Ao Haru Ride

March 22, 2015

Oh. Another Kimi No Todoke setting? At first it looks quite like it but unlike having a popular boy liking an unpopular girl, Ao Haru Ride is somewhat about ‘ex-lovers’ separated via circumstances being reunited again a few years later. And if you think that romance is going to blossom once more after that lapse, well, not quite. As you can see, they have changed. Different than they were back then. And of course, one of them has changed so much that literally he is like a different person wearing the skin of that old person she once knew. What happened? With old feelings of love possibly lingering, will their love, a love that couldn’t even begin then, continue and blossom where it left off?

Episode 0
This OVA actually comes out somewhere 2/3 while the series was running and chronicles how our main protagonists met. Futaba Yoshioka hates boys. But there is one exception: Kou Tanaka. He just seems different from the rest. He isn’t the tallest, voice a bit high like a girl. Maybe that’s why. One day, Futaba and her friends joined in with some guys to play cops and robbers. Futaba and Kou are both on the robber team and they coincidentally hide in the same place. Futaba for the first time notices his back up close. Nice smell of shampoo? In order to ‘save’ Futaba, Kou gives himself away and gets caught. She feels the need to go save him and rushes out to tag him sitting in his ‘prison’. Unfortunately she got caught too. So as they’re sitting pretty nicely in their ‘prison’, Kou tells her he felt happy when she came to rescue him. It made her day. In school, Futaba continues to observe how different Kou is with other guys. On her way back, it suddenly rains so she takes shelter in a shrine. Kou happened to be waiting there too. She felt lame trying to strike up a conversation with him and thoughts that she might be in love with him start filling her head. When she asks if he is going to the festival, he gives his gym shirt for her to dry herself. He starts laughing when she realized it is a used one. Next day when Futaba hands back his clean gym shirt, he asks her if she wants to go to the festival. He looks embarrassed as he sets a meeting time and place. A guy notices and thinks they are close to each other so he bugs Futaba about it. This causes her to blow her top and say that guys are so annoying and that is why she hates them. At that time, Kou just exited his classroom. Could he have heard it? Futaba makes a big assumption that Kou should know he is an exception. Yeah. Like guys would know what girls think. Come the night of the festival, Futaba gets into her best dress and waits at the park. Kou never showed up no matter how long she waited. Could it mean he really hates her? Her summer vacation continues with nothing much ado. When the next term starts, Futaba heard several guys discussing how Kou transferred away during the holidays. He never said anything and they were surprised when they got to know about it. They don’t even know how to contact him. And for the rest of her middle school days, Kou ‘vanished’ from her life. Waiting at the same spot at the shrine after another rainy day, she remains hopeful he would turn up here. Didn’t. She promises to say something witty next time. When is that? She starts crying thinking she wants to see him badly right now. Because she really likes him.

Episode 1
Flashback scene of that rainy day stop at the shrine. Then the invite to the festival, Futaba’s outburst she hates guys, the wait that Kou never showed up and the sudden discovery that he transferred out. 3 years have passed since and every now and then, she still thinks about him. As a first year high school student, Futaba is friends with Asumi and Chie. Her friends don’t like in particular Yuuri Makita because they think she is using her cuteness to get on the boys’ books. Yuuri is always alone and isolated. Futaba hated being alone during her middle school years and that’s why ever since that day she tried to bring her feminine appeal down. Yeah. She eats like a horse. Do guys dislike girls who eat so uncouth? Futaba may be seeing shades of Kou because Tanaka sensei looks like him. Then she notices another guy looking exactly like Kou. She tails him and before she could call out to him, his friends call him Mabuchi. Wrong person? Coincidentally they walk the same way home and it feels like she is stalking him or something. She notices him walking into the shrine and sitting at that same spot. Kou, is that you? No. Mabuchi. Sorry, wrong guy. As she is about to leave, he mentions about that day when it was raining. Wait a minute. So it is him! Kou is amazed that she never noticed him for the first 2 semesters and took her this long. He keeps reminding her he is no longer Tanaka but Mabuchi because his parents got divorced and he changed his name. He knows she hates boys and from the looks like it she still does. She mentions he is different and she always wanted him to know that. Kou tells her a surprise. He liked her too. However they are different now. They can’t go back to the past. She starts crying as he leaves. Despite the cruelty of his words, she felt there was some loneliness in it. One day at the school canteen as she buys her bread, she didn’t need a plastic bag after her purchase. However another lady thought she was leaving without paying and holds her back, causing a scene. Futaba insists she already did but the lady doesn’t believe. Till Kou tells her to ask the other lady who received her payment. She confirms it and she lets Futaba go. Because she was being rude, Kou tells her to apologize and she reluctantly does so (like she doesn’t mean it anyway). Futaba thanks him and it made her feel satisfied. Kou starts being sarcastic. Is that what it takes to make her satisfied? She’s cheap. Just like her relationship with her so called friends. Just cheap. All they’re doing is just playing friendship (they didn’t help her during that ordeal and even suspected her). And he reminds her he is Mabuchi, not Tanaka. That guy from the past is gone forever.

