Welcome back to a Final Thoughts post, seeing as yet another great shoujo manga has just ended and that manga is none other than Sakisaka Io’s Ao Haru Ride.
I’ve followed Ao Haru Ride since it was released so the announcement that it was coming to an end made me a little emotional – just like all other manga that I have followed since their very beginning. After following the characters through all sorts of obstacles, seeing them getting hurt and getting back up again, you tend to form some kind of attachment to them. Saying goodbye a great series always isn’t easy.
Ao Haru Ride centres on the life of Yoshioka Futaba, a high school girl who has only fallen in love only once – with a boy from her middle school from a neighbouring class called Tanaka Kou. Kou attracted her because he was different from the other boys – gentle and not rowdy. The two arranged to go on a date and agreed to meet at Sankaku Park at 8pm one day. Futaba waited for Kou to arrive but he never came and she went home upset that she was stood up.
Now in high school, Futaba decides to be as un-girly as possible in order to be able to make female friends and deter boys from liking her. She also meets a boy who looks a lot like the boy she used to love but this boy is cold and aloof, nothing like the Tanaka Kou that she knew. In addition, the boy says his name is Mabuchi.
From there on, Futaba works to find out what happened to him all those years he was gone and slowly grows to fall in love with the present Kou. Her persistence at never giving up on him changes Kou bit by bit and he slowly begins to smile more as his heart heals. He realises his feelings for her too late though as by this time, Futaba has gotten a boyfriend and Kou works to move her heart and get her back. His sincerity moves her and Futaba eventually returns to Kou’s side, finally starting their love from many years ago.
I’m rather satisfied with the way everything ended, the way the story was wrapped up – there just was this sense of conclusion and ending that yup, it’s time this story came to an end. Kou and Futaba got their happy ending and the end also illustrates it. It parallels them coming back to a shrine during a downpour but this time as a couple and saying the same words that they had said back then when they were middle schoolers, indicating that our protagonists have now come a full circle. And I’m happy for them ^^
Another thing that I’m glad about is that the mangaka made Kou change his surname back to “Tanaka”, something that I was already guessing after reading the first few pages of the last chapter. This is because it kind of shows that Kou has forgiven himself, as well as his father and brother and is ready to allow himself to be happy again. That was a nice touch to end off Kou’s personal journey of discovering himself, which was an issue running almost throughout the entire manga.
Futaba has also grown throughout the series – she is no longer the naive little girl she was back then and from her time dating Touma to discovering who it was she really loved, Futaba really had to make some hard decisions and it was heartwarming to see her mature into a fine person.
As for the Shuuko and Kominato, I’m really happy that that couple worked out because halfway through the series, it was kind of obvious that Shuuko’s feelings for Tanaka sensei were drifting and Kominato had worked really hard to obtain her affections throughout the whole series. It’d be a shame if Shuuko still hadn’t felt anything for him even at the end of the series hahaha.
Finally, I’d like to talk about Touma just a little. I know a bunch of people think that Touma’s way better and that Futaba should’ve just stayed with him and that right from the start he was bound to have his heart broken because the female protagonist always ends up with the male protagonist. I don’t think that’s always the case for the last point – look how Hirunaka no Ryuusei ended and it was really sweet too, though yes, I’d have liked it if it was Shishio who Suzume chose in the end too.
I think dating Touma was necessary for Futaba. It was a period of time whereby she experience a time away from Kou and could discover for herself if Kou was really who she thought she loved. Being with Touma also helped her to learn new things and mature because being with him was easy, like breathing. He was always sweet, considerate and gentle and she knew it. But once she realised that Kou was the one she wanted to be with, she had to break up with him because it wouldn’t be fair to keep taking advantage of his kindness. And that was basically all Touma was – a rebound guy to help Futaba decide what her feelings were until then. That’s his role in the story and that’s why he’s essential. I did like Touma’s character though, a guy like that is faultless but is inevitably bound to get his heart broken for wanting to date a girl who was already in love with another. It was cute how the mangaka wrapped up the story for him in the last chapter with the prospect of Kominato’s sister taking a liking to him haha 🙂
That’s about it for my final thoughts on Ao Haru Ride as we close yet another chapter on a great series. I’m satisfied at the series’ ending and glad that I have followed the series and all its characters on this amazing journey of waiting and angsting and indecisiveness but that’s what growing up is all about right?
Let me know what are your thoughts on the ending of Ao Haru Ride in the comments below and until then, I’ll see you all again next time!