Judge Joel Pearce walks down this orange road with an Orange Crush in one hand—and a noose in the other.
Three lovers, two lives, across an ocean of time.
The last part of a long running anime series, New Kimagure Orange Road: Summer's Beginning will probably delight fans of the series but will leave the rest of us feeling pretty cold. It treads over very familiar anime ground, though with several interesting twists. This is not ADV's best effort either—a reminder of how much they have grown in the past few years.
Facts of the Case
When 19-year-old Kyosuke Kasuga is in a car accident, he is mystically sent three years ahead to the exact moment that his future self is in an accident shooting photographs in Bosnia. Now, he is once again thrust into an old dilemma as he must choose between his girlfriend, Madoka Ayukawa and another old flame, Hikaru Hiyama. Whichever girl he decides on, he must quickly find a way to return to his own time, before his future self is trapped between dimensions forever.
Although this film begins with a brief recap of the television and OVA series that have come before it, I still felt lost in Summer's Beginning. My review will certainly be tainted by my unfamiliarity with the original series, but I'll do the best I can.
As far as love triangle anime stories go, this one isn't terrible. It has a clever premise, as Kyosuke is thrust into his own future. If any of us were to go ahead three years, we would probably mourn the changes in our own lives, not realizing how much we have changed during that time as well. He isn't immediately able to understand the good things that have happened to him, because he is the 19-year-old Kyosuke in the 22-year-old's world. As he returns to his own time, will he be more confident knowing what the future holds, or is he fated to experience the three years in between exactly as he would have if the time shift hadn't taken place?
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Unfortunately, the film doesn't deliver on the strong premise. I think the biggest problem with anime love stories is that they are invariably written by people in the anime industry. Now, I don't want to make assumptions about these artistic geniuses, but any time I have ever seen them, they haven't struck me as the sort of people who would have experienced the same problem that Kyosuke does. He has two beautiful women fawning over him for years as he decides which one to get involved with. Although most animators would love to experience that situation, it doesn't play out so well on film. Neither of the girls is special, but they are both really cute, which makes the film just a question of which one he'd rather hop into bed with. And ultimately, his decision is more about sex than love. A critical conversation at the end would have been a great chance for him to explain why he loves the girl he chooses so much. Instead it quickly descends into him wondering if there could have been a way to jump both girls and get away with it.
The dialogue is troublesome as well. Between the high school-ish relationship conversations between the various characters in the triangle and the continuous narration, the film shouldn't feel so empty. Anime is pleasant when it takes the time to just be beautiful, but Summer's Beginning insists on filling every moment with explanations, silly quandaries, and childish sexuality. Maybe I was expecting something different from the premise and the introduction at the beginning, but I really hoped this film would take the high road on some of these issues. The interesting concepts and Kyosuke's psychic abilities could have been explored so much more, but they don't even seem critical to the story. People in their early 20s don't need time travel and psychic abilities to get involved in bad love triangles.
The disc leaves much to be desired. The video transfer seems to have been copied without much alteration from an analog video source, and has all manners of digital problems. There's bad ghosting, compression errors, and print flaws. The animation is cheaply produced, but attractive overall, and the colors are represented well. Slight improvement manifests as the film continues, but the lackluster presentation highlights how much ADV's work has improved in recent years. The sound transfer is better, with both language tracks sporting wide separation and clear dialogue. The music is impossible to ignore, and dreadfully cheesy. The English translation is loose, but keeps the spirit of the literal subtitle translation. The Japanese track is a bit stronger, but the dub is perfectly acceptable. There are no extras.
Fans of the Kimagure Orange Road series will probably walk away from Summer's Beginning with a lot more than I did. You will have already grown attached to the series and will already be expecting the lightly humorous tone. Everyone else will want to either pass this one up or start with the full series instead.
Summer's Beginning is ordered back in time to give this premise another go.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
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