The objective of this entry is to give a fan's overview to people who may have come across the Kimagure Orange Road anime videos in a shop, and who are intrigued but unsure as to whether this title would be for them. There are some plot spoilers in the storyline explanations given here.
Kimagure ('Whimsical') Orange Road is distributed in the UK by MVM, and it is the same version first sold in the USA by AnimEigo throughout 1988-1990.
The eight OAV episodes are packaged as volumes one-four and the movie as volume five. The videos are all subtitled in English, with Japanese dialogue. They have either a 12 or 15 BBFC rating, but contain no swearing or anything else an intelligent person would find offensive - they're romantic comedies, after all. It is suggested that any person who is put off by subtitles should really give them a go, as many people find subtitles much more enjoyable than a badly done English dub. A non-Japanese speaker can read the subtitles (and explanatory footnotes) very easily, and let the Japanese dialogue wash over them in a wave of atmosphere.
The five OAV volumes are set in a storyline of TV episodes, not yet released in the UK. This means the UK viewer is dropped in the middle of the story arc, after all the characters and the plot have been explained. It follows a trio of teenagers through high school, and up to the point before they start university. The OAVs all take place in the summer holidays. Another movie follows them through university, but that is not covered here.
Kyosuke Kasuga is the main character. Kyosuke and his whole family have psychic powers, which they are desperate to keep secret. They are usually better at getting him into trouble than out of it, which provides much of the comedy. His 'official' girlfriend is Hikaru, but he secretly prefers their mutual friend, the lovely Madoka. He spends all his time trying to keep both of them happy, which is nearly impossible!
Hikaru is Kyosuke's 'official' girlfriend, but he never asked her out. Rather, she latched onto him after seeing him do an impossible basketball trick when he thought no-one was looking. That Hikaru thinks this makes him perfect boyfriend material gives you an inkling as to her personality - basically bubbly, very cute and totally devoted to her Kyosuke. She always calls him 'Darling' or more accurately 'Daaarrrrliiiiing!' which if you were Japanese you would recognise as just way too familiar and gooey. She is best friends with Madoka, who she has known since childhood.
The lovely Madoka is Kyosuke's real love interest. She is beautiful, intelligent, sophisticated but with a shadowy past, has a stunning figure and is gorgeous. She secretly is attracted to Kyosuke, but will never make a move because that would upset her best friend Hikaru. She and Kyosuke always call each other by their last names, Ayukawa and Kasuga. This inappropriate over-formality indicates the attraction they try to hide in their relationship as friends.
Komatsu and Hatta
These two friends of Kyosuke are real teenage perverts (hentai in Japanese) who are continually leching after girls but never getting anywhere. They are pretty much just a source of two-dimensional comic relief.
Kyosuke's female cousin is pretty foxy, but she has a crush on Madoka. Naturally this is not good news for Kyosuke, but he loyally helps her out when she is teased for her girl-fancying tendencies.
Kurumi and Manami
Kyosuke has two sisters. They are also a source of trouble for him.
'I Was a Cat; I Was a Fish'
Kyosuke accidentally gets turned into first a goldfish, and then his pet cat. None of this, however, affects his fascination with Madoka's lovely chest! Will his soul ever return to his own body? Will he ever decide which girl he prefers? The answers are of course, yes and no, but this episode contains some of the best comedy moments in the series.
'Hurricane! Akane the Shapechanging Girl'
Kyosuke's cousin comes visiting and finds out about his love triangle; and then falls for Madoka in a big way! She then uses her psychic powers of 'persuasion' to disguise herself as Hikaru and Kyosuke, and generally messes things up with Madoka! Can Kyosuke ever smooth out the tempest she has caused? Of course true love will out in the end, but not before we've had a few laughs and Kyosuke's had a few slaps! Watch out for the 1980s styling in the disco, which shows the age of this series a bit.
Kyosuke and Madoka get trapped in a cave together during a ski trip. Here they come across the tormented spirit of a girl who died there many years before. Will they die together naked as the local legend says? Well, no, but this one is quite thrilling and passionate towards the end.
Hikaru is kidnapped by ruthless American gangsters. Kyosuke and Madoka get ever closer as they bravely try to rescue her by themselves in this fairly simple tale.
'Spring is for Idols' and 'Birth of a Star'
Parts one and two of the same story. Kyosuke gets jealous when Madoka practices in a band that will perform in a talent contest, because the pop idol guest is a well-known ladies' man! Then, in a psychic accident, Kyosuke and Hayakawa the pop star swap bodies, leaving Kyosuke fleeing from groupies while Hayakawa makes his move on Hikaru and Madoka! How will Kyosuke sort it out this time? In part two, Kyosuke tries to get the pop star to keep his mouth shut, but it looks like the family secret is finally going to get out! There are some great Japanese pop songs in this one, which were performed by popular bands of the time.
'An Unexpected Situation'
Akane gets teased for fancying Madoka, so she persuades Kyosuke to pretend to be her boyfriend, with predictably awful results. Hikaru thinks Kyosuke has dumped her, and Madoka finds Akane in Kyosuke's bed! How on earth can he smooth it out with Hikaru and Madoka now?
'Message in Rouge'
Madoka believes her father is being unfaithful, and runs away from home. Straight to Kyosuke's house, of course. Will Kyosuke be able to handle this delicate situation? There are some powerful emotions at work here, with more romance than comedy in this episode.
'I Want to Return to That Day'
Kyosuke reminisces back to the previous summer, when he and Madoka finally make their feelings clear. How can he avoid breaking Hikaru's heart? You should definitely not watch this movie before seeing the other episodes first, as you will have no idea of the complexities behind the relationships otherwise. There are no psychic powers and almost no comedy in this movie, just heartaches and tears all round in this climactic conclusion (although it's not actually the end of the series). You really get to see further into the personalities of the three protagonists in this movie. Hikaru turns out to have more depth, and has been not so ignorant of Kyosuke's attraction to Madoka as we thought. After spending so long trying to keep Hikaru in happy ignorance of his feelings for Madoka, when Kyosuke finally breaks up with Hikaru he behaves in a very harsh way towards her, refusing even to meet her when she is clearly taking things very badly and is in need of some basic kindness towards her. The scenes when she is continually snubbed by Kyosuke are really heart-breaking, and definitely show you another side to him. Madoka stays with Kyosuke even though she thinks he has treated her badly, because otherwise he would have no-one else to turn to. Don't forget to watch all the way through the credits at the end, as there is a final scene featuring Hikaru which really makes you wonder how she is feeling....
Anyone who likes their comedy with believable characters, and their romance with real passion (and heartache), will love this series. The character designer, Akemi Takada is very popular with many anime fans, and also did the characters for the highly-acclaimed Patlabor movies. This series is recommended to anyone - this kind of quality stands head and shoulders over simple children's anime like Pokémon.