New Kimagure Orange Road: Summer's Beginning Anime Review
Shin Kimagure Orange Road: Soshite, Ano Natsu no Hajimari
New Whimsical Orange Road - And Then, The Beginning of That Summer
US Release By
Dramatic Psychic Romance
19 year-old Kasuga Kyosuke is starting college. His day starts with a phone call from someone claiming to be him, warning himself to watch out for the car. Not heeding this strange message, he is hit by a car on his way to classes, and finds himself three years in the future. In his own future, things quickly become very complicated: his old flame, Hiyama Hikaru, is back from New York and still has feelings for him while the love of his life, Ayukawa Madoka, seems to be pining for him, and he can't get up the courage to talk to her yet. He soon finds that he is going to need the help of his future self to get back to 1991, but this isn't going to be easy--his 22-year-old self has disappeared while working as a student news photographer in Bosnia. Time is running out, and Kyosuke is beginning to disappear--will he find himself in time, and what is going to happen when this old love triangle is reassembled?
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It might seem forced to try to make a sequel to I Want To Return To That Day, but KOR: Summer's Beginning is a vital part of the ongoing story, giving us a peek into the future that we could only speculate about after the first movie. Most importantly, it addresses Madoka and Hikaru's friendship--an aspect of the characters' relationship that was conspicuously absent from the first film. This movie, in addition to the bittersweet romance, is a quiet but moving look at the ongoing lives of the three main characters, with appearances by almost all of our old friends from the KOR series (including an appearance by that idol singer from the OAVs, but with the unfortunate omission of Yuusaku). Keeping with the maturing characters, this movie isn't just another story about the same people--both the characters and the treatment of their relationships have matured. The youthful innocence of past incarnations is mostly gone, but is has been replaced by the relationships and trials of the adult world, something not usually treated in a realistic manner in anime. The Japanese language version features the same talented cast handling the subtleties of the now older characters appropriately. There is also a dub, but that seems a little odd since none exists for the rest of the series.
Summer's Beginning isn't the place to start watching KOR--even if you could follow the plot it would only take away from your enjoyment of the rest of the series--but for existing fans who have seen the first movie, this is absolutely required viewing.
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Let me start right off by saying this is not the place to become acquainted with Kimagrue Orange Road--you're just missing too much backstory to appreciate it if you aren't already familiar with the series. If, on the other hand, you are already a KOR fan, and if you have already seen the first movie, you absolutely must watch this.
It might seem forced to try to make a sequel to I Want To Return To That Day, but KOR: Summer's Beginning is a vital part of the ongoing story, giving us a peek into the future that we could only speculate about after the first movie and addressing an aspect of the characters' relationship that was conspicuously absent from it.
This movie, like the first, is not a comedy. The first movie was a downbeat end to the series, and, although a realistic and gripping film, left me feeling... well... depressed, to put it mildly. In a pleasant contrast, this movie (though still a bittersweet romance) leaves you feeling a lot more satisfied than the first--for that reason alone, I'd call it required viewing for anyone who saw the first one. But the real reason you need to see it are the insights into the primary characters; the first movie doesn't do justice to Madoka and Hikaru's longstanding friendship unless you add the developments in this movie, and that's why I would go so far as to say it is a vital addition to the series.
That said, this movie is a quiet but moving look at the ongoing lives of the three main characters, with appearances by almost all of our old friends from the KOR series (including an appearance by that idol singer from the OAVs). Yuusaku is again absent, though, which is a bit of a disappointment--it was necessary to leave him out of the first movie, so he wasn't an easy fallback for Hikaru, but by this point he could have been incorporated, even if just to establish that it didn't work out. As with the original series (more so, in fact) the characters seem very real, and their emotions and reactions are believable and feel more than surface deep.
It's interesting to meet the future Kyosuke and Madoka, with their subtle changes--Kyosuke has finally gotten a bit of spine, for one thing. Hikaru has matured a lot, but even so, you still get the feeling that the old Hikaru is in there, and the changes are believable. There is a lot of character development in this movie, as well as some new insights into the minds of the characters fans have come to know and love. It's also nice that this movie, unlike the first, obviously doesn't ignore the psychic powers of Kyosuke's family, although my one disappointment was that we didn't get to see how Kyosuke explained to his amore that he comes from a long like of ESPers, and the situations that must have come out of that conversation.
