Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Ao Haru Ride volume 7 is filled to the brim with plot and emotion (Manga Review)

Ao Haru Ride vol. 7 - 7.5/10

My favorite part of Ao Haru Ride vol. 7 (Shojo Beat/Viz) is that we get to see another side of Shuko, one of the side characters. We also see that Kou is completely aware of his complex feelings regarding Futaba and Narumi, and stuck with what to do about them. Further, that other boy, Kikuchi, keeps showing up. How long can Kou deny Futaba before Kikuchi scoops her up? That's a lot to pack into a volume, and this one is just as good as the rest of the series has been so far.

To catch up, Futaba and Kou had a mutual crush in middle school before Kou mysteriously vanished. Now back, with a new last name, we find out Kou was taking care of his sick mother and when she died, he moved back in with his father. But during that time away, he met a young lady named Narumi who was also going through something similar. Just as Kou and Futaba seem about to rekindle their romance, Narumi shows up and Kou seems determined not to let her suffer in silence like he did. But to do so, he's drifting away from Futaba.

That's how we left it at volume 6. What volume 7 shows is that Kou is still interested in Futaba, but that he doesn't know how to balance his sense of honor and empathy towards Narumi while also keeping Futaba close. He has a small emotional reservoir, and he can't seem to find enough for everyone, let alone thinking about himself and what he might actually want.

In volume 7, it appears as though Kou is skipping student council meetings and even school to be with Narumi. But Futaba discovers that Kou has actually been sick instead. She learns this when his brother, a teacher at their school, asks her to make a delivery of some groceries for Kou. The interaction between Futaba and Kou's brother sets up another conflict when they are spotted and accused of having an illicit teacher-student relationship by the principal. From there, Shuko (one of Futaba's best friends) gets some time to expand her characterization in the series for the first time (as she's long been in love with the teacher).

I won't give the details away of Shuko's part in the story, because it is really an affecting end to the volume. But we see more to Shuko's personality than the somewhat stereotypical depiction of the tall, beautiful, cool personality we've been given to date. This is welcome. Three dimensional characters are always preferable, and between Futaba, Kou, Yuri, and now Shuko, we have at least four complex characters in this story. There's also some hope for further development in several of the other male characters as well. That's great writing!

We also get a confrontation between Futaba and Narumi as well as more evidence that Kikuchi isn't going to back down in his pursuit of Futaba. Futaba doesn't yet seem aware of his intentions. All in all, we have a ton going on in this volume and it's expertly woven together across the five chapters.

The art continues to be some of the finest shoujo art I've seen with detail and drama in every line but also all the sparkle and visual emotion you could ask for. That we have great art and strong character driven writing makes this a special series. That it also presents a relatively realistic story without unnecessarily over-dramatic or outrageous plot points just furthers it as a seminal series in the making.

Volume 7 of Ao Haru Ride continues the trend of this being a super incredible series so far. It's the series I'm reading that I'm most excited about in that each volume gives so much of what I love: great writing, great characters, great art, great romance, and dramatic realism mixed with compassion and kindness towards its characters. This volume gets a 7.5/10. I'm tempted to rate it even higher, but it's somewhat of a transitional volume in the story as it builds towards some new plot highs. So consider that a score leaving room for the awesomeness I anticipate coming as some of these story threads come to a head.


Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

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