What They Say:
Can you change who you are inside? In middle school, Futaba’s shy nature and cute appearance attracted boys, but made other girls so jealous that she became a social outcast. So, when high school began, Futaba remade herself, becoming sloppy and pretending to be unfeminine… and now she has friends! But her new world comes crashing down when she runs into a boy she used to know: Kou. The one boy who could have become more than just a friend.
Except Kou’s changed as well. So much so that she barely recognizes him. And while the attraction that she used to feel seems to still be there in her heart, he doesn’t seem to feel the same way anymore. Or does he? Is the difference in the way Kou’s acting due to how different she’s ostensibly become? Or have they both changed too much to ever recapture what they had?
The audio presentation for this release is about as you’d expect as we get just the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that’s pretty much all about the dialogue here with little beyond it as there’s no real action or even any big wild take kind of moments either. The music is an area that definitely makes out well here as the incidental pieces gives the show some good life as it weaves in and out of the moments where they make a difference. The opening and closings naturally go bigger, but overall it’s a solid sounding release with what it does musically. The dialogue itself is solid and without problems there as well as there’s not a lot of need for placement though it hits it well when needed. The end result is a pretty good one and fans of the show will enjoy it.
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are kept to just one disc since there’s no English language track. Animated by Production IG, the show has a really great look to it where it takes advantage of the nature of the series where it’s about the dialogue and interactions. The color palette used is wonderfully warm without going too far and they come across in a rich and layered way throughout that accents the mood. There’s a lot of good detail to be had in the backgrounds that gives it a very lived in feeling and that’s carried through to the character designs as well. There’s a richness to the design that doesn’t go overboard and the transfer captures it beautifully throughout. It’s a very engaging looking show and it’s easy to get lost in some of these scenes when you really look at the details.
The packaging design for this release is a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the single disc that it comes with. The front cover is a beautiful piece of artwork as we get Kou and Futaba together as they look into each other’s eyes. With the soft white background and the use of the green through their hair and clothes, it has a really warm and distinctive look about it. There’s some great detail to the character designs and the expressiveness in their faces is wonderful with what it represents. The logo is kept simple to the upper right corner where it also has the subtitle to it which adds a nice little touch overall The back cover transitions to white and blues for its color with a good breakdown of the premise, some cute character shots of the cast as a whole and some really nice Futaba character illustration artwork. The episode count is clearly listed as are the extras. The remainder breaks down the production and technical information in a clear and accurate way. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is really nicely done as it blends the static visual with the navigation itself. The static image is focused on Kou, which is a welcome change from the female-centric focus these shows usually have, as we get him in a playful pose with a soft white background and other colors that really gives it a warm feeling. There’s a lot of detail to it and I love Kou’s expression. The navigation strip along the left has a good shaded blue bar to it that has the episodes by name and number, which is pretty minimal based on how they’re titled while the logo is kept to the lower right. It’s a simple menu, but the artwork and the graphics used for the navigation takes it up a few notches.
The only extras included for this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Based on the manga series by Io Sakisaka, Blue Spring Ride is originally known as Ao Haru Ride and it aired during the summer 2014 season. The original manga finished up this year with thirteen volumes and the anime has its own ending that’s a bit open-ended to be sure but still feels complete for what it wants to do. The property has been fairly popular as it also got a light novel series that ran for five volumes and is still ongoing and it even had a live-action film on top of the anime adaptation. Fans essentially got a number of ways to enjoy the story of young love and the various struggles that comes with it.
The series revolves around high school first year’s Futaba and Kou, two kids that knew each other as first years in middle school and had feelings for each other back then. It didn’t get out there in full because things got in the way to keep them apart; Futaba had a moment where she said she hated boys, in general, which made an impact on him before he could say anything, and then his parents divorced over summer break and he moved away with her while his father and older brother (who would become a teacher at the high school they now go to) stayed in town. That separation between the two with things left unsaid has its own complications, especially for Futaba as she was viewed in a certain way by others that caused her to be separated from most people.
