“Sometimes people put up walls, not to keep others out, but to see who cares enough to break them down.”
It’s nice to see a series like ‘Ao Haru Ride’ surface every now and again. Something that takes a well-known storyline type and adds some unique elements to differ the experience a bit. Nothing revolutionary or mind-blowing (doesn’t need to be), but unique - to a pleasant degree - nonetheless. To put it as simply as possible: a refreshing visit to a familiar kind of storyline.
There’s nothing overly complicated about the core plot; a story of two past lovers (in mutual spirit) reuniting later in their lives – a second chance. But, it’s the underlying layers and nuances woven throughout the narrative that strengthen and elevate it (a little bit) above the cliché romp it could have been.
Now, that’s not to say that some parts of the show won’t have you thinking “I know where this is going.” or “Really?” But compared to many others storylines of this type (Hollywood movies, novels, etc.) this is quite refreshing in a multitude of ways…
‘Ao Haru Ride’ thankfully helps ease the viewer through the inevitable drama by adding in unique characters with their own individual personalities, great humor (naturally occurring through the characters) and by giving the viewer some room to breathe. It helps negate the stress of the drama somewhat, allowing it to become a plus rather than a minus.
So overall, the plot is rather solid considering the material – don’t expect perfection though.
Production I.G has once again done a great job using their high quality of animation (as they are well known for animating action and effect-heavy anime) to animate something more tame and simple. The animation is cheery, energetic and bright – with a color palette that matches that very well. There were no drops in quality that I could find, and the few scenes with lots of motion were done well too.
The background music compliments the series well – enhancing the current scene or giving a sense of the emotions present during a silent moment. A few of the tracks stand out on their own too, especially the opening track that, while being fun and energetic, is also surprisingly calm. It makes for a lovely lyrical meld of two differing emotions.
On the voice-acting side of things, everything is great. Everyone was well cast and emoted well. I know that seems direct, short and to the point, but that’s really all that needs to be said concerning the seiyū and their performances – they did very well.
Since the only outstanding things about the secondary characters also tie into underlying plot points not mentioned in the synopsis, I won’t talk about anyone other than our main two: Yoshioka and Kou.
First we have Yoshioka, our main character. Yoshioka is an energetic, good-natured, kind and boisterous girl who loves the company of other people and having fun. Her naivety, energy and charm make her a fun character to follow onscreen. She goes through some decent character development as she matures a little and meets new people – the most important of whom is her past love-interest (and second main character), Kou.
Kou is a very complicated character. In the past he was soft-spoken, kind, and dedicated. Now though, he is much more aloof, dry, and tactless – but there are hints abundant that the old Kou is still in there somewhere. Over the course of the series, we find out more about him and what caused this change (which is all I can say without veering into spoiler territory).
Honestly, I enjoyed this series a lot more than I thought I would. I heard good things, but still kept my expectations low as I always do when watching a new show. In its entirety, this anime managed to pleasantly exceed my expectations.
It’s not the best melodrama anime out there, but it’s not a horrible anime in any sense of the word either. What it is, is a rather well done love story that’s definitely worth a watch.