Episode 2
Flashback of that cops and robbers game they played. Futaba’s friends still continue to badmouth Yuuri. The teacher calls Futaba to take some printouts from the teacher’s room. Along the way she notices Yuuri and talks to her. She gives Futaba an animal strap plushie. Futaba notices her hands are cold and in return for that gives her some hand warmers. Futaba notices Tanaka sensei lecturing Kou on bucking up. She leaves the teacher’s room having trouble with the loads she is carrying. Is Kou going to help? Not really. Well, she did say she can handle it, right? Tanaka sensei apologizes for Kou’s behaviour and hopes she could continue being friendly with him. Futaba returns to class and her friends notice the strap. They continue to talk bad about Yuuri so this pisses off Futaba. She tells them they too want boys to think they are cute and talking bad behind a person’s back is just bad. It makes them look like they’re jealous. Does it make them feel better when you talk somebody down? Futaba realized too late when she fired that salvo. Yuuri is kinder. She thinks they care about her because if they don’t, they won’t even care what she does, right? Asumi and Chie believe this is what Futaba thinks about them and so it’s the end of their friendship. All her hard work. Gone. Yuuri is happy she stood up for her but Futaba disagrees. She was only doing it for herself and she shouldn’t be dragged into this. Futaba goes off alone to be in despair. Kou happened to see her and asks about her friends. She blames herself she got lost in pursuing her goals that she didn’t see what was important. She feels pathetic for keep making mistakes and apologizes for lashing out at him earlier on. She couldn’t stop her tears from flowing and lots of people are coming her way. She can’t let them see her embarrassed state but there is nowhere to hide. Kou hides her head in his shoulders. Everyone thinks they’re brazenly flirting in daylight. Futaba doesn’t know if he is being nice or mean. He just did what he had to do. He continues reminding her that he is Mabuchi and not Tanaka. The reason she continues to call him so is because if she calls him by his new name, she feels the old Kou she knows will disappear completely. How? She calls him by his first name. Futaba apologizes to Asumi and Chie. Although they respect what she feels, they think they don’t fit. I guess that’s the end of it. Futaba feels sad that certain things in life just cannot be compromised as her teacher once said. But this is a good lesson and she is going to be stronger and move forward. At least she and Yuuri are now friends. Futaba has this strong desire to see Kou and goes to look for him. Imagine her happiness and her face lighting up the moment she sees him.

Episode 3
So she just wants to see him to tell him she’s going to start everything from scratch. Good for you. Tanaka sensei drops by hoping to come cook and stay with Kou. Futaba gets the wrong idea they are gay. Actually they are brothers. I mean, any normal person could have guessed from their similar looks and surname. Tanaka sensei asks if they are dating but Kou denies although Futaba mentions he did say he was in love with her. That was just a lie he made up when he got caught up in the moment. When Tanaka sensei learns of her name, Kou screams he is making a pass at a student. So while he corrects the misunderstanding, Kou takes Futaba and run. Tanaka sensei remembers that name because he once saw Kou wrote it in his book and he was very shy about it. Later, Futaba won’t let go of Kou fearing he would disappear again suddenly. He asks about her wait at the park that day. She did. And a long time she waited. He wanted to meet her but trouble was brewing at home and things got complicated so he couldn’t make it. After they part, Futaba feels happy that Kou talked about himself. She thought he would join his brother for dinner but he lies and hangs out by himself. As Futaba starts the new grade, she finds herself in the same class with Yuuri. Kou too! Futaba realizes the girls still have a bad impression on Yuuri so she goes to talk with her to prevent her from getting excluded. But now they remember Futaba as having a big fallout with her friends and could be the one getting excluded. Also in their class is Shuuko Murao who seems the unsociable lone wolf type and the Aya Kominato who is a complete opposite and trying to engage with her but she always ignores him. During recess, she feels helpless that her first day to start from scratch didn’t go too well. Kou gives some pretty good advice that nobody will be bothered if she gets crushed that easily. Also if she doesn’t give up, it won’t bother anyone. It made her realize that nothing started because she didn’t start anything yet. In class when nobody volunteers to be the class rep, Futaba makes the first bold move to be the female representative. This is followed by Kou as the male rep (because he wants to go home faster). As for even representative, Futaba is happy Yuuri volunteers. The biggest surprise is when Murao raises her hand next. It goes without saying that with her in, Kominato gladly becomes the final volunteer. The quintet are surprised that they have to attend an overnight workshop by Tanaka sensei.

