Dated 10 May 2008: The End of Ai Yori Aoshi: My Purest Heart for Thee. Be glad it isn't Death(TRUE), Tina
I've confessed on multiple occasions that I really enjoy the Ai Yori Aoshi manga despite having a rather low opinion of its banal, freakishly-nipple-free anime adaptation—Kawasumi Ayako's soothing cooing as Aoi notwithstanding. It's not easy for me to explain exactly why I enjoy the manga so much. I think perhaps part of the reason is that it is so transparent with its ambitions.
Compare the Ai Yori Aoshi promise with the central promise in Love Hina, a manga that is arguably as much about promises as it is about onsens and accidentlly seeing other people's butts. In Love Hina, the identity of the Promised Girl remains ambiguous for nearly the entire run, and even the terms of the promise itself come into question at times. Ai Yori Aoshi establishes an unambiguous promise in its opening chapters that never faces a serious challenge in the eyes of the reader.
Compare Ai Yori Aoshi with Ah! My Goddess. The committment between Keiichi and Belldandy never faces a credible challenge. The promise inherent in the wish has a large catalog of exceptions and loop-holes, but the underlying bond keeping Keiichi and Belldandy together will go on as long as it has to—this is a manga that never ends. Thankfully, the title focuses more now on the slice-of-life whacky-type adventures mostly driven by its extensive supporting cast, so it's still wildly entertaining. But I digress. Unlike Aa! Megami-sama, Ai Yori Aoshi ENDS.
I am very pleased with how the Ai Yori Aoshi manga wrapped up the story in its final volumes. I did have some reservations at first when New Character appeared out of thin air, but it worked out well. Be content to think of the matter as a catalyst and be glad it wasn't a deus ex machina. (Ultimately, what happens to our main characters doesn't really require New Character's presence at all.)
Speaking of which, what does happen to Aoi and Kaoru? Well, I'm not going to outright spoil the climax or lay out the story, but the events in volume 17 should come as no surprise to anybody who has been paying even bare attention. Fans of the series should find the ending satisfying. A consumate professional, mangaka Fumizuki Kou nails it.