animefringe july 2003 / feature
Animefringe Coverage:
Kimagure Orange Road - Not Just an Old-Fashioned Love Triangle

Love triangles are rather common in anime and manga. In fact, it's rather hard to use the plot device of a love triangle without slipping into predicable mediocrity. For more than a decade, Kimagure Orange Road has stood as an example of how to do a story featuring a love triangle right.

On a windy day after moving into a new town, Kyosuke Kasuga (15 years old) meets a girl on a staircase and instantly falls in love. The girl's name is Madoka Ayukawa, and Kyosuke doesn't realize it yet, but she has something of a reputation. Ayukawa doesn't have many friends, and her intelligence, musical genius, and skill at athletics are all often overlooked due to her socialization with a bad crowd and tendency to not show up at school much. Kyosuke, however, treats her kindly - as he would any other person - and thus she begins to return his affection.

And then Hikaru enters the picture. Hikaru is Madoka's best friend, and where Ayukawa is reserved and elegant, Hikaru is loud and cute. They both complement each other perfectly, and each is always there for the other.

Unfortunately, Madoka and Hikaru's tastes are so similar, Hikaru falls in love with Kyosuke. She's undeniably cute, and Kyosuke doesn't have the heart (some might say he doesn't have the guts) to tell her his true love is Madoka, so throughout the series, she treats him like a boyfriend. Yet, at the same time, he grows closer to Madoka, whether it's from doing homework together or working at the nearby coffee house, "abcb."

To spice things up a bit, there's also the reason Kyosuke had to move away from his previous home and come to his current town. You see, his family is gifted with psychic abilities, and one of his sisters used her Power in a rather obvious manner, forcing them to move away before too many questions were asked.

With the Power, Kyosuke can teleport himself and move objects with his mind. Too much psychic activity tires him out, but he and his younger twin sisters can do some pretty impressive stuff with their minds. It gets even more fun when a mind reader enters the picture later in the series.

While a love triangle isn't all that special by itself, the characters in this series are incredibly well-developed. The love that forms between Hikaru, Kyosuke, and Madoka is very believable. As I watched the show, I felt very much attached to each of the characters, as they all have their good points. I can completely understand getting into a position where you know what the right thing to do is, but you don't do it because you appreciate the way things are. While Kyosuke knows that his heart belongs to Madoka, he can't honestly say he doesn't enjoy his time with Hikaru. He doesn't want to hurt Hikaru, either, but then he also isn't certain Madoka will really return his love if he breaks up with Hikaru.

If you can handle emotional ups and downs, this is a great show to get into. It is almost always lighthearted, falling into the genres of romance and comedy more than anything else. The 12 disc series is currently available on DVD from AnimEigo only in Japanese with subtitles. This may pose a problem for dub-only fans, but trust me when I say this series is worth getting even if you can't stand Japanese. The whole set was released at once, and the MSRP is lower than comparable DVDs due to the lack of a dub track.

While I had heard of Kimagure Orange Road numerous times over the years (even before I got into anime, for that matter), this is really the first time I've ever experienced the TV series, but I became quickly addicted to this wonderful show. In fact, so did everyone else who watched it with me at the time. I always have plenty of DVDs to watch (and other things to do, including building a house, working full-time at a bookstore the month the most popular book of all time was released, and searching for a "real" job in the programming industry), but I actually took the time to go through the entire series after it arrived.

This is considered by many fans to be a classic, and I couldn't agree more. The animation is a bit dated, but the endearing storyline is as relevant today as it was in 1987. The music in the series is excellent, and the character designs remain attractive despite the time that has passed since their creation. This is a show any fan of romantic comedies would do well to pick up, but be warned - you can't just buy the first disc, so you might want to save up before getting addicted.