It is interesting to note that as these characters progressed through previous KOR incarnations, their relationships and the corresponding themes in the stories moved through the stages of youth, from the beginning of junior high school to the beginning of college. In keeping with that, this movie isn't just another story about the same people--both the characters and the treatment of their relationships have matured. The youthful innocence of past incarnations is mostly gone, but has been replaced by the relationships and trials of the adult world, something not usually treated in a realistic manner in anime.
With the development and maturation of the characters, the themes have moved in a more adult direction to match, and this movie doesn't hold back. There's nothing graphic, but there is more than just the occasional awkward situation of the original series. I won't go into detail (it'd spoil the plot, anyway) but the sexual tension and themes are more overt than during the original series, and there is at least one scene that does more than just hint at a physical relationship. (This scene, though, is a realistically awkward and touching one of a sort that is almost never more than implied in a series like KOR, and we're rarely treated to in anime).
Moving on to the technical aspects, when fans first look at it, the reaction will probably be "this doesn't look like KOR," but rest assured that the soul that made the old series what it was is still there--somebody's just polished the surface. The art is very nice, and has a slightly more modern finish than the rest of the KOR series and the first movie--a little different, and in my opinion better. The character designs are subtly different (with the exception of Hikaru, who's supposed to look a lot different), but everyone is recognizable. The animation is also a little different in style from the old KOR, but looks much smoother, and is a definite improvement.
The Japanese language version features the same talented cast handling the subtleties of the characters appropriately. As in the last movie, Eriko Hara has the most challenging adjustment. In I Want To Return To That Day, she had to let the deeper feelings of Hikaru come through without making you think that she was a different person. While that role required more drama than this one, turning Hikaru into a mature woman without erasing her past personality entirely is almost as much of a challenge. Thankfully, her performance is as dead-on as the writing, and a hint of Hikaru's old self shows through her complexity and newfound maturity. Madoka and Kyosuke (in both incarnations) are also acted very well, but their roles aren't as much of a stretch from past precedent.
There is also an English dub, which I have not seen and in truth have to question the wisdom of producing, regardless of the quality of the acting. Since the rest of the series was never dubbed, almost anyone familiar with it would probably prefer to see the characters with their old voices. That leaves people who haven't seen any of the previous KOR as the only audience, and this certainly isn't the right place to start.
On that note, since AD Vision released this movie instead of AnimEigo, it has a slightly different style, but the translation (in both the subtitles and dubbed dialogue) is surprisingly solid and impressively "fan friendly," as with many of ADV's newer releases. There are, however, a few rough spots with names and terms of reference, and one severe error in the subtitles in a pivotal scene. That error is a spoiler, so I won't say more than when the subtitles have Madoka saying "You can say what you like," a more appropriate translation is "That's OK." See the notes for details.
The music is worth special mention; a tune written by Madoka has a pivotal role in the story, and although it's almost the only music in the film, the composition is near perfect. It has a hint of an '80s pop air to it (which is appropriate), and is romantic, melancholy, and powerful enough to carry all the meaning it's supposed to. It's also nice how, when it's played by Madoka in the two different eras, her piano skill is evident; when her younger self plays it, it is pretty, but you can hear a subtle tentativeness and lack of confidence, an effective form of acting in itself.
To sum up, you absolutely should not see this movie if you aren't already familiar with KOR--you might well enjoy it, but even if you could follow the plot it would only take away from your enjoyment of the rest of the series, and you won't be able to appreciate the character development. If, however, you are a KOR fan already, and have seen the first movie, this is required viewing, and a fantastic conclusion to the series.
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You just can't properly appreciate this without having seen at least a little of the original KOR OAVs or TV series, and the first movie. Seriously. There aren't a lot of anime parallels for the sort of story; the most serious parts at the very end of Toradora! bear some similarities, and that series is sort of a modern-day parallel of KOR in general.
Notes and Trivia
Follows the firs Kimagure Orange Road Movie, I Want to Return to That Day, which concluded the KOR OAV series, which in turn followed the TV series, which was inspired by the comic book series by Izumi Matsumoto. The first movie is pretty much a required prerequisite to viewing this, and you should definitely have seen several of the OAVs, at the least, before watching that movie. Note that everything else in the series--TV, OAVs, and Movie--was translated by AnimEigo, not AD Vision.
