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Vol 2 Issue 4
[ANIME REVIEWS]

SHIN KIMAGURE ORANGE ROAD
— by Roderick "Agitator" Lee

Wartime. Shells rain upon a shattered city. Retreating soldiers. And an earth-shattering explosion. This is ORANGE ROAD?
  After waiting almost a decade since the airing of the last TV episode, avid KIMAGURE ORANGE ROAD fans will likely do a doubletake at the first animated KOR scene since MESSAGE IN ROUGE closed out the OVA series in 1990. The opening to the SHIN (NEW) KIMAGURE ORANGE ROAD "Soshite, Ano Natsu no Hajimari" (And Then, the Beginning of that Summer) begins in a war-torn city. The voice of Kyousuke provides the initial exposition: he is a photographer dodging bullets in Bosnia, but his experiences here will soon be linked with an incident from his recent past, in which a car accident sends his spirit into the future.
  As the name implies, the movie is the animated adaptation of creator Matsumoto Izumi and TV screenplay writer Terada Kenji's collaborative 1994 novel effort published by Jump J Books. Defying the common adage that the manga (or in this case, the novel) is always better than the anime, the SHIN KOR movie turns out to tell the story better than the novel. And these are not just the mad ravings of a starved KOR fanatic (which the reviewer freely admits to being).

  In 1991, a nineteen year old Kyousuke (Astute KOR fans will note that this implies the anime birthdate of 1972 rather than the manga date of 1969.) is awakened by a phone call warning him to "Watch out for cars!" To add to the confusion, the caller claims to be "Kasuga Kyousuke". It is questionable how helpful this warning is because later that day, Kyousuke is hit by a car when he dashes into the street just as the signal changes. At that same moment, the future Kyousuke photojournalist is knocked out by a great explosion. Both Kyousukes find themselves involuntarily timeslipping in opposite directions, and a partially conscious nineteen year old Kyousuke discovers that one side of his shirt is soaking in blood from the gaping wound in his side.
  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.


  Before the hotel reunion, the storyline pretty much adheres to the novel; the reunion is their point of divergence, and it is this divergence that makes the movie story superior. Following the pool scene, 1991 Kyousuke is finally reunited with his 1994 family, and in an attempt to bring back 1994 Kyousuke, Madoka performs her signature piano piece, "Kyousuke #1," as a dedication of her love. Also a treat is a private scene between 1991 Kyousuke and 1994 Madoka, hinting at the growth of the relationship in those intervening years. Kyousuke still calls her "Ayukawa" while Madoka has obviously become quite accustomed to "Kyousuke". A minor but striking contrast for long time KOR fans.
  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.

  SHIN KIMAGURE ORANGE ROAD "SOSHITE, ANO NATSU NO HAJIMARI" (And Then, the Beginning of that Summer)
Copyright © Matsumoto Izumi/Terada Kenji/Shuueisha/Toho/Nippon TV/VAP/Studio Pierrot
Collectors' Edition, VLPV-70628 20 March 1997, ¥12800, 94 min CLV LD
General Release, TA4808S 1 May 1997, ¥6300, VHS


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