Ao Haru Ride Vol. 3 Review

Title: Ao Haru Ride Vol. 3
Author: Io Sakisaka
Publisher: Viz Media
Language: English
Format: Paperback
Pages: 208
Genre: Slice of Life, Romance
Publication Date: February 5, 2019

The Story

Volume three of Ao Haru Ride opens up with Futaba discovering that Makita also likes Kou. In that moment, Futaba pretends that she doesn’t like him in order to let Makita be happy. It’s not known at first as to why she wanted to take that route but it is later discovered when she ran into her old friend Yumi. Yumi and Futaba stopped talking to each other in middle school over a misunderstanding on Yumi’s part. She thought that Futaba liked a boy named Naito, someone that Yumi was interested in. However, Naito knew Kou and she was contemplating asking Naito about Kou. Yumi oversaw Futaba staring at Naito and took is as her becoming a love rival. She ended up disliking Futaba over it and it was this experience that made Futaba lie about liking Kou because she didn’t want to lose Makita as a friend.

Futaba has to work up the courage to tell Makita the truth as hiding the fact that she likes Kou begins to eat away at her. She eventually does and sees that there is nothing to worry about… kind of. Makita reacts like its no big deal but she does have internal conflict knowing that there is something that could take Kou away from her.

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After Kou does poorly on his mid-terms and gets ridiculed by some people in the honors classes, they decide to host a study group at Kou’s house… against his permission. They slowly coax Kou into joining them when Makita asks if he wouldn’t mind getting some glasses for some tea she brought over. Kou is taking a long time so she decides to see if she can help. She asks Kou if he likes Futaba but the sound of a running faucet muffled her words. She became a bit weary after that and ended up knocking over a bag of fruit. Kou helps her clean up but when she returns with Kou, Makita has an embarrassed, yet, depressed look on her face. Nothing happened but it doesn’t appear that way to Futaba.

I like how this love triangle is unfolding. I didn’t really know which way Sakisaka-san was going to go with the story with the way the second volume ended. I felt that there would be a rivalry between Futaba and Makita but it ended up being way more passive-aggressive than I thought. Either way, we didn’t really get much in the way of character development like I thought we would. Instead, the story moved forward with the love triangle aspect but not in a typical way like you would normally see.

Characters

While there wasn’t much in the way of development, there was some teasing with Kou. This was especially apparent when Kou muttered a line about the things you care about will wear you out. Then, Kou was seen hanging around with a bunch of kids that he didn’t really know… or at least claims he didn’t really know. He also blew off studying for his mid-terms because of that, too. Kou is becoming more and more of an enigma but I will say that Sakisaka-san is going an amazing job keeping the mystique. I just hope she has a grand reason for writing Kou like this. Often times, I’ve seen setups like this either become super predictable or end up being so generic that the payoff fails for all the build-up the character had been given. Even if they go with “my parents died” or “I cared for my siblings and they died” or “I had friends but lost them all because I did X” it’ll be a reason we’ve heard many, many times before. For once, I’d like to see something new used. There’s only so many times I can care about a character over the same circumstances over and over again.

Makita and Futaba’s friendship is still intact and there are no signs of cracks in it due to their love triangle. They even agreed that they would root for each other and still support one another if either of them ends up with Kou. Murao brought up a great point asking them what would happen if Kou rejected them both? Makita still hid away her reaction as knowing the Futaba liked Kou did affect her but all of that seemed to be short-lived. She quickly realized that there was no reason to dislike Futaba at all making the scene with her crying in the bathroom completely irrelevant. Why even show something like that only to erase it a few pages later? I would have saved that scene for much later to grow a conflict between Futaba and Makita. Have a falling out and then recall back to this day and add that scene in the bathroom then to make it have a bigger impact. This way, if just felt wasted.

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Murao opened up a little bit in a way I never saw coming. She unveiled her secret to Futaba and Makita in the fact that she was in love with Mr. Tanaka… Kao’s brother. A teacher-student relationship is the ultimate taboo of school life but Murao felt like she could trust the two of them with that secret. It’s a step in the right direction for her character as it begins a process of her opening up more and more to her friends. Baby steps!

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed but didn’t enjoy this volume of Ao Haru Ride. I mean, I like the overall premise and I felt that the characters were written just fine. I’m liking Makita the best because she just seems like an overall loveable character. Kou has a lot of depth to him and Murao still seems like that person who just needs a hug. Futaba remains as a typical girl archetype and while they all interact well with each other, I felt that some of the story plots fell a little flat.

The love triangle seems way too buddy-buddy to be taken seriously. I loved the build-up with Futaba’s internal conflict on whether or not she should tell Makita about her feelings for Kou but then the payoff was a big, flat dud. No animosity, just full support, and any internal turmoil on Makita’s part erased within a couple of pages. Then they try to tease some drama at the end of the volume but the whole situation didn’t make sense. Makita knocked over some fruit. Makita and Kou pick it up, look at each other then, all of a sudden, the two of them walk out of the kitchen looking like they just buried a body in the back yard. Did I miss something? Was staring at each other enough to warrant them looking like they just had the biggest argument in the history of mankind?

When they say that nothing happened, it couldn’t be truer in the sense. Nothing really did happen and I know they are trying to get you to understand that something could have happened from Futaba’s point-of-view but why would you show the reader that nothing happened and then use that as a drama/stopping point? I would have left the reader in the dark about that so that both the reader and Futaba could have felt the same thing… but then when we find out nothing really did happen, it would be an extreme letdown because we would all be expecting something. Either way, it just felt really forced.

Still, it’s not enough to ruin the series or anything. I’m still very much interested in seeing how all of this plays out. I just hope we get some better plot points to make the story portion a little more interesting because right now, the characters are doing a lot of the heavy lifting and they can only make so much Advil for them to take.

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This item was provided for review by Viz Media

About The Author

Josh Piedra

Josh (or J.J. as some have come to call him), is a long-time geek culture enthusiast with a deep passion for anime, manga and Japanese culture. Josh also has a Bachelor of Arts in Game Design and is a creative writer who has created original content for over 20 years! He is also the author of the original English light novel Final Hope.