Kimagure Orange Road TV Vol. #01 -

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Mania Grade: A-

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  • 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

Kimagure Orange Road TV Vol. #01

By Paul Grisham     June 24, 2002
Release Date: June 05, 2002

Kimagure Orange Road TV Vol. #01
© AnimEigo

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!
For years, I've heard tell of how wonderful Kimagure Orange Road is, a classic of anime romantic comedy. And for as many shows as I've had privilege to watch, I've never watched a single minute of Orange Road. Animeigo has finally brought the series out on DVD, and while this release isn't all that dedicated fans could have hoped for, it is still a pretty good way to enjoy a show that has surprised me by exceeding my expectations.

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.

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 shimmering quality at times. This instability is probably due to the high-level of noise reduction. The worst looking part of the show is the ending credit animation. During the ED, there are lots of nicks in the print, and at times, the outline of Madoka as her dress flitters in the wind disappears entirely. Though flawed, the show is still watchable and enjoyable. Just don't expect anything approaching reference quality.

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 from Akemi Takada. 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.

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.


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

It all begins with a red, windswept hat.

15-year old Kyosuke Kasuga has just moved into town and is wandering around his new neighborhood. He is counting the steps that lead up the hill to where his apartment is located when he sees a hat fluttering away in the wind. As he catches it, the hat's owner, a pretty girl of Kyosuke's age appears. The two begin a playful discussion, disagreeing on the number of steps (she says 99, he says 100.) The girl is charmed by Kyosuke, and tells him to keep the hat, but slips away coyly without telling him her name. Kyosuke, on the other hand, is totally besotted with the girl, wondering if he will ever see her again.

With such a gentle and romantic beginning, you would expect Kimagure Orange Road to be a naïve and outdated comedy, but within a few moments, Kimagure Orange Road develops into a surprisingly modern teenage drama. Though fashion has changed much in the 15 years since its original release, there have been few changes to the tumult and confusion of teenage life, and the story is full of social issues and characters that seem as relevant today as they did 15 years ago.

Arriving at school the next day, Kyosuke learns that the girl he saw was Madoka Ayukawa, a sullen and stuck up student with a reputation as a bad girl. The teachers have given up on her, the girls hate her, and the boys want nothing to do with her, even as an object of lustful desire. But Kyosuke, is still enchanted by the image of the girl he met at the steps, and is determined to get to know her better and maybe warm her cold and distant heart. Along the way he will discover a woman more complicated than any he has ever met before. She swears, drinks, smokes, skips class, insults her teachers, stays out late with boys, and picks fights after school. At the same time, she is intelligent and talented, both athletically and musically. Sometimes, she is funny and engaging and at other times she is cool and abusive. Kyosuke, still holding that red hat, cannot reconcile the girl of his fantasies with the Madoka he knows from school.

But in love, sometimes you find treasure when you are searching for something else. Enter Hikaru Hiyama, underclassman and childhood friend of Madoka's. Through a twist of fate, she winds up seeing the best side of Kyosuke and develops an earnest crush on him. Not afraid of her own feelings, she pursues him directly, and Kyosuke, frustrated by Madoka's mood swings and aloofness, accepts her attentions, and the two become something of a notorious couple.

From these simple beginnings comes the love triangle that will be the foundation for the rest of the show. Madoka is a walking contradiction, a bored girl of infinite potential lost and undone by her own reckless desire for oblivion. She intentionally hurts and pushes away those who care about her the most. She frequently allows herself to become the very caricature of a juvenile delinquent, and, in doing so, becomes invisible to all but Kyosuke, who simply refuses to believe that Madoka could be even one bit as bad as the girl everybody whispers about. During a moment of courage from Kyosuke, Madoka sees Kyosuke's gentle heart as well, and she slowly allows him into her life, if only as a friend. But as Kyosuke gets closer to her, she swings between trust and fear, leaving Kyosuke unsure of where he stands with her.

