Ao Haru Ride Volume 2
Ao Haru Ride is the current shojo series I’m most invested in. Volume 2 continues its air of melancholic and uncertain young love by moving its leads, Futaba and Kou, into the same school class.
Futaba has taken the lessons of the first book to heart, trying to create a friendlier air in her classroom, but she doesn’t have the popularity or leadership to do so. Refusing to give up, and inspired by wanting Kou to think well of her, she perseveres and goes on a retreat for class reps, so she can learn more and bond with others. Since this is shojo, Kou also winds up on the retreat, as do two other loner schoolgirls.
It’s amusing to see the misadventures of the couple getting to the retreat and how everything goes off the rails quickly because no one knows how to get along. I was struck, though, by the honesty of a sharing scene where Kou says he can accomplish things easily because he really doesn’t care. Futaba messes up a lot more, but she feels things deeply, which is what brings the two together. She wants to know what changed him from the boy she knew to who he is now.
There are a lot of universal themes here that symbolize the core struggles of adolescence, a potent time of transition. Futaba wants to change but doesn’t always know how to go about it. Even when she tries, a gesture isn’t the same as making a permanent adjustment, but faking it until you make it can be workable. Meanwhile, Kou can be really insightful, or he can be a typically self-involved teen boy. Still, small celebrations make for great memories. It’s fun and funny to see the two and their friends muddle through.
There’s an early introductory note by author Io Sakisaka that explains how “fantastically romantic” and “bittersweet” she finds the idea of reuniting with a first love after “long-lost years”. Even though these kids were only separated for relatively few years, that attitude explains a lot about the appeal and mood of this manga. (The publisher provided a review copy.)