Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
There are rough waters ahead for Mizuki and Akira in volume five when Akira's old tutor comes back. He seems to have some dirt on Akira that our boy really doesn't want his girlfriend to know. Will this cost him her trust and love? Then in volume six, the girls of Blaue Rosen go on their annual beach vacation to Ai's family's private beach cottage. But theirs isn't the only cabin on the beach, and a masculine surprise awaits. Will Akira's plans come to fruition? Or will Ran, Rui, and Blaue Rosen get in the way again?
Ai Ore had a couple of rocky volumes in the middle, but by volume six, Shinjo is back in the swing of things. Of course this still means plenty of objectionable content for those who don't like her sense of humor or particular flavor of romance, but looking at the six volumes that have appeared in English as a whole, the gap between volumes four and six in terms of quality of story is pretty impressive. We begin volume five (the weaker of the two) with Mizuki and Akira going on a date. Akira is flustered because of his tutor's return, or rather, because of something his tutor knows about his past, and is determined to make this date a winner. To that end, he has his roommate Banbi, or “Bambi-chan,” take him shopping for some masculine clothes. Mizuki, meanwhile, actually buys a skirt for the occasion, and as a result, we have one of the first scenes of the pair dressed in their biological genders' clothing. Of course things can't be sweetness and light for long, and soon Akira is refusing to tell Mizuki his secret and she's storming off in an emotional mess. While Shinjo has a deft hand with these more cliched aspects of shoujo romance, they are still less than fresh, and the volume drags a bit in the middle with the (melo)drama.
The strongest parts of volume five are actually the supporting characters. Akira's tutor Sho and the school principal make for some very funny asides, while Ai, one of the other members of Blaue Rosen, gets increased page time, playing off of both Mizuki and Akira very well. Not-so-dynamic duo Ran and Rui are largely absent in volume five, but this is more than made up for in volume six's beach arc, where both they and Bambi-chan make for an entertaining background to the action. Ran, in fact, gets to take pride of place in some of the volume's middle chapters when he and Mizuki are thrown together, and Shinjo takes the opportunity to lampoon her own work. Go back and read a few chapters of virtually any volume of Sensual Phrase before reading the middle chapters of Ai Ore's sixth book and you will quickly see what I mean.
The romance aspect of both books has settled somewhat, with Akira toning down the forceful aspects and the focus becoming more lighthearted. This is a large part of what makes the Ran/Mizuki sections so funny, but it also adds a sweetness to the series that wasn't present in the earlier volumes. Now instead of being a mismatched couple, Akira and Mizuki are one that we can get behind. There are still aspects of the romance that are more pressure-laden than consensual, but all in all Shinjo has reached a much calmer tone that should be more broadly appealing to shoujo romance readers.
Artistically there has been a decrease in background characters drawn by other artists, which helps with the visual readability greatly. Mizuki looks consistently more feminine, whether she is in girl or boy clothes, and when dressed as a boy, Akira looks reads more as male than in previous volumes. He still cross-dresses, though, so for those readers who have been enjoying that aspect of the books, never fear. The major issue in Shinjo's art this time is one that has been consistent throughout her works, that open mouths can look disconnected, as if the jaw had dislocated. This is primarily due to the way she draws the lower teeth, and fortunately it doesn't happen often.
Ai Ore is not the best shoujo romance out there, but with these volumes it reclaims its place as a fun one. With a decrease in forceful aspects and an increase in humor, Mayu Shinjo's ability to lampoon her own work and add laughs to a situation through some well-placed side characters make this a great beach read. It won't win any awards for taste or literary prowess, but for the manga equivalent of a grocery store romance, you can't go wrong with this series.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ Increased humor and decreased non-consensual aspects make these two volumes better than their direct predecessors. Good cliff-hanger for the end of volume six.
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