aoi and Kaoru had their moment of intimacy at some open hotspring. Don’t worry, it’s gender separated as they talk face to face through some small window in the barrier. Wait a minute? That window’s large enough to see through the other side. But that’s not important. Anyway, the 2 reassured each other’s love and kissed. Aww… how touching.
 
More of that Kaoru-Aoi moments in episode 9. In recognition of Kaoru’s hard work and effort in college, Kaoru’s lecturer, Professor Itsuki gives him 2 tickets for a trip to Yokohama. Here, besides the 2 have their fun outing, they also ponder about their future (being married, have kids and those sort of stuffs). Also, some reflection about their past and themselves. This episode is different from the rest because… there isn’t any of that ‘harem intervention’. Yeah, just the 2 of them alone. I like that romantic atmosphere where Kaoru and Aoi are spending their time together in some hotel room overviewing a large ferris wheel (reminds me of Honey And Clover in a way).
 
Another trip to the hotsprings in episode 10. Well, this must really be hotspring heaven. There are so many types and versions for customers to try out. Not only that, they have other attractions as well such as saunas, massage parlours and water slides too. Hey, Chika and her 2 buddies are also joining the gang. And as expected, more fun and adventure from the bunch. Hehe, Taeko getting all drunk and mistaken some racoon statue as Miyabi. Here we also see, Tina telling Aoi her experiences and happy moments when she came to live with them, her past, and especially Kaoru. But don’t worry, it’s not like Tina’s gonna snatch him away. She’s just thinking that maybe Kaoru needs somebody to support him, that’s all. Hmm… Aoi’s a little concerned. But she’s just kidding about that last part too. By the end of this episode, Mayu overheard Tina’s conversation over her handphone saying that she’ll return to the USA for sure.
 
Yup, I guess that’s the seemingly turning point of the series. The part where it gets a little serious and make viewers a little ‘worried’. Yup, it’s true, that in episode 11 Tina’s going back to her homeland as requested by her parents, but she is unable to tell the others directly only saying that she’ll be back for just a short reunion and will return in time for her graduation ceremony. Unfortunately, she’s not going to come back ever and will skip graduation day. By the end of the episode, Kaoru and Aoi entered Tina’s room when they discovered a letter on her door, just to find many photos of her time there and Kaoru came to a conclusion that Tina may never return as she has left her memories here. Oh no. Tell me it isn’t so. How lonely the house would be without her craziness and rowdiness and how everyone will miss her ‘breast squeezing’ greeting. Okay, maybe not so much of that. But hey, that’s her trademark in a way, isn’t it? Something unwanted that’ll sorely be missed. ;p
 
So in the last episode as the other occupants of the house expects Tina to return any time soon, Kaoru and Aoi seem to think otherwise. And Aoi is really starting to miss Tina very much. A lot of flashbacks here and there about the time with Tina and what she said. Meanwhile, Tina is back at her ranch in USA and her parents are glad that she’s back. I don’t get this part. Tina’s been playing some toy where you need to put and fit the ball with a hole (attached to a string to the toy) exactly at certain parts of the toy. I’m not sure what it’s called. But Tina’s having a hard time completing the trick, failing at every attempt. Just when finally she got her final attempt right, she realized something. She told her parents how much fun it was being back home, bla bla bla, but there’s some place where she needs to be right now, the place where her heart is.
 
And guess what. Yeah, she’s coming back! Much to the everyone’s relief. I guess even Mayu misses the bickering. Though, she’s still too noisy. And for the first time, we see Tina in a traditional kimono as she heads to college for her graduation picture. Ah well, everything’s back to normal. Ah, the power of Enishi… Is it fate for them all to be together? At least, they’re all one big happy family.
 
In the last scene we hear Aoi narrating how that though everyone will be living in the mansion, but there’ll come a day when everybody has to leave too, but the wonderful times that they’ll spend together will never fade away. And how she’s grateful and will forever cherish this moment with Kaoru and the rest. How touching and appropriate. The final few scenes see how everyone doing their best like Mayu performing one of recitals, Chika and her friends doing well in swimming competitions, and… what’s this, Miyabi and Mayu’s driver-cum-butler having tea together. Could it be that some chemistry is starting to brew between them? Miyabi finally found her true love? She like so shy shy lah. But I guess that’s another story.
 
