Blue Spring Ride
Episode 11

by Rebecca Silverman,

While there are few things more satisfying than the happy conclusion to a romance, there are things that come pretty damn close. This episode of Blue Spring Ride is one of them. Opening with the full story of what happened to Kou's mother, we finally understand just why he is so reluctant to get close to others: before the family separated, Kou's brother told him to take care of their mother. To middle schooler Kou, that meant academic success that he could later translate into business success, and he single-mindedly devoted himself to that task. So what was he supposed to think when she got sick? He hadn't taken care of her, had he – he'd failed her. While adults can see the fault in this reasoning, Kou was a child with no one to tell him otherwise, and he has clearly continued to carry the “fault” in his present life. After all, if he “failed” his mother, doesn't that mean that no matter how hard he tries, he'll just “fail” everyone else, too? And since he screwed up so badly, why should he be allowed to enjoy anything anyway? While we may have suspected that this lay at the heart of his emotional torment, having it spelled out really cements our understanding of Kou and turns him into a much more sympathetic character. Futaba's handling of the situation is likely to have positive repercussions for his brother as well, given that we clearly hear their mom asking him to “take care of” Kou once she is gone – which once again explains some of Tanaka's behavior.

The psychological aspects of this episode technically are not the major highlight, however. It is the results that are so wonderful, and suffice it to say that the final few minutes are as wonderful as anything, and perhaps even better than if we had just gotten a basic romantic scene. Futaba and Kou are characters whose emotions become fully engaged, not just hormonal teens with a crush. In fact, a solid friendship could be the result of this episode rather than a romantic relationship, although I admit to hoping for the latter. (And strongly suspecting that's where all this is going anyway...)

What isn't so great here is the sudden introduction of a new male character who instinct says will be quite important to the story. With only one or two episodes left according to what I have read, this is not a great time to bring another player into the story, so unless the creators have been really good at keeping season two quiet, this new guy has the potential to be frustrating. (And funny. There are two very funny moments of physical humor this episode, and he gets one of them.) Let's all hope for a second season in any event, because Blue Spring Ride is a shoujo romance that reminds us why we love the genre so much in the first place, no matter how long it has been since we were in high school.

Rating: A-

Blue Spring Ride is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Rebecca Silverman teaches writing and literature and writes ANN's manga review column, Right Turn Only.

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