Episode 4
Futaba goes to Kou’s house to pick him up but flusters to see him topless. No, he is not going to rape her! He was going to take a shower. Not only they have to run back from the train station because Futaba forgot to bring her back, they board the wrong train. It’s an express train… When they finally get to the camp, they really got a good scolding from the teacher. During lunch, there are bad vibes in the group. Murao dislikes the way Kou worries Tanaka sensei and like as though he doesn’t care. He doesn’t like how she is uncooperative. Kominato doesn’t like how Kou talks to Murao with that tone. Yuuri holds a grudge on Kominato for taking her cupcake. Just getting bad… Nobody cooperates in answering questions together and when they’re to present it, Kou takes Futaba’s notes to read it aloud. Since it’s so simple, he improvises his own which is quite impressive. Tanaka sensei wants him to explain further so he expands on Futaba’s little idea and makes it better. Futaba feels lousy she can’t compose anything like that and it’s frustrating. Kou on the other hand doesn’t care and probably that’s why it looks easy. Their face accidentally got close enough to kiss. She pats his head on impulse and he asks if she likes him. She is unsure because the Kou she knows then was different. Kou takes back what he said and was just checking. She is curious if he is the same person then so he tells her to stop looking for the old Kou. It’s annoying clinging on to the past. This makes her mad and she’s certain she doesn’t love who he is now. While cleaning, Yuuri spots Murao trying to advance her relationship with Tanaka sensei but he is sensible enough that they should maintain a teacher-student relationship. Murao walks away and she might be feeling disgusted when she realizes Yuuri was eavesdropping. Futaba sees Kou and a girl. Looks like a confession scene! Probably she got too caught up in it that she thought she was hiding behind bushes but actually a couple of guys. Green jerseys… They think she is trying to confess to them! Oh hell. Suddenly Kou tells them that she is his girlfriend and takes her away. Futaba doesn’t know how to explain herself as Kou holds her hand all the way. Wouldn’t his girlfriend be trouble seeing this? He assures he is not dating anybody. This brings much relief to her although she isn’t sure she likes this new Kou yet.

Episode 5
Teams are doing some outdoor treasure hunt thingy as part of the team building effort. Kou and Murao could guess the ingredients of some weird drink at a checkpoint and this gives a huge morale boost that they can win this thing. Because they have been running here and there without properly referring to the map, they got lost in the wilderness. As the sounds of the river can be heard nearby, Kou suggests following it till they reach out since this forest area isn’t that big. As they cross a river, Futaba got a little careless and slipped but Kou caught her. Yuuri was too scared to cross and he helps her out too. Kou even knows Futaba’s foot hurts despite she is trying to act tough. He forces her to let her carry him or else she will slow the group down and they won’t get out by the time it gets dark. Futaba could feel the warmth of his back. That’s because she’s this close, right? Finally they reach the main road and Tanaka sensei and the other teachers pick them up. Back in their room, Futaba and Yuuri vow never to leave each other (but nothing far to suggest something yuri). Futaba sees Kou staring at the night sky and they talk about things. As she can’t tell if he is nice or not, he too can’t tell if she is competent or not. Then they call the rest of their friends to watch the sunrise. At the end of the workshop and they head home, Futaba could tell that this Kou has changed. He is taller and sounds different. Well, duh. Deep down she can see he is a nice person. Now she knows him and what is causing her heart to pound. There is something that will make it pound even more. Shortly after Kou leaves, Futaba gets a message from Yuuri. She thinks she has fallen for Kou! Dokidoki…

Episode 6
So it’s really awkward talking to Yuuri. And when Yuuri asks if Futaba likes Kou, her reflex makes her blurt out she doesn’t. See that relieved looks on her face? You’re digging a deeper hole… Futaba tries to reason all she needs to do is not fall in love with Kou. Good luck in trying. Murao even finds out about it as Yuuri tries to find out more about Kou via Futaba. They went to the same school before, right? Futaba explains the one she knew previously was much better. She didn’t realize Kou was behind her as she badmouths the current him and gets her head squeezed! Probably Kominato tries to act cool before Murao by telling off Kou not to do that but she doesn’t really care. Heart break… Yuuri continues to be at awe in everything Kou does and wants Futaba to tell her more about him. Yuuri reveals she started liking him when he helped her at the river. That moment made her heart pound but at the same time she felt at ease. Kou and Futaba are forced to stay back to write reports. But Futaba kept thinking too much and staring at him… Kominato earlier played a prank on him and put some note behind his shirt so he has Futaba help remove it. She notices how cute his nape? And he tells her not to smell it! He knows she is a serial sniffer and names all the moments she does so. Even the one way back during the cops and robbers. Busted! Futaba feels flustered. But she is in a dilemma too. Each time Kou makes her heart beat, Yuuri’s face comes to her mind. This is bad, right? She does more thinking. Spending more time with him will only make it worse. Then here he is, waiting for her to walk home together. Yeah. She even knows stuffs like these could make her fall in love. More ‘thinking’ from her. What should she do if she falls in love with the same person that her best friend did? She wouldn’t fall in love with Kou then. Tired of all this, she hopes somebody would decide for her. Aha. As Kou boards the train, Futaba says she forgot something at school. So if he stays, she’ll forget about him. If he gets off, she’ll love him. WTF?! What kind of game is this? I guess she is that desperate. So as she is praying, you can hear her wish how much she wants him to get off. The train’s gone. And there Kou is right before her. I guess it’s decided. Futaba you liar. She wanted this all along, right? And Kou thought she was screwing with him when she changes her mind about that forgotten thing. So fickle…

