Ai Yori Aoshi - 24: Aoi

Title:Ai Yori Aoshi
Episode:24: Aoi
"Please take us to the Sakuraba residence", Kaoru asks Miyabi at the gate - both Aoi and Kaoru decided to try to persuade Aoi's father to change his mind.
At the Sakuraba residence, Aoi's father isn't willing to listen to Kaoru at first. But both Aoi and Miyabi insist on Aoi's wish - Miyabi even opposes a direct order by Aoi's father. And when Aoi's mother takes their side as well, Kaoru is allowed to speak [image1].
But when he starts to explain his current situation and that he cannot give any guarantees for the future, the head of the Sakuraba family soon interrupts him and blames him for being a traitor, betraying Aoi's love by running away from the Hanabishi family. How could he dare to tell such a story, instead of just apologizing and then leaving?
Yet, Kaoru manages to speak on, referring to Aoi's happiness. He explains his connection to the Hanabishi family - that he isn't actually related to them as his parents were not allowed to marry officially. Suddenly Kaoru feels that Aoi is holding his hand... he explains how losing his family brought pain to his life, and that Aoi should never experience this sadness. Yet, her father only replies "Foolish boy - so you did expect to be forgiven with that kind of story?". Kaoru shouts: "I don't want to lose the one I love ever again!". Aoi's father is stunned - then he leaves the room without a word [image2].
Kaoru is desperate and apologizes to Aoi. But suddenly Aoi's mother [image3] explains that her husband has left the room without dismissing Kaoru - which means that he has accepted him! Aoi flinges herself into Kaoru's arms, weeping happily... even Miyabi sheds a tear or two.
Aoi's father is performing a tea ceremony to ease his mind. When Aoi apologizes to him for her rude behaviour [image4] he explains: He has no intention of forgiving Kaoru, but he did notice that Aoi didn't smile any more after his decision - and that his daughter's happiness means more to him than his own life. So the Sakuraba residence will remain her home and she may return any time she wants.
When Aoi and Kaoru leave the Sakuraba residence, Miyabi formally hands over her responsibility for Aoi to Kaoru. But Aoi holds Miyabi's hand [image5] and asks her to come back to "our family's home" with them - and Kaoru agrees: "They're waiting for us."
At the western style house Tina and Taeko are preparing a party, just in case Aoi, Kaoru and Miyabi might return: "Always welcome them by smiling and preparing food - that's what family is", Tina explains to Chika and Mayu. And then they hear the sound of a car arriving...
The western style house is going to have one more tenant [image6] whose welcome party concludes the series' final episode. And at night Aoi and Kaoru are watching the Sakura blossoms together for the first time.
(2004-03-11, Devil Doll)
For all previous episodes I have selected three images for each of the two parts before and after the commercial break. But in this episode there was so much happening in the first part and so little in the second that I decided to split the images 5:1 this time.
The final confrontation is taking place now, and Kaoru has to stand up for the happiness of his beloved girl. While the head of the Sakuraba family doesn't even consider losing his face, Kaoru is willing to endure everything to protect Aoi from the same fate he has experienced before. It is interesting to see how both of them claim to have Aoi's happiness in mind - a classic conflict of generations.
Inserting the thoughts of Tina, Taeko, Mayu and Chika about the boy into Kaoru's speech adds to the suspense of the situation: So Kaoru is unable to disguise and pure at heart, but what can he actually do or say in his weak position, being disinherited by the Hanabishi family after all?
While Miyabi had objected Kaoru as "one with no power, a banal individual" in episode 3 of Ai Yori Aoshi now Aoi's father blames Kaoru more for something else: Betraying Aoi's love by running away from his destiny to be the Hanabishi heir! This is the biggest difference between both men: Kaoru does accept traditions (as he was raised this way - he didn't object the "charade" in the western style house all this time) but he isn't willing to let tradition decide about his happiness (that's why he left Hanabishi), or about Aoi's happiness now. And when he explains to the Sakuraba family his true relation to the Hanabishi clan, Aoi's parents (especially her father) might have begun to understand that if they were betrayed at all then possibly by the Hanabishi family in the first place, by offering this 'bastard' as fiancé for Aoi...
We can also see that Miyabi finally begins to understand how Kaoru is thinking about Aoi when she learns about his past at Hanabishi. If this series were to be over now then that formal handover of responsibility might well have been the closing scene. But Ai Yori Aoshi is about family and the destiny of being together - and keeping Miyabi a part of this family, plus letting Chika move in as new tenant is just the kick-off for the Ai Yori Aoshi ~Enishi~ sequel. This isn't Love Hina after all... ;-)
Just a funny side note: Several times during this series we are told that Miyabi's white BMW M3 is for two passengers only... so how did Miyabi manage to bring both Aoi and Kaoru to the Sakuraba mansion and back to the western style house then? ;-)
And be sure to watch this episode to its very end, because when the trailer is over another minute of flashback reveals a cute little secret of Aoi...

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