Name: Video Girl Ai
Genre: Romance, Science Fiction
Serialized In: Shonen Jump Japan, Animerica Extra (US)
Released: 1989 – 1992
Story & Art: Masakazu Katsura
Published By (Japan): Shueisha
Published By (US): Viz Media
Story: 8/10 (x3 = 24pts)
Art: 9/10 (x3 = 27pts)
Gut Score: 8/10 (x4 = 32 pts)
Total: 83/100 (83%)
Video Girl Ai is an interesting science-fiction/romance story that kept me guessing about what will end up happening next. If you also like complex love triangles (or quadrangles or moreangles), Katsura usually doesn’t disappoint, and Video Girl Ai is no exception. The main character, Yota, is in love with his hot high school classmate Moemi. The problem is that Moemi loves Yota’s best friend Takashi. Just as Yota is ready to confess his love to Moemi, she confides in him her love for Takashi. Yota, being of kind heart, tries to pursuade Moemi to pursue her love of Takashi despite his own feelings. However, Takashi turns her down.
On his way home, Yota runs into a video store called Gokuraku, which can only be seen by the pure of heart. Yota qualified as being pure of heart because of his actions earlier in the day. This store appears to have some interesting titles for people who are supposedly to be “pure of heart” including some rather risque looking titles. Yota ends up renting a video of a girl named Ai Amano and tries playing it in his VCR, which broke when he accidentally dumped it on the floor earlier in the day.
Yota soon finds out that this video is no ordinary video. The video girls in the Gokuraku videos come to life – quite literally – coming out of the TV set and into the viewer’s living room. However, instead of being a loveless super-hot girl who fulfills men’s fantasies, Yota’s broken VCR turns Ai into still attractive, though perhaps not as much so, tomboy who can feel emotions. However, Ai can only exist in the real world until the timer on her tape runs out.
What occurs over the first 13 volumes of the series are the trial and tribulations of Yota, Ai, Moemi, Takashi, as well as several other characters. Yota and Ai fall in love with each other, but Ai’s timer is running out. Yota still loves Moemi as well and is unsure how to handle his dual love interests. Moemi relentlessly pursues Takashi, despite his obvious disinterest in her while Takashi tries to pursuade Moemi that it is Yota who she really loves. On top of this, Ai’s creater decides that she should be erased since she has become defective after being messed up by Yota’s VCR – most especially because of the fact that Ai can fall in love now.
You’ll also probably want to swing a heavy, blunt objects towards the heads of pretty much all of the main characters multiple times through this series because, since one reads the series from a 3rd person point of view, the reader sees that many of the conflicts can be resolved much easier than the characters think they can, with the character’s indecision making things worse or with characters failing to see what is obvious from the reader’s point of view. Of course, if the characters acted just as the reader think they should, that wouldn’t necessarily make for a compelling series either.
Also, look for the Batman references throughout the series (Katsura is a huge Batman fan) including when Yota watches a movie called “Batman” (as in, a superhero who uses bats – as in long blunt weapons – not the animals).
The final two volumes of this series (volumes 14 and 15) are actually a quasi-sequal which was originally called Video Girl Len (it’s called Video Girl Ai: Len’s Story in the American release). Also, the final chapter of volume 15 is, again, it’s own story with a different video girl. These are interesting stories on their own, but they don’t necessarily add to the story as told in the first 13 volumes.
Given that this is a Katura manga, the art is very well done with excellent (if not dated by today’s standards) character designs. The story is also above average in my opinion, keeping the reader on your toes, as well as keeping the reader interested to see if the characters will ever actually see the light.
First Read: November, 2005 – April 2006
Do I Own: Yes
Do I recommend: Yes