Overall, I kinda like the ending of the series where it turned out good for everyone. Yeah, recently somehow I’ve been watching anime series with endings that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. So such an ending is quite timely for me. Though, I felt that the storyline isn’t anything new nor did it have any major impact. I just like how the relationship between the characters developed and the lessons that touched on human bonding and relationships.
 
The drawing and animation is consistent with the 1st season. Thus, as mentioned before, you couldn’t tell any difference. If it does, well then, you wouldn’t be really able to tell. I know I didn’t. Another thing is that the mid-intermissions seemed a bit longer and they put up some nice and calming sceneries.
 
Though I consider it to be one of those harem series genre (hey, one guy, lots of girls around him, and they like him one way or another. Harem right?) at least they didn’t go to extreme lengths to get Kaoru’s affections. Yeah, they’re all so good friends. All they want is to show their gratitude and spend time with him that’s all. Nothing so serious. People with love triangle problems should learn from them. Yup, and that Kaoru-Aoi’s real relationship still remains an intact secret.
 
So a third season? Not likely. What else is there. Even so, it may be the same old thing. Or probably they’ll show Kaoru and Aoi married and having their own life. Probably. But at this rate things are going, I’m sure their love will last till the end of time, if not through eternity. If only there were more of such kind of love in this world. Then maybe the world would be a better place. If only movie star celebrities could be like Kaoru and Aoi. But I guess such fairytale endings only happen in the movies, so they say. But I’m thinking, this may be a good reference point and model too. It may come in handy for me when my time comes. Hehehe.

Ai Yori Aoshi

July 1, 2006

There’s nothing really that special or out of the ordinary when I’ve finished watching Ai Yori Aoshi. Sure, it’s a normal love story with some obstacles here and there, but it ended good anyway.
 
So it’s about this university-going student, Kaoru Hanabishi, who lives all by himself in a small apartment. One day he meets a kimono-clad lady, Aoi Sakuraba, who’s lost at the train station. Because the station was so crowded, her sandal straps snapped. Thus, Kaoru proceeded to fix her sandals. Later on when he was about to part, she tells him that she came to meet her fiance whom she’s engaged for 18 years. So he decided to help Aoi look for her fiance.
 
Upon reaching the address on Aoi’s note, she was devastated to find that the place is a vacant lot. Not wanting to see her even depressed, Kaoru asked if there’re any other clues that may lead to finding him. Aoi took out an old childhood picture of her and her fiance. Suddenly, Kaoru recognizes that boy in the picture. It’s himself! So he’s Aoi’s fiance and the one she’s looking for.
 
Why didn’t Kaoru remember such a thing? You see, Kaoru too had a terrible past. He was born out of wedlock. An illegitimate child of the Hanabishi clan. His mom had an affair with one of the Hanabishi clan member (Kaoru’s father, that is) and their love wasn’t approved by their elders. After his father died they mistreated and physically abuse both Kaoru and his mom. This would explain the scars on Kaoru’s back.
 
Because the Hanabishi clan needed an heir to their clan, they had no choice but to accept Kaoru. But he’s still subjected to torture. In addition, the Hanabishi clan and the Sakuraba clan (throughout the generations the Sakurabas are famous for their kimonos and dominate the industry until today) are supposed to be close and any child from their clan will be married to each other to keep the ‘royalness‘ of their clan.
 
After Kaoru’s mom passed away and no longer could Kaoru take anymore of their beatings, he ran away. Thus, it’s some part of Kaoru’s bitter memories which he wants to totally forget. Which he successfully did until Aoi showed up and gradually he’s forced to remember them once more.
 
Basically, if you just see the first few episodes and the last 2 episodes, you’ll still be alright. That’s because the rest of the episodes mainly introduces other characters and how they interact with each other. Plus, if you don’t watch it in chronological order, I think it’ll be okay too. Most of the episodes are like stand-alones and aren’t really connected to the previous ones. I mean, it does but not so much.
 
So by the 3rd episode, Aoi’s caretaker Miyabi came to bring her back home. But Aoi pleads with her to let her stay with Kaoru. Of course it didn’t and she had to go back, but you know lah she managed to escape. So finally with Aoi’s mom permission, she’d finally be able to be by Kaoru’s side.
 
