I feel like I’m too hard on Ao Haru Ride. No really I do! There are so many worse show’s out there, ones that have terrible animation, stories that are poorly constructed, and characters who are so two dimensional they might as well be a piece of cardboard. Sometimes I feel like maybe I need to give it this quaint little shoujo a break… But then I watch it and all of my bad thoughts about it come rushing back.
Really, Ao Haru Ride’s biggest issue is its characters, its loathsome, annoying characters. It’s hard to find an anime that has unlikable characters for strange reasons, but Ao Haru Ride’s characters definitely are that. Are they archetypes? Well no, there better fleshed out than most stereotypical shoujo characters. Are they unrealistic? Well not really, I can definitely see people acting like them.
Then what’s the problem? Well now that were over half way through the show, I think I have my complete answer. Every character in Ao Haru Ride is understandable, but they aren’t the type of people that you want to like. They’re characters who are selfish, and obsessive to the point of creepiness. They’re the kind of characters you hate, but remind you of the stalkers, vapid high school girls, and the jerks you once knew. Simply put, every character in Ao Haru Ride is a representation of an regressive archetype you might have generalized someone as in a real public high school.
Yes they were just archetypes, but it’s hard to not forget people who you put into those archetypes. Basically, there reprehensible because you understand those stereotypes/people. This is funny, mostly because the show points out how generalizing a person’s personality is demoralizing and often leads to social out casting, but it often uses those archetypes for its characterization. There are people like Futaba in the world, people who get pushed into the girly girl archetype and get looked down on because of that. But what makes Futaba a frustrating character is that she’s treated like an obsessive high school girl. The type of girl that rambles about the boy she likes every hour of the day, and the kind of girl that only exists in stereotypical high school dramas.
The same can be said for everyone else in the cast. Kou is the jerk with a divorced family, Yuuri is the girl who’s in love with your crush, Murao is the girl who’s silent and moody, and Kominato is the annoying pushy guy who won’t stop trying to be your friend. It’s uncomfortable because you feel like you know these characters, and of course they all so happen to be put in the kind of archetypes of people you tried to stay away from in high school. Ao Haru Ride’s characters are unlikable because they feel real. You understand Kou’s problems, even though you don’t want to, and you understand Futaba’s drive to get Kou, even when you think it’s selfish. In the end, these characters are annoying, because they’re understandable.
There relatable jerks, I guess you could say. Which in theory isn’t a bad idea for a cast of characters, but the framing here isn’t correct. I could see liking these characters if they weren’t portrayed as the audience’s surrogate, and were instead framed as immature high school students; but they aren’t, and that’s what makes them insufferable.
Another annoying aspect of the show is how slow the pacing is! Every decision takes minutes to make, and the amount of stupid over thinking that goes on is equally understandable, yet dumb. There’s a scene in particular that reminded me of myself as a middle schooler. In episode 7 Futaba hands Kou his bottle of water so he can drink it, but since she just drank out of it she worries it might be an “indirect kiss.” It’s the kind of thing a person who just learned what kissing was would think, and it’s hard not to remember a time when I was like that too!
I understand a lot of teenagers are like this (I’m in high school, and I know I over think things sometimes), but since the shoujo genre’s market is teenage girls, I don’t think that they want to watch an anime that points out their problems. It’s like if the book you were reading was insulting you, but insisted that you had to keep reading. This may just be me, but if I was a Japanese teenage girl I would get my romantic escapism from another series!
That being said the pacing of this show is truly as slow as can be. Shoujo’s have never been fast paced or exciting endeavors, but the amount of romantic progress made in this 12 episode show so far feels too slow, like they were going to have a 25 episode series, but the second half was cut and they decided to not rewrite the episodes anyways. Maybe it will kick it up a notch in future episodes??? At this point I doubt it.
However, there were still a few moments that impressed me here. Like I said in my previous impressions post, I don’t think the staff is incompetent, in fact I think they’re quite talented in many ways. Production IG’s expressive and fluid animation still carries the emotions of the characters very well, and that definitely helps enhance the cutesy scenes. For example, at the end of episode 6 Futaba says she’ll stop loving Kou is he doesn’t get off the train, after she just said she was going to go back to school to look for something (Yeah it’s stupid, but honestly it seems like a pretty shoujo thing to do). The direction of this scene is great, and the lighting when she opens her eyes to see Kou standing in front of her is pretty spectacular. In fact, the only reason I ever really took these moments seriously was because of the good direction. Otherwise Kou and Futaba’s relationship is still a sinking ship (I swear that pun wasn’t intended).
When the closest thing you have to a touching moment between your main couple is Kou telling Futaba that he likes her shampoo, and a moment where he teaches her the easiness of sexual assault, you know you’ve got a problem. Now if you haven’t watched the show you’re probably baffled by the latter scene that was mentioned, I mean I must be joking right!? Well I’m dead serious. At the end of episode 8 Kou randomly starts to talk to Futaba about how she needs to be careful in case she gets sexually assaulted. This is then followed up with a cock tease of a scene, where Kou leans down over Futaba and is about to kiss her, but instead flicks her forehead… I… I don’t even know what to say about that scene…
I would continue on from there, but honestly this post is long enough as it is, and I can just save the rest for next time. Once again, I have to reiterate that there are shows much worse than this, and I mean much, much worse. The animation and direction here are great, but the content and characters definitely aren’t. It’s not like I think the characters had to be this unlikable, but the framing of the show tries to paint them as likable, which they aren’t. They’re selfish, mean, and immature high schoolers, and they should be painted as such! The show doesn’t do that though, and I personally don’t like it because of that. Good on you if you can enjoy it, but honestly, I just can’t like this show.