Ao Haru Ride Movie Review [Spoilers at the end, marked]

I went to go see the Ao Haru Ride (“Aoha Ride” in Japanese) movie last week. It’s the story of a girl named Futaba and the boy she begins to fall in love with in middle school, Kou. One day, Kou suddenly disappears from school without a word, with no one knowing how to contact him. Three years later, he shows up again at Futaba’s high school with a different name and seemingly changed personality. Futaba’s feelings for Kou haven’t changed, but have his feelings for her?

[Subbed trailer 1] [Subbed trailer 2]

After watching those 1 min and 40 seconds, you’ve basically just seen the whole movie. I have a lot to say about it. I’ll try not to be too harsh ;) I think most of what I mention can be illustrated with the trailers above.

Beginning Notes

Ao Haru Ride isn’t exactly a new movie anymore, as it came out on Dec. 13, but I needed a movie to see and explain to my teacher for my Japanese lesson, and this was the only movie out that I felt like seeing. I wasn’t going to see it at all, because the trailer didn’t match my mental images of the manga, but I had a friend try to convince me it was good who said it was a 6/10 (is that convincing? haha).

It’s based on a girls’ manga of the same name, of which there are 12 volumes so far. (I just read that it’s set to end soon, which I think is good, because then the story won’t drag out like Kimi ni Todoke feels like it is right now.) I have all 12 volumes of the book, so I’ll be checking some of the scenes against what I saw in the movie today. Since I read them in Japanese, there are probably things I missed or didn’t get completely, but I get worked up during the good parts and bored during the lame parts, so I think I can be a good judge of whether the movie was any good compared to the manga or not.

Comparing the Characters, One by One

Kou: Higashide Masahiro did not match my impression of Kou from the manga when I first saw the trailer, but actually, I felt like he wasn’t bad at the part. I found myself sympathizing with him. He also reminds me a little of Matsumoto Jun. Am I crazy?) He was also reeeally tall next to Kominato-kun (his best friend in the books and movie). I found their info here: Kou is 176 cm (5’9), and Kominato is 178cm (5’10”). So, Kominato is supposed to be an inch taller than Kou, right? Google says Kou’s actor is 189 cm (6’2), and Kominato’s is 170 cm (5’7, same as me!). That was a pretty big difference. He seemed taller than a lot of the students at the high school, too. It was kind of funny watching Kominato give Kou a serious lecture from so far below Kou’s line of vision.

Futaba: Futaba looked similar to the manga, but wasn’t convincingly acted. I wanted to sympathize with Kou more, but I was distracted by the acting. I didn’t get her character–she seemed to change suddenly from weak to strong. Maybe Futaba is a hard character to portray–I think she’s supposed to be endearingly cute, but “endearingly cute” is hard to do on purpose. (Try it sometime! haha)

Narumi: Narumi’s hair is long in the movie and short in the manga, but I guess that doesn’t matter too much. She doesn’t look anything like in the manga, though.

Murao: I pictured Murao as looking older and seeming less friendly, but she wasn’t too bad at her role.

Kominato Aya: Kominato was loud and annoying compared to the book; I’m not sure he came across as quite that ridiculous in the books.

Yuri: Yuri was a little awkward, but not too bad. She has the same hair as the book, but she seems older than the Yuri of the book. Actually, looking at the trailer now, it feels like Yuri should look younger and Murao should look older.

Kikuchi-kun (Futaba’s temporary boyfriend): I thought he looked and acted just like in the book, although he could have looked a little older. And, just like in the book, I thought I liked him at the beginning, and slowly got more annoyed with him as the movie went on. The benefit of this being a movie was that their doomed relationship was shorter and so the viewers have less to suffer (haha).

All: I know they had a lot of ground to cover in the movie, but I wished they’d explored the group’s growing together a little more–during the “leadership training conference” part, I thought it might not make sense why they weren’t getting along without reading the manga. Also, the friendship that came together between the main characters felt a little forced–they all just “came together” during a scene at the beginning and that’s it, best friends.

For all the characters–the group-hug scenes were reeeeally corny. There have got to be better ways to express oneness and friendship besides corny hugging scenes. There were a few people who came into the theater about halfway through the movie and were snickering in the back row. It’s better for other movie goers if you don’t do that, but I had to agree with them.

Flashback Scenes

Despite some differences between the manga and movie, I loved the middle school flashback scenes. It’s a sweet period of both the main characters’ lives in the book, and I felt like the film did it justice. The way it faded into the blue sky and title screen was beautifully done. I want to watch it again. Actually, I thought the middle school actors did a better job, and wanted to just watch the flashbacks as the movie. (I will admit to liking the middle school part of the books the best, as well, even though there are fewer of them.)

Music & Making of the Movie

I loved the music throughout the movie, except for the credits song (I’m not that into Ikimonogakari). I think you can tell from the trailer that the music fit well and was well done:

I felt like the movie was well-filmed; I liked the colors they chose, and the way the scenes were filmed, especially at the beginning (I had some hope that I’d like the movie more at the beginning…) There were parts where the music would stop and it would be silent when a character said something, and I felt like that suited the movie well.

Manga Similarity [SPOILERS]

I have mixed feelings about the scene with the church. I liked the scene where Kou is reading the prayers his mother wrote down for him in a book kept at the church, but then I went back through the books, and none of that is in book 10, where they all go visit that church in Nagasaki. It’s literally just two or three pages of the students all walking around the church, and that’s it. Was there anything about his mom visiting a church in an earlier flashback? I don’t want to go flipping back through all 12 books…

When you watch a movie based on a book or comic, you’re always looking for those things that remind you of the original work. You make allowances when it deviates from the book, because it seems to match the characterization in the book, or goes well with the theme of the book. When I was watching this movie, I recognized certain scenes, but they kept deviating from the book and it bothered me. There’s a part where Futaba calls out to Kou that, in the books, takes place when he’s walked outside, but takes place on the staircase in the movie. Or Kou covering Futaba’s head and then running away in the movie, where in the book they have a cute little exchange, and he stands there next to her, even though he’s obviously a little shy. And having Futaba trip and fall when they were playing that game outdoors in middle school, when in the manga she just got caught trying to get him “out of jail” and they had time to sit together. Or Futaba suddenly having three mean friends instead of two like in the book. Why did they have to change those things in the movie? It seemed unnecessary to me.

Finally, the scene where she pushes him and they both fall down–in the manga, they actually fell down the side of a small hill, so it makes sense that they ended up so close to each other, but in the movie, they’re both walking on a totally flat surface, she runs toward him, she pushes them, and they both fall down. …What?

The movie for “Strobe Edge,” a different movie also based on a manga (which I haven’t read yet) by the same author, is coming out in March. The trailer (here) integrates with scenes from the manga to show you which parts replicate the manga and how close the characters look. I’m really hoping it will do a good job replicating the manga and do a bit better job than this movie did.

(Also, if you stayed for the credits, there was another ad for “Strobe Edge” right at the end. It doesn’t feel very confident of them to have an ad for another movie right after the movie just finished…)

Conclusion

There were too many differences between the manga and the movie. The music and filming were well done, but the acting could’ve been more convincing. I want to like the manga more after seeing the live action. 6/10.

4 thoughts on “Ao Haru Ride Movie Review [Spoilers at the end, marked]

  1. Nice review. Not having read the manga, I wonder what I’d have thought (I’m a sucker for awkward middle schoolers). Thanks for telling about the church scene. You knew I’d wonder!

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