Ao Haru Ride Volume 6 by Io Sakisaka
I’m enjoying the way this series presents young romance with a sense of nostalgia mixed with compassion. Futuba’s heightened awareness of memory and lost time as she attempts to get to know Kou after not being in contact with him for years has her approaching school milestones with great introspection as she attempts to find just the right moment to confess her renewed feelings.
Complications loomed at the start of this volume, as it is clear that Kou has gotten himself a bit enmeshed with a former classmate named Narumi, who is leaning on him as her main source of emotional support. Narumi shows up at the school festival, and Futuba tries to figure out what sort of relationship she and Kou have. Futuba’s friends see through this situation and warn her of being too trusting. Kou continues to be motivated by jealousy, when he sees Futuba make a point of attending a performance from Kikuchi’s band, he also attends and they accidentally kiss. The fallout of this event dominates the rest of the volume as Futuba tries to figure out what it all means, if anything.
As far as enigmatic yet troubled dark-haired shoujo male protagonists go, Kou is rapidly moving up my unofficial rankings. He has not yet reached the heights of Izumi Sano from Hana-Kimi, but who knows how I’ll feel by the end of this series. While his tendency to go hot and cold and engage in impulsive actions that cause Futuba to experience the torments of teenage angst, his background and his own emotional turmoil still make him sympathetic. There’s a hilarious sequence where Futuba keeps running away because she doesn’t want Kou to be able to see her face and he keeps running after her, eventually cornering her in a classroom where she proceeds to hurl maid costumes at him. Futuba again gets some key advice from her friends as she struggles to deal with her emotions. Kou disregards the advice of his friends who tell him, quite reasonably, that “You can’t save everyone!”
This volume of Ao Haru Ride concludes by pulling off an impressive narrative maneuver of making mostly everybody miserable, but all for very good reasons. Surely this will sustain the shoujo drama for several more volumes and I have to say I am willing to endure plenty of tears to eventually get some sort of happy ending, or somewhat wistful conclusion.