Despite her family's protests, Aoi Sakuraba decides that she is going to marry Kaoru Hanabishi, her love of eighteen years. Once he realizes that her intentions are genuine, and that she's not just trying to get him to reconcile with his estranged (and domineering) family - he begins to definitely warm up to the idea, too. What obstacles must the two overcome in order to be together?
Ai yori Aoshi was published in English by Tokyopop from January 6, 2004 to October 9, 2007. Tokyopop released in a 3-in-1 omnibus for the manga's first three volumes in English as Ai Yori Aoshi - Collection on November 4, 2008. It was also published in Italian as Sempre più Blu from March 11, 2005 to September 8, 2008.
Every so often an anime or manga comes along that forces you to rethink your perspective on a particular genre. Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou changed how I viewed sci-fi. Barefoot Gen redefined my idea of tragedies. Sanctuary altered my preconcieved notions of thrillers.
And Ai Yori Aoshi changed how I viewed romantic manga.
Ai Yori Aoshi (or Bluer than Indigo), was created by Fumizuki Kou, and was originally serialized in Young Animal magazine from 1998 to 2005, when the series ended. The title was inspired by a quote from the Chinese philosopher Xun Zi which states that "Blue comes from indigo, but is bluer than indigo", and
is used in both China and Japan as a reference to surpassing one's teacher through one's own efforts.
The manga series proved to be extremely popular amongst older Japanese teens and men aged 20-30. Because of it's popularity, the series was adapted as an anime in 2002, with a sequel, Ai Yori Aoshi ~Enishi~, released in 2003. Both series were directed by Shimoda Masami (Saber Marionette J, Someday's Dreamers, E's Otherwise). A game was also released based on the series for the Playstation 2 and the PC.
Now, it's no secret that I'm not a big fan of harem rom-com/dramas, especially the ecchi type. Some are reasonable enough (i.e. no permanent brain damage from reading/watching them), whilst others are so bad that the creators should be shot. Thankfully Ai Yori Aoshi falls into neither of those categories.
The story is extremely simple in many ways. Ai Yori Aoshi is a harem rom-com/drama after all. However the approach to the story is where the big difference lies. In Ai Yori Aoshi, the two main protagonists are betrothed right from the start of the series, something which is unusual for harem based manga and anime.
The first chapter begins with Sakuraba Aoi trying to make her way through a train station. She has left the safety of her home to search for the boy to whom she was betrothed as a child. Unfortunately her sheltered upbringing causes her to get lost easily, and she is unfamiliar with train stations in general. She is knocked over by someone in a hurry, and is helped to her feet a young man, who takes the time to fix her sandal, and who guides her to the address she is looking for. It may be fate or destiny, but the young man turns out to be Hanabishi Kaoru, the boy she was searching for, the one whom she hasn't seen for 18 years, and the man to whom she wants to devote her life.
This beginning is a big deviation from the stereotypical harem series, having a far more serious beginning than the standard fare that is available. There are other deviations as well, which all serve to separate Ai Yori Aoshi from the generic series that are so often spawned, and make it something a little more special )I'll cover some of these in a bit).
The artwork for Ai Yori Aoshi is very "straightforward", compared to many series, however this simplicity is a reflection of the story. The open, expressive character designs make a nice change, especially when conferring deep emotions. The scenery is often quite detailed, and makes a nice contrast to the simplicity of the characters. The character designs are also well chosen, especially as this is a harem series. There are some cliche characters, however they're not annoying in the slightest.
Ai Yori Aoshi may be good or very good in it's story and art, but where it really shines is in it's characters. Rarely have I seen so much depth and background, or such strong leads in a manga, especially a harem rom-com/drama.
Sakuraba Aoi, the only daughter of the owner of the famous Sakuraba Department Store. She is the epitome of the Yamato Nadeshiko (a traditional Japanese beauty), and has lived her life with one clear goal in mind - to be a worthy wife to Hanabishi Kaoru. To that end she spent 18 years training daily in all the traditional Japanese arts (flower arranging, playing the koto, performing the tea ceremony, even as far as wearing a tsumugi kimono every day). Unlike many female harem leads, she is completely devoted to Kaoru, and unlike other female leads she is able to control her emotions well.
