Kimagure Orange Road TV Vol. #10 (of 12) (Mania.com)

By:Paul Grisham
Review Date: Sunday, December 29, 2002
Release Date: Wednesday, June 05, 2002



What They Say
High School student Kasuga Kyosuke has problems with women. Big time!

First, he thinks he's falling in love with the beautiful and somewhat mysterious Ayukawa Madoka, but he's not at all sure if Madoka feels the same way about him.

Second, he's being pursued by the exceedingly sweet, cute and bubbly Hiyama Hikaru, who has taken to calling him "Darling" and asking him if she'll make a good wife.

The two girls are total opposites – and best friends since childhood. Which means that Kyosuke's love life is somwhat complicated.

But wait – Kyosuke's women troubles are far from over. He's got two bratty sisters to worry about, and his two sex-crazed buddies ar stalking them! And one of the toughest guys in the Karate Club, who is rather annoyed about him "stealing" Hikaru, is stalking him!

Now, Kyosuke does have one thing going for him. Both he and his sisters have inherited the family gift – Paranormal Powers! Teleportation, Telekinesis, Precognition – they can do it all. Unfortunately, if anyone catches them using their Powers, they'll have to leave town. And it turns out that Kyosuke's Powers are much better at getting him into trouble than out of it.

All this means that life is rarely boring (and always hilarious) on KIMAGURE ORANGE ROAD!

The Review!
One of the better aspects of the series to this point has been the way that it has kept a kind of internal calendar, starting in the spring, at the beginning of a new school year, and progressing through summer, into fall, and now, winter. Of course, that means only one thing, the dreaded Holiday Specials! Surprisingly, however, Kimagure Orange Road’s seasonal episodes are mostly entertaining. Mostly.

Audio:
The only audio track is the original Japanese version – basically a unidirectional stereo mix. The audio is satisfying, but there is some scratch and hiss as you might expect from a 15 year old television show. There is nothing that really detracts from the show, though.

Video:
This is an old show, and at times looks it. There is some print damage. Reds are over saturated and subject to bleeding. Edge enhancement and compression artifacts are just about everywhere for those looking for them, as well as a fair amount of cross coloration. More disappointing is that some of the fine lines in the show are unstable, giving the image a flickering quality at times. This instability is probably due to a combination of noise reduction and edge enhancement.

Packaging:
The packaging for the individual discs is kind of disappointing. Each case is thematically color coded so that the series has a nice rainbow progression to it when arranged in order. The front of each case includes a character image that shows off the lovely character designs. The discs themselves are silk-screened with the same image, and actually look very good. The problem is with the back cover of the cases. Each case includes a screen capture from the show, which unfortunately shows off the video problems described above. In addition, there are quite a few printing problems with the text. In addition to some spelling and formatting problems, there appears to be a general lack of quality in the printing, as the text seems to fade toward the end of each line.

Menus:
The menus put each episode up front on the main menu, with cycling animation from the episodes. Unfortunately, whenever a viewer changes the selection, the animation resets, causing quite a bit of slow down while navigating. It takes several seconds to select through to the fourth episode, for instance. There is no way to select a specific chapter within an episode from the menus. You would have to select the particular episode, then use the chapter skip to the desired location. Given that each episode is in a separate title, and the menu is slow to navigate, it can be a frustrating experience. Unlike some other Animeigo menus, there is no audio element to the menus.

Extras:
None.

Content:
(Please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers.)

What is it that makes the Pick such an interesting part of Madoka’s character? It could be the irony of such a compassionate and well-rounded girl who has a taste for the violence of the mean streets. It could be the darker tone that she gives to such a generally upbeat and lighthearted show. Or, it could just be the thrill of the possibility of a good catfight. Either way, we’re treated to a wonderful side story involving Madoka rising up to defend an old friend of hers from her days running with a gang.

Perhaps the most interesting and successful aspect of this episode is the way in which the whole thing mimics the structure of an old Samurai drama, albeit one in which the gender roles are reversed. The direction, pacing, dialogue, and even the music, work together to create a wonderful cinematic atmosphere for the episode. This episode has more action and excitement than the average Kimagure Orange Road episode, culminating in a thrilling skateboard duel at its finale that, despite its high-concept setup, is totally effective in building tension and danger.

