AO HARU RIDE (アオハライド)
Alternative Title: Blue Spring Ride
Director: Takahiro Miki
Cast: Honda Tsubasa, Higashide Masahiro
One rainy afternoon, Yoshioka Futaba rushes towards a temple for shelter and there she meets the quiet Tanaka Kou. After sharing a few timid words, he offers her his gym clothes to dry herself from the rain before running off. From then on, the two exchange hidden glances, rarely saying a word to each other. Before the end of the semester, they agree to meet each other for the summer festival, but Kou never showed. He disappears completely from Futaba’s life until one day in high school, she meets a Mabuchi Kou who looks like the old Kou, but with a different and aloof personality.
As someone who loves and adores the anime and manga of Ao Haru Ride, I was so excited to see this movie but I also had my qualms. Live action movies of shoujo anime are rarely good, sometimes even awful. (Case in point: Sukitte Ii na yo.) So I approached this movie with caution, hoping that I wouldn’t get burned. But alas, this movie didn’t disappoint. There are moments of tender nostalgia and exhilarating beat of youth. I was ready to hate it, but I am happy to say that it can actually stand on its own, separate from the other adaptation and the original material.
It’s difficult for me to separate the movie from the manga and anime, because I hold it so close to my heart. So my standards are high, and I wouldn’t be able to forgive anyone or anything who will bastardize the story I love too much. This movie could be perfect, and I’d still think it’s not enough. And with all that said, I can at least say that this live action movie is a pretty good addition to the franchise.
There’s no dull moments in the plot, save for the few infuriating ones near the end. Then again, the things I didn’t like in the movie are mostly the same ones that annoyed me in the manga. I enjoyed the development of the story, even when the start feels a bit rushed. The conflicts aren’t dragged on but resolved quickly. I wish they showed more of the friendship among Shuuko, Yuri, and Futaba, but given the time, I’m just thankful that it’s given enough focus to see how important it is for Futaba.
While the manga and anime focused on wrong timing and missed connection, the movie dwelled on building relationships on the now and avoiding wallowing on the past. I adore the editing of the movie, and how they connected the past to the present. There’s a great sense of nostalgia on how the past seems to be in great disconnect to the present. It’s a good juxtaposition of how different they were back then, and how still very much the same. Though it’s obvious that the feelings are still there, they are restrained by present circumstances and the changes that they went through during their four years apart.
Though the movie deviates time to time from the manga, it does a pretty good job keeping the best parts of the original source. I understand that some changes are necessary, and it’s already admirable how they managed to squeeze in almost everything in the movie. Fans of the anime who haven’t read the manga might be spoiled, but I still think it’s worth anyone’s time.
It’s not that I like him. Just.. His bony hand, and his fairly clear handwriting and being able to barely see his eyes behind his bangs–these are all more interesting to me than they were before.
Higashide Masahiro’s portrayal of Kou gives depth to the story. I cannot think of a better actor to play Kou. I had my doubts, but he’s a pretty good actor. While Honda Tsubasa is awkward as Futaba, Higashide is natural. His best scenes are the ones where he doesn’t need to say anything. The library scene was my favorite in the manga, so I was glad that it translated well on screen. This may sound cheesy but his eyes really speak volumes! I felt my heart crushed because at that moment, it’s really the Tanaka/Mabuchi Kou that I fell in love with.
Thank you, Higashide Masahiro, for bringing to life my Tanaka Kou. The movie isn’t perfect, but you made it all worthwhile.
There are many things that could be improved, but what they did right is capture the spirit of youth. It’s watching the sunrise with your best friends and knowing that the little moments of fun and laughter are what you’ll remember years later. It’s taking detours, sneaking away during school trips, and making impulsive decisions without worrying about the consequences. It’s friends being friends to each other, and hoping they did even before they weren’t. It’s falling head over heels in love, crying over your broken heart, and desperately trying to get over your heartache. And to make it all worth it, it’s the moments shared between people who matter the most, moments that can’t be explained, only experienced.
Ao Haru Ride is far from being a perfect movie. But it made my heart go doki doki, and to me, that’s more than enough.