Aoi Sakuraba, heir to the Sakura department store, has only one thing on her mind-- her beloved. Betrothed from a very young age, she has been in love with him, Kaoru Hanabishi, ever since. After Kaoru left his family, their bethrothal was nullified. Aoi sets out to find him. Will they be able to stand against the barriers that will try to keep them apart?
StoryThe reason why certain premises are recycled and re-worked time and again without so much as a twist is a pretty simple one - you don't mess with success. After all, if you put one male character in a house with a bunch of quirky females and layer it with a simple romance plot, what can possibly go wrong? To this last question, rhetorical though it may have been, Ai Yori Aoshi provides a comprehensive - if excruciatingly overlong - answer. Predictability will always be a calling card of the harem romance, as much a part of its makeup as colorful hair, cute girls and awkward situations. However, Ai Yori Aoshi takes this a step further, practically redefining the the concept by stretching it to breaking point. Suffice to say that if you are unable to guess how things will turn out after watching just the first episode of this series, it will be because you set your sights too high and hoped for a surprise, a shock, a bombshell or any kind of diversion from the plot's unwaveringly linear course. This alone is not enough to render the series entirely without merit. Instead, that crucial task is delegated to the many failed attempts at comedy, sentiment or anything which would have given the anime some measure of personality. Although there are a couple of rowdy characters in the mix, Ai Yori Aoshi's humour is executed with all the enthusiasm and wit of a chartered accountant with a gun pointed at his head. The only real way to tell that a scene was supposed to be funny is the occasional sweat drops which materialise on the back of characters' heads. If this show had canned laughter, I probably wouldn't be sane enough to write this. The anime's experiments in sentimentality are equally clumsy and ill-advised. In addition to the aforementioned predictability and the tedious characters, something which I will get onto later, the show ruins most of its emotional scenes with its incessant drive to patronise the viewer by having characters voice their thoughts and feelings in a manner more suited to an infant's puppet show than what is ostensibly a series aimed at relatively mature individuals. In one scene, for example, the heroine Aoi stares wistfully at the clock, then at the empty chair opposite her, then at the full plate of food laid out in front of the empty chair. A few seconds pass before she announces, seemingly to herself "I wonder where Kaoru has got to? He should be home by now" or something equally banal but just as bleeding obvious from the circumstances. With all of this said, I would be doing the show an injustice if I let this review pass by without divulging the fact that occasionally - very, very occasionally, mind you - Ai Yori Aoshi delivered a moment that amused me, engaged me, or otherwise got my attention. However, watching the entire series just for these sporadic flashes of averageness would be akin to sailing the Seven Seas in search of a treasure chest containing 50p and a half-eaten digestive. AnimationAi Yori Aoshi's animation is unadventurous, generic and ordinary, but at least it is competent. There's nothing eye-catching or memorable and - although the characters occasionally lack detail and even correct proportions when viewed from a distance - there's nothing overwhelmingly bad about it. It's colorful but not garish and the face faults, while they might not be amusing, at least aren't annoying. In visual terms, there is one thing which sticks out like a bear in a paddling pool. As clearly evidenced by the opening animation and a scene in the first episode, Aoi has neither pubic hair nor nipples - an omission so glaring that even the most virginal contingent of this anime's demographic cannot fail to miss it. I can only assume that this is down to some censorship or certification issues, but such an assumption hardly makes things any less unsettling or bizarre. SoundThe incidental music is just that - incidental. Although I'm sure it's preferable to having complete silence or Vanilla Ice's Greatest Hits, there's nothing memorable or extraordinary about the background tunes. The OP fares a little better, being pleasant and almost catchy, while the ED is plain and just a touch irksome, in keeping with the series as a whole. The voicing, on the other hand, is one of the show's few positives. Although I found one or two of the voices bordering on annoying, every single one of them fit the characters so perfectly that it feels entirely unfair to lay any blame here. CharactersIf someone said to me "You know, I'm thinking of making a haremy, romancey, slice-of-lifey comedy kinda thing", the first thing I would say to them is "well, just you make sure that the characters are interesting and likeable." Dismayingly, nobody was on hand to offer Ai Yori Aoshi's creators such sage advice or, if they were, the advice was ignored and the piece of paper it was written on shredded and tossed into a fire as soon as their back was turned. To sum up, the characters are dull and fail to engage on any level, which costs the show dearly. The male lead, Kaoru, is as faceless as most other male harem characters but I expected this. What drags the show down is that the girls are as bad, if not worse. Aoi - who would sooner clean a mansion from top to bottom in preparation for Kaoru's return than have an independent thought - is an embarrassment to her gender, and the implicit suggestion that this is the kind of girl that men would be interested in manages to insult the other half of the human race. Aoi is not alone, however. Most of the other characters are equally needy and emotionally feeble; even though several of them clearly adore the ordinary Kaoru and worship the ground on which he walks, the conflicts between them never get any more serious than a bout of face-pulling. Only Miyabi, who has the good sense to dislike Kaoru the moment she sets eyes on him, retains some dignity and seems like an actual human being. Every other character is either on the lookout for breasts to fondle, stood next to Kaoru with their arms permanently wrapped around his waist like some kind of pathetic koala or - in Tina's case - both. It's incredibly difficult to feel sympathy for or even to like any of the protagonists, which makes the series fail on pretty much every front. OverallThe title of the anime translates as "Bluer than Indigo", but I think a far better description would be "Beiger than Beige". The series is uninteresting, uninvolving and largely forgettable. There are many similar anime out there which are far better on every front - Love Hina being one such example. Already seen it? No matter; I'd have sooner watched it for a third time than exposed myself to this torrent of blandness and inadequacy.
