by Roderick "Agitator" Lee
Wartime. Shells rain upon a shattered city. Retreating soldiers.
And an earth-shattering explosion. This is ORANGE ROAD?
Flashback to 1991 where a critically injured Kyousuke lies in the ICU. A very distressed Madoka comes running down the hall, crying his name "Kasuga-kun! Kasuga-kun," but then switching to anguished calls of "Kyousuke!". Then, back to whenever the spirit of nineteen year old Kyousuke has timeslipped; he comes to on the famous 99.5 Steps and notices that there is no longer any trace of his injury. As he sits up, a newspaper blows in his face, and when he glances at the date, he is shocked to find it reads 1994. Then, back to 1991 again, with Madoka and the whole Kasuga clan watching over the battered body of Kyousuke. Grandpa explains that Kyousuke's spirit is probably wandering away from his weakened body.
In 1994, Kyousuke returns to the Green Castle only to discover that there are no Kasugas living in apartment 301 any more. Following an equally unsuccessful attempt to find anyone at Abcb, he runs into, of all people, Hikaru, now age twenty and living in New York. Captured by her mature beauty and intrigued by the remarkable changes in her life, will Kyousuke allow the triangle to reform?
A popular still from the movie features all three principals in a swimming pool scene. Fans familiar with the novel will wonder where this scene fits in, since it does not appear in the novel. This is one example where the movie excels over the novel. In the original, neither Hikaru nor 1991 Kyousuke ever meets Madoka. In fact, Kyousuke only interacts with two people from the future, Hikaru and his 1994 self. But, in the movie, all three are reunited when Madoka unexpectedly turns up at Hikaru's hotel room, setting up one of the most beautiful scenes in the movie: an underwater swim which recaptures the playful friendship of their youth.
The movie is faithful to its roots, with generous flashbacks and special attention to the key locales of the series, namely Abcb and the 99.5 Steps. Since SHIN KOR is in some sense a reversal of the tragic break-up from first movie "Ano Hi ni Kaeritai" (I Want to Return to Those Days), there are flashbacks from that movie. But the TV series is not forgotten either. When Kyousuke first sees Hikaru in 1994, his memories go back to the beach scene in TV 43. And naturally, there is a flashback to the red straw hat scene that opens the entire series (though that same important hat is missing from both movie and novel).
There are a few drawbacks. Most fans know that popular character designer Takada Akemi, who seems almost as much a part of the KOR anime as Matsumoto himself, is sadly not involved with this project. Instead, these responsibilities have been given to Gotoh Takayuki, who does the designs for PLEASE SAVE MY EARTH. While Goto's designs are well-done, this reviewer is sure that he is not the only viewer who wonders how some scenes would have turned out with Takada artwork. Fortunately, all the voices are the same, so fans can once again revel to the sound of the virtuous Furuya "Kyousuke" Tohru, the versatile Tsuru "Madoka" Hiromi, and the sunny Hara "Hikaru" Eriko.
The music is typical KOR fare, meaning excellent. Unfortunately, the choreography suffers at times, especially during Hikaru's dance audition; her movements do not even come close to matching the beat of the BGM.
Finally, there is the issue of Madoka's smoking, which the authors seem to think requires absolutely no justification. Considering that Madoka quit smoking before she even really knew Kyousuke, they are just wrong.
Minor quibbles, in all. This is definitely one of the top titles for long-time anime fans (and, of course, a no-brainer for KOR fans). As an added bonus, the Collectors' Edition comes in its own box and includes a ten track Vocal Collection CD as well as ready-made slots for the other three CDs: Soundtrack, Image Album, and MADOKA's PIANO FILES.