Ao Haru Ride Vol 7

Ao Haru Ride Volume 7 by Io Sakisaka

With both Shortcake Cake and Ao Haru Ride coming out at the same time, it feels like the Shojo Beat imprint is going full steam ahead with romance manga that is a bit more introspective than usual. I’m finding all the interior soliloquies more diverting than usual in this series. Is there any kind of tension worse than seeing the slowly moving train wreck of someone making the wrong decision for seemingly noble reasons? It is pretty clear that Kou likes Futuba, and yet his traumatic past and issues dealing with his own grief have led him to willingly step into the role of quasi boyfriend for Narumi, who is surely having her own issues but is also spinning them in order to ensnare Kou into a closer relationship.

Futuba is avoiding Kou and falling back into her overly boisterous behavior, but Kikuchi keeps showing up to talk with her, despite some hilarious glaring from Yuri whenever she is at Narumi’s side. The attempt to put distance between Futuba and Kou utterly fails when Mr. Tanaka sends her over to check on Kou when he is sick. Futuba decides to confront Narumi about her and Kou’s weird co-dependent relationship that has them both stewing in grief, and Narumi promptly admits her tactics and then turns things back around on Futuba by accusing her of being selfish herself for intervening. This of course sends Futuba into another bout of introspection where she questions her own motivations. The forbidden attraction between Mr. Tanaka and Shuko almost spills over into a genuine incident at the school, but Ao Haru Ride tends to keep moving forward through plot twists while preserving the points of tension with the character relationships that keep the larger story suspenseful. The exploration of grief contrasted with the romantic foibles of teenage characters continues to make this series a compelling read.

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