Kimagure Orange Road: The Movie
It is the day Kyousuke and Madoka have been waiting for...the day they get the results of their college entrance exams. As they walk toward the boards, a chance phrase heard among the hubbub of students sparks a memory in Kyousuke.
A memory of the day the previous summer he had to make a heartbreaking choice.
The day that the innocent play of childhood had to end.
The day that three had to become two...
Kimagure Orange Road has been one of my favorite romance series for quite a while now, with its hilarious situational comedy and the seemingly indecisive Kyousuke reminding me of, well, every guy I know, myself included, as far as matters of love.
That having been said, this movie was a shock. Gone were all the psychic bells-and-whistles, the accessory characters, the sci-fi deus-ex-machinas. What is left is raw, human emotion, which this movie has in spades. For this is a story of a loss of innocence, when romance turns to heartbreak, and life-changing decisions must be made if true love is to last. I Want to Return to That Day is one of the most heart-wrenching romance movies to hit the screen, animated or not, as it is romance at its purest.
Each of the three familiar characters is forced to deal with the long-running love triangle, which can not proceed any further as it is, and somehow move on. In the process, someone has to be left behind, and predictably, it's Hikaru. And as Hikaru, Hara Eriko goes from the annoying (if sweet) ditz we've known throughout the series to one of the most intensely powerful roles I've seen in anime. All series long, Hikaru has played the too-happy, slightly dopey girl hanging on to a reluctant "Darling " while all too aware that he doesn't love her, but Madoka. Her character, by far, becomes the most changed, as the carefree laughs are replaced by what has been her driving force all along ... desperation. To the book she goes through all the stages of emotional trauma, and she becomes all the more human for the heartbreak. Instead of being just an annoying third wheel, Hikaru reveals herself to be one of the most tragic of all romantic characters, one that many of us can relate to all too well.
Not to say the other two aren't hurt by any of this ... in fact, the leads in this movie put together moments in romantic drama that put any live-action soap opera to shame. Unlike all those glossy soaps, I Want to Return to That Day has a realism that brings the melodrama into the everyday. Awkward pauses, seemingly inconsequential details of scene, and the distractions of everyday life appear in almost every important moment in this anime, but far from detracting from the emotional intensity of the scene, it gives it even more reality. Characters fidget and squirm, and moments of pure silence punctuate conversations, just as in real life. Kyousuke, Madoka, and Hikaru become far more than lovable TV-show anime characters, but almost real people in their own right. Such is the direction of this film.
The art, though a bit dated by today's standards, is well-directed and animated, with Takada Akemi's cute character designs that we all have grown to know and love subtly aged three years from the timeline of the TV series. Some scenes are nothing less than sheer genius, segueing seamlessly and naturally between different parts of the movie ... and the interesting take on The Wizard of Oz (the present in sepia tones, the past in color) is well-done. The music, even more so than in the TV series, is appropriate and at times quite stunning, with Wada Kanako's mournfully plaintive ballads simply perfect for the soundtrack, almost tear-jerking in its own right.
Kimagure Orange Road: I Want to Return to That Day is one of the finest pieces of romantic drama I have ever seen, animated or not. It leaves out the gimmicks of psychic power and accessory characters to focus on what the show's been about all along: the love triangle and its inevitable resolution. And it does so in such a realistic way that it becomes a true film masterpiece on its own. I heartily recommend this film ... though I should probably warn you now to bring a couple boxes of Kleenex. You'll probably need them, especially if you've been a KOR fan to begin with.
As an endnote, I want to consider this movie to be the true end of the KOR storyline ... as New KOR seems to needlessly prolong the series for primarily commercial reasons and takes a decidedly more adult tone than is really required.
Yet another example of how to turn a series into a feature film, this movie is classic romance drama at its best — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: Besides a couple of scenes of Hikaru and Madoka in their undergarments and the obligatory comic scenes with the sex-obsessed Komatsu and Hatta (which, in fact, is a perfect release for the dramatic tension in this movie), there's really very little to offend any but the most sensitive of people.
Version(s) Viewed: VHS, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Kimagure Orange Road: The Movie © 1988 VAP
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