It’s a tricky thing to engage in a new romantic relationships when you’re still entangled in a past one, or at least in one that you desired would happen. Yoshioka discovers this when she accompanies Mabuchi (in her eyes, “strictly as a friend”) on a visit to his old neighborhood. But as she sees him beginning to be released from his painful past, her feelings for him increase as well, a most complicated happening since she’s, you know, dating someone else. But Yoshioka is nothing if not sincere, and is willing to confront the question of what this all means for her relationship with Toma.
Ao Haru Ride is a modern classic, at least when it comes to shoujo manga, and volume 11 demonstrates why the series is so well loved. In the earliest volumes of the manga, Sakisaka sensei does an apt job of showing how unlikeable the main characters can be, but by this most recent release, we as readers are pulling for them and their happiness, both those we want to see come together as couples and even characters like Toma, who readers might see more as an obstacles in the way of their primary ship. That’s a large part of the wonder of these chapters, where Yoshioka is trying her hardest to let go, Toma is trying to figure out how to love her, and Mabuchi is just trying his best to rectify mistakes and become her new boyfriend. We want all three to be happy, though that may not be possible.
The magic of shoujo, of course, is how the angst pulls at our hearts and leads us to become addicted to the story and characters. Ao Haru Ride improves on this formula through Sakisaka’s touch as a storyteller: Somehow, she’s able to turn a morally questionable love triangle into something sweet, and infuses her humor into the pages, such as when Yoshioka’s rundown of a purse snatcher goes awry. I also always look forward to her little asides; they are full of spunk, sweetness, and silliness. Another plus in this volume? Murao and Kominato’s discussion about the latter’s grandmother; their story in these chapters is just as nice as is Yoshioka and Mabuchi’s, and a lovely way to finish the class trip arc and set the stage for whatever comes next, which I’ll be anxiously anticipating.