Title: Ao Haru Ride Vol. 7
Author: Io Sakisaka
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: Slice of Life, Romance
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Volume seven of Ao Haru Ride starts off with the fallout of Kou supposedly choosing Narumi. I felt that this was all just some misunderstanding and it was. Despite that, Narumi does admit that she still has feelings for Kou, having lied when she said that she didn’t. This gives Futaba another rival since the one with Yuri didn’t really pan out, leaving Futaba unopposed aside from Kou’s flip-flopping of emotions.
All of this gets put onto the back burner when Kou becomes non-responsive to Futaba, causing another miscommunication. This ends up getting Futaba and Mr. Tanaka into a bit of a scandal which is, yet, another misunderstanding. I’m starting to see the trend with this volume…
However, the misunderstandings all come to a close and get sorted out but we’re left with Shuko feeling a bit emotional after the scandal affected her. Shuko has to come to grips with reality and decides to invite Futaba, Yuri, and Mr. Tanaka up to the roof so she can get everything out in the open. Doing so makes Futaba realize something. Even if all hope is lost and there’s only a slim chance… even with Narumi in the picture contending for Kou’s heart, she needs to stand her ground and tell Kou how she really feels… and right when she realizes this, our volume ends.
I felt the story moved forward rather well. Some of the twists in it were a nice touch; however, I did have a problem with Kou which I will get to in the characters section. I also liked Kikuchi in this volume as he’s trying to play the voice of reason and be the support that Futaba needs. It was also adorable when he bought into the rumors that Kou chose Narumi over Futaba and thought he finally had a chance. Kikuchi isn’t a bad guy and you kind of want to root for him… although he is a bit of a dork.
The only real complaint I have is that the ending feels like something we’ve seen before. Whether it was meeting Kou at the tower, or some other situation… it seems that Futaba has had multiple opportunities to tell Kou how she felt so I wonder what makes this time so different? Given the fact that the manga has seven volumes to go, pairing them up now would be too soon. There’s still plenty left to explore between all of our characters.
So, my issue with Kou comes with the fact that there seems to be no progression with him at all. Last time, I drew parallels to Ao Haru Ride and Fukumenkei Noise. Things continue to be awfully similar in the fact that Kou is Momo in the sense that he’s cold and calloused and right when you think he’s making a turn towards being a decent, likable character, he regresses back to his previous state that makes you wonder why Futaba would even bother with him to begin with. After the way Kou has treated Futaba this entire time, it doesn’t make sense to hold onto lingering feelings from a time in middle school. Any normal person would have moved on but I guess sometimes people can’t let go of their feelings. Kou is the kind of character (like Momo) where I’m constantly asking myself if he’s worth all of the time and trouble. His moments where he shows his past self are few and far between and he spends most of his time pissing Futaba off through his lack of personality or concern for others’ feelings.
But at the same time, as we saw with Narumi, he does have concern for other people’s feelings. He even showed that during this volume with his brother, Mr. Tanaka, when he was all tied up in that scandal. This is what makes Kou so hard to read. We get that he feels love only gets you hurt due to the passing of his mother but it’s something he should have moved past since his revelation. Right now, it seems like he’s just taking steps backward and we’re not getting anywhere with him.
Also, it was nice to see Shuko accept everything by realizing that she couldn’t possibly date Mr. Tanaka. How she started off in this series is a bit different than who she is now and she even affirmed that in her monologue. It’s nice to see some advancement here in her character but it makes you wonder what’s next for her? Is she just going to become that background support character like Yuri has become? I’d hate to see all of that development wasted like that so let’s hope she continues to play a bigger role here on out… although something tells me that she won’t since the story mainly focuses on Futaba, Kou, and now Narumi.
I’m also rooting for Kikuchi. He seems like the more caring between him and Kou. He is a bit of a goofball but that’s fine. His intentions are pure and he deserves to be with someone but just like Fukumenkei Noise, he’s a bit like the Yuzu of this story. He’s the one you feel that should get Futaba but you know Futaba only has eyes for Kou. In Fukumenkei, you want Yuzu to end up with Nino even though she only has eyes for Momo. The similarities are really scary here.
I’m wondering if this series will be any different than Fukumenkei Noise. Everything seems to be written from the start for Kou and Futaba to end up together but what if that doesn’t happen? What if they pull the swerve and Futaba ends up with Kikuchi because she realizes all along that her feelings from middle school have weighed her down this entire time. What if she realizes Kikuchi actually cares about her… and shows it openly… versus Kou who may or may not care for her and if he does, he sure as hell has no interesting in openly showing it. It’s fun to think about it like that but I’m sure Kou and Futaba will end up together in the end. It just seems way too obvious to not go that route.
Overall, the volume was pretty good as there were some interesting moments. I just didn’t care for the “cliffhanger” ending in this one as it’s something Futaba has had many opportunities to do before and never could pull the trigger. With seven volumes left, I doubt she’ll pull it this time. If she does, it’s not going to go anywhere. Volume eight could either be a huge moment or it could be nothing. It’s like Schrodinger’s Manga right now. We’ll never know until we flip over the cover.
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