Ao Haru Ride was the epitome of romance for me when I was in my early teens. For those unfamiliar with the series, Ao Haru Ride is a widely known high school romance story by Io Sakisaka. High school romance is one of my favourite tropes, and having read it at such an impressionable age – it had a lot of impact on how I viewed and what I expected from romance. However, there was a lot I didn’t recognise or give credit to back then.
I’m super happy that with Peak Weebing Classics, I get the chance to go back and look at it in a different light. When I think about it, that is what has been so fun about writing my blog. We all constantly tell ourselves how nice it would be to experience our favourite stories for the first time again. Writing here not only allows me to read stories again with a different mindset and get a new experience out of it; I get to share it with everyone too! For me, this is already a new experience from what it was before. And I’m so glad to have it.
Ao Haru Ride is a classic in the shoujo genre and a Peak Weebing Classic for many reasons. The story brings out not just the romance, but also the essence of all the main characters so well. The preservation of youth in this manga is phenomenal! Even if you were light years away from your high school days, you’d find yourself transported to such a setting while reading the manga. Calling the series a high school romance to me doesn’t do it justice, though it does simplify the occasional quick explanation! Ao Haru Ride is the story of teenagers experiencing personal growth through love and friendship. They learn about the realities of the world – the power of friendship, the pain of loss, the courage needed to keep moving forward. All this comes together wonderfully with great characterization and character development to tell a beautiful story.
And while all that in itself makes it one of the best shoujo manga out there – here is why it’s a Peak Weebing Classic.
An incredible female lead
Where do I even begin? Yoshioka Futaba is starting high school, and her biggest concern is fitting in with the crowd. She learns to form solid friendships instead. What I love about her is, she isn’t portrayed as the damsel in distress who constantly has to rely on the male lead for help. She’s got her own flaws and strengths! Despite her own inhibitions, she has quite a positive attitude; which helps Kou overcome his trauma. She’s very relatable, but what I found common ground on was her acceptance of her personality. She accepts her boisterous personality and becomes capable of recognizing her flaws. My favourite scene of hers is from the beginning of the story. She is no longer satisfied with how things are and decides to take matters into her own hands, and change. So many years later, and I still find it very inspiring.
An intriguing male lead
Tanaka Kou was also a relatable character. The circumstances he faced were similar to mine, so I feel I understand him. His lack of motivation towards life, his indifference to the joys of life, and his eternal grieving – I’ve experienced them all. Despite life, he wasn’t the stereotypical socially awkward, rude jerk of a male protagonist in a shoujo manga. In fact, he’s incredibly considerate and constantly looks out for Yoshioka in ways that melt your heart. The contrast in his character is beautiful. He appears well put together – someone who seems to navigate life with ease, but the reality was so different. He needed motivation; to navigate through life instead of walking from one day to another. His growth is lovely to watch. Reconnecting with the people around him and integrating into the wholesome setting that was waiting for him – makes me very emotional even today.
Kou and Yoshioka as a pair are lovely together. I’ve loved their relationship since the first chapter, even when there was so much fluctuation between them afterwards. There’s a beautiful balance between both their personalities. They are very comfortable around each other, and incredibly understanding of the other. Both Yoshioka and Kou help each other throughout the story, and that automatically makes you want to root for them.
Realistic Storytelling – Romance
I mentioned earlier that this story was more than just romance, but I simply must talk about one of the best-written romances I’ve ever read. Yoshioka and Kou’s romance was subjected to the test of time and watching them overcome every obstacle and come together is beyond satisfying. My favourite moment of theirs was when they nearly kissed after he invited her to the festival a second time.
When Narumi and Touma stepped into the picture, their feelings were tested again. Honestly, it was such a chaotic mess that could’ve been solved had they just spoken to each other, but that is the point isn’t it? The immaturity displayed by all four of them is what makes them who they are. I really admire Touma because he did his best although his methods may not have been. It takes so much courage to pursue someone romantically I feel, and I think that courage maybe fades away once you become more of an adult. Narumi came from a place of loneliness and desperation, and I could only sympathise. She was probably more of an ‘antagonist’ than Touma was, but ultimately, I think she too, realised she could no longer remain the same. Yoshioka and Kou were both trying to do what they thought was right.
And if I had to say one thing to wrap this all up, I’d quote Jane Bennet, from Pride and Prejudice:
“We are all fools in love.”
Yoshioka’s tryst with Touma, and Kou’s time with Narumi, were both well-timed lessons.
The manga embraces what it means to be a teenager; what youth is. It portrays the thoughts, concerns and emotions of teenagers accurately and as a result, people saw themselves in the story. The motivations the characters have behind their emotions are so true to their nature. Even the way the struggles they face impact them, and how they stumble through their relationships, radiates such a bright energy. The awkwardness when you’re making friends, to going home together, venting about your problems and looking at someone through rose-tinted lens. The story makes me think of youth as a beautiful thing every time I read it. It’s filled with new experiences, honest mistakes, a lot of learning and becomes something to look forward to, although we may not realise it at that time. It makes me want to cherish what youth I have left all the more.
To me, Ao Haru Ride is unlike any other shoujo I’ve read. I pray everyday for the “No Season 2” curse to be lifted off of this series one day.
At first glance, Ao Haru Ride might be just another high school romance or seem like a typical story about a group of misfits coming together. However, I highly encourage you to take a closer look and then maybe you’ll see.
You might see yourself in it too.