Hikaru is a surface reflection Madoka's outer self, the younger girl imitating her model and mentor. She drinks and smokes and skips class as well, and even a sex scandal later on does little to affect her reputation. Just like Madoka, the teachers and students at school have given up on her as a delinquent, but Hikaru lacks Madoka's inner hatred and cynicism. For Hikaru, it is all an act, a tough girl image that she can't back up. Inside, she is honest and loyal and loving and forgiving, especially for Kyosuke. Her devotion to Kyosuke is sweet, and in a sense, even pure, despite its overt sexuality. Kyosuke is genuinely fond of her, though he is certainly not passionate about her or her feelings. Though she lacks Madoka's grace and talent, she is, in many ways, very good for Kyosuke, stable and relaxing.

But Kyosuke cannot be honest with Hikaru about his feelings, and the latter two episodes on this volume deal with how Kyosuke tries to play both sides, to keep his budding love with Hikaru alive, yet continue to pursue the true object of his desire, and how his actions affect the two women in his life. These episodes sensitively portray how petty fear and jealousy bring unhappiness into these three young people's lives. By the end, Madoka and Kyosuke have reached a comfortable level of closeness in their friendship, and Kyosuke and Hikaru have decided to continue their relationship and see where it will lead them.

While I have hopefully convinced you that the basic love story of Kimagure Orange Road is very well written, I intentionally refrained from mentioning one of the most distinctive elements of the story: the Power. Kyosuke's family has a dark secret. His family bears psychic powers, such as telekinesis and precognition. This power, possessed by Kyosuke and his twin sisters, frequently gets them into trouble, and is the main reason they have to keep moving around. Whenever the townspeople discover the Kasugas' powers, the Kasugas must flee town, presumably to avoid having the Power corrupted for ill gain. Kyosuke's father, a widower who raises the children alone, does not have the Power, but has trained the children not to use it in public. Sometimes the Power helps them solve problems, but more often, it creates entirely new problems. So far, the Power is not a major element to the story, but merely serves to add an additional layer to an already rich story.

To round out the main cast, Kyosuke befriends two sex-Crazed classmates, Komatsu and Hatta, who have a normal, but still unhealthy, attraction to all women, including Kyosuke's little sisters, Kurumi and Manami. In addition to managing the complexities of his own love life, he frequently must play big brother, protecting his sisters. But Kurumi and Manami are old enough that would probably rather not be protected at all.

It has been 15 years since the first Kimagure Orange Road first aired, and the show is somewhat dated, especially in terms of music and fashion, but also in terms of character designs and animation. The designs for this show were produced by the talented Akemi Takada, who also produced designs that defined a generation of anime romantic comedies, such as Maison Ikkoku, Urusei Yatsura, and Creamy Mami. As such, they look somewhat old, but at the same time, timeless and classic. In addition, animation techniques have progressed quite a bit since Kimagure Orange Road was first released, and the show itself has a kind of flat, 80’s look to it. I doubt that anybody would be wowed by the art or animation in Kimagure Orange Road, but today's shows, as flashy as they are, are rarely this insightful or charming.

In the show, Kyosuke's father is a photographer, and the show takes one of its most clever visual cues from it. Periodically, the action will stop on a freeze frame, allowing Kyosuke to offer retrospective commentary on where the story is going. Kyosuke's own fantasies take the image of old romance movies, right down to the celluloid. The story is full of excellent moments of visual ingenuity, such as a scene where Madoka punches a punk through his sunglasses, and a touching moment of Madoka on the balance beam. In all, the show is very well conceived and directed, succeeding on just about every level.

While I expected the show to be good, I certainly didn't expect it to be as mature and understanding as it was. I suppose I was expecting a sappy romance, half comedy and half fantasy (descriptions of the Power contributed to that in no small amount, I'm sure.) What I got was a complex drama that seems to acknowledge that nothing is quite as simple as it first appears, that fantasies and first impressions are rarely the truth. Though Kyosuke still looks at that red hat and thinks of Madoka, he recognizes that she is not the fantasy girl wearing that hat in his dreams.

So it all begins with a red, windswept hat, but thank heavens that is only the beginning.

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.

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)


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