Episode 7
So they’re just sitting at the train station. Futaba is conscious enough to realize what an indirect kiss is when Kou shares his bottled water but I think he knows it so he drinks without his lips touching and almost chokes. When their face got close, he could smell she might be wearing a different perfume. She didn’t retort and just stares at him. After they part, Futaba believes in telling Yuuri the truth and decides to come clean with her. So she goes to buy shampoo and soap. Oh Futaba you joker! Outside the convenience store she meets her old middle school friend, Yumi. She was her precious friend then who was in love with a guy named Naito. It was the reason why Futaba joined that cops and robbers game then. When guys started comparing Futaba is a better girl than the rest, the others got jealous and avoided her. Only Yumi was there to be by her side. Then one day Yumi stopped talking to her completely and she lost the last person who took her side. Now she feels awkward to see her even though Yumi apologizes. That time she heard rumours that Futaba liked Naito and went to confirm. She was Futaba looking longingly at him. She became mad. Futaba clears the misunderstanding she never liked Naito. Because Naito was Kou’s close friend, she thought of asking him what happened to Kou when he transferred away suddenly. Yumi probably got the wrong idea then. This caused Yumi ending up hating her and she worried Yuuri would do the same. She resolves to tell her but I guess she didn’t have the guts because many days passed and she still couldn’t. Futaba sees how happy Yuuri is when Kou lends his CD. And when Kou talks to Futaba about her report containing mistakes, she notices Yuuri stealing glances at them. Futaba is acting weird that it is so obvious and Yuuri starts thinking if she has done something to offend her. As Futaba ponders alone she wants to love Kou too, here comes that guy hiding close to her because Tanaka sensei is bugging him to join him for dinner. He notices she changed her shampoo. Her reply: Because she wants to be attractive to him. Is she joking? That look? Joking? Not that it makes him react anything. As Futaba thinks more about Yuuri, the good person she is and the times spent together, she feels it is all the more reason to tell her. Then she can decide to put distance between us or not. When Yuuri invites her to go to the doughnuts shop today, Futaba thinks she might lose a friend today.

Episode 8
Asumi sees Futaba still hanging out with Yuuri and notes she has changed. Futaba takes it as a compliment and is glad to have done so. Back then she was desperate to be liked and never said how she really felt. Yuuri isn’t just a friend in name. She is a real friend. Murao is also invited to the doughnut shop. Futaba feels scared of telling but eventually sums up her courage to say she likes Kou, the very same person Yuuri likes. Surprisingly Yuuri is cool and is impressed Kou is this hot that another girl likes her. Murao’s comment: They’re blind. Yuuri understands and they agree whoever succeeds in stealing his heart, no hard feelings on either side. When she excuses herself to the toilet, she starts crying and feels Futaba must have a hard time trying to find the courage to tell her. Futaba also could tell she was crying. Suddenly out of the blue, Murao reveals she likes Tanaka sensei! Only Futaba is shocked. Murao thought Yuuri was going to tell on her after that but since she kept it a secret, she’s a good person. Murao comments that Kou may reject both of them but in the event if he chooses, she will continue to remain neutral. She also admits this is her first time hanging out with friends in high school. Kominato spots her from outside. Later Futaba sees Kou hanging out alone. He seems like he doesn’t care. On her impulse she tails him (stalker?) to a place where lots of teens hang out. Some of them know him. Not liking this, she confronts him about it and his friends take a good look at her. Their comments about her make Kou sick and he leaves. Futaba continues to follow him. It just irritates him. Stopping by at the river bank, Kou tells her he just hangs out to talk and doesn’t do bad things. Well, if he needs somebody to talk to, she hints she could be that person. He comments she takes men too lightly and could be easily assaulted. Her guard is way too down. He then goes over her and is going to kiss her. She didn’t resist. He flicks her forehead. The reason she didn’t was because he was around. If she doesn’t like such scary memories, she shouldn’t go to such places alone. She starts crying as she realizes Kou purposely brought her there to make her understand. But another reason is because she felt embarrassed over how excited she got when she thought Kou wanted to kiss her.

