a.k.a. Shin Kimagure Orange Road: Soshite, Ano Natsu no Hajimari
One morning, nineteen-year-old Kasuga Kyosuke is awakened by a phone call with a strangely familiar voice on the other end. He is startled when the voice claims it’s Kyosuke calling to warn himself, but he brushes off the warning and hangs up the phone. Later, he barely has time to react when a car comes barreling down the street towards him. Suddenly, he awakens in the future, three years later. His only way back to his own time is finding his twenty-two-year-old self, but the Kyosuke of that time is missing in Bosnia. Will Kyosuke find his way home?
summary by Madoka
Highs: Updated, clean animation and character design; moving musical pieces
Lows: Uncharacteristic behavior has a negative effect on some characters
The long-awaited sequel to Kimagure Orange Road: I Want to Return to That Day, this movie shows us the beginning of the adult lives of Kyosuke, Hikaru and Madoka. Even with a new animation style and a new writer, it nonetheless brings you back into their world with another moving story that lives up to the original.
The first thing that any fan of the original show or OVAs will notice is the drastic change in character design. Updated for a new decade, Kyosuke, Madoka and Hikaru have never looked better. As jarring as it may be to see Takada Akemi’s original designs replaced with a contemporary look, it fits the story well as the characters are much older and should look different. The clean style is pleasing to the eye, and some CG gives the story a sense of the modern world. This movie is also one of the first works of Kajiura Yuki, now well-known for her .hack//SIGN soundtrack. Her piano compositions and background music, which are vital to the story, show her potential as a truly amazing composer.
Along with the new designs comes a new writer. Based on a novel that is said to have at least some input by the original creator, this story deals with a lot more mature sexual content than any of its predecessors. It’s hard not to attribute some uncharacteristic behavior to the new writer. Then again, it could just be that the characters should act different than their fifteen-year-old selves… but wondering why Kyosuke would leave Madoka to go to Bosnia, and then hearing him seriously consider if he could get away with sleeping with Hikaru seems too out of character. On the brighter side of character changes, Hikaru displays some much-needed maturity and continues to grow out of her one-dimensional character of the series.
There is also some obvious thought given to providing some of the characters from the series and OVAs a cameo to let the audience see how their lives are progressing. As for the story of Kyosuke, Madoka and Hikaru, the romance and friendships are as strong as ever. Entertaining as a stand-alone movie, this film extends the courtesy to provide flashback scenes for new viewers. For those that have followed the story, however, this anime gives you the chance to visit old friends and relive the romance that makes this story so memorable.
Not too long ago, I was back in Mexico City to visit some relatives after two years away. I even had the opportunity to visit the house which I called home for more than 15 years and felt the longing to return to those days that only applies when nostalgia knocks on your door. In many ways, this movie had the same effect on my psyche, revisiting familiar characters and situations which have been a part of me for more than a decade.
The main purpose of this movie is to present us with a follow-up to that exquisite finale that was I Want to Return to That Day. In Summer’s Beginning, we are able to experience firsthand how the decisions made before Kyousuke and Madoka started college changed their situation. The most obvious of these changes is how the characters look. I was surprised by the new character design, courtesy of Takayuki Goto. When you have seen 40+ episodes, eight OVAs and a movie with the artwork of Akemi Takada, a change will always be a little hard to swallow. However, I did find it necessary since the characters are not kids anymore, and the artist makes a good choice on how to present a more mature version. Another element that helps maintain the cohesiveness is the use of the same writer who worked on the entire series and movie, and who wrote the book from which this anime is derived.
But for all the effort to keep the same level of quality, this iteration of KOR falls short. The music is adequate, but none of the compositions are memorable. Even the main piece, which is also an important element to the story, is just above boring. Also, for some odd reason, there is a certain level of awkwardness in some of the dialogue and characters’ states of mind. While Madoka remains faithful to her past, the rest of the trio do not, and therein lies the problem; when you have such a rich history as this, you are supposed to adapt the story to fit the characters, not the other way around. On more than one occasion, I was left to wonder if these were really the same people I had grown fond of.
This product is unnecessary given the finality of the first movie and seems more of an excuse to revive the series than to serve as a good addendum. This movie left me thinking just like when I visited my old house: sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we can’t go home again.
Summer’s Beginning can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.