Ao Haru Ride
"The scent of air after the rain... I heard your pulse. I saw the light."
, (shortened to AoHaRide
in the original Japanese release; officially translated as Blue Spring Ride
in some countries), is a shoujo
manga by Io Sakisaka from 2011 to 2015, following the success of her previous work Strobe Edge
. It is serialized in the magazine Bessatsu Margaret
and compiled in twelve volumes along with five Light Novel
adaptations. Both an Anime
and a Live-Action Adaptation
were announced and premiered in 2014, with Production I.G
producing the anime for the Summer 2014 Anime
season (with two Original Video Animation
episodes) and the live-action Film
premiering in December 2014. The anime is available on Crunchyroll under the title "Blue Spring Ride."
The story follows Futaba Yoshioka, previously a quiet and gentle girl who has changed her image to become approachable and confident, after her insecurity accidentally drove away
her First Love
Kou Tanaka and her popularity with the boys caused her friends to leave her
. Despite her newfound persona, she is anything but happy, and she only realizes this when Kou re-enters her life
, now under the name Kou Mabuchi. In the two years they haven't seen each other, Futaba is shocked to realize that Kou has changed so much
. Despite what they felt for each other in the past, Kou informs her that they can no longer be what they used to be. However, Futaba's love for him reawakens and she is determined to unlock his past and heal his heart.
Joining the whirlwind of adolescence are Yuuri Makita, an unpopular but gentle Kawaiiko
; Shuuko Murao, a lone Sugar And Ice Girl
with an attachment
to Youichi Tanaka, a young teacher and Kou's estranged older brother
; and Aya Kominato, an outgoing boy with his heart set on Shuuko and a rivalry set on Tanaka-sensei.
This series contains examples of:
- A Day in the Limelight: Shuuko gets her own side story in volume 3, an Origins Issue that describes her life in middle school and first meeting with Tanaka-sensei.
- Accidental Kiss: Futaba and Kou share one in chapter 20. Kou later "makes up" the accident with a Forceful Kiss in the following chapter.
- Accidental Pervert: Futaba and Touma's official first encounter results in Futaba accidentally copping a feel on him.
- Alice Allusion: The cover to chapter 35 features Futaba as Alice, Kou as the Cheshire Cat, and Touma as the White Rabbit.
- Alpha Bitch: Asumi has verbal power over her female classmates, and she's pretty much the reason why no one wants to befriend Yuuri. Futaba was initially part of her Girl Posse to get on her good side until Kou points out to her that they were all False Friends.
- Alternate Character Reading: The Pun-Based Title is based on switching the on-yomi word for youth (seishun, itself a Chinese loan word) to kun-yomi (Ao Haru).
- Anger Born of Worry: Futaba throws her scarf violently at Kou for making her worry after he got into a car accident.
- Anguished Declaration of Love: Yui gives several to Kou over the course of the series, most of them consisting of convincing him that they understand each other better than everyone else, along with the Stock Phrase, "Please Don't Leave Me." Kou gives one to Futaba in chapter 44.
- Be Yourself: When Futaba tries to go through with an image change, Touma tells her she's fine just the way she is. Doubles as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming when it also becomes part of his Love Confession!
- Because You Were Nice to Me: Yuuri gives Futaba a Lamune cell phone keychain as a token of friendship because Futaba was the only girl in their class who genuinely wasn't rude to her.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Kou and Futaba's relationship fluctuates between this and Unresolved Sexual Tension. Half of the time, Futaba and Kou argue, mostly because Kou is exasperated by Futaba's actions and Futaba is annoyed by Kou's snarky behavior.
- Betty and Veronica: Touma is the Betty and Kou is the Veronica to Futaba's Archie. At the same time, Kominato is the Betty and Tanaka-sensei is the Veronica to Shuuko's Archie. Later, Futaba becomes the Betty and Yui the Veronica to Kou's Archie.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Yuuri isn't particularly forgiving if you steal her cupcake, or if you mess with her friends.
- Big Brother Instinct: Tanaka-sensei tries to take care of Kou, but it's too bad Kou keeps rebuffing his advances. It's not because Kou hates him; Kou feels guilty for not taking better care of their late mother like his brother asked of him.
