Currently Reading: Ao Haru Ride
Hey everyone! I just finished my last exam of this semester TODAY. I’M FREEEEEEEE!
First, a little bit of housekeeping: please cast your votes for my latest (and final) MOB entry here! It’s a bit late, but you should definitely check the other entries out!
Now, without further ado, here’s my first entry in a looong while. I really love this manga, and while it’s not a masterpiece, I really think it’s something special. Here’s a look at Ao Haru Ride.
Summary (From MangaFox): Yoshioka Futaba has a few reasons why she wants to “reset” her image and life as a new high-school student. Because she’s cute and had a demure personality she was ostracized by her female friends in junior high, and because of a series of misunderstandings and mishaps, she couldn’t get her feeling across to the one boy she has always liked, Tanaka Kou.
Now in high school, she is determined to be as unladylike as possible so that her friends won’t be jealous of her. While living her life this way contentedly, she meets Tanaka-kun again, but he now goes under the name of Mabuchi Kou. He tells her that he felt the same way as she did when they were younger, but that they cannot go back. Will Futaba be able to continue her love that never even started from three years ago?
Thoughts so far:
The MangaFox summary was pretty darn good, so I just stuck with that. It sums things up well, and does it in an understandable (and grammatically correct) way. Yay!
Anyway, I don’t know what is with Sakisaka Io and the weird manga titles. First came Strobe Edge (which I reviewed a while ago, and was quite good), and now this…I will admit I’ve come across weirder manga titles in my life (Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge, anyone?), but I’m not a huge fan of titles that don’t relate to the plot, and Ao Haru Ride doesn’t appear to relate to the plot in any way. In any case, Ao Haru Ride is really good – most of the manga I’ve read by her have been good, and this is no exception.
The plot progression of this manga is really good, in that I like the idea of missed chances at work with Mabuchi and Futaba’s relationship. I like the idea that the reader perceives that they should be together, but by a bunch of natural and unfortunate circumstances, these chances are taken away. This dynamic is the main reason that I am so drawn to this manga, because few manga with this kind of plot use plot devices that feel so natural, in that they don’t seem specifically designed to keep the plot moving in the way the author wants it to.
I think that one of Sakisaka-sensei’s biggest strengths is writing good female characters, or at least, female characters that are likable and relatable. Futaba, Yuuri, and Murao are all well-written, and don’t fit as neatly into established shoujo archetypes as I’m used to. While they do fulfill some of the same roles that I see a lot of in shoujo manga, the things that they say and the way they act set them apart pretty well.
I also really liked watching Futaba’s struggle to fit in and find real friends unfold. Overcoming pressures from an established group isn’t the easiest thing to do, and watching Futaba overcome those barriers was a really rewarding process. I also enjoyed how Sakisaka-sensei contrasted Futaba and Yuuri – they are both ostracized for similar reasons, but the way they handle the problem is completely different. Where Futaba tries to fit in by changing her outward personality, Yuuri tried to maintain a positive attitude and stays true to herself. I think that this contrast is especially effective in establishing the differences between the two characters, especially as they fall in love with the same person.
I also really liked Murao. While the student-teacher crush is present (where have I seen this before?), I like that Murao handles the situation in a more mature way. She’s kind of resembles Kare Kano’s Maho in her maturity, in the way that she conducts herself in her pursuit of a relationship with a large age gap. I also like the way that this plot arc was resolved, in that the author handled it tastefully without being over the top.
Despite this, I am not as huge of a fan of the male characters. While I did like Tanaka-sensei (visually, he’s the type of character I like looking at, and he has a fun personality too!), I had a few issues with Mabuchi and Kominato.
Let’s start with Mabuchi first. My first impression was that he was visually appealing (always a must for a male lead). But his personality is just so….EHH. I’ve seen this aloof type so many times, and while I don’t find it really off-putting, I just wish that Sakisaka-sensei made his personality a bit more multifaceted. Granted, his family situation contributes to his personality, but I don’t think this should be a justification for a (slight) lack of creativity. Moreover, his actions in the most recent chapters have been making me want to pull my hair out. I know the author is doing this for exactly this reason, and I understand Mabuchi’s motivations for his actions, but I just get really frustruated. Overall, I think that he fulfills his function within the manga WELL, it’s just that he’s not doing it in a way that knocks my socks off.
My least favourite character in this manga is Kominato by far. I don’t like his personality, I don’t like his hair, and I don’t think he needs to be here. Since I would prefer that Murao ended up with Tanaka-sensei, Kominato either needs to end up with a new character or die alone (wow, I’m so evil). But in all honesty, I think that Kominato is just a placeholder for Mabuchi’s conscience, and I think that this role could have been fulfilled by a better-written character.
I think the art is good. Everything’s drawn well. It’s not gorgeous, but it looks pretty darn good, in my opinion. There are times when things aren’t drawn as well as they could be, but generally, the style is consistent, and everything looks fine.
Overall, Ao Haru Ride is a pretty good read. If you’re not a shoujo manga fan, this miiight not do the best job of turning you over to the dark side, but I think it’s a good effort.
Score so far: 8.5/10