Title: Ao Haru Ride Vol. 4 Author: Io Sakisaka Publisher: Viz Media Language: English Format: Paperback Pages: 184 Genre: Slice of Life, Romance Publication Date: April 2, 2019
Volume four of Ao Haru Ride gives us a good deep dive into Kou’s character as well as a character twist for him. Because the volume was heavily focused on that, I’ll save it for the characters section. The rest of the volume was spent on the love triangle between Futaba, Kou, and Makita. The love triangle reached a pivotal point in which it seems like it’s all but over.
The volume ends with Futaba inviting Kou back to the clock tower from the first volume. It was the spot where Kou was supposed to show up but never did, thus starting off our entire series.
I know the story synopsis is really short this time around because the entirety of this volume was focused on Kou alone. So to see what I mean, let’s head into that deep dive of our main character.
The big reveal is here with Kou and why he became the person that he is today. Since this is such a huge moment, I’m not going to say what the reason is. I’ll let you guys read that and discover it on your own. I will say; however, that it explains everything about why Kou feels that growing attached to things has no meaning and that why he feels there is no meaning to anything in life. It’s also why when Futaba said she’ll just start over, Kou kind of admired but disliked her for being able to do that because Kou felt that no matter what, he couldn’t start over from his situation.
In addition to that, we learned why the situation caused a rift between himself and his brother. Tanaka felt that Kou was blaming him for everything when that wasn’t the case. Kou actually knew that it was never Tanaka’s fault but Tanaka never heard those words from Kou. Kou was in too much of a self-hating funk to even think of saying those words to his brother so the issue persisted and never got resolved.
Once Futaba finally got Kou to open up and tell her the reason, she realized that the door to his heart had no doorknob or keyhole. She was going to have to break the door down by force and that’s exactly what she ended up doing. All this time, Kou felt that he had no reason to be happy, that life was meaningless but in reality, all he needed was to hear someone give him permission to move on. Futaba ended up being that person and Kou slowly began to revert back to his old self… the Kou that Futaba originally fell in love with but not completely.
This still caused a personality change within Kou. He was more open to studying, hanging out with others, and smiling. He even went so far as to patch things up with his brother. While eating dinner with his brother and his father, Kou mentioned that he wants to legally change his last name back to Tanaka instead of Mabuchi but he can’t right away. His brother suspects that it’s because of all of the paperwork he’d have to go through with school just to get that done and Kou nods in agreement. Still, his father was pleased to hear this as was his brother. It really seems like Kou is on the mends but, honestly, I think he’s just going through the motions as if this were all an experiment.
I say that because it’s still very early in the series. We are on chapter 15 out of 53 and for Kou just to turn around and have a complete character change after a huge reveal like that seems a bit rushed and artificial. Knowing the way Kou is, he’s probably testing the waters but then again, maybe this is all genuine and we’re going to end up running into a setback in a later volume. With nine volumes left to go through, I can’t see anything getting resolved here. Even if Kou and Futaba end up dating, are we really going to get 8 or so volumes of their relationship? I just can’t see that happening. If all of this happened later in the series, I could have a better chance of believing all of this. My caution alarm is going off something fierce here.
This was a pretty deep volume of Ao Haru Ride, regardless. Even though the story came to a complete halt for the majority of the volume, it gave us the answer to the series’ biggest question. The fact that it did so this early on makes me wonder what is in store for us next volume.
We know that Kou and Futaba are going to the clock tower… the place where this story all began. I have a certain uneasy feeling about all of this because now that Futaba knows the secret, Kou is doing everything out of character. From laughing, being with friends, studying, wanting to change his name back, and even going back to the clock tower. This seems more like a bucket list rather than making up for lost time.
In a bit of a bold prediction, I don’t fully buy Kou being completely over this. The event which caused him so much inner turmoil cannot be overturned this quickly and in such short order. Living with the guilt of what happened and now living with people knowing the reason for why he is the way he is, probably means he would much rather end it all than continue. With the amount of story we have left, I’m willing to be in the next volume or two, Kou ends up trying to commit suicide. I know that’s a very dark and bold prediction but with the way things have been moving and with Kou doing his best to make amends with everyone, to me it seems like he’s preparing for the end rather than making a new beginning for himself.
If I am wrong and he really did turn over a new leaf, I have to know where do they go from here with the story? Do they just keep teasing a Kou and Futaba relationship that just never happens for one reason or another? Nine volumes is an awfully long time to tease something like that. We already know that Kou rejected Makita so that part of the love triangle is over and done with. There has to be some conflict here otherwise this story is going to get really stale really fast. That’s why I made such a bold (yet dark) prediction above. It seems like the perfect fit for a plot point to add the needed drama to the story and begin Kou’s true path to redemption.
Maybe there will be some other setback that’s not so extreme, though. Who knows. I guess I’ll wait for the next volume to see how things pan out.