Anime Tuesdays: Ao Haru Ride
While Ao Haru Ride is not as recent, it has only been out since 2014. Odds are that many of us, as was my case, have been caught up watching other things and let this one pass us by. Yet, I am here to point at this 12-episode shoujo and say, “Go watch this right now.” Shoujos always run the risk of being a little too immature, childish or superficial. It is a common fear that one can outgrow them, preferring to watch “meatier” stuff over it. However, shows like Toradora! and Skip Beat! have proved that nothing really beats a really good shoujo. What Ao Haru Ride does is quite simple, and at the same time so perfectly balanced that you will be completely absorbed within the first episode.
Futaba Yoshioka and Kou Mabuchi met in middle school. Kou was a soft-spoken boy who seemed to get along with everybody but also kept to himself. Futaba found boys to be crude, and girls didn’t like her because her kawaii demeanor attracted many guys. The two meet while playing cops and robbers and are almost immediately smitten with each other. During their middle school days, their friendship grows to the extent that they plan to go on a date. However, when the meeting time comes, Futaba finds herself waiting for Kou who never showed. Futaba finds out the next day that Kou has left school without saying goodbye, and the two become estranged for three years. When they finally meet up again, Futaba has changed as a person in order to fit in with the crowd, whereas Kou has become more manly and completely unapproachable. The two acknowledge that they are not the same people anymore, but the plot (and their lingering feelings for each other) forces them to reassess the decisions that have led them to become rather unhappy individuals.
Why You Should Watch It
The beauty of Ao Haru Ride doesn’t come from the heart-wrenching love story (although that most definitely kept me up until 4am watching it), but rather from the perfect dichotomy that exists between the middle school and the high school versions of Kou and Futaba. While shoujos often deal with coming of age stories, very few address the common reality of growing up into what one wasn’t supposed to. It becomes apparent that Kou and Futaba played integral parts in each other’s child to teen development, and when their separation creates this missing link their character develops waveringly. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go read the manga and bawl my eyes out. (PS: There’s a 13th episode and a two-episode OVA available outside of Crunchyroll.)
Anime Tuesdays is a Tuesday column of The Nerd League featuring current or exceptional anime we think is worth checking out. To keep up with this week’s pick click here.