- Big Eater: Justified in that Futaba purposely eats a lot (especially in public) to play down her Informed Attractiveness.
- Big Heroic Run: Kou clearly remembers Futaba running to save him during their cops and robbers game in middle school. It's been such a fond memory for him that he thinks of this whenever he feels she is rescuing him.
- Bland-Name Product: In episode 8 of the anime, Kou buys a "Panta Zero" grape drink for Futaba.
- In episode 9, Futaba and the group bring "Kelbaa" potato chips to Kou's house, which is obviously based off of Calbee potato ships.
- Bookends: The manga begins and ends at the shrine. Also, whereas in the prologue, Futaba cried because "nothing had started", at the end, she corrects herself, saying that something had started and would continue to start.
- Brilliant but Lazy: Kou is capable of being The Ace at school, yet lacks the drive to do so after his mother died.
- Broken Bird: Poor, poor Kou.
- Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: A lot of Kou's Character Development comes from Futaba's persistence to help him get over his Dark and Troubled Past.
- Brother Walks In At the Worst Time: When Kou comforts Futaba intimately, there's a progression of what looks like an Almost Kiss... until Tanaka-sensei suddenly walks in, clueless. Oops.
- Brutal Honesty: Both Kou and Shuuko don't hold back when it comes to expressing their opinions. In fact, it was because of this Shuuko was ostracized by her so-called "friends."
- Bunnies for Cuteness: Lamune, the Series Mascot, is an adorable lop-eared bunny.
- But Not Too Foreign: Kominato's character profile in vol. 3 states that he is a quarter French.
- The Cameo: Kou makes a cameo appearance in the crossover for Hirunaka No Ryuusei and Heroine Shikkaku, drawn for Margaret's 50th anniversary.
- Caught in the Rain: In a bittersweet moment, this is how Kou and Futaba come to bond with each other in middle school, and that very memory is how Futaba is able to identify Kou after the Time Skip.
- Chekhov's Gun: Tanaka-sensei discovers Kou's crush on Futaba when he circles her name in his notebook. Kominato finds the same exact notebook four years later, and that's how he (and the audience) finds out that Kou still likes her.
- Class Representative: The group become class representatives, though the most they have come to fulfilling the actual stereotypes of the trope itself was urging Kou to keep up his grades.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Yui tries to keep Kou with her by distracting him from going after Futaba.
- Cool Teacher: Tanaka-sensei gets along with his students very well to the point some students don't address him as a teacher.
- Covert Pervert: Futaba tends to unconsciously sniff Kou's neck. Kominato also has some porno mags and he's willing to show you if you're his friend as long as you don't tell Shuuko, shhh!
- Cross Over: Ao Haru Ride constantly shared covers with My Love Story!! when they made front page of Bessatsu Margaret. The authors of both manga collaborated on a one-shot crossover in honor of Bessatsu Margaret's 50th year anniversary.
- The Cynic: While Futaba is a Wide-Eyed Idealist about reinventing her image, Kou is far more pessimistic about what he can change about himself.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Kou's change in behavior mostly stem from Parental Abandonment due to his parents' divorce and his mother's subsequent death.
- Deadpan Snarker: Leave it to Kou to ruin your attempts at impressing girls, Kominato... not even, Futaba! On the other side of the spectrum, Shuuko snarks at Tanaka-sensei in her side story before falling in love with him.
- Debut Queue: The prologue of the manga detailed Futaba and Kou's lives in junior high.
- Definitely Just a Cold: Kou's mother coughs while in the hospital and remarks that she must be getting a cold, though it's actually lung cancer.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Shuuko has learned to tolerate Futaba and Yuuri just fine.
- She even initiates a hug with Yuuri!
- Do Not Call Me Tanaka: It's Mabuchi, now, all right? By the end of the series, Kou changes his last name back to Tanaka, so it's okay to call him Tanaka again!
- Does Not Like Men: Futaba in the prologue chapter, except she warms up to Kou because he's "different."
