Ao Haru Ride Review

This is review number three hundred and sixty five. This anime is part of the Summer 2014 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Ao Haru Ride or Blue Spring Ride. It’s a thirteen episode anime about a guy and a girl admiring each other. It’s a cute show. Let’s read on.

Story

Futaba Yoshioka has a crush on Kou Tanaka back in middle school. He is a timid boy, and she is a cute girl. They’re now in high school, and they’ve reconnected after being apart for years. Futaba is now an unladylike person, and Kou is now a closed off emotionally guarded individual. Futaba is still attracted to the Kou she once knew, and she wants to be with Kou now knowing that there is still something between them.

Taking the Pants Off

It’s actually been a long while since I’ve tried a romance anime, so I’m really excited to watch Ao Haru Ride. Shoujo shows hits a soft spot for me, because I always like the feeling of acting like a giddy school girl when no one is watching. I’m especially fond of the Shoujo scope, where a close up shot of one character staring at another character can have the most romantic sh*t ever. I guess it’s because I grew up watching Shoujo anime, and I always have fond memories of shows like this. I think it’s also my high expectation for Shoujo that ruined Ao Haru Ride for me, because I really didn’t enjoy it. I understand what it’s trying to do, and it is pretty textbook Shoujo, but I mostly felt bored watching this show. The fault lies entirely on me though, because I think I’m honestly just too old now to appreciate an anime that is clearly geared towards preteen viewers. The situations in the stories are something a preteen can understand, but I mostly just look at it with indifference. I’m ready to point out the reasons why this show is good though, but I’m honestly not affected by this Shoujo anime. This is a good reason why being TPAB sucks. Some of the things you enjoyed will eventually be ruined the more you’re exposed to so many sh*t. I’m still a fan of the Shoujo scope though, and this anime has some great ones that made me giddy as well.

Oh gawd, I’m too old to be enjoying this.

Anyways, the show is about a guy and a girl reconnecting in high school. Back in middle school, they kinda liked each other and the flashback is showered with rose colored nostalgia. It’s cute, but things are different now. The girl has resented being beautiful and now intentionally embraced a slacker lifestyle. The boy, on the other hand, has become this handsome emo guy that is cold towards everyone. When the girl saw him though, she recalls the sweet moment they have in the past and immediately rushed towards him. He is a completely different person now though, and he urges the girl to forget him because he isn’t the boy that she fell in love with. The girl is completely shocked at how much the guy changed, and she decided to try and get the boy she loved back. The past is in the past though, and change is a fact of life. The girl believes that love could save the boy though, and she’ll do her best to love him all over again.

The premise is really solid. I love how the show presents two sets of characters. We have the present characters as they are now: the girl, Futaba Yoshioka, who has put up a ruse where she’ll be undesirable and boys won’t find her cute, and the boy, Kou Mabuchi, who is this distant cold emo guy with his own façade hiding his troubled self. We also have their past selves: the girl being a cute middle schooler completely caught up in admiring this boy, and the boy, a timid fragile guy. The show would often present the contrast between the two sets of characters, because their love story is a really interesting one. They met in an old shrine one rainy day, and they reconnected in the same place. As the past characters are further fleshed out, we discover the various circumstances that made Yoshioka fall in love with Mabuchi. This plays in contrast to the relationship they have now, which is completely different. The past is all innocent and rose-colored, but the present is more flirty and a bit hard to gauge. The idea that these two characters, that both underwent drastic changes in their life, suddenly reconnecting and falling in love again is just a really cute premise to play with.

I especially love the way they interact with each other. It just feels natural, I guess. The boy loves teasing the girl, and the girl would blush whenever she gazes intently at the boy. I love the way the girl also worships the boy in the most curious way. There’s a line about her smelling the back of his head, and she loved the smell of his shampoo. The entire thing has a layer of creepiness to it, but it’s also surprisingly romantic. The story is told in the girl’s point of view, so it’s really interesting how she notices these small things simply because she is really in love with the guy. It’s not just creepy, but also a bit sexual. This is actually one of the reasons why their interactions are so cute: there’s a layer of unconfirmed sexual tension between them. Despite the girl intently gazing at the boy, worshipping his face and commenting at how gentle his f*cking eye lashes are, the boy doesn’t seem to mind and he actually enjoys how the girl just seemingly can’t get enough of him. The way the girl also worships the guy is actually a great way to connect with the characters. I seriously cannot like these characters, story-wise, but the show makes up for it with some wonderful romantic scenes between our main couple.