I'm not going to go into detail about the other characters (bar one), except to say that, for the most part, almost all of the side characters have a depth of character that is rare in a harem series. Fumizuki Kou has gone to great lengths to give most of the side character a sense of realism that is so often missing in a romantic series. There are even segments of the story and special chapters devoted entirely to one (or more) of the side characters. One thing that really is different from the normal harem fare is the relationship between Aoi and Kaoru, as well as the relationships they have with the other characters (in particular Tina Foster, Kagurazaki Miyabi, Miyuki Mayu, Minazuki Taeko, and Minazuki Chika), and most importantly the relationships the side characters have with each other. This is where the side characters gain their sense of realism, and is a great thing to see in a manga.
And now for that one character I mentioned, and possibly the biggest deviation from the typical harem fare - Hanabishi Kaoru. He is, without doubt, one of the best romantic leads in manga to date.
Hanabishi Kaoru is a character with an insane amount of depth and, unlike so many other harem leads, he is not a loser who deserves to be strangled at birth. He is a kind, intelligent, and very caring young man who tries his hardest to make his way in the world. When he first met Aoi as a child he was the heir to the Hanabishi business empire, however he turned his back on the Hanabishi household, which is the event that prompted Aoi to search for him. Kaoru initially doesn't remember Aoi or their betrothal, however unlike most other harem shows that feature a childhood promise, Kaoru actually has a reason that is not only plausible, but also very possible, for forgetting. Kaoru is very much a lead who is trying to come to terms with his past whilst attempting to make a future, and a nice change from the typical harem "who will he choose" fare is the fact that he is devoted to Aoi as well. Yes there are temptations along the way, but he works hard to overcome them.
Anyway, I ramble so I'll wind this down.
I will freely admit that I love this series. It's use of traditional Japanese culture gives the series a depth that is rare to see in a harem based romantic comedy/drama. The continued references, both visually and written, to traditional Japanese culture add a certain realistic feel to the whole series, and also serves to heighten some of the dramatic moments of the manga.
Granted, the manga does sometimes play fast and loose with the story, and some may view a number of chapters as nothing more than "filler" (which it isn't really but I'm not going to try and convince you of that). Fumizuki Kou does incorporate a number of typical ecchi harem situations into the series, however they didn't really bother me all that much because I was more interested in progressing with what proves to be a captivating love story.
I would readily recommend this to any fan of romantic or harem manga as it is an example of how good the harem genre could be if they only ditched the stereotypical loser male lead. I've noticed many comparisons between Ai Yori Aoshi and Love Hina, and I will say freely that they are as different as chalk and cheese, especially as Keitaro from Love Hina is a total loser who should be dropped off a cliff, and Kaoru is actually quite a kind, mature young man who cares about those around him more than he does himself.
This is an extremely rewarding read, and is definitely one of the sweetest love stories available in manga.
This was an enjoyable manga. As a fan of the harem and love story manga/anime. This one came at originality in the beginning and then came on the girls which is different in other harems like Love Hina.
The story was very original to me and was a nice take on how love can be the bind between the two main characters. And as each new character was introduced into the mix, new developments on how the main characters react to the situation.
Character wise, they seem to have depth and backstories rather than the "Here are some beautiful girls. Enjoy Them!" type of harem manga.
They each have their own way to grow their love towards the male lead. Also, not only to they each have their own way to find that fondness, but it seemed that at some point, at least one volume was dedicated to how each female character found that they did love him.
Overall, it was a nice change of pace to the other harem's that exist out there. A new, original plot with realistic characters, settings and storylines. Very enjoyable.
The art itself is actually… very old fashioned, but in the good way. The manga starts from 1998 but the drawing style is more like the 80s, where the guys are short, but still powerful while the girls are realistically beautiful. You won’t find flying/gel-filled weird hairstyle here. Neither will you find unbalanced/unhealthy body shape in this manga. I like this kind of art.
For the story, I must say it is quite close to the real world. I know some of you may start saying, it is impossible to have two ultra wealthy women + many other women to love you at once. But
remember, the protagonist himself is from a respectable wealthy family, nothing strange about women admiring a gentle prince. Besides that, there are close to none supernatural stuffs in the manga, with some exceptions telling the stories of the protagonist’s dreams, so you get a clean, college student’s realistic love story. Which I think is a big plus for this type of manga.
I will not talk about the characters in this review, because there ain't any special about them. You get different kinds of girls loving the same guy, just like any other harem mangas. But it is also because they aren’t any special, and that is what makes this manga so special.
