Readers of the Anime section on this ol’ website may have noticed we put up a review for the classic romance comedy, Kimagure Orange Road. We weren’t really all that keen on its dated animation, overly long series length or its time-fashioned attitudes. But we certainly did like its aesthetic timelessness, its cast, and its mature depiction of teenage love in the heady days of the 1980s. We never had a chance to elaborate much on its intros though. Like a lot of anime shows’, they serve not just as a TV eye-catch but also perfectly convey the show’s themes of love, youth and the unsteady path to adulthood. For one reason or another, they also happen to quite brilliant for their time too.
Be warned - this is very much a fluff article. It’s merely just an espousal of how much I love these openings. I can’t say I’m a fan of 80s J-Pop, or romantic comedies. I’m not even that much of an anime nut to usually dedicate homages for what are essentially artsy cartoon vignettes. But I’ll be damned if there isn’t some kind of bygone je ne sais quoi about KOR’s visuals that evoke a sense of memoria in the viewer - maybe a yearning for a summer long passed, of carefree teenage days spent trying to be cool while crushes played on our minds and dreams laid in front of us for the taking.
Or, maybe they’re just weird, crummy old sequences from a weird, crummy old Japanese cartoon. To each their own! I ain’t judgin’ how you judge.
Kimagure Orange Road ran week-by-week for 48 TV episodes from April 1987 to March 1988, nursing the dying embers of a gaudy, decadent era before the somehow gaudier reign of the early 90s swooped in to steal its thunder. Being a show for a teenage audience, naturally it needed to be as hip as the kids who were watching it, which is probably why the opening credits were changed a whopping three times over its year-long run.
New Wave was pretty much dead in the West by the time the late 80s came around, but Japan still had some love for such a music style if KOR’s first intro credits are anything to go by. Honestly, the song itself is pretty corny (even if fans of the show seem to rave about it). The main snapshot montage introduces the characters and mood of the show’s early episodes perfectly though, even if does fling out such themes in cut-heavy, machine-gun fashion (Drama! Show title! Drama! Emotive expressions! Cat! Drama!). Despite slightly awkward execution, the idea works. This is a show with some serious emotional depth for teenagers just discovering what feelings are all about. Throwing out these small tidbits of dramatic tension in-between credit rolls is therefore a pretty straightforward way for them to ingest what the show’s about.
Also, did we ever mention just how vibrant KOR’s art style is? We may have done a few times in our review. We’ll just mention it again here, because it’s flippin’ awesome.
My personal fave out of the three. It seems every cartoon based around teenagers has some episode or skit where they all decide to form a band. Anime is obviously no different! Kimagure Orange Road actually dedicates two whole episodes of its run to this idea, as well as its second set of opening credits.
Idealistic nostalgia plays an integral part in KOR’s thematic makeup, and this opening has no qualms about celebrating that. Sweeping shots of Kyosuke and his friends rocking out intermingle with wistful monochrome photos of empty school classrooms and contemplative character portraits. This one is all about looking back on youthful days, even if our memories have placed such a tint on them that they seem more perfect than they actually were. Never mind the introspective musing though - frankly the theme song (yes, the theme song), and the ‘band’ shots, are just as glorious. Especially Madoka’s moody bass-playing and Kyosuke’s drum-roll animation. That’s what you call tight.
KOR’s final opening is undoubtedly the technical superior of the three - a clever transition loop that starts and ends with the show’s resident mascot, Jingoro, bounding along to some dramatic (if kinda cheesy) pop-rock. The cat’s certainly in a hurry to get somewhere, and by this point in the series it’s past necessary that Kyosuke needs to hurry up and decide on his girl situation too. This opening really does capture the nervous anticipation of the show’s closing episodes, and the unavoidable, heartbreaking climax it’s going to bring. Those syrupy English refrains of ‘you’ve broken my heart’ ain’t there just for show, after all.
The animation itself seems to slip and slide at random with its various individual scenes. Rides in spinning teacups merge into Hikaru drinking from one at ABCB (a recurring cafe on the show), which in turn switches to Kyosuke’s little cousin Kazuya playing video games in his bedroom as an apathetic Jingoro watches on. There doesn’t seem to be too much logic to the flow, but when it’s this well done, that probably doesn’t matter. If anything, the whole thing works as a psuedo-music video of sorts, especially with its not-so-subtle attempts at symbolism. If that car in the video game staying perfectly dead center of the road isn’t some kind of play on Kyosuke’s indecision, then I’m a Frenchman.
Obtuse metaphors and nostalgic yearnings aside, all of Kimagure Orange Road’s opening sequences are fantastic. There was no real point to this write-up, aside from just highlighting three of the numerous reasons why so many old-school anime fans still consider this show an influential classic. If you’re interesting in learning more, feel free check out our review too.
Media utilized in article is property of: Toho Animation / Studio Pierrot / AnimEigo