I was initially motivated to watch Ao Haru Ride because I was hoping that it could be like Kimi ni Todoke, which was another shoujo show done by Production IG that I enjoyed (the first season, that is). Though Ao Haru Ride ended up being okay instead of great, I discovered an easter egg game that the studio almost certainly included on purpose in the show that made me look forward to watching the show every week. Each episode would contain a single brief appearance by the same black cat with a white paw.
The episode where I first realized that something was up was the sixth episode. The opening scene of that episode had Futaba and company on a train. As they panned over the urban landscape from the POV of someone looking out the window of the train, I noticed that there was a black cat walking along the roof of a building. In the previous episode, Kou had picked up a stray cat and showed it to Futaba, and upon a closer look at the screencap I took for episode six, I realized that it was the same cat as they both had that distinct white paw.
At that point, I was curious (always a good thing when relating to cats) enough to go back to the previous episodes and try to see if the cat had been in those also. It became pretty easy to spot once I noted that it was only going to be seen outdoors, which allowed me to skip through scenes that were set indoors. I was able to spot the cat in the first, second, and fourth episodes on my first pass through, but the third episode proved to be harder.
I didn’t spot the cat on my first pass through the episode, but I did note that there was a fairly long scene where Kou and Futaba were talking to each other on the street. I decided to watch this scene closely, as I figured it would be my best chance. During one point in this scene, the camera cuts to a shot (which lasted two seconds at most) of curved mirrors on a street pole. I spotted a slightly darker mass on top of the wall in the right mirror, and I might had written it off as pixelation had it not also moved.
After taking a closer look, it was indeed the cat that was in the mirror, and I felt a sense of achievement in being able to find it. I had hoped that the animators would have pulled something tricky like this in the rest of the episodes that had yet to air at that point, but none proved to be as challenging as the third episode. Especially disappointing was how the cat was in basically the same position for the final two episodes of the series. Still, I was able to find the cat in all twelve episodes, and I hope that Ao Haru Ride gets a second season solely for the chance to play this game again.
As a final note, I created an album of all the cat’s appearances, which can be found here (and which garnered me a decent amount of Reddit karma a while back).