- The Dog Bites Back: When Futaba finally tells Asumi and Chie to back off from Yuuri (which ends up with her losing their trust completely), Yuuri follows up by giving them their own verbal comeuppance in front of the entire class.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Touma is a type 2 for Futaba at first because he thought Kou and Futaba were dating, but once Futaba clarified that they were Just Friends, he becomes a type 1. Kominato is also a type 1 for Shuuko.
- Eating Lunch Alone: In the beginning, Yuuri always ate lunch alone after being shunned by the girls in the class.
- False Dichotomy: Come the middle of the series, Kou is "forced" to choose between Futaba and Yui, and he indirectly chooses Yui on the basis that she needs his support to get through a tough spot in her life that has happened to him before. However, there was no reason why he couldn't pursue a relationship with Futaba while helping Yui out at the same time. Then again, as Futaba represents moving on and Yui represents being in the past, he most likely stuck with Yui to have a reason for being reminded of his mom's death, and feels guilty about leaving behind those memories when it's obvious his mother was very important to him.
- Kominato figures out that part of the reason Kou rejected Futaba was because he knew that if they became an Official Couple, Futaba would be bothered by Yui being close friends with Kou. He tells Kou that he's being an idiot.
- First Name Basis: Futaba starts addressing Kou by his first name just a couple of days after they meet again in high school even though they've only talked to each other three times in middle school. The reason for this is that he doesn't want to be called "Tanaka-kun" and she feels that he would be a stranger to her if she calls him by his legal last name, Mabuchi. This leads a lot of people into thinking they're closer than they claim to be, like Tanaka-sensei, Kominato, Yuuri, Touma, and Yui. Kominato starts calling Kou by his first name in vol. 2 after becoming his friend during the events of the Horrible Camping Trip.
- Futaba gets jealous when she mistakenly believes that Kou calls Yui by her first name and later when she found out that Yui called Kou by his first name.
- "Freaky Friday" Flip: In the Cross Over special with My Love Story!!, Kou switches bodies with Takeo, leading to a lot of hilarious Out-of-Character Alert moments.
- Friendless Background: Futaba, Yuuri, and Shuuko all start out on this kind of footing.
- Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Both Yuuri and Futaba have items of the Series Mascot, Lamune the bunny.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Kou lately becomes annoyed whenever he sees Touma and Futaba together, although he has yet to form a Green-Eyed Epiphany about what is causing his bad mood.
- Grey and Gray Morality: No one is truly a villain in the series. One of the taglines for the movie adaptation is "Youth is about always making mistakes", which is what the characters live by.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Futaba and Yuuri are close friends, even after falling in love with the same guy! Also, Kou and Kominato are turning out like this, too.
- Horrible Camping Trip: The group is required to go to a training camp to prepare for managing class activities, and things don't start out very well.
- I Just Want to Be Loved: Due to Parental Abandonment issues, Yui becomes insecure about who she can really rely on.
- I Just Want to Have Friends: Futaba's image change in high school revolves around her desire to have True Companions after being abandoned by her friends in middle school.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Yuuri stops chasing after Kou when he rejects her Love Confession, but the person she's actually rooting for is Futaba, whose friendship means much more to her than her crush on Kou does.
- Tanaka-sensei actually returns Shuuko's feelings, but knows it's unrealistic for them to have a relationship at this point in time, so he purposely tries to encourage Kominato to go after her instead.
- I Warned You: Time and time again, Kominato tells Kou about the dangers of his co-dependent relationship with Yui. When Kou finally makes the break and realizes the reprecussions, he expects Kominato to tell him these exact words, but surprisingly Kominato doesn't and just tells him to move on.
- Improvised Umbrella: When Kou and Futaba take shelter at a shrine in the rain, Kou lets Futaba use his gym uniform as an umbrella.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Kou berates Futaba, but he's the one looking out for her most of the time.
- Kawaiiko: Poor Yuuri is just a natural Kawaiiko that Futaba's former friends, Asumi and Chie, accuse her of being The Fake Cutie just to attract guys.
- Loners Are Freaks: Futaba, Yuuri, and Shuuko have all been ostracized by their female classmates at one point.
