I didn’t think much of Futaba Yoshioka when I read Io Sakisaka‘s manga series, Ao Haru Ride (Blue Spring Ride) in college. To be honest, I thought that there wasn’t anything special about her. As the heroine of a high school romance manga, Futaba fit the bill of a goofy, energetic, happy-go-lucky teenager who wasn’t too great at academics but who was determined to hang around her love interest and friends.
My high school experience was a little different than Futaba’s. I didn’t worry about my relationships with my friends, my status in relation to other girls, or about potential crushes and romances. I never participated in many school clubs and activities because I was enrolled in Chinese classes every Saturday morning, which took up any extra time I had. I mainly focused on my studies, my hobbies of reading manga, watching anime, writing fanfiction and drawing fan art, and went out with my friends to the mall or the movies.
In my college and university years, I found that the more I started to learn about myself and life (in general), I started to question my idea of what friendship was, of my relationships with people and the circumstances that affected my friendships over time. I never considered my friends as deeply as Futaba as a teenager or even as a young adult. It was only until I realized how our friendships can be physical and emotional support in the past two years that I started to care about connecting with friends on a deeper level.
Growing up, I always wondered how my siblings were able to keep in touch with their high school/college/university friends.
I distinctly remember a conversation with a high school friend in the eighth grade. We realized that time would eventually change us. We knew that we would develop new interests in the future and surround ourselves with people who shared them. We believed it natural to lose friends and gain new ones to fill their spot and it happens. Despite having my high school friends on Facebook or having their cellphone number saved on my phone, I don’t speak or hang out with them all because we’ve drifted apart.
I don’t think it ever occurred to me that communication was really important. It never clicked in my head that if I really valued someone’s friendship, then I’d take steps to reach out and connect with them. If I wanted to strengthen my friendships, then both parties have to be vulnerable and open to each other.
Looking at the beginning of Futaba’s journey in Ao Haru Ride, she was someone who deeply cared about how other people viewed her. She knew what it was like to be isolated due to misunderstandings and jealousy. She hated being alone and created a persona for herself (of being a super sloppy girl), so that she could fit in with her “friends.” In short, Futaba didn’t have enough self-confidence to be her truest self because she was afraid of being judged.
One of the things I took away from the start of the series is that depending on how you perceive others and yourself, it’s best to be honest with your friends. High school friendships do manifest as cliques or small groups. Even in my circle of friends, I think that we all hung out together at school, but I felt there was always something lacking.
My group of friends was a crowd of people with tinier groupings within it.
I didn’t feel a close connection with anyone because I never spoke my mind on other subjects like my emotions or concerns about the future with my high school friends. I always listened to others but never spoke about myself because I figured everyone else had it worse than me or needed my help. My own problems were minuscule. I also thought that I wasn’t trustworthy enough to be told anything serious. Conversations with friends would always be about anime, manga, tests or homework. It was fine, but I think I craved deep, thought-provoking conversation or sharing personal stories to feel that I knew who my friend was and vice-versa.
My high school friendships had potential to develop into something greater and long lasting.
Some are and I’m building on them, while others weren’t.
I’d like to think that fake personalities and drama weren’t mixed into the circle of friends I associated myself with. I never saw anything because I never asked or engaged in discovering whether or not my high school friends were genuine. As a high schooler, I think the biggest thing about friendships was knowing that I wasn’t alone.
The older I got, the more I began to see flaws in the friends that I thought were perfect. Truth be told, I did view them a little less than before, but I can’t judge them for who they are because I don’t know them now.
In retrospect, I think it was for the best that the friendships I lost escaped my grasp. As much as I would love to reconnect, it doesn’t mean the friends I used to have feel the same and I respect that.
I think that Futaba is someone who I would’ve liked to have been friends with in high school because she was courageous enough to change herself. She broke away from a high school friendship that did nothing to help make her grow as a person.
She also became more direct by volunteering to become the class representative and leaving the past where it belongs. Her courage is a quality that I admire most about her and I hope that I can eventually become comfortable enough to take risks, develop stronger friendships and trust in my friendships more.
(Credit for the featured animated gif by ridleey @ Tumblr)
What are your favourite friendships in anime/manga? Let me know down below!