Ao Haru Ride Ep. 2: Gain one friend, lose two friends

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“Oh? But it doesn’t fit with my character.”

I guess the main reason why I’m watching this show is because the main character isn’t a Mary Sue. Sure, she’s pretty, but it’s anime, so everyone is pretty. Still, she’s actually quite flawed in many ways, especially in the character department. In fact, I don’t find her very likeable at the moment. What makes her situation interesting, however, as opposed to all the other unlikeable anime characters in recent memory, is that the show isn’t blind to her flaws. Obviously, it’s her story, so Futaba isn’t going to be judged too harshly. Nevertheless, we’re seeing firsthand that Kou’s criticism from last week’s episode was on-point. Futaba initially refuses an innocent gift from Yuri just because it doesn’t fit her image. That just speaks to her immaturity. Oftentimes, when you watch a shoujo, it’s like, “Why wouldn’t the guy want to get with her? She’s got everything!” So what you end up watching is an awkward love story between two perfect people as they try to navigate the seas of misunderstanding. Here, however, the girl is flawed, the guy’s flawed too — hey, he’s an asshole — and they’ll both have to shape up before any proper romance can begin.

“But everyone puts on nice clothes and makeup to look good for other people, right? So I wonder, what’s the difference between that and me wanting boys to think I’m cute?”

The difference is that Yuri’s not putting on an act even if it seems like she’s saying otherwise. How she acts around her male classmates is no different from how she is now with Futaba. Yuri says she defaults to a cutesy personality when she gets nervous, but that’s probably because that’s just who she is. Anyway, the real problem is obvious enough: people only find Yuri annoying because they’re jealous of the attention she gets. Unfortunately, none of the characters have the bluntness of character to just come out and say it. Instead, Yuri has to dance around the answer in a roundabout way. Not only that, she has to be sickeningly nice about it too: “I don’t mean to say people are wrong for finding me annoying….” I don’t feel as though most shoujo characters are capable of standing up for themselves. If people are unnecessarily bashing you, don’t just take it. Unfortunately, I can’t help but feel as though a certain audience want to identify with this sort of martyrdom. Oh, they hate me, but it’s okay. They’re not wrong! I can take it! I can take the slings and the insults. It’s almost a form of self-pity, and self-pity is always pathetic in my book.

“When I was little, my teacher said, ‘You should get along with your friends.’ At the time, I thought it was right to just pursue that at any cost. But sometimes it doesn’t go well, does it?”

Well, you gotta know who your friends really are. And if your “friends” are the sort of people who would make fun of a girl just because boys pay attention to her, do you really want to be friends with them? Getting along with people is nice and all, but you have to draw the line somewhere. After all, we wouldn’t be friends with Hitler, would we? No, Asumi and Chie aren’t anything like Hitler, but my point still stands. You have to draw the line somewhere. Sure enough, our heroine eventually gets fed up and tries to draw that line. The more her friends bash Yuri, the more she feels as though they’re bashing the old Futaba. Things eventually boil over when she indirectly stands up for herself by defending Yuri. Even so, Futaba tries to take it back. She tries to erase the line, and get back on her friends’ good side. That was such a groan-worthy moment. It’s like, “Way to stand for what you believe in. Futaba still tries to be friends with them at the end of the episode too. Thankfully, she doesn’t take back what she said, though she admits she could’ve said it in a nicer way. Nevertheless, she doesn’t quite face reality until her friends had rejected her for the last time.

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I just don’t get this desperation to be friends with people who are so outwardly horrible. I understand that she doesn’t want to be alone, but the school is full of people. Hell, the world is full of people. Surely, she hasn’t met them all. As such, there are plenty of potential friends to look for. Hell, she even admits that Yuri is just like her. So why wouldn’t you try to be her friend? Bam, done, she’s no longer alone. C’mon, man, it’s so easy! Anyway, Futaba remains flawed in my eyes even though this mini-arc has concluded. I don’t feel as though she’s done the right thing. Our heroine even admits she was only standing up for herself.

Stray observations:

— There’s a Tanaka-sensei? Didn’t Mabuchi Kou use to be Tanaka Kou? Are they related? They do kind of look the same…. Not only that, he directly reminds our heroine of the old Kou, so yeah, these two guys are probably related. It must be weird to have a such a close relative as a teacher, though.

— The show introduces two random characters — a girl with long, black hair and a guy with blond hair — and they have no connection whatsoever to our heroine at the moment. It’s always a little silly to me when this occurs in stories. I have no idea who they are or why I shouldn’t even pay attention to them. Nevertheless, the girl is frosty as all hell: “I don’t want to remember anything about my current class.” Christ, is anyone happy in this show?

— Futaba says, “It might be painful for him when I call him Tanaka-kun. But I feel like if I ever call him ‘Mabuchi,’ then the Tanaka-kun I knew really will disappear completely.” Isn’t that a bit selfish?

— Speaking of the world being full of people, I await the day online relationships become so commonplace that these stories can no longer ignore them. What I’m about to talk about is a total aside, and honestly, it’s not even all that relevant to the story of Ao Haru Ride itself, but I feel like mentioning it anyway. In the real world, we’ve already gotten to the point where everyone has online friendships and romances. In fact, it seems like everyone under 30 is glued to some form of social media. Nevertheless, when you watch these shows, you can’t help but feel like you’re caught in a time warp. Somehow, we’ve been transported back to the 90s or whatever, where no one ever spends anytime online or on their phones. Oh, they have phones, and the characters will undoubtedly make a big deal out of “Hurr, let’s exchange contact infos!” Nevertheless, it doesn’t feel like a contemporary story, y’know? You just don’t feel that alone anymore, because we’re so connected to people through social media. I’m not saying that this is a problem for this anime, but I’m awaiting the day when stories will catch up to how things really are.

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6 thoughts on “Ao Haru Ride Ep. 2: Gain one friend, lose two friends”

  1. Your comment about social media in connection with Ao Haru Ride made me think of Natsume from Tonari no Kaibutsu kun. Natsume’s pretty much based off the exact problem Futaba has, but she’s been fleeing into internet fora. I’m not feeling Ao Haru Ride for now. It’s playing the shoujo romance tropes too straight. That it’s airing a day after Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun (a spoof of all those tropes) doesn’t help me take the show serious.

    One thing Ao Haru Ride has over its competition (such as Sukitte Ii Na Yo) is that they chose to voice the lead with more energy than usual (Uchida Maya is doing a great job here).

  2. In fact, it seems like everyone under 30 is glued to some form of social media.

    Does this mean you’re over 30? Couldn’t resist.

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