Kimagure Orange Road – episodes 1-8

July 23, 2006 on 10:34 pm | In Kimagure Orange Road | 3 Comments

Many, many years before he was made to hit in America with Beck, and more still before he threw gas onto the burning trainwreck that was Paradise Kiss, Kobayashi Osamu directed Kimagure Orange Road, one of the templates of proper romance comedy – spiced up by psychic powers.

A true child of the eighties, this 1987 vintage series has the special aura reserved for the well-designed veterans of that era. It belongs to the genre that features romance heroes with clear intentions and is generally fun besides.

The Kasuga family has “the Power” (but not the Touch). Due to the willful nature of the teenaged twins Kasumi and Manami, their secret frequently gets out and they have to transfer schools all the time. On their seventh transfer, eldest child Kyosuke meets Ayukawa Madoka and falls instantly in love. This time the twins’ psychic antics will not be tolerated: it’s an all out battle to stay in school!
Unfortunately for Kyosuke, Madoka’s childhood friend Hikaru instantly attaches herself to him, scuppering any romantic opportunities.

One of the charms of Kimagure Orange Road is that, in these early episodes at least, there is no real reason for the Kasuga family to have psychic powers. They belong to the school of having powers so that they need never use them.
With the realisation that he needs to be really fast to affect his “let’s not anger Madoka” operations, Kyosuke is beginning to use his teleportation powers, his telekinesis and – get this – his menu rewriting power with greater frequency to some comedic effect. It’s an aid to comedy that even introduces us to Mister Fried Chicken, who looks exactly like Colonel Sanders except for his name.*
Psychic powers leave themselves open to drama and, at 48 episodes plus OVAs, a movie and … another movie, I hope that there actually will be some of that.

Kimagure Orange Road subscribes to the idea of a love polygon that has a pre-set destiny. The trend in the modern day is to have multiple pairings in a series (such as in School Rumble), but I’ve always liked obvious romantic conclusions provided that the obstacles in the way of obtaining “true love” by the concluding episode aren’t too immensely frustrating.
Fortunately this is not the case with Kimagure Orange Road. I know that Kyosuke has to get with Madoka and that Hikaru will always get in the way, but Osamu effectively diffuses any problems with the very nature of Hikaru. Hikaru is an energetic character totally oblivious to the world around her, so you can’t get angry at her. There are countless instances where she could have been jealous of Madoka and Kyosuke, but this doesn’t happen because of her intense trust and sunniness. Jealousy can destroy a series, and fortunately we’ve only got one side of that here in the form of Madoka who, while she may be a “delinquent”, is too nice to actually cause any trouble.

To help us through the storyline is Kyosuke’s voice over, which one may compare to Suzuka except for the fact that Suzuka was a terrible, terrible anime charactered by idiots. Kyosuke’s narration is helpful in giving insight into his character and is also executed in an interesting fashion: the screen will freeze and Kyosuke’s face is framed, he will give his thoughts and the frame will open into a slightly different screen that dynamically furthers the action without being annoying.

The support cast of the twins and Kyosuke’s perverted two best friends, Hatta and Komatsu provide a good deal of the humour and also, surprisingly for 1987, nipples in skin magazines. The friends are fun because they expose their perversions to Kyosuke while openly expressing romantic interest in his sisters. Any situation is enhanced by Kyosuke’s attempts to protect the honour of the twins and by Hatta’s explosive nose bleeds (and his “hidden” foot camera).

The design is good, providing a brilliant eighties aesthetic, and the animation is of varying quality but is generally not something to complain about. The OP and ED feature excellent songs that have much more body than the many high pitched songs that were later given rise to in the industry. The animation would be good for both the OP and ED if the OP had not been edited at such a pace that it sometimes gives me motion sickness. Still, it rocks hard enough that I watch it every time.

With one of my favourites, Tsuru Hiromi behind the wheel as Madoka, and Tomizawa Michie in support as Manami, Kimagure Orange Road is a joy to listen to. Sometimes the sound seems underproduced, but that is a symptom of its time and can be written off as “charming”. It’s not something you’d put up with now but it genuinely does add to the feel of the show.

Kimagure Orange Road is slowly building itself up as a romance that doesn’t prove to be frustrating. It’s fun to see all of these cliches in place when they were still relatively fresh, before the generations to come ruined them (I’m looking at you, Love Hina). If you can put up with something that wasn’t animated in the last six years, then Kimagure Orange Road is definitely worth a look.

*It’s interesting to note that you can use a name or an image but not both in tandem. For example, in an episode of Scrubs JD got angry and turned into the Hulk, but he was never named as such. In the credits, the actor who played the Hulk-like figure was credited with the role of “Monster”. In a later episode, JD made a reference to the Incredible Hulk but we didn’t see anything.
Such is the magic of copyright law!


  1. I should really check this show. Back when I first became aware of it, it was the last thing I would consider watching since I wasn’t that much into romance or drama but now I’m more than willing to give it a try. Those Akemi Takada character designs also make me feel very nostalgic. I wish more anime artists use these kind of designs these days instead of the many appalling designs that we see nowadays.

    Comment by Mohammad — July 24, 2006 #

  2. What a great look at this show – I’d probably consider it one of my guilty pleasures, since even if it doesn’t always feel like the relationships are going anywhere, it’s still fun to watch. My only disagreement is about the character of Hikaru, who I still find to be one of the most annoying characters ever created. Whenever I hear the phrase “Darling”, I want to pluck my ears out – but not so much that I stop being unusually fond of this series.

    Comment by teki — July 25, 2006 #

  3. It’s just that I find Hikaru so over the top that I couldn’t bother being annoyed by her, despite the fact that she’s just like C-Ko. Hikaru allows me to go with the flow.

    Comment by Alex — July 25, 2006 #

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