- Long-Lost Relative: Kou and Tanaka-sensei were separated from each other when their parents divorced, which led their relationship to be slightly strained. Tanaka-sensei still has a Big Brother Instinct towards Kou, but Kou doesn't like confiding in him.
- Love Triangle: Of note, there's Futaba/Kou/Yuuri and Kominato/Shuuko/Tanaka-sensei. Looks like we'll be seeing Touma/Futaba/Kou after Futaba/Kou/Yuuri was resolved.
- More like a Love Dodecahedron now with Touma/Futaba/Kou and Futaba/Kou/Narumi occurring concurrently!
- Luminescent Blush: Touma blushes easily, and when he does, he gets super red.
- Mars-and-Venus Gender Contrast: While Futaba, Yuuri, and Shuuko are confused about how boys think, Kou himself states that he doesn't understand women either.
- Missing Mom: Kou's mother is dead. Yui was abandoned by her mother, since the mother's new husband didn't want to take care of her.
- My Greatest Failure:
- Kou's is being unable to save his mother,
- Tanaka-sensei's is leaving Kou to deal with their mother's illness and death by himself. He was unable to visit often because he lived far away and just becoming a teacher, but it had more to do with being afraid of watching his mother die.
- New Transfer Student: Kou's classmate from Nagasaki, Yui Narumi, is going to turn out like this soon.
- Nice Guy: Touma is respectful of others to the point that his friends accuse him of being a goody-goody. This doubles as a Fan Nickname, where fans have taken up referring him as "GG" before his name was officially revealed.
- No Guy Wants an Amazon: Futaba bases her judgment of reinventing her image on this, as her previous incidents of being more feminine caused her friends to ditch her because she caught the attention of the guys they had a crush on.
- Not What It Looks Like: When Futaba and Touma confront each other about Futaba's Accidental Pervert incident, Kou assumes that Touma's been doing something far worse to Futaba, causing Futaba to invoke this trope.
- Oblivious to Love: Everyone can see that Touma has a crush on Futaba, or at least notices how he's always looking at her or talking to her... that is, unless the person is Futaba herself.
- Off Model: Episode 5 of the anime got the worst of this. Almost every single frame was significantly off-model.
- Official Couple: Futaba and Kou get Unresolved Sexual Tension until They Do get together three chapters before the ending. Also, Shuuko and Kominato become a couple right before the final chapter.
- The One That Got Away: Averted. Kou was apparently this initially, but since he came back, he's an Old Flame.
- Parental Abandonment: Slightly subverted in the fact that Kou spends more time on his studies than with his mother (which is made worse when she dies) coupled with his parents' divorce, this is cited as one of the reasons for Kou's drastic shift into becoming a Broken Bird.
- Pink Girl, Blue Boy: Futaba is usually depicted in pink clothing and backgrounds while her hair colors lean on the warm side. Kou, on the other hand, is often colored using cooler shades. Played straight in the fact that they're respectively the Red Oni, Blue Oni of each other.
- Power Trio: Futaba, Shuuko, and Yuuri spend a lot of time together.
- Product Placement: Cosmetics brand ettusais had a deal with Ao Haru Ride and their lip gloss gleefully appeared in episodes 1 and 8 of the anime.
- Production Throwback: Ninako and Ren from Strobe Edge make a brief appearance in Page 25. Ninako is also mentioned briefly in the drama CD.
- The Promise: Kou promised his brother that he would take care of their mother after the divorce, but he was unable to keep it. It became an Ironic Echo when their mother asked Kou's brother to take care of him shortly before her death. He tries, but Kou continues to push him away.
- Pun-Based Title: Word of God explains the meaning behind the Japanese print title, Ao Haru Ride: the characters for "ao" (blue) and "haru" (spring) make the word "seishun" (youth) when put together.
- Real Men Wear Pink: The colored version of chapter 20's cover depicts Kou wearing a pink shirt. Also, Kominato's favorite color is pink, as stated on his character profile.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Futaba (and Kominato) is the Red to Kou's Blue.
- Running Gag: Tanaka-sensei's odd taste in clothing, which the characters Lampshade every so often.
