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Aoi House 1 and 2
Author: Ross Liversidge

Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time.

Aoi House 1 and 2

Seven Seas

Aoi House is an American manga...

Oh balls, get back here dammit, this is actually good!

Knew I should have left that until right at the end. OK, for those of you still with me, Aoi House is a Harem-style manga based at a college where two anime geeks, Alex and Sandy, are down on their luck. In trouble with the Dean, they're thrown off campus, and, after reading a handy notice, they end up at Aoi House, a fraternity run by the mysterious Oniisan and populated by a bunch of wild Yaoi fangirls - and the boys have just become their pets!

I picked these volumes up because they had plenty of pages for the cash, and I really liked the artwork. It does have a Western feel to it in places, but it manages to tick all the right boxes - tight lines, consistent quality and excellent proportions.

The othe big draw is the references - all of which play to anime/manga released in the West, giving the reader a much fairer chance of understanding them. Fan favourites such as Haruhi and Full Metal Alchemist make an appearance, alongside Western cultural icons - see if you can spot Jay and Silent Bob in the mall chapter!

The characterisation is also more familiar - where Genshikencontains lots of cultural details alien to Westerners, the situations and characters are all far more empathetic with our own culture, and that makes the characters easier to latch on to. There are, of course, most of the ususal anime stereotypes, from the cute ditz through to the spoiled little rich girl, but it's more akin to the fandom I grew up with than any Eastern manga in the same vein, and in that at least, Aoi House shines.

In terms of the structure, I do have a few issues with it. The pace is a bit off, and although the whole series takes place over two mega-collected volumes, the first can drag in places while the second has a chapter that wraps up an entire year! There was a lot more mileage in this series than has been allowed, and I think that's a real shame.

Of course, this isn't going to topple Genshiken or Comic Party from the pedestal most fans place them on, but for my money Aoi House is an accessible, enjoyable read and deserves a place on your book shelf. At last, the manga to represent the Western otaku!

As a little bonus, here's an animated Aoi House video I found on Youtube:

Better than it should be, and a touchstone for Western fandom.
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