One cold winter’s day, Kyosuke and Madoka make their way to the university campus to view the results of the entrance examinations. Kyosuke overhears a conversation that turns his thoughts to the previous summer, where the events of one day prompt a decision that will change the lives of Kyosuke, Madoka and Hikaru forever. Travel with them down Kimagure Orange Road once again to see one story end in order for another to begin.
summary by Madoka
Highs: One of the best romantic dramas; realistic and moving story
Lows: Noticeable regular character missing
Consider yourself warned: this movie is the conclusion of the Kimagure Orange Road series, and as such should not be viewed until you are ready to see the resolution of the story. With no comedy, very little background music and barely any of the side characters, the focus is completely on Kyosuke, Madoka and Hikaru. Together they complete one of the most heart-wrenching dramas I have seen in any form.
Kimagure Orange Road: I Want to Return to That Day is aware that the real heart of the story is the romance, and as such there is no comedy; no Ushiko and Umao, no zany high school antics and none of Kyosuke’s regular mishaps with his powers. Moreover, the fact that the Kasugas have ESP is not mentioned once in the movie. The only truly important story to be told is that of the trio, and it is told powerfully and with a realism that the television series lacked. Background music is scarce, leaving solely the characters’ conversations and reactions for the viewer’s attention. This story fills those silences with emotion to create genuine awkward pauses that add to the realism of the story. The songs that are present reach the high standard set by the television series and also serve well to set the mood.
Although almost all of the regular characters from the television series make a small visit, there is one that had the potential to impact the story… yet is missing. Yuusaku, a childhood friend of Madoka and Hikaru, constantly protected Hikaru and threatened Kyosuke to never hurt her. Mostly played for comic relief in the series, Yuusaku nonetheless subtly served as Kyosuke’s conscience for how he responded to Hikaru’s affections. Kyosuke would have made the same final decision whether or not Yuusaku was present, but leaving him out of the story is noticeable to long-time viewers of the series.
Even so, it is hard to imagine a more ideal finale to the story of Kimagure Orange Road. The story is so emotionally charged that you will understand both the happiness and the pain that each character is feeling for the story to conclusively end. This movie even accomplishes the difficult task of evoking real sympathy for Hikaru, something the television series never provides. Kyosuke, Madoka and Hikaru complete their final trip down the whimsical orange road of adolescence, taking us with them each step of the way.
Highs: Realistic situations, dialogue and reactions; the gold standard of romantic dramas
Lows: Slow paced; too much goes on
Even though it is recommended not to watch this movie before at least some episodes of the television series, I was one of those few people whose introduction to Kimagure Orange Road was this movie. I must admit, I don’t regret having gone backwards with the order in which I viewed this series. If anything, I can say that it gave me a good appreciation of how a good, well-thought story transcends the limitations that come with not knowing the characters. Don’t get me wrong; the shock was not as deep as it could have been if I’d known the background, but I didn’t feel lost at any point. It is that good.
It should come as no surprise that this last installment of the original series, followed later by a sequel, has solid storytelling. Mochizuki Tomomi, the director of this movie, has been known for his careful handling of dramatic stories with several main characters (Maison Ikkoku, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou: Quiet Country Café and Ocean Waves). Not only did he use some really innovative camera angles and pillow shots, but he made sure that there would be a good amount of symbolism through backgrounds, images and dialogue to give more impact. Not a single cel goes to waste; even the facial expressions and body language have meaning, letting you know that even if the character says one thing, he or she means something different. He also made sure that Wada Kanako, the singer from most of the openings and endings themes from the television series, made her best interpretations for this movie. Kimagure Orange Road as a whole has, without a doubt, one of the best and most representative anime soundtracks of the ’80s.
If there is anything that detracts from this movie, it is the relentless amount of information. There are very few breathers between dramatic scenes, and there is so much emotional charge and symbolism that it is hard to grasp it all from just one view. Even 12 years and more than 12 views later, I still find little details from billboards, posters, signs, face expressions and dialogues that were not put there by chance. It also can be said that the pacing is not really brisk, but this is a minor detail when we realize that the movie is only 70 minutes long.
If you are looking for the comedy that came along with the series, then you will be in for a disappointment. If you want a great example of the perfect ending to a series, then you should definitely watch I Want to Return to That Day. Regardless of your preferences in genres, this is one movie that you must not miss if you consider yourself an anime fan. Just a friendly warning: watching the series first will definitely enhance your experience, and maybe help jerk a tear or two out of you.
I Want to Return to That Day can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.