Smooth and good. You won’t find any bittersweet stuff here where the mangaka teases you with some random male or some random event to spice up the manga. The manga is plain, but not to the point of boring. While the flow of the manga is plain, the mangaka sometimes reward the reader with some really sweet moments and special side stories.
10/10. Just pure love story.
This manga contains explicit sexual content from time to time so it might not be up your taste, but now now, the manga is not targeting at young students, the manga talks about college life, which I think may interest a lot of young adults, who I guess will be pretty comfortable on seeing some… not so safe for work content. In conclusion, I highly recommend the manga if you are wondering if you should read it or not, or if you are finding a clean and beautiful romance story.
P.S. Just want to correct the other reviewer and the whole English world. The title actually means green comes from blue, but is greener than blue. Source? Google search 青出于蓝而胜于蓝。Green is actually Dian Qing, a type of indigo which ancient Chinese people extract and refined from a type of plant call Lian Lan (Blue) polygonum tinctorium, although this Green stuff comes out from a plant that is famously used for Blue ink, this Green stuff, after being processed, is bluer than the original plant. :D
Ai Yori Aoshi is about a young women named Sakuraba Aoi and her betrothed partner named Hanabishi Kaoru. They were engaged since they were young(An arrange marriage that would benefit both the Hanabishi and the Sakuraba families), but Hanabishi Kaoru left the Hanabishi due to a traumatic and abusive childhood caused by them. So the story starts with Sakuraba Aoi trying to find her beloved after not seeing Hanabishi for 18 years. In those 18 years she had spent her time training diligently to become a good wife for Hangabishi(cooking, flower arranging, even wearing traditional Kimono everyday). Then one fateful day she meets him in
a train station and their story begins.
Story: Ai Yori Aoshi is a romantic comedy that by itself differs from the average harem/ecchi types. The plot is fairly simple. It is 153 chapters, but when you read it, the story flies by fairly quickly. Mainly the chapters deal with the development of the relationships between Sakuraba Aoi and Hanabishi Kaoru as they try to understand each other, and reach true happiness together. Now that just seems like the average romance genre, but here comes the slight twist that makes this a pretty good romance and harem manga. The depth of the side characters makes the manga more interesting and enjoyable. Instead of having those side characters that are just "there" maybe for like a short arc, Ai Yori Aoshi takes it to the next level by making the side characters/love rivals have more depth. Like they first start out with no feelings or unsure feelings for Hanabishi but slowly realizes their feelings for him and start showing signs or attempts to capture his heart. So this is what makes Ai Yori Aoshi a pretty good mix of heart touching romance and comedic harem/ecchi type manga.
Art: The artwork was pretty plain and simple. Which helped reflected the nature of the manga. The scenery are always detailed and looked really good. The characters themselves looked pretty good and simple, not too much of the overly huge eyes you would see in most harem manga/anime.
Character: A strong point of this manga was probably the depth of not only the main characters like Hanabishi and Sakuraba, but also the side characters like Foster Tina and Miyuki Mayu. Not to spoil too much here, but what you will find in Hanabishi is that he is quite different from the average harem male. Whom most of the time is considered a "loser" in their series. In Ai Yori Aoshi, Hanabishi is not a "loser." He is actually quite intelligent, reliable, and caring. You can easily see this in the beginning and constantly throughout the series. Unlike other harem protagonist, where their "good" side is usually seen when it is used to capture a girl's heart. Sakuraba Aoi is also quite different from the average female lead in the sense that she is sure of her undying love for Hanabishi and also her ability to keep cool and self restraint. Where in most female leads in this genre they are unsure of it and when they are in a relationship they become somewhat overprotective. Now the supporting cast themselves are also quite complex. As you slowly learn about their problems and feelings the further you read. The depth of these supporting characters is probably by far one of the best I have ever read. And as mention before, there are multiple chapters that is used to help understand the supporting characters, so the story isn't just entirely focused on the two lovers, but also the people around them.
Enjoyment: This manga was a pretty fast read. Being a fan of harem and romantic comedy genre, I was not disappointed about this series at all. Instead it has raised my standards of the the genre and is a good example of what could happen if the authors of romantic comedy and harem genres tried more to cut down on the ecchi and add more depths in the characters they have created. So I would encourage you to give this series a try and hopefully you would enjoy it as well.
And I would really appreciate if you could give me some feedback if my review was good or bad. Thanks!