"One meeting leads to two loves, and three trembling hearts played a gentle melody."
There are certain things that one looks for in good anime: likeable characters, a well-crafted story, effective use of humor, well-drawn animation, and a memorable musical score. Now most series out there manage to have some of these qualities, but few have done the job half as well as a little show that aired in Japan in '87 and '88 called Kimagure Orange Road.
Just what is Kimagure Orange Road (KOR), you might ask? Well, while most E-boarders would put it on the required watching list for anime fans, and while it's commonly counted as one of the three best romantic comedies out there (with the other two being Marmalade Boy and Maison Ikkoku), none of that tells you that much about the show itself. First of all (and as I just mentioned above), this show is a romantic comedy, but unlike most of its genre, the main focus of this story is less about love and more about growing up. Told from the perspective of a fifteen-year-old boy named Kasuga Kyosuke who just happens to be "cursed" with psychic powers (man, what I wouldn't give to have that curse), this is the tale of his relationship with Ayukawa Madoka. More importantly, this is a story about how he copes with the situations he gets himself or is forced into (although it's usually the former). Kyosuke does have one thing going for him that most other people lack: his aforementioned psychic powers, but those serve to land him into trouble as often as they get him out of it and often bring about the "situations" that he must deal with. Usually, this coping involves him embarrassing himself in some utterly hilarious manner, but what else would you expect in a romantic comedy?
Now while a well-detailed plot is one of KOR's greatest strengths, what really makes this series memorable is the characters. Most of these characters are supposed to be between the ages of thirteen and fifteen, and amazingly enough, with the sole exception of Ayukawa, they act like teenagers. This particularly holds true for Kyosuke; although he has a wide range of amazing powers, ultimately, he is still a little immature and acts like a teenager (unlike certain other powerful teenagers in anime *coughLinaInversecough*). In addition to that, none of the characters are perfect -- not even Ayukawa Madoka (who can do almost anything and happens to be the coolest female character in anime) -- but rather taking anything away, these imperfections only serve to make them all the more human. Taking Kyosuke as an example once again, he has a fatal flaw that lands him in trouble time and time again: he has no willpower. None. And yet, this lack is balanced (if you can call it that) by his kind heart and good intentions, all of which make it easier to relate to him (or at least to sympathize) than if he had been some infallible psychic wonderboy.
There is really too much that can be said about this show to fit in one article, but it should be noted that among its other strengths, Kimagure Orange Road boasts an absolutely wonderful soundtrack, with some of the best background music you can find. The music itself changes as the show progresses, molding itself to the mood of the episodes. Not to mention the variations and combinations that appear, like in the episode that parodies The Graduate, in which the background music gradually becomes Simon and Garfunkle's "Sound of Silence".
While sitting here in GSD, it's often easy to forget that there are other great shows out there that never make it to the big white screen for one reason or another. And while Kimagure Orange Road isn't as well-known as Evangelion or Escaflowne, it is easily their equal in quality; moreover, it is one of those classics that never grow old, regardless of how much the world may have changed since it was first released. In the end, the story of boy meets girl and grows up because of girl is one that applies equally now as it will in ten years.