I’m actually amazed at how the author, Io Sakisaka, presented the romance. It just feels different from your typical Shoujo story, but it also feels familiar. We have a girl that openly admires and worships a hot piece of toast, and we have a boy that seemingly enjoys what the girl is doing. It’s childish, but also mature. It’s cute, but also sexually charged. It’s a typical high school love story, but it also feels different from what you’re used to. Io Sakisaka somehow perfectly captures the idolization process most preteen girls do with their crushes, and I’m amazed at how entertainingly fun it is to see the girl just go through her “in-love” phase. She doesn’t really want sex, she doesn’t actually worship the guy like a gawd and she also can’t bring herself to actually like him. It’s complex, but it’s something I’m sure preteen girls can actually relate to. I know that because I’ve been tutoring preteen girls for the past two months, and I always make sure I connect with my students. The process includes getting to know their hobbies and interests, and this opens a nonstop barrage of talks about their crushes. Also Kpop, and that’s the mind of preteen girl. It’s constantly on, and it’s a bit naïve. The author seemingly captured this curious naivety and presented a preteen main character most readers can actually relate to. But this can also be a bad thing.

aoharu7

Preteens like to brood on the most stupid things, and they like to create drama out of nothing. This is the impression I got from our main girl as well. She likes to overcomplicate things that don’t really mean any gawd damn thing. In the story, the reason why the boy and girl got out of touch is because the girl screamed out that “she hates all men” and the boy overheard her. Rather than actually analyze the situation and take the statement into a different context, the boy got all emo and the girl never did anything about it. Really? From a preteen’s point of view, I guess it does make sense that misunderstandings can’t be easily corrected since they aren’t that experienced with the world. But, really? The girl blurted out a statement from out of nowhere and conflict is suddenly established? It’s really childish but, again, consider the target demographic. But, this really took me away from the story itself. Shoujo is a fun genre because it’s actually high school soap opera where things are exaggerated and feelings are over explained, characters go from guarded to vulnerable, and conflict is juicy. Creating a problem out of something someone blurted out in a flashback doesn’t really seem right to me. This sets the tone for the rest of the story, and it really feels problematic to me.

I remember one episode is focused entirely on the girl thinking nonstop if the guy has a crush on one of her friends. Literally the entire episode, she just monologues about something she saw that concerned her deeply. There’s another episode where the girl is conflicted if she should confess to the guy or not. It would’ve been cute, but she kept talking about it as if the situation is life or death. Its preteen problems, so I do understand. As a jaded adult though, I really don’t think you should spend too much time on simple stupid matters like this. Preteen problems like this actually stall the romantic development a lot, and the pacing of the story is often heavily altered just to cater to them. In the span of the entire series, love is never actually a thing between the two characters. Love is not part of their interaction. I think the correct term for their relationship is “admiration”, because they really just like each other from the cool things they know about the other growing up. So the great romantic interactions between them don’t really mean anything in the long run. It’s two preteen kids fooling around with no real consequences to their actions. Again, for preteens, this is an ideal situation for them. Story-wise though, they should be able to convince the audience that they actually love each other. This is done by actually having a coherent story where their love for each other is tested. Believe it or not, Nisekoi actually has a much better presentation of love in its story and I f*cking hated that anime. To be fair, I do think “admiration” is the intended goal of the author. The story of the manga is really long and a bit tedious, but I think the entire twelve episodes of the anime only covered a small chunk of the story. It only covers the girl’s side of the story, and the girl truly does admire the boy with all her heart.

The anime is missing the boy’s point of view, and his contributions to the love story are actually not featured. I think the last episode only focused on him actually reciprocating the girl’s admiration of him. He is distant and cold in the anime, and he never really bother to show the girl that he does like her too. The girl would chase after him, cry for him, and she even tries to be a part of his life. The boy, on the other hand, doesn’t really care. He shuts everyone out, and it looks like he is only leading the girl on. This is why “love” is never really established, because the boy never really showed the girl or the audience that he loves her too. My sister read the manga, and she explained that the rest of the story actually follows the boy’s point of view next. Spoilers ahead, I guess. I’m reviewing the anime though, and it’s safe to assume there’ll be no second season after being released two years ago. Anyways, the anime featured the girl chasing the guy, but it comes to a point where she had enough of it. She begins to have a relationship with a different guy, and this prompted the boy to chase after the girl now. The story actually entered familiar Shoujo fairs after the anime ends, and it’s a bit frustrating. I wanted high school soap opera, and I got preteen problems instead. Okay, it is a unique anime experience. This is a one of kind Shoujo anime that focused on a very familiar kind of admiration, and I’m sure it resonated with a lot of people. If the story served unsatisfying, there is still pay off in the endless amount of Shoujo scope this anime provides. Like this:

And this:

And this:

I don’t like this anime personally, but I am still a sucker for a good ol’ fashion Shoujo scope. Just look at those unspoken scenes full of things that’ll make you fangirl. Damn you , Shoujo. I can’t quit you.

Anyways, the whole argument that this anime only covers the introductory phase of the story is even more evident when the other plot point in the story involves the main couple befriending three other people. The show would then showcase their time bonding and growing as a group of like-minded people. This actually felt like annoying padding to bulk up the story, and it’s frustrating considering the romance isn’t developing properly while we’re presented fluff like this. If the entire anime is an introduction to the overall story though, then this one also makes sense because, later in the story, these characters would play a bigger role down the line. One of the friends is annoyingly portrayed as an innocent timid person, and the entire thing makes sense when you consider she gets in a serious relationship AFTER the anime ends. According to my sister, it’s similar to the main couple’s story but more direct. Another one of their friends also has their own subplot romance, and it’s actually a shame that we never see it develop. She has a big crush on a teacher, but the best character in the show likes her too. The anime ends with the love triangle officially confirmed, and the romantic subplot commences AFTER the anime ends. In fact, the guy that our main character girl is supposed to be in a relationship with is introduced in the last episode setting up the “boy chasing girl” story AFTER the anime ends. Like most introduction phases of a story, the anime really only introduces us to the characters, their motivations, their potential romantic exploits and nothing more. In typical Shoujo fashion, the experience will only be complete when you are forced by the anime to read the manga afterwards.

It’s annoying to know the anime doesn’t really delve into the story much, and it really is only intended as an effective mangalure, but I still understand this show fully. We’re in a great transition phase where new audiences are being introduced to Shoujo anime, and this show is keeping up with the tradition of introducing young audiences to read the manga afterwards. Fruits Basket did that to me, but I only got far as the third chapter because reading in any form bores me. Ironically, I write long reviews that I force others to read. I also appreciate the wonderful ball of angst the story presents as it gives us an insight into the mind of a preteen girl. There’s a lot to really enjoy in this anime, but they’re not really all that substantial in the long run. Story-wise, nothing is really accomplished. Romance-wise, the show only teased good moments but the love story never really develops. In terms of character development, the show is one sided on it as the guy’s tragic backstory is not explored properly making it a really incomplete experience. I really wanted to understand the guy and his emo personality, and I fully understand that revealing his tragic backstory will make that happen. The show does deliver the tragic backstory, but you’ll really only appreciate the guy and his train of thoughts AFTER the anime ends and you continue with the manga. It’s a really weird experience. It’s both good and beneficial, but also bad and unsatisfying for me.

The characters are a mix of good and bad as well. If you’re a preteen, then you’ll really understand the girl. If you’re not, then it’s really hard to appreciate all her thoughts and actions. Some of them come off as overly dramatic and exaggerated, and this can ruin the anime for some people. It does for me, and it’s hard to connect with her. Unless you’re someone that worships her crush as well, then jaded adults that think of the world as a giant joke won’t really understand where she is coming from. It takes effort to like her, and this might be a challenge for some people. The girl does grow on you though, because the show revolves around her. The guy is someone that takes real great amount of effort to actually like. Ok, he’s hot but he’s also bland. I understand his stereotype. He is the stoic cool type that most girls think they can tame, but they don’t realize that the guy is just on a different level entirely. With his handsome face, I think most people can also get over how one dimensional the character is. I, personally, do not like him. I mostly hate this:

What kind of guy covers his face when he’s feeling shy? Most guys don’t even show it, so they don’t need to cover it up. He’s blatantly doing that though, because the target demographic will absolutely adore it. Yes, if you want a girl to like you, cover your face with your hands and act like a shy timid b*tch. That’ll get panties dropping. In the story as well, he doesn’t really contribute much. It comes to a point where you’ll feel bad to the girl trying to reach out to him. The guy would often just play with her emotions, and he doesn’t realize that he’s being a jerk by putting up a friendly façade around her. I guess it’s a great motivation to see him chase after the girl when he realizes how much she means to him. Character-wise, he’s really hot and cold. One moment he’ll appreciate the girl intervening with his life but he’ll be annoyed the next. He’ll find the girl comforting, but he’s also trying to avoid him. He likes the girl, but he also doesn’t like her. These things are all adequately explain AFTER the anime ends, but he only just come off as a jerk in the show. He’s a handsome jerk though, so I guess it evens out. One thing I keep saying to myself though is that I bet his character would look great in a live action film. The intentionally emo handsome jerk sounds like it’s meant for a JDrama, and I wonder how he’d look in real life. Oh sh*t, there’s a live action movie already.

The trailer interestingly suggests that everything that happens AFTER the anime is actually in the live action movie. The story looks incredibly rushed though, but that’s fine. In the trailer, the guy that kisses the girl is not our stoic emo so I might download and review this just for the hell of it. Oh, and I still hate the stoic handsome emo even in live action form. The actors nail the characters though, so this looks fun.

I could talk about the other characters, but I think they’re fun discovering them for yourself. I also feel lazy describing them, so just see them for yourselves. I do have one character I absolutely like though. In a sea of preteen angsts and subtle sexual energies, there is one character that I can actually relate to. There’s a blonde guy in their circle of friends, and he is actually the most level headed person in the anime. He is forward and honest with his emotions, and it’s a breath of fresh air considering how guarded the rest of the characters are. He is actually the most stereotypical character in the show, but I gravitate to him mostly because he feels familiar. He isn’t sappy like the other characters, and he is satisfied just admiring his crush from afar for now. I hope he gets his girl in the end.

When I first saw the anime, the visuals reminded me of JC Staff. I actually thought JC Staff did this anime, but it’s actually presented by Production IG. This is incredible, because they don’t do a lot of romance. They also have this preferred high quality animation that makes them recognizable. The animation and quality of this anime reminds me of Bokura ga Ita, a JC Staff classic. In fact, Bokura ga Ita also only covers the introduction phase of the manga and it’s about angsty teenagers you cannot relate with as well. I think Production IG actually went through the effort to deliver nostalgia with Ao Haru Ride. This is interesting, because they didn’t really need to do that. They’re a rich company, so they can just half ass this sh*t. But this is why I love Production IG, they don’t go half-way with anything. They actually made sure this anime resembles the Shoujo of the past, but they know full well that newer audiences will watch this. They care so much for their audience that they wanted to deliver the best experience for them. I love that. Production IG respects their audience, and you can clearly tell people behind this anime had the audience in mind first. Production IG actually values their audience, and I love how they break away from their norm. They don’t do a lot of romance, but they don’t shy form it as well. Given a chance to present a classic Shoujo experience, Production IG is ready to jump on the bandwagon. KyoAni, take notes. I hate KyoAni. Alright, the obligatory KyoAni jab is in this review. I can rest now. This anime is directed by Ai Yoshimura. She directed OreGairu, and I notice that she really doesn’t rush her adaptations. I like that. She mostly done episode directorial before OreGairu, but you can tell this director has talent. She certainly has her own way of making the original source special, because she’s able to make the great scenes of the manga stand out in a magical way. I trust this director, and I hope she gives us more anime in the future.

Sight and Sound

Io Sakisaka draws traditional Shoujo. She emphasizes on the faces, she draws light panels and the pages are filled with dialogue. There are also the Shoujo eyes nicely given to the main girl’s face. Shoujo is an expressive manga, so you really need to punctuate certain scenes using facial expressions. Character design-wise, Io Sakisaka presented the characters nicely. The atmosphere of the Shoujo certainly makes all the characters a lot more feminine, but it’s pretty similar to the anime’s design. We have a dreamy guy next to a short girl with cute features. One thing to note about the manga is how Io draws the romantic scenes. Every time the main couple touches each other, the manga presents it in such a steamy and giddy fashion that you’re easily caught up in it. She tells a story frightening well, and even the slightest tug of the guy’s sleeve can make you giddy. Anyways, the character designs don’t really stand out that much, but they are still pretty good. The proportions are great, the facial designs are on point and the design isn’t uniform. Each character is unique in their own special way, but the design is on point to make sure Shoujo is properly presented.