- Second Love: Touma tries very hard to establish himself as this for Futaba.
- She Is Not My Girlfriend: Kou denies to his casual hang-out buddies that Futaba is his girlfriend. Futaba also has to pull a He Is Not My Boyfriend when describing her relationship with Kou to Yuuri and later Touma.
- Ship Tease: Since Uchimiya became an Ascended Extra, he and Yuuri often get adorable moments together. As of chapter 32, they have become a Beta Couple!
- Shipper on Deck: Kominato is one for Kou and Futaba, though it's more because he wants to help Kou than it is because he thinks Kou and Futaba are a good match. Uchimiya, on the other hand, supports Touma and Futaba.
- Shout-Out: "I saw the light" from the Tagline was inspired by the song "I Saw the Light" by Todd Rundgren, according to an interview with the designer of the series' logo, Yasuhisa Kawatani.
- The CD Kou lent to Yuuri? In the manga, the cover wasn't drawn, but in the anime, the cover has the Dave Matthews Band on it. It fits, as Kou's character profile states that his favorite band is the Dave Matthews Band.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: Tanaka-sensei is a Nice Guy, hard-working, and pretty much goofy. Kou is the opposite, as he's a Brilliant but Lazy Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Futaba spends a lot of time in the beginning of the manga trying to play down her Informed Attractiveness by becoming a Big Eater and a slob just because she's afraid her friends will ditch her for being popular with the boys.
- Solomon Divorce: When Kou's family divorced, his older brother went to live with his father while he went to live with his mother.
- Sour Supporter: Whenever the group make their plans, Grumpy Bear Kou is often the least reluctant to join.
- Stepford Smiler: Kou acts more relaxed around his male peers, while he makes no effort to put up such a front around his friends and his family.
- The Stoic: Shuuko hardly ever shows emotion. Likewise, Kou is also an indicator of this, even when he's annoyed, which is why Futaba has trouble as to understanding what he is really thinking.
- Tagline: The above page quote, which is often written under the title on covers and magazine spreads: "The scent of air after the rain... I heard your pulse. I saw the light."
- Tall, Dark and Snarky: Kou, hands down.
- Teacher/Student Romance: Shuuko has a crush on Tanaka-sensei, who is nine years older than Kou. And he returns those feelings too but seeing as they're teacher/student, he pushes her away.
- That Sounds Familiar: Futaba immediately thinks of Kou when she first sees Tanaka-sensei.
- Thematic Theme Tune: The opening and ending theme songs both deal with being unable to express feelings clearly and how to Be Yourself, a big theme in the series.
- Those Two Girls: Futaba's former friends, Asumi and Chie, and...
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Futaba is the Tomboy to Yuuri's Girly Girl.
- Troubled, but Cute: Kou, hands down.
- Unrequited Love Switcheroo: When Futaba comes to the conclusion that Kou is too caught up with Yui to develop any sort of relationship with her, she decides to move on. This causes Kou to have an epiphany on what matters to him the most, and he begins pursuing her more aggressively.
- Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Kou is nothing like how Futaba remembered him in middle school.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Although they don't get along at first, Kominato and Kou befriend each other during the Class Representatives training camp, though Kou still has trouble thinking of Kominato as a friend.
- Watching the Sunrise: To celebrate being True Companions during the training camp, the group watch the sunrise.
- We Used to Be Friends: Futaba used to be friends with Yumi until Yumi thought she also liked her crush, Naito. Asumi and Chie were also friends with Futaba, though they were more like False Friends.
- When He Smiles: Futaba finds traces of Kou's True Self only when he smiles. After the summer of their second year in high school, she starts noticing he might be a Stepford Smiler.
- She also seems to be able to differentiate his smiles over time, and correctly deduces something happens to Kou when she felt his smile change.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: After Kou re-enters Futaba's life, she becomes more encouraged to change herself in a way that makes her happy.
- You Are Not Alone: Futaba repeatedly affirms Kou this. For Kou, he feels it's his responsibility to show Yui this.
- You Must Be Cold: Kou lends Futaba his hoodie when they watch the sunrise at the leadership camp.