Anime Spotlight: Kimagure Orange Road

Kimagure Orange Road is an anime based on a manga by Izumi Matsumoto. The anime was directed by Osamu Kobayashi and was produced by Pierrot. The 48 episodes of the anime series aired on Japanese television from April 6, 1987-March 7, 1988. An anime film was released on October 1, 1988, eight OVAs were released between February 15, 1989 and January 18, 1991, and a second anime film was released on November 2, 1996. As of this writing, Discotek Media holds the North American license for the Kimagure Orange Road anime.

The main character of the series is Kyosuke Kasuga, a teenager in his final year of junior high. He and his twin sisters have supernatural powers, and they are forbidden from using their powers in public. The siblings live with their father, who is a photographer, as well as their car, Jingoro. At the beginning of the series, the family has just moved into a new home after their powers had been discovered for the seventh time. While exploring his new neighborhood, Kyosuke meets a pretty girl who gives him her straw hat… and he falls in love with her at first sight.

When he starts his first day in his new class, he meets two boys named Seiji Komatsu and Kazuya Hatta. They’re both sex obsessed and bumblers, and they develop an interest in Manami and Kurumi, Kyosuke’s younger twin sisters. He also discovers that the girl he met is in his class and that her name is Madoka Ayukawa. It turns out, though, that she’s a delinquent. But as Madoka spends time around Kyosuke, Madoka starts showing more of a softer side.

However, things become complicated for Kyosuke. Hikaru Hiyama, a tough talking girl in Manami and Kurumi’s class, becomes entangled in his life when he accidentally kisses her while running away. This leads her to believe that he’s in love with her, and she starts calling him “Darling.” It turns out Hikaru isn’t as tough as she was initially portrayed. In fact, after she’s around Kyosuke, she starts acting more child-like.

This is the initial setup for the love triangle that persists throughout the series. Kyosuke is depicted as being indecisive, which explains why the love triangle persists. While Kyosuke cares about Hikaru, he cares about her more like an older brother than as a boyfriend. It’s made very clear throughout the series that Kyosuke has feelings for Madoka. The love triangle is later made a little messier with the introduction of Yusaku Hino, who is childhood friends with both Madoka and Hikaru. He has feelings for Hikaru, but she is basically oblivious to them. Yusaku views Kyosuke as a romantic rival and strongly dislikes him.

During the first half of the series, the emphasis is placed on Kyosuke trying not to use his power. Unfortunately, he does use it on occasion, but tries to be very discreet about it. However, at the halfway point, we are introduced to Kyosuke’s five-year-old cousin, Kazuya, who has telepathic ability. At this point, we see Kyosuke using his powers more. While people don’t figure this out, the use of his powers fuels some of the hijinks that Kyosuke endures during the second half of the series. This includes hypnotizing himself and “time slipping” (a kind of time travel).

There’s an interesting concept going into this anime, but it did get a little frustrating how the emphasis on the powers went from trying to not use the power to relying on them as a plot device in order to make stories happen. I was also torn about the addition of Kazuya. Right at first, he seemed like he would add an interesting layer, but after a while he became more of a distraction than anything else.

Something else I noticed about the second half is how the love triangle became less interesting. It became very obvious to the viewer that Kyosuke’s feelings were for Madoka, so more of the stories involved Hikaru walking in on the two of them, misunderstanding the situation, and becoming upset. I have to admit that after a while, Hikaru started grating on my nerves more and more as the series neared its conclusion.

When it came to character development, Madoka was the strongest. Kyosuke came in a close second. Hikaru, however, never really develops as a character, so she comes across feeling forced and fake at the end.

It should be noted that the story isn’t over at the end of the television anime series. In order to find out how the story ends, you have to see the Kimagure Orange Road: I Want to Return to That Day anime film.

Overall, the animation was pretty good for its time. However, there was one episode that stood out… in a bad way. In was an episode early on in the series’ run, and it looked like Pierrot had brought in their C or D-Team to animate parts of that particular episode. There were a few scenes where characters were off model. Fortunately, it was only that one episode that had any real issues with the animation.

Shiro Sagisu, who is also known for composing the score for the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime, also composed the score for Kimagure Orange Road. The score for this series is excellent and is the quality I would expect from Shiro Sagisu. The opening and ending themes, as well as the insert songs, were also well done. According to the translation notes in the Blu-ray bonus features, it mentions that these songs were written by some impressive Japanese songwriters.

I will give Kimagure Orange Road credit for the fact that it became an influential anime, especially for the romantic comedy genre. I read somewhere that the character of Madoka can be considered the “root” for the tsundere character type, and I can definitely see that in her. I also read that the stories in the anime are loosely based on their manga counterparts, so it’s possible that I might enjoy the manga more than the anime.

Kimagure Orange Road isn’t a bad anime, but it just didn’t quite the reach the potential that it could have. Even with its faults, I would still recommend that anime viewers expose themselves to this property for its historical importance and to see how it inspired the romantic comedy anime that followed in its footsteps.

Additional post about Kimagure Orange Road:

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