Enjoyed the male protagonist a lot. Karou is not an atypical alpha male character, nor is he a clumsy beta-type that is usually infused in this type of anime(Love Hina.) How ever, the strength of his character is overshadowed much of the way by the bland characters that surround him, which are stock as can be. A few laughs, a few tears, but overall, it could have been much better. Clannad did a much better job of what this anime was trying to accomplish.
Notice: This review covers both seasons. There are hardly any differences between them.Although yet another ecchi comedy, Ai Yori Aoshi stands out somewhat by being more focused on romance rather than vulgar erotic humor. Something quite rare coming from a studio such as J.C. Staff, infamous for its lolicons and softporns. Other than that, we have yet another dorky male living with several ultra sexy women and do nothing else other than making a fool out of himself. I pretty much got tired of this concept after watching Love Hina . The director of the show is Shimoda Masami, a guy which I wouldn’t even care about if it wasn’t for his directing of Zegapain. All his other works are plain passable but, man, Zegapain rocks da world! Of course even that show had various pacing issues so I must admit that he is not a good director and this show is yet another proof of it. The artwork is above average. It is detailed, with several attempts to show depth, perspective and warmth in the background or the atmosphere of the moment. Most kimonos are decorated with lovable pictures that make them nice to look at. Music themes are sweet pops and ballads, as long as you are accustomed to Japanese music. Character figures are bland. The story is about the families of the two protagonists forcing them into an arranged marriage, since they were babies (Japanese people do this crap all the time). The boy has left his home in order to have freedom away from his stuck-up parents. But then the girl comes to look for him, because she really loves him. They quickly get to live together and slowly more female cast adds for support or protection… It sounds like a scenario for a hentai with lots of orgies, doesn’t it? Well, being a comedy, there is nothing of the sort, as the leading male is a scaredy-cat, like 99% of others like him in similar series. Aoi, the woman, is the ideal Japanese archetype of a perfect housewife: Beautiful, shy, timid, great cook, cheery and still VIRGIN. For that, she is almost too good to be true. But at least she doesn’t behave like most girls in anime, as she is not an obnoxious, violent slut, after the semen of the guy she digs. If you like this kind of women, then she is adorable. If not, HER KINDNESS WILL DRIVE YOU NUTS!Kaoru is… typical. Modeled after the usual idiot that gets the chance to score big time but is too shy to take initiative. God, how I hate that! So, ok, he is a good guy with compassion and understanding for all. Why should something like that make him sexually incapable? Geez! He has issues with his family but I can’t say I liked him any more because of it.The rest of the cast is quite typical as well, consisting of mostly females modeled after sexual fetishes (maid, bodyguard, lolita) and stuck-with-tradition old people. I can’t say I liked any of them.As it usually happens with long and superficial series, there is story development only in the first and the last episodes of both seasons. The rest (about 70% of the total number of episodes) are flavor to get to like the characters and laugh at their awkwardness. There is nothing much to expect in therms of plot, especially in the second season where things slow down even more. It’s all about our lovebirds expressing their true feelings for one another, something which was clear as day since they were kids, so they are just screwing around with your patience, until they admit what we already know. And yes, the conclusion is nowhere to be found, so you gotta read the manga. Cheap excuses to get more money out of you. Ecchi and harems are one-timers for me; without much story or character development, the second time around I just scroll it for the ecchi scenes. There is also nothing exceptional in it to at least deserve some value as historical important. The relationships amongst the characters are a lot more serious and likable than those wacky ones in Hinata Inn, but that is pretty much all there is to it.