Video Girl Ai Graphic Novel 1: Preproduction
By: Kimberly Godwin – Friday, May 21st, 2004 (02:21:47 AM)
This review was originally posted on Planet Exile.com
Video Girl Ai follows the life of 16 year old, Yota Moteuchi as he tries to find a way to confess his love to his classmate, Moemi Hayakawa who is in love with his incredibly popular best friend, Takashi Niimai. At first glance, many would write this series off as a common shoujo drama with its focus on a male lead instead of a female lead. But the art style and the story compel you to read on to see what will happen next.
The first story arc of this volume is meeting Yota, Moemi and Takashi for the first time and understanding how they feel about one another. When Moemi states that her crush on Takashi is hopeless because so many other girls like him, Yota tells her to not give up so easily on her feelings if she really loves him, even though this means that he was helping Moemi get together with Takashi despite his own feelings for Moemi. And after Moemi accidentally admits her crush to Takashi, she gets hurt when Takashi tells her that she isn’t his type. Moemi tries to laugh it off and hurries away, but Yota sees her cry and later on, Yota cries himself over the fact that Moemi was hurt due to his inability to confess his own feelings. The simple and private act of shedding tears over someone else’s heartbreak when he was hurting himself, proved that he is pure of heart and allows him to come across the Gokuraku video store where he is allowed to rent, “I’ll cheer you up” a supposedly adult video starring a woman named Ai Amano.
When he plays the video, the girl on the video isn’t doing anything except talking to Yota and trying to console him. He takes comfort in the words of the video girl and the fact that she is kinder to him than any other girl he has ever known. And then, Ai sensing his need for further comfort comes out of the television screen to personally help cheer Yota up. Now, this story would go a much different course if for instance, Yota’s VCR wasn’t broken. The result of the tape being played back on a broken VCR is Ai coming out of the tape as a much different personality and person than she is supposed to be. She is a tomboy, brash, crude and is very outspoken, but her purpose is still the same: to cheer Yota up and help him win the heart of Moemi.
The next day, they go to school and Yota talks to Moemi again. She thanks him for his words of encouragement and swears that she’ll follow his advice and not give up on Takashi. Moemi also encourages Yota to confess his love to the mystery girl that he likes not realizing that he has become fond of Ai. This later brings up the question of, what you would do if you knew your best friend was in love with the girl he is trying to help date you? There are many things unsaid in this volume, but every thing will become clearer as you read on.
There is just so much to this series to be enthralled by. Katsura’s artwork is distinctive and captivating as you go from page to page drawing you in. You can associate with the characters; they are very human in their insecurities and strengths. You want to see them grow and succeed in whatever they do; you feel their pain and joy through the characters’ body language. The “magical girl” aspect of Ai is not typical; she has no magical abilities and is by all appearances and personality, a normal 16 year old girl. Her main weakness is that her life is limited to a three-month video playback and if the VCR is turned off, she disappears. There is, of course, plenty of cute girls and fan service for the guys as well as cute guys for the girls.
What you get out of the first volume are the beginnings of a solid storyline with wonderful artwork that takes on a life of its own as you read it. It touches on unrequited love, friendship and not giving up hope. Here’s to looking forward to what becomes of these relatable characters in the next volume.