Episode 9
Murao tells Futaba and Yuuri that she saw Tanaka sensei talking to Kou about his grades lower than average. Kou didn’t give a damn and even points out he’ll quit school come to worse. Murao is mad that Kou made Tanaka sensei have that worried face. The girls notice Futaba put on a little makeup. I think the reason is obvious. Even the guys notice and Kominato cheekily points out it could mean love, right? I mean, she hasn’t been wearing those so why now? Love. Kou as usual doesn’t give a damn but he surprises when he rubs off her lower lips with his thumb and notes makeup doesn’t suit her. Kou meets a couple of former classmates who start mocking about doing so bad in tests unlike them who are now in advanced classes. Kominato threatens to get rough with them if they don’t stop. He doesn’t like it when others badmouth about his friends. Yuuri talks to Tanaka sensei about Kou’s bad grades. He is happy he has got friends who worry about him now because back then he used to rely on him a lot. The girls approach Kominato to make sure he is free this weekend to come with them. No, this isn’t turning into his harem route. Because on that morning, they make a sudden call to Kou that they’re coming to study at his place. Kou at first thought it was a dream. Then he realizes he didn’t lock the door. They’re here. Too bad Kou isn’t interested in joining their study group and continues sleeping. I suppose the rest are too ‘noisy’ in their study so he eventually drags himself out of bed and studies with them. Futaba flusters when suave Kou wants her to teach him science since she says she is good at it. But Yuuri interrupts them so that she could ask Kou to bring glasses for drinks. She is thinking about asking him if he likes Futaba but fears that she would not know what to do if he says he does. Futaba goes to check on them since they’re taking too long. She can tell something is wrong with Yuuri acting strange. Kou of course is in his usual I-don’t-care mode. Even if they say nothing happened, Futaba knows damn right that something is definitely wrong.

Episode 10
Futaba continues to be suspicious with Yuuri’s actions. She’s averting her eyes each time they meet. When Kou becomes disinterested in continuing to study, Yuuri becomes vocal to give him the encouragement to continue. She would like everyone to be together and enter their final year together. On the way back, Futaba tries to ask Yuuri again but she doesn’t really answer and says it is nothing. Because Futaba is still anxious, she returns to Kou’s place to ask him. Also the same reaction as Yuuri and that never mind answer. She can tell he is trying to change the subject and since she is being persistent about why he has changed so much, Kou brings her to a room. It has an altar of his mother. Oh dear. It is not like he wanted to hide it. He wasn’t sure of how to talk about it and he knew she would make that expression. The same expression Yuuri did. Futaba realizes about Yuuri’s hesitant and feels ashamed about herself worrying about their relationship. She starts crying as Kou wipes her tears and cheeks. Tanaka sensei drops by for a surprise visit to see this. Before he gets the wrong idea about this, Kou tells him about their mom. Kou goes off for his part time job so Tanaka sensei drives her back. He explains that when their parents divorced, Kou went to live with his mom and he felt he entrusted Kou with the toughest task of taking care of her. When he just started to become a teacher, mom got sick and hospitalized. He was scared each time he visited her in hospital. But imagine what Kou had to feel every day all by himself. Deep down he is a good and kind kid. Futaba continues to feel bad. She never knew a thing. It is what made him who he is today. Next day at school, Futaba apologizes to Yuuri for suspecting her. Yuuri also apologizes. She didn’t say because she was jealous of how close they are and wanted to become a bit more special. Oh why do they have to fall for the same person? Because they too like each other. And now it’s time to break down after holding it for so long. Girl hug! With lots of love! They return to class to see Kominato trying to hand his organized maths lessons for Kou who seems unappreciative but takes it anyway. Futaba concludes that no matter how cold he acts, at the end of the day he is always kind.

