Here’s the thing for me about Ao Haru Ride: I like it. I like it a lot. It’s oozing shoujou-ness. Whatever that means. The typical shoujo series that I’ve seen often has a female lead who has no friends either because she’s misunderstood and therefore hard to make friends or preferred to be on her own. And then, there’ll be the eventual boyfriend male lead who comes to the rescue.
Ao Haru Ride doesn’t run too far away from the popular plot. The female lead, Yoshiaka Futaba, has problems making friends, but most of the 12 episodes are dedicated to her trying to get inside Mabuchi Kou’s head.
Ao Haru Ride revolves primarily around Futaba, Kou and their classmates, Marita Yuuri, Murao Shuuko and Kominato Aya. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the characters are well fleshed out or interesting, but they’re likeable. The focus on Futaba and Kou also meant that there aren’t a lot of back-story painted for the side characters.
Nonetheless, here’s a very quick description of the characters: Futaba is a persistent girl who often times acts impulsively to satisfy her curiosity. On the other hand, Kou is calm and rational. Yuuri is shy, sweet and cute. Shuuko is the typical lone wolf who slowly warms up to her (unwanted) girl friends. Kominato is the moderately loud comedian of the bunch.
Personally, I find it interesting to watch Kou, who pretends to be indifferent but actually has a kind heart. He puts up a wall around him as struggles to come to terms with his mother’s death.
Struggles of Characters
Emotions play a significant role in shoujo anime. Here, there’s a good blend of doubt, uncertainties, pain, rejection, love, hope and joy.
As a young man bearing on the weight of heavy feelings on his shoulder, Kou deals with a lot of pain of his own. While trying to appear normal and try just enough to fit in his class, Kou kept a lot to himself. His painful past caused him to be afraid to love again. Or his unspoken guilt for failing to recognize signs that ultimately led to his mother’s death. Or his shamefulness for not living up to his promise to his older brother, Tanaka-sensei. These feelings caused him to shut away everyone around him. These pain were well conveyed in the anime.
Futaba’s confused with what true friendship means as well as her own feelings for Kou. She struggles to find her place and trying to make sense of her mixed feelings about her middle school crush. Once she made a decision she wants to change her current situation, Futaba gradually understands her own feelings and is able to find friends who actually cares about her. And that’s happiness.
Yuuri, Shuuko and Kominato all have their shares of rejection, whether it’s unrequited love or as part of the society (read: high school life). Each dealt with the emotions in their own ways. They either persist or gave in. They hope or they forget.
Meaning of Friendships
Ultimately, the first season (not sure if there’s a second season, but it’s easier to categorize the time frame this way) of Ao Haru Ride focuses on finding real friends. During the earlier part of the series, Kou pointed out to Futaba on the current friends she’s hanging out with. Being desperate to be accepted after spending her middle school years as an outcast, Futaba chose to hang out with two girls because they’re around her. It’s out of convenience and very easy to fall apart. And it did fall apart.
Yuuri also has hard time finding friends because all the girls hate her for being the guys’ object of admiration. On the other hand, Shuuko prefers to be on her own for reasons unexplained. She refuses to hang out with her classmates too.
And in true shoujo fashion, all three girls managed to form a friendship that could be a highlight of their high school memories. Initially, they’re forced to spend time together as part of the class representative committee. However, they learn to truly care for and trust each other as they share their happy times, sad times and deepest secrets together.
I really enjoy watching Ao Haru Ride for all the drama and roller-coaster that has been in each of the character’s life, particularly Futaba’s. As a result of her decision to want to make a change, we’re invited to see and experience her journey to find friends to call her own. It’s recommended to fans who enjoy shoujo anime/manga.