Kou finally starts to try and reconcile his self loathing after talking with Futaba. After finally sitting down with his family, he has a heart to heart with his brother and father. Back at school, midterms are almost upon the crew, and Kou actually wants to study. As summer begins, plot threads old and new get thrown back into the mix.
If there’s anything this episode and the last have taught me, it’s that I’ve had a fundamental misunderstanding of what this show was supposed to be about. All this time I was focusing on the romance, nothing but the romance. Now I see I’ve been doing that to the detriment of the greater focus of Kou’s family life this entire time. Continuing on from the climax of last episode, it was really cathartic to see Kou make that realization about why he had held himself back from so many things up until that point.
If there’s one complaint, it’s that the not-confession scene was dragged out laboriously. I knew she wasn’t actually going to end up spitting it out, but even if I didn’t, we literally have Futaba staring at Kou like a crazy person for almost a straight minute before we get an easing of tension. It seems like lazy writing to me. You’d think there was something else they could have done with Kou’s father and brother that would have better filled that gap. At least the joke payoff was really in character for Futaba, the poor girl.
The end of this episode felt as much like a beginning. I’m not sure if this show has been greenlit for a second season already, but boy does this studio seem to want to set it up. Not only do we have the five man band completely back together, but old plot threads come to the surface just in time for the end credits to roll. The most interesting one to me has always been Shuuko’s obsession with Youichi. I’m not sure I like the way Youichi responded to Kominato, but I suppose there are ways to look at it as him trying to goad Kominato into action with his feelings for Shuuko. It’s also obvious that the orange hair dude will be important down the line, but it’s just strange to see a character we know literally nothing about get so much screen time. Finally, Yuuri just has to get one more word in about the love rivalry before credits roll doesn’t she. There’s such a weird tension between those two, I wouldn’t be surprised if we ever get a second season that it would flare up again quickly, but for now we can only read through the manga or wait for more.
I really don’t learn, do I. All this season Nozaki-kun has been showing me that you can buck traditions and stereotypes while still being a fun and engaging romance. Now, Blue Spring Ride has shown me that you can act like a typical shoujo show without actually having your plot focus be the romance. What we find with this show is really a character piece about a boy lost in life after losing what was most dear to him, and the girl who couldn’t stand to see him stay that way.
That’s not to say this show is fully redeemed by this solid ending. By indulging itself in certain shoujo stereotypes, it committed a lot of exasperating cliches. The most egregious of these will remain the fake assault. It is a bit you see all too often when the male lead is a “jerk with a heart of gold” type of character, and it definitely doesn’t send the right message out about what kind of person they are. Likewise having the female lead be ‘excited’ just because she’s attracted to him is questionable at best. This show is also definitely a slow burn. I understand that we do need to get to know the supporting characters, but it seemed like too much time was wasted on character building exercises that just proved what we already knew about everyone. It doesn’t help that it seems like Shuuko is the only one of the secondary cast to actually grow throughout the show. Yuuri’s romantic rivalry with Futaba was a good plot thread, but not a whole lot is even done with it, and Kominato never changes from the peppy dude who overdoes everything.
There was also too much padding for my tastes. I know the format of shoujo sometimes entails having to spread out a scene for time, but this show exploited that gimmick to death. There is such a difference as dramatic tension and dead air, and Blue Spring Ride often did not seem to understand that line. As I said about episodes 8 and 9, sometimes it just seemed like there was one and a half episodes worth of information, something they couldn’t cram into one episode, but just felt awkward stretched into two. It’s such a shame, as when it wants to pace itself properly it shows it clearly can.
In a way, this show ended, and it’s still going. What I had to realize by this episode that this whole time we were not watching twelve episodes about Futaba falling in love with someone, but we were watching twelve episodes about the circumstances of Kou Mabuchi. It’s always his actions and reactions that drive the plot forward, even when he isn’t the focal point. By the end, we clearly see it’s his arc of growth that’s the real driving force behind everything. We see part of his reason for keeping everyone at a distance was that he didn’t feel like he deserved to have them. By coming out of his despair, Kou is finally able to appreciate the people around him. Even more powerful, he is able to finally reconcile his feelings with his family. The section about Kou finally wanting to study almost seemed like an epilogue to the fantastic scene between Kou and his father and brother beforehand. While Youichi makes it a little corny with his crying, the genuine emotion between Kou and his father make it work so well. You can tell that both of them are still not completely comfortable talking to each other, and his father is still not sure what to make of this development. Still, they understand this is a branch to a better tomorrow for all of them.