Ao Haru Ride Volume 1
This charming schoolgirl shojo gets its title, Ao Haru Ride, from author Io Sakisaka’s vision of her story as a portrait of the characters on a ride through their youth. That age, according to her, is about feeling overwhelmed most of the time.
In Ao Haru Ride, Futaba doesn’t like boys, except for Kou. She thinks that he’s different for being gentle, among other reasons, and when he shows her small kindnesses, she develops a crush on him. Then he moves away. Three years later, they meet again, having lived in the meantime with misunderstandings.
That gives the book a feeling of “what did I miss out on?” which gives an unusual air of melancholy. The story, though, that won me over was the second chapter, which is about the sacrifices we make to tell ourselves we have friends, and how mean girls are to each other out of jealousy over who is noticed by boys. Futaba doesn’t want to be alone, so she twists herself into uncomfortable behaviors in order to keep up with the girls she calls friends.
The storytelling is so subtle that it’s reminiscent of the gentle rain that reappears as a recurrent memory. The young couple’s interactions are full of small but meaningful moments that capture so realistically how it feels to be a teenager, wondering what every little sign means. One thoughtless statement may change the course of a relationship, while another becomes symbolic of a life-changing moment. Sakisaka’s previous translated series in English was Strobe Edge, which had similar moods.
The art is figure-focused, with minimal backgrounds. The characters often exist in blank space, with the focus on their expressions, which are telling. The characters are cute, and I enjoyed looking at them throughout the book. It’s great reading a shojo series where I’m not sure where the story is going to go, with young people I want to know more about.
Ao Haru Ride volume 1 will be out the first week in October. It can be preordered now from your local comic shop with Diamond code AUG18 2439. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)