So when these two characters do come back together later in the first year as Kou transfers back in, there’s an interesting rediscovery that plays out as neither is sure what the other is thinking nor what they think themselves because the passage of time. Three years isn’t a lot of time overall, but in this period of life it’s something where these kids change in significant ways, physically and mentally. Futaba’s main problem as we get to know her as a first year here is that she has people she calls friends, but they’re really just acquaintances that hang out as opposed to true friends. When she rediscovers Kou, who had actually transferred in awhile ago, he makes the comment about how they really are as he sees the way they avoid doing anything that real friendship requires. It’s almost cruel in a way because it shatters the protected life that she had built so as to not be hurt again, but it’s a necessary moment for her to start living and making real and potentially lasting relationships, albeit with a different set of friends as these cannot be salvaged.
There is a familiar enough arc to be had here with the series as we get the two of them engaging in an orbit of will they really move forward and admit what they feel and become something more. It’s a tried and true arc to be sure and it works well here because the characters feel real enough within the context of the show, though the usual problem applies in that there is little to their lives outside of the school and the interactions between each other. This is the only really frustrating part in a way because nobody seemingly has anything else going on in terms of activities or interests that really humanizes them. We get a couple of quirks, which is nice, but it really needed that something extra to flesh them out.
What helps offset some of that a bit is the range of friends that grows around them as they interact more and more. Futaba ends up befriending a girl named Yum in her class who is ostracized because of the way she gets “girlish” when dealing with boys, something that the other girls find to be fake and inauthentic. With Kou and Futaba becoming class reps together, they get help from Yumi as it goes on and with another quiet girl in class named Murao who has her own subplot going on by being interested in one of the teachers in the school – which of course happens to be Kou’s older brother. It’s a very minor subplot overall, but it adds some nice color to events and Murao’s expressions are priceless in many scenes. Kou has a friend named Aya that adds a little more maleness to the group, but he’s even more on the periphery, particularly since he’s trying to pursue Murao.
The orbits of the characters are a lot of fun to watch and it even manages to navigate the problem of Yumi, who is thrilled to finally have a seemingly real friend in Futaba, discovering that she has feelings for Kou when he’s nice to her. There’s plenty to explore in the reasons why she’s like that yet her background really isn’t delved into all that much. Even Futaba’s background isn’t given much time. This is a complicated area as to why people like other people in this way and having those elements available would make it a richer experience. Still, the two are really interesting to watch as we see Futaba struggle with her own feelings and realizing that they are real and wanting to be honest with Yumi about it. There’s good reason for that as it goes back to the start of the series and her own falseness with others and the desire to not repeat it. Whether it could happen as it does in reality is another thing, but at least we see that the two are conflicted and uncertain and it’s only offset by Murao feeling comfortable enough to reveal her own interests.
Not surprising is that the character to get fleshed out the most is Kou. In a way, I felt like there were shades of Kare Kano in the mix as we dig into his background with the divorce of his parents and other things that happened afterward. Some of this comes from the “polite society” aspect of not asking more of someone than you should and not sharing more than you should combined with being an uncertain teenager in a difficult spot. Giving the time for him to reveal to Futaba what happened, less why the divorce happened, and then exploring the relationship with his brother and the stronger one with his mother was really well done. It may come as a kind of info dump episode in a way yet it imparted so much and with such weight because of how he felt and the performance that it really connected well with me and helped to make the growth for both him and Futaba feel more real.
The series doesn’t have a full and formal ending like the manga does since it was produced while the manga was ongoing and we do get the teases of the next storyline and challenges that faces this pair ahead. That works well because it feels like we really do get the end of a book here as opposed to the end of an opening chapter of their lives, allowing it closure but knowing there’s more to be told. The cast as a whole is very charming in this series, and could have been even more so with just a bit more material for each of them, but at its core and focus with the leads it succeeds in crafting a very enjoyable and emotional connection. It’s a beautiful looking show that doesn’t go overboard with its visuals or atmosphere and it plays the pacing well while building a solid cast. Sentai keeps things simple here with their own presentation and while I would have loved a dub I’m simply glad to get it in high definition and looking great as it does.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 10th, 2015
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.