Episode 11
Flashback shows the doctor told Kou that his mother has lung cancer and some back condition. She is already terminal and has not long to live. Although Kou acted normal, mom already knows her condition and calls her other son. Kou reflects he always spent his time studying because he wanted to make things easier for mom. Good grades means good college means good job means good money. He was so engrossed in this that he lost sight of his original goal. He never realized why mom wanted to spend more time with him and now he knows. When big brother leaves a message on his phone back home, explaining that mom already told him, Kou uncontrollably breaks down. So Kou once again is in another study group with his friends. He makes an excuse to go to the toilet but since he is taking so long, they realized they have been tricked. He’s gone. Futaba is so desperate to go get him that she bumps into a guy and accidentally has her hand on his crotch!!! So unfortunate. Kominato and Murao who are unaware of Kou’s past, doesn’t understand him. Nevertheless they still like him. Futaba goes to Kou’s house but only Tanaka sensei is there. She complains that ‘Kou isn’t opening the door to them’. At least the door she wants open isn’t. He hints maybe he forgot to make a doorknob or a keyhole. What should she do? She’ll break her way in! He opened her heart and now it’s her turn to return the favour. She finds Kou hanging out with those teens again and comes running to bring him away. Another round of talk. He thinks there is no point in doing things anymore. He has done everything wrong, he can’t start again. She might not understand the things he went through. Especially every day sitting with mom and watching her grow weaker by the day. She can’t take this anymore and pushes him down. She tells him off that the fact he is scared shows he cares about everyone. If what he lost is too big to be replaced with something else, start small. Replace it with 10 or 100 small things or something. It will be enough reason for him to keep going. Nobody is going to criticize or laugh at him because if there are, she’ll beat them up! Tough words. But really? And when she starts crying he starts to realize what she said is true. He wanted to find meaning to his everyday life. Now moved to tears, perhaps he was waiting for something like this to happen.

Episode 12
They’re still hugging… Well, Kou wants to stay like this a little longer. Or maybe he doesn’t want to see her crying. So after they separate themselves, Futaba could see the fresh sparkle in his eyes and face. The kind of face that he would only show to her. It feels like the perfect time to confess but I guess she took too long. Uh huh. Her stomach growled. What? She feels bad for Yuuri now? Anyway she tells him that Tanaka sensei is home probably waiting for him. She also tells him how Tanaka sensei thinks Kou hates him for not being there when he needed the most. I suppose living faraway is a valid reason? Kou goes home and the usual gloomy mood between the brothers. Tanaka sensei thought dad came home and wanted to get some dinner but is surprised that Kou is joining in! Even dad seems surprised. Tanaka becomes a total emo crying like a kid because he really wanted a day like this to come. Kou on the other hand isn’t sure if it was okay for him to come back and do the things mom couldn’t do. Dad clarifies mom isn’t such a petty person. Kou mentions he would want to wait a little while before he changes his surname back. Dad agrees since he should sort out his feelings first. Even if they have different surnames, they are still family. That is what counts, right? Next day in class, Futaba and Kou fluster upon seeing each other. Futaba finds his reaction cute. He can even do such a face? Oh sh*t. She can’t stop grinning. Kominato comes to accuse Kou of walking out on everyone but the latter surprises everyone that he is willing to take the study session again today to show his sincerity. At the end of the exams… The irony of Kou outdoing better than everyone who coached him. A short awkward moment between Futaba and that library guy when their eyes meet. He’s still embarrassed. She’s still embarrassed. Really a forgettable moment… On the last day of school before summer vacation starts, the girls notice Kou has already left. That guy is quick. Murao leaves it to the duo to go after him. I guess that’s the fun part because they’re quite keen on it. Oh yeah. They even renew their rivalry to get serious with him. With a smile. Only in anime… Tanaka sensei is happy Murao has fit in and found her place of belonging. She tells him her feelings have not changed. He makes her blush when he says he doesn’t consider her an annoyance. Kominato warns Tanaka sensei that if he ever hurt her in the end, he’ll make him pay. His best counter reply: So it is okay if it ends in a way that doesn’t hurt her? You can’t best this teacher. The friends meet up and begin their summer time together. Futaba notes it’s too soon to look back at old memories. Because they’re going to make new ones together.

Episode 13 (OVA)
Everyone meets up for the fireworks festival tonight. Although the girls agreed not to wear yukata, only Yuuri don it. Technically, she didn’t say she wouldn’t. Of course this is part of her scheme to make her advancement on Kou. For most of the part before the fireworks, we see Yuuri ‘hijacking’ Kou and spending lots of time with him. As they wait for the fireworks to start, it’s that guy from the library before them. He and Futaba are blushing and he needs to tell her something in private. They’re apologizing and wanting to forget that incident. But Kou misinterpret this entire thing and is about to get rough with him till he learns the truth. He felt embarrassed and apologizes on Futaba’s behalf. When Kou goes to buy food, Yuuri accompanies him. Yuuri’s foot hurts from the sandal so he puts a band aid on it. From her observations of Kou, she can tell he likes Futaba. Because she dressed up so nicely in her yukata and even did her hair. Futaba didn’t do anything special and yet after putting in so much effort, it feels no use at all. If she doesn’t say anything now, she’ll get jealous of her one day and become an annoying person. So before that happens, Yuuri sums up her courage to confess she likes him. However he apologizes that he doesn’t see her in the same way. She knows. Although she might look like she is cool with it, she promises when she gets home, she will cry her heart out. Besides, Futaba was calling her name nonstop when she learnt Yuuri was injured and came looking for her. After that, nothing else mattered anymore.

