You just jogged my memory... I had thought that too and forgot to mention it.
To be honest, it's very likely the most convincing explanation. I don't necessarily agree the personalities are similar (unless Kyonko is less Kyon like then I think), but there's enough of a resemblance I'm sure that a few people have noticed.
Another idea on that really cute Itsuki/Azusa pic - It recently occurred to me that Azusa would make a decent stand-in for Kyonko. Similar personalities, similar appearance. Maybe that's part of the idea here.
The second theory is intriguing, and I'd actually say it's possible to merge it to an extent with the third theory. First theory doesn't work though, Azusa was one of Ayana Taketatsu's first roles. I think she would have been like 17 at the time. (Though I suppose that doesn't mean much when you consider that the OPs for Guilty Crown and Tasogare Otome x Amnesia were both sung by 15 year olds.)
First thought: A seiyu joke of some sort? Does Azusa's seiyu voice anybody of note in Melancholy?
Second thought: Somebody thinks that Azusa has a Kyon-esque personality, and hence half-jokingly felt that Itsuki and Azusa would go well together.
Third thought: Itsuki is the favorite male character, and Azusa is the favorite female character, of a KyoAni fan. So that fan just decided to put their two favorites together. I have to admit I've done a couple crack-shippings just because I loved the two characters individually, so that contributed to me thinking they'd go good together.
Good eye. I noticed that bit of rump-service myself.
KyoAni does do one kind of ecchi fanservice very well - Ass shots. One of the Haruhi 2009 E8 episodes had this incredible Haruhi ass-shot, lol.
Personally, I like KyoAni's more naturalistic and distinct style. You don't need to flash a female character's undies or naked breasts in order to give her sex appeal. Careful framing of certain (but normal) body movements can be arousing as well, and also in a more classy way.
You know, for all the attention those purple eyes get, I think the most amazing thing about Eru is how she moves. It's practically a fanservice in and of itself, sometimes flirting with subtle-erotic territory. The way her skirt moves as she lunges around 15:15 in the most recent episode... I think Kyoto may just have stealthily inserted one of the few truly great ass shots in anime.
Oh, and good assessment of the slow-burn nature of the foreshadowed romance in this show.
Actually, I don't doubt that JC Staff can do good visual work. Shana III usually looked pretty good to me. But still, it's encouraging to know that JC Staff is really refining its style a bit.
My concern with JC Staff (when it comes to LB!) has more to do with source material faithfulness. But who knows? Maybe they'll do Ok here as well. Shana III was pretty faithful to the LN from what I read.
Something surprising I learned from the Tari Tari thread: there were three major subcontractors doing background art for Hanasaku Iroha, one of whom was JC Staff of all studios.
Still not sure what I think about JC Staff's choice of director for Little Busters, but I'm now going to be very surprised if it doesn't look great. And I'm not longer surprised how good Ano Natsu de Matteru looked either.