Explore youthful romance with well-realized characters and realistic emotional stakes in this 2014 TV anime
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Do you ever worry that you spend so much time trying to figure out which anime to watch that it feels like your youth is slipping away from you? Fear not, gentle readers, because “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog” is here for you. Each week we provide additional information and cultural context to help fans determine whether or not they'd like to take an unknown series for a test drive.
What's Blue Spring Ride?
Blue Spring Ride (known as Ao Haru Ride in the original Japanese) is a romantic TV anime from 2014 that is directed by Ai Yoshimura (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU) and features animation from Production I.G (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Usagi Drop). The series is based on the manga by Io Sakisaka that was serialized from 2011 – 2015 in Shueisha's Bessatsu Margaret shōjo manga magazine.
Crunchyroll describes Blue Spring Ride as follows:
“At the end of her first year of high school, the main heroine, Futaba suddenly has a chance encounter with her first love, Tanaka Kou. Three years ago, he transferred schools before she was able to say how she felt about him. After meeting each other again, Futaba realizes that he has gone through many changes. He acts more cool and even had his last name changed to Mabuchi. Gradually the two rekindle their love while piecing together what had happened in the time that they were apart.”
This description does a great job explaining the show's premise, but it doesn't really convey how Blue Spring Ride excels at establishing its characters and depicting a blossoming romance. Unlike many other TV anime based on shōjo manga, which tend to be a bit theatrical and overly-dramatic when it comes to conveying the turmoil of adolescent relationships, Blue Spring Ride is both thoroughly understated and highly realistic.
Lighting and Color.
Blue Spring Ride explores its themes visually, especially through the use of lighting and color. Whenever a scene revisits the past, the color palette shifts toward pastels and the lighting assumes a softer focus, implying a sense of distance from both happy experiences and painful ones. Memories are more like hazy, watercolor paintings than solid recollections of a character's history.
Persona and Personality.
There's a disparity between how characters appear and how they truly feel in Blue Spring Ride. For example, the main character Futaba appears to be boisterous, loud, and gluttonous, but these qualities are an affectation. Futaba puts on act to make herself less attractive to her male classmates, because she's afraid of the jealousy and judgment of the girls in her class.
Similarly, Kou seems to be quiet, calm, and collected at first glance, but a closer examination reveals that his cool persona is a defense mechanism that he assumed after suffering a devastating loss. Kou places an extreme emotional distance between himself and others, because he doesn't want to be hurt again. The characters in Blue Spring Ride behave like realistic teenagers: often confused and conflicted, and always second-guessing themselves.
Love and Friendship.
Although Blue Spring Ride is primarily a romance, it also does an excellent job portraying the difficulties of establishing and maintaining friendships. The story is rife with tiny conflicts and misunderstandings that get blown out of proportion. For example, when Futaba and Yuuri realize that they're both falling in love with Kou, they each worry that their feelings will cause their relationship to suffer. Resolving these difficulties is the drama at the heart of Blue Spring Ride.
A Word on Words.
In the original Japanese, Blue Spring Ride is written as “Ao Haru Ride” in Katakana, a script generally reserved for foreign loanwords or expressing an excitement and emphasis. In this case, it's a symbollic gesture. When combined, the Kanji characters for Ao (“青”) and Haru (“春”) form the word Seishun (“青春”), which translates as “youth” or “adolescence”. So Blue Spring Ride is literally a journey through the springtime of youth.
Crunchyroll currently streams Blue Spring Ride in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the United States Minor Outlying Islands. The series is available in the original Japanese with English subtitles. Blue Spring Ride is also released on DVD and Bluray in North America by Sentai Filmworks.
There is also a live-action Blue Spring Ride film from 2014 that is directed by Takahiro Miki and that stars Tsubasa Honda and Masahiro Higashide, but no English language version of the live-action film or the original manga are currently available.
If you're in the mood for a heart-warming romance that deals with relationships in a laid-back and realistic manner, perhaps you should give Blue Spring Ride a try? It's a wonderfully refined and subtle experience, one that evokes strong emotions without resorting to tumultuous, tear-jerking tricks.
Is there a series in Crunchyroll's catalog that you think needs some more love and attention? Please send in your suggestions via e-mail to [email protected] or post a Tweet to @gooberzilla. Your pick could inspire the next installment of “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”!
Paul Chapman is the host of The Greatest Movie EVER! Podcast and GME! Anime Fun Time.