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Ai Yori Aoshi: Enishi Vol 1 Fate
The leads are Aoi, a young gal that had searched out her childhood boyfriend, Kaoru, and her immediate family. They all live in a rental house and the gals are infatuated with Kaoru, even though his heart belongs to Aoi. As the two continue their lives, heading for what appears to be a wedding and life of happiness together, the strange crew has a number of silly misadventures with one another. The scene has changed since the first season in that Kaoru has graduated college but taken up graduate studies in order to be able to provide a decent life for his planned happiness with Aoi.
Episode One: Spring Blossom:
Kaoru, now in graduate school, returns after two years to the boarding house he stayed in with his one true love, Aoi, and all their zany friends. All the characters return to the show, from Miyabi's stern business woman/landlord, to the sex-crazed American, Tina, to the shy maid, Tiako, to a sort of new character, Chika (who was in the previous season once) and others, the cast dynamic was still present. The main thrust of this episode was the concept of Enishi: the threads that bind the group together on multiple levels, as though fate were predetermined.
Episode Two: Friends:
Chika tells some of her new friends at high school that Kaoru is her boyfriend and the comedic hijinks began when they visit her home to meet him. Needless to say, his being unaware of the romantic ties Chika spoke of made for a complicated day at the Sakuraba household, full of situational comedy that made me smile. Tina's unrefined antics (and sexual playfulness) added to the fun but ultimately the concept of the friendship between the housemates was explored even more.
Episode Three: Tennis:
After a bit of sexual tension, the group takes some time off to play tennis with one another. Miss Miyabi, being something of an expert tennis player, gives the others a few lessons although most of them are no match for the strict taskmaster and Kaoru finds himself observing the antics of the others with a modicum of pleasure as they goof off with the best of them.
Episode Four: Phantom:
Tiako, as clumsy as ever, has an even worse time with her coordination skills and the household suspects a ghost. As they all explore the hidden recesses of the storage rooms that have been left untouched for years, they use all the charms and ghost-busting skills they've acquired to fend off the angry spirits (if spirits they be) and the comic relief continues. They also find some photographs of the past that they had all but forgotten, and the Enishi grows tighter as the story progresses.
Admittedly, this style of romance anime is not for everyone but even a jaded old reviewer like me finds some of the antics charming and the sexual angles (albeit, tame ones at that) cute enough to keep me watching. In short, it amounted to a guilty pleasure that I feel comfortable giving a rating of Recommended to. The themes explored were somewhat lighter than my first choice releases but every time I watched an episode, I smiled, proving the inherent worth of the show.
Picture: The picture was presented in the originally shot 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. Aside from some minor moiré and grain in the darker sections of the show, it looked very crisp and clear with exceptionally bright colors. While the anime style itself wasn't always very detailed, the spirit of the show was well served by it.
Sound: The audio was presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo with a choice of the original Japanese vocal track (and optional English subtitles) or the English dub track. To be fair, each had their own flavor and I sort of preferred the dub track on this one. That's no slight to the original language crew, just an observation that the English dub crew was very solid this time.
Extras: The best extra this time was a bonus episode titled: Miyuki (beautiful snow). Kaoru was in college and hadn't met Aoi yet. Due to the fact that he was cut off from his family, he was alone on Christmas before encountering an angel (of sorts). There were also three trailers and a paper insert but only the episode was worth mentioning.
Final Thoughts: The positive aspects of the show far outweighed the negative aspects and that has me looking forward to the future releases in this series. The audio tracks were great, the picture very solid, and the writing cute enough of a change to get me off my behind to write this review so give it a chance if you like this type of anime release.