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Kimagure Orange Road (1985, Studio Pierrot)

Anime Reviews

Kimagure Orange Road (1985, Studio Pierrot)

きまぐれオレンジ☆ロード あの日にかえりたい / 新きまぐれオレンジ☆ロード: そして、あの夏のはじまり
Kimagure Orange Road: Ano Hi ni Kaeritai / Shin Kimagure Orange Road: Soshite, Ano Natsu no Hajimari

Worth A Watch

So another story with highschool as the setting and when high schools are involved, there's usually your cliche of a transfer student and special powers. Based on Izumi Matsumoto's 1984 Manga, fifteen year old Kyousuke Kasuga isn't your average junior high student - his whole family has special powers such as teleporting and telekinesis and, because of that they'd had to move schools many times to keep it a secret. As Kyousuke moves town yet again to start afresh at a different high school, he meets the multi-talented Madoka Ayukawa while out and about counting steps outside his new home. As they laugh about their trivial little argument over who got the correct count, he instantly falls for her seemingly nice personality and pretty appearance and, gets to keep her red straw hat to remember her by.

However, when Kyousuke attends his new high school, he discovers a completely different side of Madoka. She was nicknamed "The Pick" because of how she uses them as weapons in fights. Madoka was infamous for her badass deliquent behaviour too hanging out with trouble on a whim, under-aged clubbing, drinking, smoking - everything that could be bad for junior high student. She is shunned by her classmates but Kyousuke refuses to believe she is as bad as rumours say. As he continues to approach her indiscriminately with kindness, she slowly starts to change.

Meanwhile, Kyousuke also ends up catching the eyes of Madoka's energetic, cheery best friend Hikaru when she is charmed by a moment of witnessing his powers, mistaking it for actual skill. Now Hikaru's determined to get close whenever she has a chance. When Madoka realises this and her own growing feelings for Kyousuke, she tries her best to hold her feelings back so she doesn't hurt her best friend.

Once again, I watched this because of the hype and was curious about why people recommended it when Maison Ikkoku was mentioned. You might actually know Studio Pierrot from their "magical girl" shows such as Creamy Mami and Pastel Yumi The Magic Idol. The character designs kind of resemble characters from those shows and the backgrounds with rough brush strokes very much look like their style. The first OP is lively but too flashy (literally) with all the brief flashes of credits and scenery... Not sure why they thought that was a good idea. The selection of JPOP theme songs are actually not bad and there's quite a few vocal tracks used as the OST. As for voice acting, you might better know Hiromi Tsuru's voice who plays Madoka in this show as Bulma from Dragon Ball. She also voiced Ukyo from Ranma 1/2, Meryln Stryfe from Trigun and Reiko from Ghost Sweeper Mikami.

I guess "kimagure (capricious/whimsical)" in the show's name came from Hikaru and Madoka's whimsical nature. Hikaru reminds me of Lum from Urusei Yatsura because she's so clingy and likes to call Kyosuke "darling". The TV series doesn't take itself seriously most of the time with a lot of overly cute expressions, comical and supernatural moments. You've got Jingoro the regular cat trying to get escape the abnormal family and Kyousuke's sisters being lured away easily with food always brings about some comic relief. Oh, and that poetic adult couple Ushiko and Umao. It has a fair bit of fan service with all the focus on the female cast's bodies, usual groping accidents, awkward camera shots etc but I guess it's aimed at the teenage boys demographic. There's even a fast food joint where girls serve dressed in tight leotards and has a window that lets its customers oogle ladies doing aerobics in an opposite building.

At first, it was looking very silly how strong and invincible the show made the capricious Madoka look despite all the risky things she does flirting with trouble and then getting away unscratched but fortunately, the story makes her a little more human as the show progresses. She's a bit like Akane from Ranma 1/2 sometimes sending Kyousuke flying away with her strength. Then again, if the protagonist has super powers, why shouldn't his love interest be a femme fatale who can kick on a whole gang of thugs and come out unscratched? You could say Madoka's the poster girl for this show with all the fan service scenes she ends up in.

