The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Ao Haru Ride

Title: Ao Haru Ride aka Blue Spring Ride
Genre: Romance/Drama
Company: Production I.G.
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 08 July 2014 – 23 September 2014

Synopsis: Yoshioka Futaba had a crush on Tanaka Kou in middle school until he moved away. Now in high school, Kou has suddenly reappeared with a different last name and a new care-free attitude. He calls Futaba out on her shallow friendships and forces her to reflect on the type of person she is becoming. As they become friends, Futaba realizes she still has some feelings for Kou, but she can’t decide if they are for the old Kou she used to know, or this new, colder one.

The Highlights
Love: Triangulated.
Approach: Fairly mature.
Kou: Always exactly where he needs to be to advance the story.
Resolution: Sorry, try the manga.

The biggest hurdle to get over in this series is Kou. Futaba herself is fairly likable and tries hard. She’s decently smart and mature enough to examine her own life choices and decide for herself what kind of person she wants to be. She cares deeply about her friends and about Kou. I couldn’t help but root for her. Kou, on the other hand, spends most of the series as a plot device, always turning up at just the right time and saying just the right thing to make Futaba question her feelings. One minute he’s caring and kind, the next he’s cold and aloof. Not until the very end of the series does he get any real development. It’s a shame because once we finally find out why he has changed he does elicit some sympathy. But his position as an unknown is manipulated for so much of the series that I can’t really decide if I want Futaba to like him, even if it is clear she does.

It’s a shame, too, because of how interesting Kou can be. He doesn’t quite know how to handle or express his emotions and often ends up translating what he feels into a rejection of the world around him. His response is often unhealthy and unfulfilling. Futaba helping Kou to recognize and better address his issues would have been much more mature and affecting tale than the more standard will-they-or-won’t-they that we end up with. Perhaps this storyline is explored later in the manga. There is potential for a good story here, but we don’t get that far.

The other main characters fare better. I was especially glad to see a quiet, lonely character like Makita Yuri playing a main role. Warm and loving, she forms a deep bond with Futaba. When she later develops a crush on Kou, this strains their relationship, but they address it like adults. Having a love triangle with two friends instead of rivals adds a nice dimension to the drama. Also well done is the awkwardness and embarrassment the characters face in their interactions. Alongside Futaba and Kou is another side story featuring two of their friends and a teacher at the school. Like the primary romance, little develops within the scope of the anime but a seed is planted in the final episode that suggests of more to come.

Otherwise there is little remarkable about the show. The seiyuu performances are solid and the art and animation are consistently good. It’s clear this series is intended as a gateway into a long running manga series. Here we only find an introduction to the story, with very little resolved at the end other than learning a little bit about Kou. It’s a decent romance, with perhaps a slightly more mature look at love than most, but it doesn’t set itself apart from the others in the genre.

The Rating: 6

Reviewed by: Kaikyaku

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