This is my third review under this month’s section on the Girl’s Perspective in anime. And to commemorate the vernal equinox, I intentionally decided to review this show (but also because I’ve been putting off a review of this series for far too long)! This shoujo anime is adapted from the manga by the same title, which first serialized in Bessatsu Margaret, and is written and drawn by Io Sakisaka.
One goal of empowering girls and women is to encourage them to act in activity, as opposed to passivity (to borrow a few words from Simone de Beauvoir). Girls tend to be much more active than passive, in that they can still dream and feel like they can do anything so long as they work at it. But in several feminist critiques I have read, women soon learn of their social destinies, and many have come to accept a role that holds them down to certain expectations that are not self-imposed, but imposed by others. But as we come to know this series, our Yoshioka Futaba refrains from acting in passivity, actively pursuing her goals and making her own decisions!
Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride) sets us in a present-day Japan in the eyes of Yoshioka Futaba, a high school girl who apparently used to be one of the “cute” girls, but has decided to become one with the class reps. And those who know school clique dynamics knows that she’s basically decided to become one with the nerds (which is totally fine by me, because that’s where I was in high school, eons ago. But I digress). She remembers a boy from her childhood, Kou Tanaka, and remembers that she used to like him. As chance would have it, Kou comes back in her life during these awkward years of adolescence; but she will soon find out that the boy she once knew had changed more than just his surname!
Kou now goes by his mother’s name, Kou Mabuchi. And now that he’s in high school, he’s even more aloof and antisocial than ever. He doesn’t want to explain why he has changed so much, even after seeing that crazy tomboyish girl, Yoshioka, again. In fact, it seems that he has stopped trusting people altogether.
Needless to say, Kou is playing the role of “hard to get;” and if we are to assume girls have the role of passivity, they wouldn’t even bother trying to get to know Kou at all! But Yoshioka isn’t like that. In fact, Yoshioka makes it a point to pursue this mysterious Kou as the protagonist. Yoshioka does things her way; and no one is going to tell her otherwise!
I should point out that this series is more than just comedy. Sakisaka’s storytelling comes from the more traditional definition of comedy, where the story is intended to lift up the audience in a way that is inspiring and otherwise feels good. That’s why the series is often marked as both a comedy and a drama. I’m sure I’ve said my piece in my Great Moments in Summer 2014 Anime highlights, but that moment that fans simply call the “train scene” is one of the most beautiful moments in anime, one that even the manga can’t capture nearly as well!
Not to give away any endings, but Yoshioka eventually learns more about Kou and his family, but not without a great deal of challenges she faces with her friends. Throughout the series, Yoshioka comes in conflict with more than just Kou or herself, but also with her friends. There are also times when her friends actually come across as the subjects of this story, not just Yoshioka. For example, Aya Kominato tries to make his happy-go-lucky moves on the Shuko, who’s even more aloof than Kou! And we also can’t forget Yoshioka’s own rival/friend Yuri, who’s also competing for Kou’s affection.
However, as fate would have it, Yuri acts more in passivity than Yoshioka, seemingly waiting on Kou to notice her by acting really cute. And for a while anyway, she was actually winning! Yoshioka can’t help but get jealous in these moments. But even though they have this rivalry, Yoshioka isn’t going to let that get in the way of their bond. Yoshioka wouldn’t let a trivial conflict of interest ruin her friendship.
But aside from Yoshioka and her friends, Kou has a similar reconciliation with his family. Kou doesn’t get along well with his father or his brother, affectionately known to the others as Tanaka-sensei (because he teaches at their school). But even so, something about Yoshioka makes him want to change the way he sees these family members that left him and his mother behind. In an effort to have him open up to Yoshioka, it seems that Kou has opened up to his own family as well. Perhaps Kou, too, is reminded that he isn’t alone in the conflicts he faces either!
As individuals, we aren’t very significant to the rest of the world. But when we are with our friends and family, we can make life important to us. And over time, it is in those memories shared with them that make life worthwhile.
So if you’re looking for a heartwarming anime series where the girl is in control of her own destiny along with others, watch Blue Spring Ride. And may this Spring season warm you up as well… or in my case, cool me down. Because here in Southern California, it feels like Summer!