I think the most distinct feature about this show is how it frequently crops out characters whenever they're narrating or thinking about something which takes some getting used to. You'll probably also remember this show for the early episodes where Madoka plays the saxophone but ratings dropped during these scenes so they no longer appear later in the series. After this show you'll probably know what having a "C" experience meant too back in the day. I also think this is the only Anime I've watched that features KFC instead of McDonalds in it too.

The child-like looking character designs might be somewhat off-putting but, I can kind of see why people rank it as one of the top shows along with Maison Ikoku when romantic comedies were trending during the 1980s. The premise is kind of similar in both shows except Kimagure isn't so bitter. Maybe because Kyousuke lacks a rival. Most episodes are also self-contained so you're not left with a bitter feeling between episodes when you emphasise with the characters.

Sure there's some super powers involved too but, both shows' direction focus on how the characters' indecisiveness and misunderstandings lead to complex relations and drama. Both feature a kind idiot protagonist that isn't that talented but makes a great effort to stay true to the one they really love. In contrast, both also feature a pretty, kind faithful talented girl as the main love interest but they're also not perfect. Where Kyoko is more reserved, has trouble saying no to others and getting over her late husband, Madoka is more open and flirty and doesn't mind breaking the rules to stay true to herself which often leads to trouble. Funnily enough, this show also has a character named "Yusaku" who always get the short end of the stick.

The TV series has quite a wrap-up which covers up to roughly chapter 134 of the Manga. Originally Matsumoto had considered it a good point to end the Manga too but thanks to the success of the TV series, she decided to continue the Manga afterwards. This might be why an OVA series was released later but unfortunately, it's not a continuation of the TV series. Well... it kind of is and isn't because it rewinds back two episodes before the end of the TV series and does a bit of re-shuffling with chapters of the Manga that never made it in. Characters are now in senior high school instead of junior. The first half of the series are mostly filler episodes (based on chapters 93, 122, 118/149, 57) and characters such as Kyousuke's cousin Akane makes an appearance. For the most part, it's fan service with the girls. Then the second half gets a bit more serious and is mainly based on chapters after the TV series (135 - 145, 51).

This can be followed up by the first movie "I Want to Return to That Day" which could be called a spin-off because it's an original piece of work written by Kenji Tereda, the main scenario writer for the TV series. It takes on a more serious tone during the summer when Kyousuke is preparing for university entrance exams. There's no mention of supernatural powers nor are any used, just your slice-of-life romance. Kyousuke's originally kind indecisive character is changed to be more cold and decisive so it's no longer a romcom and can be quite bitter.

A second movie called "New Kimagure Orange Road: Summer's Beginning" continues where the last left off and is also based on the first book of a three part novel series again written by Kenji Tereda (he also wrote the scenarios for JRPGs Final Fantasy I - III too apparently). It continues to show how he envisioned the characters from the original Manga, now nineteen, would have moved on with their lives through university. If you watched the first movie, you might feel better for the characters after watching this. Maybe it was Tereda's way of trying to redeem himself after the poor reception of the first movie when even Matsumoto criticised the work, suggesting viewers took it as a parallel world story.  I guess you could also consider the movies fan service for those who wanted a more complete closure to the relationships. However, it gets a bit weird with the supernatural powers back in.

If I had to choose between this and Maison Ikkoku, I would have to choose Maison. Kimagure has its cute and fuzzy moments and maybe one or two really good episodes too (like 39) but again, having long passed graduation I feel Maison is a lot more relatable watching the hardships Godai had to endure. Maison also touches quite well on a wider range of experiences such as the loss of someone precious. Kimagure's movies later cover their lives in adulthood but just don't have that same effect - especially with supernatural powers involved. That said, both shows are based on Manga that targets two different age groups so it might not be that fair a comparison.

So if you're after a light-hearted romance comedy show that's mostly fun (it even has a star in its title!) with your cliche high school setup, time travel, super powers and don't mind your usual fan service thrown in, you might like this. For most people I think the highlight is going to be Madoka. Otherwise, if you prefer a more mature romance story and don't mind the slow progress or slice-of-life bitterness, you'd probably want to go for Maison Ikkoku.

Kimagure Orange Road

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