Futaba observes that after that, Yuuri no longer stayed next to Kou anymore and wonders if something might have happened. Could have she said it? If it was her, would she be able to pull it off? She is thinking so deep about this that she almost got hit by a train! Thank Kou for being there for her. Then there is a poster advertising for a festival. A festival that they never got to go. Kou suggests going together and it will be just them. Futaba is so happy and flustering, I don’t know why she is messing with her own hair. She’s got this feeling like she wants to scream out with happiness. She asks if she should come in a yukata. Kou disagrees because she would look like a sumo wrestler. And her punch feels like one. With Kou laughing differently, seeing that expression doesn’t make her mad anymore. She also laughs. Oh, she should also wear a yukata. When they are to part, Futaba says she doesn’t want to go home yet. She wonders if she said something extreme so he warns her about being vulnerable to other guys. They hug each other and close to kissing each other but their senses had to come back. Bummer. After Kou walks her home, Futaba is so happy that she has gotten close to him. She can’t wait for the festival. But come that day, Kou apologizes he had something and cannot come. Just sad… To treat the sad girls Futaba and Yuuri, Murao treats them to doughnuts. And a pat to the head. That felt better, no?

Riding The Blues…
Well, I couldn’t be much happier that the series had already ended although their friendship and relationship is just the beginning. I know this is a drama romance genre and should expect this kind of drama. But I couldn’t help feel it is somewhat boring as it edges closer to the finishing. The big thing that led me to say that is because this entire series is just a big puzzle and mystery to figure out why Kou has changed. Why is his personality so different? Something must have happened along the way to make a person change so much that he is barely recognizable. The trying romance of Futaba feels just like a big distraction to lead up to this. He is a good kid. He is nice and kind, he helps others. But he could work on his facial muscle and at least put some smile in it because to others it might seem like he is doing us a favour. I’m not saying this is a bad romance series but at times I can’t help feel it is draggy and there are many moments when I just couldn’t keep my concentration and found myself getting distracted with other things outside the monitor. And that is not a good sign. Because you know, Futaba is just scratching her head trying to understand Kou. See? Didn’t I tell you this show is a big puzzle box?

The quote of “Sometimes people put up walls not to keep others out, but to see who cares enough to break them down”, is a very suitable passage that exactly describes Kou’s predicament and overall character. Because nobody bothered or cared with him anyway or anyhow except for Futaba. I suppose as a kid when you have to deal with your parents’ bitter divorce as well knowing someone close to you and you love the most is dying, it is truly such a traumatic and terrifying experience. For Kou, I believe the only way he could handle this was to bottle up his feelings. It was his only way to keep his sanity. Because it would seem just odd (and to some very wrong) if he is to act all bubbly and cheery after his mom’s demise. He was practically all alone and he isolated himself, blaming himself for what had happened. He has been stuck in the darkness for so long that he may have lost his touch in humanity until Futaba pops up in his life again. So in a way you can say she is his blessing in disguise especially with her persevering character not to give up on him.

As for Futaba, I don’t think she really hates boys in the first place. It was just a convenient excuse to rationalize about Kou and the reason he suddenly left her life without any explanation. When he was gone, she wasn’t trying to be herself. She puts up some mask and keeps thinking this is normal or what she wants. And then Kou comes back into her life. What now? Be yourself. I think guys are much more attracted to girls who are themselves instead of being somebody who they aren’t. Overall, she is just like any other normal ordinary teenage girl who wants to fall in love with the guy she loves. As the ‘liveliest’ character in the series, in a way she is fun to watch whenever she makes those surprising unbelievable reactions thanks to her naivety and the likes. Sometimes it makes her a funny girl and probably the one responsible for the funny parts for most of the series. But as the series gets closer to the ending, it turns into some emotional baggage especially after Kou’s secret has been revealed. Lots of emotional outbursts (from Futaba’s side, that is – because I believe I have never seen Kou raising his voice except for that scream in the flashback) and tears will be flowing and if you’re prone to that, get ready with a box of tissues.

Because the drama revolves mainly around Kou and Futaba, the other characters feel somewhat insufficient. The other trio in the group feels like they are there so as to tell us the duo are not alone and pretty much have their own friends. Yuuri was there just to add a little spice and tension to the love triangle which somewhat feels better than Murao and Kominato’s role. As far as I can see, this series (at least for this season concerned) can be done without the latter duo and like I said, it feels like to show us that Kou and Futaba are not alone. Tanaka sensei is a good and patient guy. He understands what Kou is going through and doesn’t want to push or force it. He can’t do anything. Doesn’t know what to do. The only thing he can do is to be there and support him. On a trivial note, I have a feeling that the library guy whom Futaba bumped into, you’re not going to see the last of him. I don’t know. Something in me tells me that he doesn’t look like your ordinary extra background characters (he is a bit good looking too) and I believe this unfortunate accident wasn’t just for comical purpose. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. Just like the love triangle between Kou, Futaba and Yuuri, this guy may turn it into a love polygon. So I’m not writing him off yet. If there is another season, that is.

