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?
This release only comes with the Japanese language track, which is offered in 2.0. The mix is fine, with some decent directionality with sound effects and some dialogue across the channels. As a dub person, I wish there was one, but I can understand why they wouldn’t invest in that for a show like this. Still, it’s disappointing.
Visually, this is a nice anime. There are some good, distinct character designs, and the digital transfer is generally nice. There were some moments of minor pixelization, but nothing super noticeable. As a slice-of-life shoujo anime, there’s nothing here that will blow you away, but it is very nice for what it is.
The two discs in this release come in a single amaray case. I really like the coloring of the art used on both the front and back covers, as there are base color schemes on both sides (green on the front, pink on the back), with blocking used in the bolder colors to really differentiate them. It’s a cool effect that I can’t say I’ve seen before, and it really sparked my attention. The discs use the same coloring approach on their pictures too. Outside of that, the design is otherwise fairly straight forward, with a picture of Futaba and Kou on the front holding hands, and Futaba on the back looking as if she’s just plunged into water with all of the technical details and screen shots surrounding her. But the coloring makes it pop for me.
The menus on this release rea pretty basic but functional. The left of the screen is dominated by the same image that is on that specific disc, while the episodes are listed individually on the right. The theme song plays while on the main menu, and it’s on a full 90 second loop, so it won’t get old quickly if the menu is left up for a while. There is nothing special here, but it works perfectly fine, and that’s all that matters.
The only extras on this set are clean versions of the OP/ED.
Before deciding to watch Blue Spring Ride, I knew absolutely nothing about it. I hadn’t even heard about it before it popped up for review, but (if the Packaging section above didn’t make it clear) I loved the look of the front cover, and that was enough to make me want to look into it. Then I read a synopsis, and it did nothing to sell me on the story. It didn’t sound bad, but it didn’t sound like anything I’d be particularly interested in, either. But I took a flyer anyway, because I really liked the cover. Does that sound silly? Well, I don’t care if it does, because that’s the way it worked, and I’m glad that I took that flyer, because Blue Spring Ride ended up being a great series.
In middle school, Futaba Yoshioka was not particularly well liked by her classmates. She was cute, and incredibly shy, which sparked the interest of many of the boys in class. And, in turn, that also sparked the jealousy of her female classmates. She was relentlessly bullied because she was so popular with the boys. To make matters worse, she never actually dated any of the boys in class either, so she couldn’t even claim those friendships. The closest she ever got was being asked to attend the summer festival with Kou Tanaka, a boy that she liked. But before she could meet him, he heard her tell another classmate in self-preservation that she didn’t like boys, so he never showed up for the date. As it turns out, he never returned to class after the summer break, either, so she was never able to explain herself.
Fast forward a couple years, and upon entering high school, Futaba completely reinvents herself. Gone is the shy, reserved girl, replaced by a loud, out-going, somewhat vulgar girl. This new persona isn’t who Futaba is, but she opted to make this change in an effort to turn off the guys and hopefully therefore avoid the jealousy of the girls. It works, and she thinks she is happy, but she knows deep down she is living a lie and that her friends aren’t really friends.
This realization is spurred on by the appearance of two people into her life: Yuri Makita and Kou Mabuchi. Yuri is a girl in her class who is cute and shy and popular with the boys, and therefore enrages the girls in the way that Futaba used to. Kou Mabuchi is new to the school, and eventually, Futaba realizes that he is the former Kou Tanaka that she used to have a crush on. But when she tries to rekindle their friendship, he acts mostly cold towards her. Upon witnessing the pain that her “friends” inflict upon Yuri, and after some pointed words from Kou, Futaba comes to know that the path to her happiness lies on a different path than insincere popularity, and she begins the struggle to reinvent herself again in a more natural way.
At its core, Blue Spring Ride is a story about the possible love being rekindled by Futaba and Kou, and the struggles they face to get over their own hang-ups and be willing to admit it. This central theme is the thread that keeps the story moving. For all his coldness towards her, Kou does not shy away from Futaba and regularly does things for her that shows he cares. And for her part, Futaba is concerned over what has happened in just two years to make the happy-go-lucky Kou she once knew become the sullen, withdrawn Kou that she knows now, and she is determined to figure out how she can bring him out of his shell.
But in a larger context, the story is just as much about friendship. When she realizes the façade she has built for herself is just causing her more problems, Futaba sets about to learn how to be herself and begin cultivating real friendships. It starts with Yuri. When she sees Yuri being bullied in the same way she used to be, she reaches out a hand of friendship to her, and eventually stands up to her so called friends, ostracizing herself once again. But then she gets to know Yuri better and begins to come out of her own shell. Soon after, other social outcasts Shuko Murao and Aya Kominato join their little group, and they all begin to forge a real camaraderie.
But while the four slowly begin to come together and learn what it is like to have real friends, they continue to have issues with Kou. They know Kou cares, as he always seems willing to help out, but he continues to show coldness to all of those around him, and when the topic turns to the issues that he is hung up on, he shuts them out. Figuring out how to get to him is what brings all of them closer together, and it is a fascinating journey. In time, Futaba realizes that she still loves him, and it is that love that drives her to help him, no matter how much he pushes her away. Yuri also develops her own little crush on Kou, but rather than spark jealousy in Futaba, it brings the two of them closer together as their determination to help him out strengthens. Sure, it occasionally sparks some of the random, silly misunderstandings that tend to happen in anime like this, but those brief moments are the exception to the rule, not the rule itself. And as Murao and Kominato see the two struggle for Kou, they willingly join in the ride, doing what they can to both support them and help him.
This series does a really good job of melding these two plot threads together. While the burgeoning relationship developing between Futaba and Kou is obviously the force that drives the entire story (and is presumably explored in much further detail in the manga), the anime focuses just as much on this friendship angle between the five, and it is finding a way of breaking down the walls Kou has built that becomes the A plot here. As the (now completed) manga is not currently available in this country, I might have liked to have seen a more conclusive resolution to the feelings that Futaba and Kou feel for one another, but it is actually not important to the overall goal of the story as presented here. I can be (and certainly am) interested to see how it all unfolds for the two (and Yuri, for that matter), but what we have here is a great examination of how friendships can help one another solve various personal problems.
What I think I was most surprised with is how each of the five has his/her own personal issues that he/she is stuck with, and at various points, those issues are addressed. But rather than fall back on the standard structure of stopping the story to sort them out one at a time (i.e. this is a Murao episode, and now this is a Yuri episode, etc.), they are addressed in the larger context of the larger story, keeping it moving and giving it a great flow. It feels a lot more natural in this way, and I enjoyed it a lot.
This is a series that I honestly can’t think of much “negative” to say. Sure, I might have liked a bit more resolution to the relationship between Futaba and Kou, but at the same time, that really wasn’t the main goal of the series, and it does ultimately leave little doubt as to where it will eventually go from here if we were to go and read the manga. So the issue is more of my wants than of a real, particular flaw in the plot. Otherwise, this is a beautiful examination of the importance of friendship, both from a social standpoint and a psychological one. I didn’t really expect much from Blue Spring Ride going in, but it didn’t take me long to fall in love with it. Highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening and Closing
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 10, 2015
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony PS3 w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System