Ao Haru Ride Volume 4
Now that the series has some longevity to it, we get the dramatic flashback. The premise of the series is that Futaba and Kou were interested, then separated, then reunited. When they meet again, Kou behaves differently, and in Io Sakisaka’s Ao Haru Ride volume 4, we finally find out why.
Family flashbacks show why Kou gave up being a top student, why he seems estranged from his brother (a teacher at their school), and why he changed his name. On top of which, friends Yuri and Futaba are still navigating their relationship, since they both like Kou but don’t want to let him come between them.
(In passing, because there’s a lot more to the story, but I was touched that “spending time together eating and watching TV is more important” is treated as a significant life lesson. I can get behind that.)
It’s the occasional particularly insightful moments that keep me involved in this manga series, as when Futaba is coming up with a series of increasingly less believable excuses not to leave, and it’s made clear that Kou knows exactly what she’s doing. Or when Futaba says,
I’m not searching for the old Kou anymore. I’m trying to learn about the new Kou.
That’s a significant distinction that shows how Futaba is maturing.
As before, the author’s notes are insightful. This time, it’s about “radiant… girls in love” who “do things I could never do.” She’s right, that innocent passion can be attractive and inspiring. Fundamentally, the series boils down to “does he like me? does he like her? what should I do?”, but it’s that authorial respect for the feelings of young women and their first love that keeps it fresh and interesting. (The publisher provided a review copy.)