This move is based on the first of the "Shin KOR" novels, a new series of novels that follows the story of the original series. The new novels deal with the characters' later lives (in college and beyond), and deal with much more mature subjects than the original stories.
A note about the names: Kyosuke has called Madoka by her family name, Ayukawa, for the entire series; this isn't that strange in Japan, but it does show that he's a bit awkward and overly formal in the social department. They made a point of the switch to using her given name in this movie, because it signals a significant change in how comfortable he is with her. Likewise, Hikaru has always called Kyosuke either Darling (a common overly affectionate term), or sempai (meaning something like "Upperclassman")--also not an unusual term of address, though it does reflect subtly on their relationship, and you might notice that she calls him "sempai" throughout this movie, too. Madoka generally refers to Kyosuke by his family name, Kasuga.
Finally, a note about the translation in the subtitles (at least in the VHS version--this might have been fixed in the DVD) that you don't want to read unless you've already seen the movie, since it's a bit of a spoiler: In the scene when Hikaru and Madoka are by the pool talking about their relationship with Kyosuke, Hikaru says that she wouldn't apologize for her feelings toward him. Madoka's reply is "Sore de ii jan." This is a sensitive, understanding comment meaning something like "That's just fine," and it sums up their relationship from the TV series (and before). But in the subtitles this is translated as "You can say what you like," which sounds very much like a flippant or even angry remark, something it was not intended to be.
US DVD Review
The DVD (there are two, but apart from a different cover and reduced price I don't know of any differences between them) features stereo Japanese and English dubbed soundtracks, a subtitle track, and basically nothing else. The original 2001 disc features an attractive drawing of Madoka in the infamous red hat on the cover; the 2005 version features a cel of Hikaru on the front and a slightly lower price. The artwork change is a bit disappointing, since the older one looks better and fits with the cover art on AnimEigo's DVDs better.
ADV calls it either 15+ or TV-14 (same film, different releases) which is about right on account of significantly more adult themes than past incarnations. Note that there is one scene in particular that parents may take objection to.
Violence: 1 - Some relationship conflict, and a few flashes of the war in Bosnia.
Nudity: 2 - Brief nudity, but no detail.
Sex/Mature Themes: 3 - Nothing graphic, but several scenes with overt mature content, general mature themes throughout, and one relatively explicit scene.
Language: 1 - Mild language.
Staff & Cast
Original Japanese Cast
(all names listed family name first)
Kasuga Kyosuke: Furuya Toru
Ayukawa Madoka: Tsuru Hiromi
Hiyama Hikaru: Hara Eriko
Kasuga Kurumi: Honda Chieko
Kasuga Manami: Tomizawa Michie
Grandpa: Ogata Kenichi
Grandma: Suzuki Reiko
Komatsu Seiji: Nanba Keiichi
Hatta Kazuya: Tatsuta Naoki
Owner of Abcb: Yara Yusaku
Anzai Shuri: Takano Rei
Hayakawa Mitsuru: Matsumoto Yasunori
New Abcb Owner and Man A: Chiba Kazunobu
Receptionist and Girl at Abcb: Konishi Hiroko
TV Announcer: Hida Nobuo
"Day Dream - Soba Ni Iru Yo"
(Day Dream - I'll be Close to You)
Lyrics: Matsui Goro
Arrangement: Maejima Yasuaki
Performed by: Agua (VAP)
"Don't Be Afraid"
Lyrics: Matsui Goro
Arrangement: Maejima Yasuaki
Performed by: Agua (VAP)
"Love is Power"
Lyrics: Kudo Aki
Music: Kajiura Yuki
Arrangement: Kimura Kenichi, Kajiura Yuki
Performed by: Kudo Aki (VAP)
Produced by: New Kimagure Orange Road Production Committee, Nippon Television Network Corp, Toho Co, VAP, Studio Pierott
Available in North America from AD Vision on bilingual DVD. There are two functionally identical DVD releases; different cover art is the only substantive change. It was previously available on subtitled and dubbed VHS.