Title: Ao Haru Ride Vol. 1
Author: Io Sakisaka
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: Fantasy, Battle
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Ao Haru Ride is the latest series from Io Sakisaka (Blue, Call My Name, Strobe Edge) that centers around a girl name Futaba Yoshioka. In junior high, she couldn’t stand boys but there was one boy named Kou Tanaka that was different. He was kind, gentle, and seemed like someone she could see herself hanging out with it. Futaba decides to play a game of cops and robbers that included Tanaka and it was there that she realized that he liked him. She was confronted by a random boy outside of Tanaka’s class who asked her some pretty annoying questions so Futaba scolded him and yelled out that she hated boys. Tanaka overhead this at an awkward time as he had just asked her to meet him at the clock tower in the park at 7:00 pm. When Futaba showed up, Kou didn’t. It wasn’t until the next day that she learned that Kou transferred schools and moved away.
Three years later, Futaba is a first year in high school when she bumps into someone who looked like Kou but was taller and had a deeper voice. She followed him but found out his name was Mabuchi and not Tanaka but despite this, she had a nagging feeling it was him. Eventually, she talks to him and finds out it is Kou but with a different last name… the only problem is that Kou isn’t the nice, gentle boy she remembers. Now, he’s cold, direct, to the point, and kind of a jerk but despite all of that, she can’t let her feelings for him go.
I have to say that I really enjoyed the story in the first volume. Romance stories can only go so many ways and this one does feel a bit on the generic side; however, when you have a standard romance story, it’s usually propped up by its characters and I think that Ao Haru Ride, for a first volume, has some promising characters to give this story life. It’s a bit too early to tell how this one will turn out but with the way Futaba and Kou have been depicted so far, the story does have some room to do some great things although I fear some of them may be a little on the predictable side.
First off, we have Futaba. Futaba just can’t stand being around boys as she finds them barbaric, obnoxious, and pretty much every other single stereotype associated with men in general. Kou showed her that boys could be different which proves that all it takes is just one thing to meet her expectations for her to become influenced. Kou even referred to her as shallow in the later part of the volume and he’s kind of right. This is even accentuated through the fact that her friends in high school are exactly as Kou described them… fake. Futaba even admits that she doesn’t really feel connected to her friends and that she only keeps company with them so she wouldn’t have to be alone in high school, or alone in general. While Futaba’s personality is pretty average, you can tell that she’s at a crossroads in her life with a lot of conflicting emotions. She’s just a girl that’s trying to fit in for the sake of not being alone but what isn’t explored is WHY she’s afraid of ending up alone.
I think that’s an interesting point to keep hidden and that at the same time, Sakisaka didn’t make it an obvious point. It’s repeated enough throughout the volume to where you understand that Futaba fears being alone but it never makes it obvious that you should question why. It allows the reader to ask their own questions and that makes me wonder if it’s going to be a plot point that will be explored or if it’s something we should just take a face value and move on because that’s all we’re going to see of it?
Kou is a mixed bag of mystery but we did get some clues as to why he is the way he is in the current time. He started off as a soft, gentle boy and turned into a cold, “Tell it like it is” character which means something happened to him when he moved away and that’s being used as the hook for this story. We did get a clue about his parents divorcing and how he moved back into his old house but is living alone. Plus, whenever Futaba brings up his old last name of Tanaka, he becomes very agitated and wants to be called Kou Mabuchi from now on. Whatever happened to Kou has to be because of his parents. What happened remains to be seen but it’s not exactly a story that feels all that unique.
Kou did show some signs of breaking emotional barrier toward the end of the volume which is a bit too soon for my tastes. Heck, even the clues we received were a bit too soon. I’ll even go one step further and say that bringing Kou back halfway through the volume was also a move that happened too soon. I would have built up Futaba’s life a bit more and ended the volume with her realizing that Kou had returned and used volume two to introduce the change in his persona. Give the readers hope that they can get back together and then completely destroy that hope with the next volume. This makes the readers question “why” but instead, we’re already seeing hints of a resolution and we’ve only been through four chapters.
I’m hoping there’s a lot more to this than meets the eye because the pacing for Kou’s development just seems a bit too quick for my tastes.
Despite my qualms about some of the things I’ve read, Ao Haru Ride still kept me turning the pages. There’s a certain charm about this book and I think it’s due to the way the characters are written. The choice of words mixed with the artwork, the expressiveness of the characters, and some of the realistic emotions all combine to draw you into the world and the story. The set up heavily reminds me of Anonymous Noise but doesn’t resort to awkward comedy in spots that should be serious. The basic formula between the two series is pretty similar, though.
The characters do feel lively… even if Futaba’s fake friends are over and done with, they still played a part in the story and they felt real… meaning that it’s the type of people you could (and probably have) encountered in your own path through life. One character I didn’t really touch upon, Makita, didn’t have much substance to her yet… but I believe that her development is just beginning. Right now, she’s the cute girl that wants to be liked but she’s always alone. A friendship with Futaba is forming but outside of that, we didn’t really get to see much of her yet. I know she will probably play bigger roles in future volumes.
Overall, I enjoyed this volume. I liked the relativeness of the characters along with the real-world emotion and situations our characters faced. I’m hoping Kou ends up feeling a bit more unique when his backstory is revealed as with a simplistic story like this, it’s going to need to heavily rely on its characters to keep drawing the readers in. This seems like a series that could go either way in a hurry but for now, I’m enjoying it and am looking forward to volume two!
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This item was provided for review by Viz Media