The next episode doesn’t fare quite so well, with the first of three holiday themed specials, this time focusing on a Christmas party. Just like the birthday party episode earlier in the series, this episode uses Kyosuke’s time travel Power to let him go back in time and figure out which girl he should take to the party. This is nearly a note-for-note replay of the birthday party episode, and is totally superfluous. There’s nothing here that you haven’t seen before, and it can basically be safely ignored or skipped, unless Groundhog Day-type stories are your bag.

The next two episodes focus on the New Year’s celebration and are different enough from what has come before that they are very enjoyable. On the last day of the old year, Kyosuke has a wonderful, and hopefully prophetic dream in which Madoka serves him a New Year’s meal. Meanwhile, Kasumi has developed a new Power, the Power of hypnosis. Kyosuke quickly figures out that if he can master hypnosis, the way he has already mastered self-hypnosis, then his dream of having Madoka as his servant will certainly come true after all. Of course, given what a colossal disaster his experiences with self-hypnosis have been, why on earth would he think that hypnotizing Madoka could possibly work out favorably?

With Madoka obeying Kyosuke’s every command, and working diligently to please him, this episode works nicely as a counterpoint to the episode in which Kyosuke finds himself subject to everyone else’s whim. Unlike that episode, in which everyone put upon Kyosuke without regard to his circumstance, Kyosuke seems deeply torn between getting a little “special” time with Madoka and doing the right thing. It’s this conflict, in which Kyosuke realizes that he can utilize the Power to get exactly what he wants, but is also tempered by the desire to do things the right way, that forms the heart and soul of the series. This episode illustrates that conflict better than most, and provides some quality entertainment along the way, even if the ending is a bit predictable.

The final episode here is the real New Year’s Special, in which our characters act out a wacky spoof of a variety of Hollywood and Japanese movies. When Jingoro, now a forty-foot creature in the vein of the classic Toho rubber suit monster flicks from the 1950s and ‘60s, attacks, the government must send in their crack team of hot shot fighter pilots to battle the beast and save Japan. The show’s basic love triangle gets referenced obliquely as Kyosuke and Madoka are rival pilots and former lovers, and Hikaru is a kind (but clueless) orphanage manager with her sights on Kyosuke.

This episode really stands out from the series, not just for the difference in style, but also because it is simply so excellently put together. The direction is spot-on, producing a satire of the monster movie that is at once lovingly respectful of the old films and an entertaining Kimagure Orange Road episode in its own right. There are so many references to the old films (including actual music from the old Toho films), that the liner notes Animeigo provides are essential and enlightening reading. Also, perhaps because of the way that this episode stands outside of the larger Kimagure story, this episode is also imminently rewatchable. I personally have used the writing of this review as an excuse to re-watch it several times, and I think it gets better each time.

Save for the pointless Christmas episode, this is a very nice collection of episodes featuring a cast that we have grown to enjoy and care about. Even though there is nothing here that advances the main romantic story or shows us anything new about the characters, there is still a lot to like here.



Note: In the initial release of the Kimagure Orange Road television series to DVD the opening credits were removed from the beginning of each episode, and included as extras in the credits menu. The publisher, Animeigo, has graciously agreed to remaster the Orange Road discs and exchange them for unsatisfied customers. In order to get this review published quickly, a review of the initial release is presented here. I do not expect any substantial changes to the technical portion of this review, but any issues that may come up with the remastered set will be noted here when the new discs are available.

Features
Japanese Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic Panablack TV, Codefree Panasonic RP56 DVD player, Sony ProLogic receiver, Yamaha and Pioneer speakers, Monster cable. (Secondary equipment, Pioneer 105s DVD-ROM, ATi Rage Fury Pro, ViewSonic A90f, PowerDVD 3.0)



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: C+
Packaging Rating: C+
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: All
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: AnimEigo
MSRP: 24.95
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kimagure Orange Road