Episode 3: Page 3
It’s a start of new beginnings for lovely Futaba, as she embarks on a new school year with new friends and tries to rekindle and make new the could-have-been relationship with Kou. It maintains the flow of a mellow and sometimes sombre atmosphere but there’s always this spark that I feel whenever watching this show, or reading the manga, and I can really see why it’s such a popular series in Japan.
We start off with a flashback to middle school and Futaba recalls how she and Kou never really spoke but rather “fumbled” through their relationship. It was all about secretly-met gazes before they’d turn away, blushing and then quietly catch each others’ eyes again. It’s so high school and awfully sweet and makes me smile just thinking about it. Of course, now things are different and both these characters are so much more vocal about things to each other than they were before. It’s as if the playing field has changed but their feelings and attitudes towards one another along with it. Futaba happily tells Kou that she’s going to make mistakes but, rather than live the way she did with her fake friendships, she’s going to do her best to start again. While he may not know it, he’s part of that renewed vigour she’s got going on, but even so, he’s happy for her and tells her.
Also, Tanaka Youichi (Hirakawa Daisuke) from the last episode? Yeah, he finally gets properly introduced when he offhandedly informs Kou that he’s coming over for dinner and will be staying the night. Whoa, not something to say in a hormone-driven environment, as Futaba freaks and wonders just what their relationship is until Kou flatly sets her straight and introduces her to his older brother. Tanaka-sensei is a riot and adorable and I have such a soft spot for him. It helps that I adore Hirakawa Daisuke’s voice, who, along with voicing Rei from Free, another Rei from Love Stage!! and Akari from Karneval, he also did the Japanese dub for Legolas from the LotR series, which, whoa. But ahem, yes, Tanaka-sensei is lovely and sweet and wants so much to get back the relationship he had with his baby brother that it almost hurts to see him being brushed aside and ignored. Tanaka’s whole “Onii-san is waiting for you” really broke my heart.
Anyways, at some point when Futaba introduces herself to him her name triggers something and he immediately remembers that back in middle school, back when the two brothers were still close, he once walked in on Kou writing Futaba’s name in his notebook but Kou grabs Futaba before he has the chance to reveal that little tidbit. What I actually like about the show is that Futaba and Kou have history, hence it’s not all that strange that they kind of fall into one another so easily after so long. They touch way more than any two people who’ve just met ever would but it’s not done in a way that highlights the fact that they’re so tactile with one another. It’s done very subtly and in a delightfully understated way that doesn’t take the focus away from all the roiling feelings and baggage these two have. It’s safe to say that Futaba is still sort of lost in the whole shock that Kou’s back in her life again and she’s also frightened that he’s going to disappear suddenly. And that’s when Kou asks her whether she waited for him all those years ago, to which she cries that yes, she waited for him for hours. And I think that really hits a nerve in him for he really apologises, telling her that his family had started to go through some issues at the start of the summer holiday and that it was around when his parents divorced. She realises that he went through a much more difficult time than she ever did and apologises for bringing those bad memories up. And that’s another thing I really like about Futaba; she knows when she’s wrong and she apologises immediately, sparing everyone the drama and the misunderstanding. She’s such a hear-on-sleeve person and I really like that about her character. Somehow she just works as the female protagonist.
Still, she promises that she’s really going to move forward and do her best with friends and most of all, with Kou. So when the new school year starts, she’s pleased that Makita is in her class, but by her association with Makita, and because everyone knows of the way Futaba ‘broke up’ with her friends at the end of the previous semester, she immediately gets lumped as scary and a ‘yankee’ (lol, what?) and misses her chance at being friends with everyone. It’s not only Makita whom she knows, but somehow Kou gets dropped from the advanced class and placed into hers and she watches both in fondness and in envy at the ease at which he speaks to people. Discouraged and upset, the Tanaka/Mabuchi siblings seem to just have that gift of lifting people up, though in entirely different ways. Tanaka-sensei nudges her in the direction of perhaps going for class representative but it’s really Kou who says to her that whether she doesn’t try or whether she does is up to her but either way it’s not like she’d be hurting anybody by it, that helps her volunteer as the female class rep.
Whether it’s because he’s in awe of her, or just surprised that she even tried, Kou volunteers as male rep alongside her, but chalks it down to just wanting to be able to go home faster. Expectedly, Makita joins in as an activities officer, followed surprisingly by Murao and then, not so surprisingly, by her shadow, Kominato (KENN). So finally, the two MC’s and their vice characters are all together and the story really starts to kick off but in that gentle, hopeful way that Ao Haru Ride is so good at.
The Characters/Episode Highlights
I’ve already waxed lyrical about my love for Tanaka-sensei, so at least that’s out of the way, but I suppose I just love every single scene that Futaba and Kou are in together, especially when they get some alone time. I adore that unsteady balance between them that only Futaba seems to be making an effort to quell. She’s forceful without being overbearing and it’s like she uses every single event that happens to learn and to improve herself. To me, this series is as much a story about romance as it is about character-development, and I think that’s very special.
On another note, I’ve got to give a shoutout to Murao Shuuko (Komatsu Mikako) and Kominato Aya (KENN) because these two are the epitome of beautiful but fragile ice queen and happy-go-lucky but deeply emotional sunshine puppy and theirs is a story I’m really looking forward to in this series. For one, Murao is beautiful and sharp-tongued in this very deadpan way and I love that about her. Kominato has always been a bit of a favourite for me because of how sweet he is, even if he does try too hard. Also, the fact that he’s voiced by KENN, the same seiyuu who voiced my beloved Kanbara Akihito from Kyoukai no Kanata is such a major plus in my books. I LOVE LOVE LOVE his voice and how boyish it is. ^^ So yes, is anybody else excited about these two???
I think I’ve said it all already so I’ll keep this short. I can’t watch this show without smiling or without feeling like my heart is about to jump right out of my chest. It’s intense in this very sombre manner and while so many happy things happen on screen, there is that constant undercurrent of heaviness that really made itself known in the manga. I’m not sure how much of that they’re going to do in this 13-episode series, but I’m really glad they’ve included it now, since the show wouldn’t be the same without it. Good job once again and I’m loving the pacing and can’t wait until the next episode!