Just as things were going back to normal, the next day walking back from university, Kaoru found out that his stuffs in his apartment were missing. That’s because Miyabi took the initiative to move all his stuffs into the Sakuraba’s summer mansion. Wow! It’s such a huge mansion and they’re going to live there all by themselves. Well, not really. As the story progressed, you’ll find that there’ll be more occupants living in this mansion.
 
By the way, speaking of which let’s take a look at the other main characters of the series first. You’ll notice at first that they’re all girls! Yup, 5 of them. Firstly as mentioned earlier, Miyabi Kagurazaki, Aoi’s appointed guardian and educator by Aoi’s father. She’s strict and no nonsense type of women. At first she’s quite sceptic about Kaoru and Aoi’s relationship, trying to keep control and in view of Kaoru’s actions from Aoi. But later loosens up a little. Besides this, she also handles the Sakuraba’s marketing division. One thing I find peculiar about her is her somewhat liking towards watermelons. Yeah, she seems to like them very much. Like she thinks summer won’t be complete without some watermelon cutting activity thingy.
 
Another character, Tina Foster, is one of Kaoru’s old friend and an American who speaks fluent Japanese. A year ago she went abroad travelling but now she’s back because she wanted to be with her ‘darling Kaoru’. She’s quite loudmouth and energetic but all in good fun. She too got a weird habit of greeting ladies by squeezing their breasts! Sick. Likes to drink and get drunk too. She seems to ‘fear’ Miyabi a little. If she gets a little too loud, one word from Miyabi and Tina’s all quiet down.
 
Then there’s that in-house maid Taeko Minazuki. Also one of Kaoru’s university mate. She previously worked as a maid in some other people’s home. But her clumsiness made her always on the lookout for a new home. Yeah, she’s really clumsy for a maid. So why did Miyabi took her in? At first she didn’t want to but because of her perseverance, determination and support from the others, I guess it’s okay to give her a second chance. Though, there’ll be more clumsiness from her if you observed.
 
Also, there’s that Mayu Miyuki. Some rich girl who returned from England. At first she hated Japanese education system. But when she found out that Kaoru was attending the university that she’ll soon be attending herself, she’s all for it. Yeah, there’ll be some flash back to see why Mayu liked Kaoru so much. Something like when she was young, always alone, her parents often busy, no time for her, and Kaoru was there to cheer her and give some words of encouragement (hey, could be something big for a little girl at that time). Plus she lives in a really really big mansion all by herself with her servants and it seems like a dull place. Therefore she go visit Kaoru’s place everyday.
 
So that first-kiss-on-the-lips-like-greeting between Mayu and Kaoru seem to worry Aoi later when rumours of it finally reached her. But anyway, it was just something like a friend’s greeting. No big deal. Plus Mayu and Tina are always at each other throat. Always quarelling and bickering just about anything. As usual there’s nothing serious about it. Just to provide some comical relief, that’s all.
 
Finally, there’s Taeko’s little sister, Chika. You won’t really see her until episode 16 of the series when the gang went to visit the beach where Taeko’s mom worked. What a late appearance. At first glance she doesn’t really resemble anything close to Taeko. She’s got this really tanned skin and if she isn’t wearing any shirt (didn’t happen directly so you could see her chest, though), you’d thought that she’s wearing a singlet. Really tanned (due to working at the beach for so long). She’s that genki kinda character and looks up to Kaoru as her older brother. Though she sometimes seem to play matchmaking and tries to hook up her elder sister with Taeko.
 
Then there’re other characters too like their pet ferret Uzume, whom Miyabi scorns at first but later on began to accept it. Seems quite close to Tina though. Also Kaoru’s photography club members Satou and Suzuki. While Satou has uncanny interest in cosplay costumes, Suzuki has an uncanny interest in trains. Yup, trains! He finds them ‘sexy’. Plus, these 2 also usually ‘use’ Taeko as their photography subject. I don’t think these 2 play any significant parts except to provide a few laughs here and there.
 
So back to the story (wow! Didn’t know my brief character introduction was that long), with other occupants occupying the mansion. Miyabi strongly advice Kaoru and Aoi to keep their relationship a secret. This is to avoid some scandal or any undesirable incidents towards the Sakuraba clan which could bring their downfall. So in the eyes of others, Aoi is the landlord while Miyabi is her manager. Throughout the whole series they manage to keep their relationship as it is though there’re times when you thought that "oh no, the secret’s gonna be out". Didn’t.
 
