Will this be The Shojo Anime I Actually Like? Stay turned to find out!

A girl named Yoshioka Futaba had a huge mutual crush on a guy named Tanaka Kou in junior high, but due to a ‘misunderstanding’ they never actually ended up together. (Okay, the ‘misunderstanding’ was her yelling loudly that she hated all men for no apparent reason in the school hallway, and he transferred shortly after.)  Three years later, she’s now in the third trimester of senior high and well into the new image she’s projected for herself. At her old school, she was apparently hated by other girls for being cute and popular with guys, so she has decided to make herself as unwomanly as possible (whilst still looking like a cutesy poo shojo heroine, ok whatever) so that other girls won’t hate her, because shojo anime universe rules make no goddamn sense.  Somehow, she never noticed that Kou was at this same senior high school, although his last name has changed due to his parents’ divorce. That’s not all that has changed, though – although he apparently still has some feelings for her, he declares that they can’t go back to how things were due to these changes.

dun dun…dun?

It’s not that I actively try to dislike shojo anime, it’s actually the opposite. I want to like it. Every single time there’s a new school romance shojo anime out, I want it to be The One. ‘Maybe this one won’t make me weirdly uncomfortable. Maybe this one won’t bore me to tears. Maybe this one won’t be another almost documentary on Why Teenagers Are Ridiculous.’ It’s because of this that I sometimes wonder if I’m not the best person to review shojo anime, because I usually end up hating it regardless and then afterwards wonder if it actually would have been called good by someone who thoroughly enjoyed the medium. I think a lot of it has to do with me just getting to be too old for it – the whole acting like highschool is the most important time of anyone’s life thing, and the fact that teenage angst and idiotic romantic misunderstandings are my least favourite plot devices ever, etc. (After Nagi no Asukara I think I’ve had my fill of that for the next five years or so.) Also, after actually working at Japanese high schools and seeing all the popularity contest bullshit that goes on for real, it becomes even less enjoyable. Somehow I still try to be optimistic every time I watch a shojo anime though.

Too bad then, because Ao Haru Ride is just another example of why it’s really not for me. I don’t know why Futaba likes Kou, because he doesn’t seem to have any personality whatsoever besides ‘being soft-spoken’, and I don’t know why he likes (or ‘liked’) her, because she’s an idiot with a manufactured personality that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Speaking of which, there are some interesting themes here in regards to the stupid bullshit teenagers subject each other to in high school for the sake of popularity, and I’m sure you could take Futaba’s behaviour as a statement about it if you wanted to (you could certainly take it as commentary on Japanese gender roles, whether intentional or not), but that doesn’t really mean it’s particularly pleasant to watch. The good thing is that although I was getting steadily more and more annoyed as Futaba just casually mentioned how the cute girl in the class had no friends because all the other girls hated her for being cute, the ending credits were quite revealing as it showed them being friends. Therefore I can probably assume that this series will involve Futaba learning that the friends she has to try to impress in order to be friends with them (by…overeating and acting ‘unwomanly’?) are not her real friends and that people who are actually nice to her are, which is, at least, a decent moral for young girls to have. Thing is, that also means the show hasn’t exactly started ‘for real’ yet, so I kind of feel like I’m judging it unfairly, but hey, it’s a First Impression review.

The most interesting thing about the series was the watercolour effect the animation had at the beginning, which was honestly rather exciting for me…and then it was revealed that it only looked like that because it was a flashback. Otherwise, there’s nothing particularly impressive or memorable about the artwork at all. The character designs aren’t necessarily bad or boring, but they’re also not particularly interesting, and the animation is neither good nor bad.

Again, the worst thing about reviewing shojo anime is because once again, I just don’t care for it. I honestly can not tell if Ao Haru Ride qualifies as ‘a good shojo anime’ or ‘a bad shojo anime’, all I know is that it already has a lot of teenage angst and misunderstandings that I do not give a flying shit about, so that’s that. If you do like shojo anime and eat these kind of school romance stories up, well I guess you could do a lot worse, so at least try it.

Cool Trivia Time: most japanese bread, especially the crap they sell at schools,  is pretty nasty and overly processed. Eating that much of it can’t be healthy. Maybe that’s why she looks so sad.

Out of 5,