Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi Volume 2: Bond Review
The first volume of Aoi Yori Aoshi: Enishi mostly revolved around Chika, which seemed appropriate given that she’d only just moved into the Sakuraba Mansion at the close of season one. In the second volume the attention switches away from her but doesn’t really settle on any one character, as we get another batch of fun episodes with only a minimal story arc running through them. It’s approaching the summer and Kaoru’s finding it difficult to maintain his studying in the face of heavy distraction from his housemates. Not only does he get forced into going on a date with Mayu but he’s also finding it as hard as ever to get some quality time alone with his fiancée. Still, with summer approaching there might be a few rare chances for the couple to sneak off together, but before he can start thinking about that he needs to get his thesis report finished on time. Something that’s easier said than done when surrounded by women vying for your attention.
Gathering momentum from the first batch of episodes, this new set sees Enishi really come into it’s own as a wacky comedy. There’s a wild energy about proceedings that ensures there’s never a dull moment. In the four episodes featured on this disc you will get to see a heavily inebriated Mayu crank her flirtation with Kaoru to eleven and Taeko’s somewhat insane driving skills. Elsewhere, Tina’s breast groping is reaching new extremes and we see the welcome return of Miyabe’s summertime melon obsession. Some of the biggest laughs come courtesy of Mayu’s trusty servant and guardian, Saionji. He hasn’t been granted that much screen time since the series began but he’s given a chance to shine here, boring Kaoru with his worryingly large knowledge of fish cultivation and shedding his usual, hilariously dry manner at the local games arcade to reveal he’s something of a pro on the disco dance machines.
Even though comedy remains the first priority of the series there’s still time for character development. The episodes that frame this volume provide some extra insight into the characters of the eternal rivals, Mayu and Tina. Mayu has always put on a proud, abrasive front when dealing with most people, but whenever she’s alone with Kaoru the mask usually falls and her kind, vulnerable side usually shines through. In episode five we get to see more of the real Mayu and just how much Kaoru’s friendship as meant to her over the years - especially through the times her parents were too busy attending to company matters to focus on their daughter’s upbringing. In episode eight it’s Tina’s turn to look back on her past emotional turmoil as she reflects on her high school days in America. Raised in Japan from an early age and remaining eternally Japanese at heart, it seems she quickly became an outcast after her return to the U.S and always dreamed of switching to a Japanese school, where she’d have a better chance of finding friends. Now that she’s finally found a place where she belongs she’s now at peace with herself and resolved on milking this new life for every drop of enjoyment she can.
As for Kaoru and Aoi, I guess we’re going to have to wait for the next volume to see if any major development in their relationship occurs, but there is some interesting (if slight) development in these episodes. We are reminded that the Sakuraba group are still not fully behind their union and Kaoru’s plans for the future are brought into question, not only from Aoi’s mother but Kaoru himself – but it seems he’s resolute in deciding his own course in life from now on.
So it’s business as usual for this series, it continues to provide good laughs and some quality escapism for the fans – it’s just a shame the next volume is going to be the last for the season.
While I have tried my best not to reveal too much about each episode in these synopses, please bare in mind that the second episode and onwards may feature spoilers for the episodes prior.
Episode 5. Piano: Mayu receives a beautiful new dress from her mother and decides it’d be best put to use worn on a date with Kaoru. Naturally, he’s just too kind-hearted to resist and is easily persuaded to accept her proposal, but in all the excitement Mayu forgot to actually decide on a location for their date. Anxious to please, she buys a dating magazine and forces herself into activities that she’s just not suited for in a disastrous attempt to make sure Kaoru has a good time – this is going to be one stressful day for both of them.
Episode 6. Journey: It seems everyone (bar Aoi-chan) has been clamouring to spend time with Kaoru lately and it’s starting to effect his studying – resulting in him having to work late into the night to make up for time lost during the day. Barely able to keep awake at University, he’s given some bad news. If he doesn’t submit his thesis report on time then he’ll have to work throughout the summer helping his professor write essays. This means it’s time to knuckle down, but even though the girls realise he needs time and space to get his work done they just can’t resist butting in on his studying. There’s no need to worry though because Aoi steps up to the plate and puts her foot down to ensure the girls keep well away
Episode 7. Summer Resort: Summer has finally arrived and that means it’s vacation time for everyone living at Aoi’s mansion. Mind you, they’ve left it a bit late to start phoning up resorts, but as ever the Sakuraba estate saves the day when Miyabe announces there’s room available at one of their resorts in the nearby Mountain side. Everyone get’s ready for the big excursion but they’re in for an eventful journey when it’s revealed Taeko is driving them there. Meanwhile Mayu has been ordered to spend the summer at her father’s resort, but in an expected twist of fate it turns out her resort and the Sakuraba’s just happen to be neighbouring each other. Now, with the gang now fully complete, it’s time for some summer hijinks to ensue.
Episode 8. Fish and Water: Chika, along with best friends Natsuki and Chizuru, find themselves entered in the relay event at the upcoming district swimming competition. There’s just one snag – Chizuru can barely swim one metre, let alone the twenty-five required to complete her section of the event. Knowing full well that some desperate training is in order to improve the whole team’s form, Chika turns to her housemates for help. Luckily for her Tina reveals a hidden talent – she was once a top swimming athlete at school in America and even did a part time stint as a coach. With the vivacious American’s help, the girl’s start to make headway in their training, but they’ve a long way to go before they can start thinking of victory just yet.
PresentationPresented at the original 4:3 ratio, the standards set in first volume are maintained here. The image is nice and sharp with minimal edge enhancement and no cross-colouration that I noticed. The colours are beautifully rendered and compression is strong, although you might spot the occasional appearance of some digital banding. Mind you, it’s par the course for most anime transfers these days.
As before we have a choice of Japanese DD2.0 Surround or English DD2.0 Surround and I can’t say I’ve warmed up to the English dub any more so I primarily listened to the Japanese track. I’m happy to report that the volume levels are less excessive on this volume, providing a much cleaner audio experience. It’s a lively track with good bass. The English dub pretty much matches its Japanese counterpart, although it’s just a little bit subdued in comparison.
As ever optional English subtitles are provided.