I’m betting money on this series getting a second season eventually.
Ao Haru Ride is truly a breath of fresh air. After a large string of bad choices this season (Glasslip, Tokyo ESP, Jinsei), it’s nice to get an anime that at least knows how to treat its story correctly. It has a sheer determination to uphold its shoujo name, with all the stereotypes that come with it.
I think the “story” of Haru Ride, or any remnant of one, gets tossed around on various occasions. It begins as a girl’s attempt to become more mature and “real,” I suppose, as a person. This girl, Futaba, begins to see through her class’s cruelty with the help of a once lost friend named Kou, who mysteriously shows up out of nowhere to tell her that she’s fake. Okay. However, as the story goes along, it becomes more of a romantic build-up between Futaba and Kou, as Futaba tries to find out the reason Kou left and why he arrived much more bitter than before. But then it ALSO diverges into Futaba’s attempt to salvage what little social life she has with various classmates. And THEN it becomes a character study on Kou. It could be classified as a slice of life, but I’d prefer to call it a highway with back roads.
With this comes the first major problem with Haru Ride. It tries to juggle so many different scenarios (Futaba and Kou’s relationship, Shuuko and Tanaka-sensei’s relationship, Red-head’s sudden confession of love, etc.) that some of them will feel non-important by the series’ end. This plays double with the characters of Haru Ride, but more on that later. The story itself, however, ends on a very positive note. While somewhat of a cliffhanger, a lot of issues that arise with Kou’s character are essentially resolved, and I cannot applaud the series enough for how maturely they handled the “last supper.” In all sincerity, it was similar to that of Isshuukan Friends; a feel-good story, but not completely dedicated to it.
Here’s another problem with Haru Ride: its characters. I had a genuine love-hate relationship with Kou for literally the entire series. I hated his distant, 2cool4school persona that he established in the first couple of episodes, but I was given the indication that he had a reason for it, so I backed off a tad. While the reasoning is credible in itself, some of the decisions he makes throughout the series still made me despise him as a character, despite still falling back on the “Dark past! Leave me alone!” excuse. By the end, fortunately (for me, I suppose), he becomes easily the best character in the series.
And now for everyone else. I didn’t care for them. They all seemed like either plot progression or plot convenience. Futaba isn’t the worst of this, but I feel she falls through too many stereotypes that shoujo leads are accustomed to falling through. While she has her moments, she mostly comes off as just another shoujo lead. Futaba’s OLD friends at the beginning of the series are there for one episode. And then one of them come back in another episode for about ten seconds, as if to say “Hey, remember me? I was important at one point!” I would have loved to see the series use the old friends in a way that would cause drama for Futaba later on in the series, like them being jealous of her new friends or something, seeing as they never liked Red-head in the first place.
Speaking of Red-head, in the beginning of the series, she was constantly ridiculed for “acting cute to attract the guys.” Interesting theory. Why did this not last longer than a few episodes? Once the series established that she was a pure, good-souled protagonist, all of a sudden, all the rumors fly away and the boys are nowhere in sight. This is what I meant before about plot convenience. Once the series feels they’ve accomplished a sub-story in the main story (if there ever was one), they move on and essentially forget it. Oh, and Red-head is cute, but that’s all she is.
All the rest of the cast doesn’t matter. However, Kou’s older brother, I thought, was likable to an extent.
I felt as if the art of the series got better whenever Futaba and Kou were alone together. That certainly doesn’t seem intentional. Hmm. Regardless, it was certainly better than average normally, while the scenes with tension get an honorable mention in the “effort” department. It almost seems like they’re trying to make this series look the part. But what anime wants to do that? Though, the hazy flashback scenes were a tad cliche. I thought Red-head’s hair didn’t really match her situation… y’know, Japan? I’m surprised no one mentioned that. One thing I will mention is the attention to making the older characters actually look old, and not just with couple lines here and there. Different hairstyles, eye shapes, and a barrage of lines, as opposed to a couple, highlight Haru Ride’s celebration of experience.
It was a fine series overall, it just had some confusing story direction and a majority of its characters didn’t get enough development. I think the best part about the anime was unraveling the mystery behind Kou’s past, and again, I felt they did a really good job with how they revealed it and how it was resolved among the family. I say “among the family” because the initial moment when Kou decides to open up seems far too easy. How easy? Like a piece of cake. Blue Spring cake. I don’t know why I wanted to make that “joke.”