Saturday, December 21, 2019

Ao Haru Ride volume 8 - Kou misses his chance (Manga Review)

An attractive high school boy in uniform is smiling slightly
Ao Haru Ride vol. 8 - 8/10

Ao Haru Ride volume 8 continues this excellent series with complex characters and meaningful changes without over-dramatic plot points.

In "Ao Haru Ride" vol. 8 (Shojo Beat/Viz), Futaba has asked Kou for a clear rejection and he delivers. However, it is clear that he really does want to be with her, but is blocked by both his depression and his allegiance to a female friend who has suffered a similar family trauma to Kou's. With's Kou's mistake, Kikuchi finally makes his own feelings known to Futaba. The question is, will Futaba reciprocate and leave Kou behind?

Like the other volumes in the series so far, volume 8 delicately balances real emotional depth, with just enough drama to keep it interesting, without ever descending into soap-opera territory. Kou's motivations, even if a bit overwrought, are clear and consistent. The way Futaba's friend Yui roots for her even though she too liked Kou, protects Futaba from Kikuchi, but also begins to reconsider whether Kikuchi might be a good match for Futaba, demonstrates the depth of character writing. Even the side characters in this series are complex and thoughtful.

Similar to the prior volumes as well, not a lot happens in volume 8 and yet sooooo much happens. There are so many small moments, moments of self-realization, moments of courage, moments of sadness and numbness all throughout everyday interactions and they all subtly add up over the course of the chapters. This is romance and slice-of-life at its best. It isn't driven by huge plot points but instead by the small daily events and interactions that are likely to be intimately familiar or relatable to the reader.

Futaba also continues to show her agency, seen in her from the earliest chapters. We may not always agree with how she's actualizing herself (such as changing the way she dresses or acts), but she has a clear mission to move herself forward none-the-less. Kou even calls her out on some of her choices in this volume. After he rejects her, she starts to dress up more, but Kou can't resist telling her he liked her better before, even though he had turned her down. His cognitive dissonance (his love for her mixed with his inability to move his own life forward) plus her resolution to lead her own life and make her own way creates two powerful characters with rich psyches. Hopefully their mutual internal work will pay off in the end.

The art continues to be some of the best I've ever seen in manga. I love the way Sakisaka-sensei does eyes. They are fully round and say so much and are unique in their style. Overall, there is incredible depth of shading and screen-tone use (so many sparkles!!!!!). The emotional range of the characters' expressions is amazing without ever getting comical. So between the excellent art and the writing, this remains an exceptional series and volume 8 is right on par with that quality.

Ao Haru Ride volume 8 gets a strong 8/10.


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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