Aoi Sakuraba

By Shamus
on Apr 1, 2006
Filed under:
Anime

A word about the purple-haired girl serving as the icon on my anime posts: That’s Aoi Sakuraba, from Ai Yori Aoshi. (Aoi is pronounced like “owie”)

She’s a somewhat controversial character.

She’s very different from the average female lead. She is working towards the day when she can live out her dream of being a housewife. She’s an incredible cook and runs an orderly household (as orderly as possible, given the unusual boarders they have) and seems to take great pleasure at her job. She is hard-working and serious, and always dresses in traditional clothes.

I can hear the feminists gagging already.

I should note that the English voice acting is very different from the original Japanese. While usually they try to get actors who will give similar performances, in this case the English Aoi comes off as more positive and energetic, while the Japanese Aoi is more shy and demure. Stangely enough, the English Aoi’s performance seems to match the on-screen expressions better. When Aoi has a broad smile, sometimes the Japanese Aoi doesn’t sound like she’s quite that happy. It’s very interesting. I suggest to anyone watching the series that they sample at least one episode of each.

Either way, Aoi is not a bubbleheaded pushover. She has a goal and has been working towards it with level-headed determination. She has a positive outlook and is a source of encouragement for everyone around her. She’s a fantastic and unique character. I’ve watched a lot of Anime since this one, and I’ve never found a female lead that has captured my interest in quite the same way. (It also helps that her optimisim, hard work, and thoughtfulness remind me a good bit of my wife.)

I think the usual charge is that Aoi is a wish-fulfillment character on the part of the writers. That may be true, but women who take pride in their cooking and cleaning do exist and shouldn’t be treated like freaks because they have traditionalist views. Other people who enjoy this series do so almost apologetically: Much of the praise for this show is prefaced with a lot of hand-wringing over her demure nature and subordanate attitude. I find this to be a bit tiresome. If a show were to suggest that all women should live this way, I would dismiss it as crass and misogynistic, but that’s not what this story is about. This is one woman who chooses this life for herself, and who derives great joy from the result. She’s believable and loveable, and makes this series better than it should be.

UPDATE: Read the comment from Acksiom below, which says in one sentence what I was trying to say for four paragraphs.

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6Six comments, I think. Maybe half a dozen.

From the Archives:

  1. Acksiom says:

    I’d like to hear people who characterize her as a subordinate doormat explain how they manage to reconcile such an opinion with her consistent, unyielding defiance of every standing authority figure in her life when such persons attempt to order her not to do and get what she most wants in and out of life.

  2. Astrid says:

    I’m a feminist, first-off, and let me say this–the thing about Aoi that annoys the crap out of me is that she’s a damn crybaby, especially around Kaoru.
    That said, I find Ai Yori Aoshi to be an enjoyable series (despite the pointless nudity–I mean, if it weren’t obviously fanservice-y, I wouldn’t mind, but this stuff doesn’t even serve a purpose, aside from getting the otaku boys all hot and bothered). The fact that Aoi is making the choice to be a housewife–HER choice, not her asshole father’s–is wonderful, actually. She’s doing what makes HER happy, and screw whoever gets in her way.

  3. Gryfen says:

    I haven’t seen this one yet, tho Im a fan of anime (mostly Miyazaki, Cowboy Bebop, and Serial Experiment Lain, actually), but I was a Japanophile at an early age; read a lot of Japanese mythology and books about Japanese culture as a teenager.

    The one comment I would like to make regarding the comment on ‘pointless nudity’ in the previous post, is that in traditional Japanese culture, people were a lot less hung up about nudity than our culture tends to be; so casual nudity, especially around hot baths, etc., was perfectly normal for them. Unisex hot baths was the norm pre-WWII occupation.

  4. Miako says:

    Casual nudity is one thing… (Inuyasha’s scene with the kitsune pup running into the water with Kagome and wanting Inuyasha to come along was just good plain fun).

    Panty shots are obvious fetishization of a clothing product.

  5. Kaze says:

    Some people view Aoi’s behavior with the same attitude as a servant. What they fail to realize is that she was raised following the same Japanese traditions that her great grandparents were raised on. I must agree with some of the above posts: if you look at the subtlties in her behavior, you will realize that she is one of the best female leads ever created.

  6. daz says:

    Aoi is the queen of Anime! Her defiance of her parents and Miyabi shows her as infinitely strong and it’s plain from the first episode that SHE is Kaoru’s strength. Check out the scene in 4 where she first see’s Kaoru’s scars for a show of real feminine strength. Easily the best female lead character in any series. Truly Japan’s very own Penelope!

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