And as mentioned earlier on too, some of their adventures include a visit to the hotspring, Kaoru and Tina spending a night alone in the mansion with power outage due to a storm, Aoi visiting Kaoru at his university (attracting the eyes of other students. "Oh, who’s that beautiful girl in that kimono"), Aoi teaching Mayu to cook, Kaoru working part time to earn extra money to buy that special dress for Aoi, a visit to the zoo by Tina and Kaoru only to find that they had to put up a night at a hotel (nothing really happened. Really. And Aoi got so worried there), everyone else trying to help do chores in the mansion when Aoi fell sick (and failing mierably), and Aoi’s visit to Kaoru’s mom’s grave. But mainly these adventures seek to further bond the relationship of the characters.
 
Also as the story progressed, you’ll see how Kaoru and Aoi’s love for each other blossomed and how they lean and support each other. Quite romantic scenes I guess, coupled with some lover’s philosophy (can’t remember them but I remember that I was touched by those words). Though indirectly the other girls, especially Tina, Mayu and Taeko harbour some feelings for Kaoru, they don’t really try to confess their feelings to him.
 
Is Kaoru really that nice a guy? Yup, he is. Quite helpful and kind, I’d say. So much better than Rin in Shuffle or Junichi from Da Capo. Most probably because of his dark past, he decides to become a better person rather than being a bitter person. No wonder the girls liked him.
 
Even if they had to ‘fight’ for Kaoru’s love or attention, it’s all just comical releif and doesn’t impact the Kaoru-Aoi relationship. Although too that there’re times when Aoi seemed worried about Kaoru’s interaction with the other girls, but later on it isn’t such a big deal either.
 
The last 2 episodes took a little serious turn. With Aoi’s father wanting to break their relationship and separating them forever. So instead of running away like he did in the past, Kaoru went to face Aoi’s father and explain things. At first it wasn’t looking good. Yeah, you’ve got to look it from Aoi’s dad’s perspective too. When Kaoru ran away, he left Aoi all alone. So whose fault? Not important. But more importantly, with Kaoru’s steadfast decision, Aoi’s dad finally manage to accept him and Aoi together. Plus we get to hear the meaning of Aoi’s name. Something like born during the clear blue sky which brings tranquility. Something like that.
 
So it’s all one big happy family in the end. With everybody working hard and doing their best. A happy ending and one that I’ve actually expected, after watching a few other animes with ‘unpleasant’ endings, this one was quite a relief. So overall, I guess if you want to watch happy ending animes with only a little tension here and there, I think this anime is quite suitable. Plus, nothing too flashy and more down to earth kind of relationship. Now to watch the sequel.
 
Oh yeah, do you notice that Aoi always wears that same purple kimono outfit 99% of the time that it becomes some sort of her trademark. And if she’d wore something else, it would seem like it doesn’t really suit her and it’s just plain weird. I felt so lah.

Towa No Hana

February 17, 2006

  Awaku saita hana no kao,
  Nokoshi kisetsu wa sugimasu,
  Ame mo agari sora ni kumo,
  Aoi kaze ga soyoideru
 
I actually didn’t have any intention of finding a karaoke version of Towa No Hana, which is the opening song for the anime series Ai Yori Aoshi. I was just browsing and surfing casually when I happen to chance upon it. So what the heck, I downloaded it.
 
  Kyou ashita to futari ga,
  Aruku toki no katawara de,
  Kawarazu ni yurute iru,
  Omoide ga arimasu
 
Certain parts of the song requires one to go a little high pitch. So you know the result/effect when I try to imitate that part. Yeah, a real catastrophic cacophony. Hmmm… Somehow I just don’t sound good with songs that have high pitches.
 
  Eien wo, eien wo, saitemo karenai,
  Kono mune no tokimeki wa tsukinai
 
The song has a moderately slow pace and gives a feeling of serenity (that’s what I think and feel, of course). The strings here also make a great accompaniment to the overall music.
 
  Dare yori mo, dare yori mo, anata wo mitsumete,
  Hateshinaku kono kimochi zutto
 
Hahaha! Another anime song to be added to my karaoke list. I still need more practicing, though.