I must reiterate this point: Ao Haru Ride is really not the worst show in the world. It has good direction and animation, but the characters here are immature high schoolers who are poorly framed. It’s not like I have a problem with the characters being this naive, in fact I think they could make for a very compelling cast, but there so based in high school archetypes that their portrayal as the audience’s avatar, aka the person we should be rooting for, comes off as uncomfortable and annoying. They never make the right decisions, and barely do anything about their flaws, not to mention the main relationship is creepy and pretty one sided (Who doesn’t want a love scene teaching the dangers of sexual assault in a shoujo anime???).
But, while all of that is still true, I can’t help but admit that these final four episodes were actually pretty good. They wrapped up the show nicely, and while it didn’t necessarily resolve anything relationship wise, it ended on a nicer note than most one cour adaptations of an ongoing manga. I think this is mostly attributed to the fact that they finally started exploring why Kou is a complete cold, unfeeling jerk, and that they focused more on the friendship aspect of the show. This is good because I still find the romance to be kind of awkward, especially with that love triangle crap the show kept spewing on about.
Yeah, I forgot to mention this in the last post, but the show now has a love triangle between Futaba, Yuuri, and Kou. It’s extremely flaccid, and hasn’t really contributed much to the story except for adding some unnecessary tension and padding. Hands down the worst part of these past four episodes have been when they talk about the stupid love triangle. I honestly think that if they took this love triangle out of the story, they would lose absolutely nothing integral to the plot or character development. All they would have to do is edit the scenes a little bit, and BAM, you’d have yourself a much less infuriating show on the whole.
Anyways, the reason Kou is an unlikable a-hole is because his Mother died. Yeah I know, that’s pretty corny, but at least it’s something that makes him more sympathetic. This character development all culminates into one amazing scene where Futaba finally confronts Kou about how close minded he is to letting other people be his friends. And as they lay down by a lake sparkling in the moonlight, Futaba explains to him about how he doesn’t have to be alone, and that expressing your feelings shouldn’t be something you’re afraid of. Kou then hugs Futaba, and he proceeds to cry for his first time in years, letting his pent up emotions finally be released.
This is extremely cheesy yes, but it’s the kind of gooey sentimental shoujo that I love. It finally brought me back to the days when I read volume after volume of Fruits Basket in my bedroom during the summer, which is something it had failed to do up until that point. Finally the series gave me what I wanted! I didn’t want to see these kids run amok doing nothing but acting like stupid idiots, I wanted to see character drama and those tear jerking scenes only a well crafted shoujo can provide!
All of this then leads into the great final episode, which establishes progress between the main cast’s friendship, while showing room for future development. It’s unknown right now whether there will be a second season or not, and I can’t say that I’m excited for it considering how painful the rest of the series was for me, but at least a second season for this has some potential rather than none. I especially like Futaba’s last lines, which emphasize that her work isn’t done, and that there’s still more room for her and Kou’s relationship to grow.
Which, speak of the devil, is my next talking point: I actually felt something for Kou and Futaba’s romance. GASP! I know I know, after a full two posts complaining about how much I hated their relationship and chemistry, I’m finally actually rooting for them. Maybe it’s because Kou has finally shown some genuine emotions toward Futaba besides distain and un-interest, or maybe it’s just because they really tried to pile on the cutesy moments in these final episodes; but I can safely say I felt a spark between the two that was absent throughout most of this series’ runtime. I still think there’s a lot of work to be done in order for the two of them to get together, but I can definitely see it happening someday!
In the end though, I can’t fully recommend or say with that the series’ has been redeemed by these final episodes. Just because these episodes include improvements to the overall plot, it still doesn’t change the fact that the first eight episodes were a slog of teenage melodrama and annoying character decisions. I went into this series hoping to get a good shoujo, and while I didn’t get much of that, at least there was some enjoyment to be derived from Ao Haru Ride. From the great production values, to these final good episodes, I can at least say Ao Haru Ride wasn’t a complete waste of time on my behalf, and that I wouldn’t mind revisiting this story in a second season. You may have been disappointing Ao Haru Ride, but at least you were a nice disappointment…
And with that I can safely bid this series an adieu, see you for a second season!… Maybe?