This brings us to the romance department and as we can already see, this season is heavily leaning towards Kou x Futaba as there are a number of scenes featuring them close to each other. I believe their love since middle school has never died out. It was just lying there dormant waiting for that spark to reignite again. Of course with Kou like a puzzle box, the reason why Futaba was a little hesitant. And then Yuuri added into and compounded the problem. Will they still be friends even if Kou chooses one of them? It only remains to be seen. Although the OVA seems to have made it clear Kou’s choice, but something tells me that Yuuri may not be giving up from a long shot. You can’t just give up like that, can’t she? Because she might become an annoying woman sooner than you think. I think Kou also had kept Futaba deep within her heart. Because at times you noticed that he can tell of her habits and remember the old things that they’ve done together. You only keep such special memories with the person you like, right? So I won’t be surprised if their love romance will come into full bloom one day.

Therefore the other relationships just feel like a distraction and in a way if you don’t think about it, they do not matter. Because like I said, the secondary characters don’t make too much impact except to give us an idea of the basic premise and setting. For example, Murao and Tanaka sensei’s relationship. It is not uncommon for high school girls to fall for their gorgeous young male teacher. Even if they don’t throw in this mix, I am pretty much sure this season can still get by. Because Tanaka sensei is such a good and clean guy, he might not even get married and stay single for the rest of his life! Haha! But seriously. Such a hot guy his age and no other women interested in him? We don’t know what goes behind him after school. You’ll never know… Then there is the case of unrequited love of Kominato for Murao. It is greatly hinted that he likes her although she seems to ignore him for most of the time. Again, this can be done away with for this season and it’s like you don’t need to worry if they are going anywhere. Just in the friend zone. And there is this hint that the guy and the library with Futaba too. But that could be just one big troll.

One reason why I thought this was like Kimi Ni Todoke despite the different plot and story is the art and drawing. Not that I am saying that it looks pretty similar but the art style for both these series is simple and plain. In fact, both series are animated by the same studio, Production I.G. who is well known for their works in series like Ghost In The Shell, Prince Of Tennis, Shingeki No Kyojin, Guilty Crown and the Break Blade movies. I suppose with only the drama romance genre, you don’t need to put in a lot of effects like those aforementioned shows. That is why in a way the simple art style manages to impress and at the same time still make the characters look pretty decent although the colouring and hues may be a little bit dull and plain. Probably to add to that dramatic effect instead of vibrant colourful colours which would make viewers think this is some romcom anime.

Voice acting also feels decent since this is after all a romance drama. But the most striking one is Yuuki Kaji as Kou. Because after hearing him voice a myriad of ‘lively’ characters, the kind that makes him scream from the top of his voice or at least have this cheeky and mischievous feel to it (Eren in Shingeki No Kyojin, Shuu in Guilty Crown, Rentarou in Black Bullet, Hideyoshi in Nobunaga The Fool, Issei in High School DxD, Shuu in Nisekoi, Haruyuki in Accel World – the freaking list goes on. Need I name them all?), suddenly he voices one that is so unenergetic, lethargic and ‘dead’. You might start to wonder if it is really him. Sure, he has voiced roles that don’t require him to break into his trademark holler but I think this is the first time that I have heard him voicing such a ‘soft spoken’ character so much so it just doesn’t feel like him. But believe it or not, it is him.

The rest of the casts include Maaya Uchida as Futaba (Mao in GJ-Bu), Ai Kayano as Yuuri (Inori in Guilty Crown), Daisuke Hirakawa as Tanaka sensei (Makoto in School Days), Kenn as Kominato (Jinbei in Mushibugyou) and Mikako Komatsu as Murao (Marika in Mouretsu Space Pirates). Veterans, Marina Inoue and Ryoko Shiraishi lend their voice as Asumi and Chie respectively but since their appearance are limited, I didn’t recognize them. The opening theme is Sekai Wa Koi Ni Ochiteiru by Chico with Honeyworks. Sounds like a pretty generic and lively anime pop for this kind of romance drama genre. The ending theme is Blue by Fujifabric which is a slow ballad.

Despite the slow pace of the romance and character development of this series, this anime isn’t entirely so bad because if there is another season, I would still want to catch it. Although I would be setting my expectations and hopes lower ;p. Those who are into drama romance but without any complicated plots should check out this series. There is some realism that we can relate too in real life and in those emotions. Because like in Kou’s case, do you have time and room for love after experiencing something like that? As long as you don’t give up, there will always be hope. That’s what they’re trying to say. And of course the right person too. So just like life, love isn’t about the destination but the journey too. Yes. Love makes life a beautiful ride through all seasons.