The animation is pretty subpar compared to Production IG’s standard, but I think it was on purpose. The movements are still smooth, but you can tell the quality just isn’t that good. Again, this is intentional since Production IG is going for a nostalgic Shoujo look typical of what JC Staff would present. Think of Kimi ni Todoke as a reference to the kind of style Production IG is trying to capture. This also means that the studio is actually giving nod to JC Staff and its influence in Shoujo anime. Total respect, Production IG. The movements are pretty minimal, but it’s enough to deliver the scene. The facial reactions are on point and the romantic moments are nicely presented, but they don’t really stand out animation wise. It’s just enough to tell the story without distracting the focus away from it. I do love how the director captures the panels of the manga. The camera angles are wonderful as it is part of telling a story. Establishing shots are rarely done, and the camera moves with the characters. If they’re in a room, the camera would scan the entire area building up the romantic moment of it all. When the main couple starts touching each other, the camera work really goes all out. Close up shots and different angles of the characters hugging are layered one after the other as a sweet romantic music would soon follow. It’s incredible. Points for the director for capturing the vision the author intended in her story.

The anime’s OP is “Sekai wa Koi ni Ochiteiru” by CHiCO with HoneyWorks. I love this opening song, and I doubly love it considering HoneyWorks is part of it. They do nico nico douga songs though, just like JIN the creator of Mekakucity Actors, and it’s nice to see them finally be recognized for their talents. The song is bright and really catchy. It features the point of view of the girl mainly, as she tries to get close to the boy. It’s a really cute song, and the singer’s voice makes it all the more special. I also love how it captures the complicated love presented in the anime, as the lyrics also suggest more of an admiration than actual love. The preteen connotations of the anime is hammered to us in the OP sequence as it features stars, a lip gloss and nail polish splattered during random transitions. It’s not really subtle, but it confirms the target demographic of the anime. The sequence basically just introduces the characters, and nothing happens in it as well just like the anime itself. It does feature the cute interaction between the main couple that is honestly the best thing in this show.

The anime’s ED is “Blue” by Fujifabric. I love this song as well. The singer’s voice certainly makes it special, and it’s nostalgic for me. The lyrics feature someone totally in love with another, and the singer’s voice is so familiar that it conjures up happy memories of me watching Kimi ni Todoke. The chorus had me in tears when I first heard it, but they oddly flashed the stoic handsome emo at the same time the chorus played and it ruined it for me. Production IG never wants you to forget the studio that made this, and they displayed their awesomeness in the ED sequence. It features the main couple and their friends in a walk cycle. If you’ve ever animated sh*t, then you know walk cycles are a nightmare. You know who can do that sh*t in their sleep? Production IG. The ED is actually a great throwback to a JC Staff romance anime, and it’s like a fan video made by Production IG. I love it.

Overall Score

7/10 “It’s a wonderful Shoujo anime sharing the same strengths and weaknesses of other great Shoujo anime that preceded it.”

As I said, this anime is both unique and familiar. The preteen angle is unique, but the romantic moments feel familiar. I’m sure a lot of people will enjoy the overly sweet love story presented in this anime. It’s a forgettable show, but the anime experience is still worthwhile. It is still a mangalure though, but I think that’s really part of the Shoujo experience. If you love romance anime, then you’ll like this one. I consider this a great gateway anime to the Shoujo genre, so people unfamiliar to anime can easily like this show. If you like stoic handsome emo in your anime, then you’ll like the male lead as well. I recommend it.

5 thoughts on “Ao Haru Ride Review

  1. This title has been on my list for awhile now, I just never had the time to start it. But, I think reading your post was just the push I needed to finally pick it up! 😀

    This is such an amazing post, thank you so much for sharing!!!!

  2. I watched this but it don’t even have completed story and no kiss at all . I think those who like preety intense drama should watch it.

  3. Ah, it seems we both had those feelings of “I’m too old to be enjoying this,” but it had those nice tender moments that makes shoujo anime a little addicting. I’m happy it wasn’t the sort of show that was just working up to the pay off, though. The fact it didn’t end with a kiss actually set it apart from the pack.

Thoughts~

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