Ao Haru Ride – 08

ahr82

“Today, no matter, what, I will definitely, definitely tell Yuuri properly!” As soon as Futaba said this, we were convinced she’d lose her nerve when it came down to it, a fear reinforced when two seconds later she says “I bet I’ll still lose my nerve when it comes down to it.” The odds of her telling Yuuri drop even more when Yuuri, unaware of the hammer Futaba’s trying to bring down on her, invites Shuuko to join them for ¥100 donuts.

ahr81

Prove me wrong, I said to the anime I like to think is based on one of Nozaki-kun’s shoujo manga: show me you can move forward and resolve this shit.” And what do you know, Ao Haru Ride answered the challenge. Even with Shuuko around and Yuuri going on about Kou, Futaba still gets it out; gets it all out, in the first five minutes of the episode. That was as welcome and refreshing as a cold shower on a searing summer day (though we’ve had precious few of those round these parts.)

ahr83

And wouldn’t you know it, Yuuri takes it extremely well…at first. Her immediate reactions involve saying “You too?”; noting how she’s not surprised, as Kou’s so totally hot and all; and acknowledging she’s at a disadvantage since Futaba’s closer to him. Then she goes to the bathroom and we get the first of two instances of characters crying for multiple reasons (Futaba’s the other, later on). One could say Yuuri is crying because her friend loves the same guy as her, which means she could potentially lose of them.

ahr84

But she’s also crying because Futaba obviously went through hell getting those words out, but she did. As Futaba thinks to herself earlier, this is the crux of her growth as a person: no longer “friends in name only” with anyone, she’s allowed to say what she wants, and in this case, needs to say. She wants to be honest, even if it could create conflict. Having friends you care about opens you up to hurting and being hurt, but the rewards are immeasurable.

ahr85

Witnessing a genuine exchange between two friends who love each other has a significant effect on Shuuko, who only tagged along because Yuuri asked her too and she had nothing else to do. What’s amazing about this first act is that this is the first time Shuuko is hanging out with people after school since she started high school. Far from fearing socializing is always this intense, she realizes what she’s been missing out on.

ahr86

It’s the perfect environment for her to get something off her own chest: that she’s in love with Tanaka-sensei. Futaba’s utter shock at this confession serves as proof Yuuri never spilled the beans, which comforts Shuuko further. When Aya passes by and happens to spot Shuuko hanging out with friends—and enjoying it—it puts a spring in his step and a tune to hum. He’s happy for her, as are we.

ahr87
One of Futaba’s best expressions yet: the “yeah I’m stalking you deal with it” look!

Yikes, I’ve only covered half the episode! That’s not to say the other half isn’t interesting, because it was, but it didn’t have quite the cathartic, warm-and-fuzzy power of the first. That could be because after running into Kou by chance, who is playing with the stray black cat, then says he won’t adopt it because “caring for things brings a lot of trouble” in the most obnoxious angsty way possible, Futaba decides to spend the rest of the night stalking him!

ahr88

This is why I like to think Nozaki-kun wrote this manga. He truly understands girls’ hearts, and in shoujo, if you like a guy and stalk him, he’ll eventually like you too! I kid, I kid…sort of. But really, if he doesn’t want Futaba following him he could be more forceful about it, but he’s very wishy-washy about it, and by the end puts on the air of a protector by lecturing her on the risk of being assaulted by going out in the night alone, culminating in the closest they’ve come to a kiss.

ahr89

Perhaps its because he was genuinely worried that Futaba would do that to try to get closer to him that he was cross with her. But at least Futaba isn’t just hiding in her head and actually trying to act on her feelings. As Shuuko so eloquently puts it, it’s ultimately up to Kou to decide between Futaba and Yuuri, or to reject them both. But if he has feelings for Futaba (and let’s face it, he does), then he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with toying with her much more.

8_ses

Stray Observations:

  • Komatsu Mikako is doing great understated work as Shuuko; her laugh sounds like the first laugh she’s laughed in years.
  • Come to think of it, Uchida Maaya is also showing she can handle non-chuunibyou dialogue with the best of ’em.
  • Aw, why not? Kudos to Kaji Yuki, while we’re at it. No one does sensitive/whiny angst like Yuki. This is Hope we’re talking about, after all.
  • Steelers? C’mon, animators. Surely you can think of a better team to slap on Kou’s t-shirt.
Advertisements

Ao Haru Ride – 07

ahr71

If you think this episode felt like stalling or a staving off of Futaba’s upcoming confrontation Yuuri, then this is the wrong show for you. Good shoujo anime often delve deep into the heads of their heroines and make their inner dialogue an interesting and crucial part of the story. What actually happens almost becomes secondary to how the heroine arrived at what to do or say.

ahr72

Ao Haru Ride succeeds in making Futaba wrestling with what to do, as it becomes more and more apparent what she must do, an pleasantly entertaining affair. Sure, there are times when it seems she’s going around in circles, but that repetition is helpful to her eventual understanding that she may not be able to love Kou and be Yuuri’s “precious friend.” Her procrastination helps her arrive at this conclusion.

ahr73

A good shoujo anime also tries to minimize the utilization of pure dumb luck and coincidence in the heroine’s dealings, or at least tries be subtle about it. But there was nothing subtle about Futaba’s “chance encounter” with her former friend Yumi, who in middle school was in the exact situation Futaba finds herself in now, thus serving as a very convenient cautionary tale.

ahr74

What works better is the fact that Yumi’s presence allows us more backstory that deepens our understanding of how Futaba came to be a tomboy in high school. She was once as passive and cute and docile as Yuuri continues to be, but she surrendered when things got tough, and is only now trying to figure out who she is. Yuuri, meanwhile, remains committed to being herself, no matter the social cost.

ahr75

Futaba hoists Yuuri upon a pedestal all this time, while her interactions with Kou this week demonstrate that her cute vulnerable girly side is far from gone, and Kou seems to bring it out without trying, even leading her to be self-conscious about her bag and change her shampoo. She’s worried Kou doesn’t see her as a girl…but if he loves her, who cares how he sees her?

ahr76

The main issue here is that no matter how loving and kind and sweet and forgiving Yuuri is, Futaba won’t know how she will react to the news she also likes Kou, and furthermore liked him first (though I’m not sure she’ll elaborate). And the harsh truth is, losing her as a friend is a possibility, though not a certainty. What is certain is that she has to tell her. Now she knows that without a doubt.

7_ses