Note: If you looking for a spoiler-free review of the series from my perspective, find my review of the TV series. This post contains spoilers, and my thoughts on the contents of this film. As the only people who would/should watch this are those who have completed the TV series, and because those who have completed the TV series should already know (or have a very strong inkling) how the “triangle” will resolve, I don’t feel it’s necessary to avoid spoilers.
The Kimagure Orange Road TV series concluded with an optimistic and quite well-done moment that nevertheless did not really conclude the story because it left the issue of the “romantic triangle” up in the air. It was something of an idealized ending – providing the viewers with a happy moment without having to actually resolve the romantic triangle, which of course, would yield plenty of depressing moments.
A lot of reviews for this film are exceedingly positive, applauding it for being realistic, mature, serious, etc……I’m not really sure what my opinion of this film, to be honest. I was ready for the lack of comedy and serious nature, and I was looking forward to seeing the plotline be dealt with seriously, yet still, something doesn’t sit right with me. The first thing I should mention is that this film is very different from the series. As mentioned, there is absolutely no comedy or light-heartedness. But beyond that, it feels very disconnected from the series as well. The time shift has something to do with this, perhaps – this film takes place as Kyosuke and Madoka are preparing for college exams. But throughout the film I constantly had this feeling that the characters I was watching felt somehow disconnected from the characters that I had followed for so long in the television series.
Essentially, I suppose my main issue with the film is that in order to really “break” the triangle and yet still come out as admirable characters in my mind, there would have had to be some degree of introspection and regretfulness – which was present, of course, but perhaps not enough to satisfy what I expected. More on that later.
The majority of this film is about Kyosuke ending his relationship with Hikaru. He tells her the truth, she takes it very negatively and is unable to cope with it, and we follow her as she is consistently rejected, and in most cases very coldly so, by Kyosuke, who wants to put it behind him completely and thus treats her very poorly, almost like an annoyance. This does not seem tor reflect the Kyosuke we know – an ultimately well-meaning guy who is afraid of causing harm to anyone. Now, certainly he has to do this in order to end the series – but I don’t think it is realistic for him to become as cold and almost heartless in his rejection of HIkaru as he seemed in this film. I had always imagined that in the end, Kyosuke would be forced to “come clean” to Hikaru and that it would be painful, but I never imagined that it would end with Kyosuke gradually ignoring and acting cold to Hikaru until their correspondence simply ends. It’s simply not who he has been shown to be for 48 episodes. I also missed the short monologues Kyosuke would deliver in the series at tense moments – it provided a window into his mind that may have really have softened the nature of his actions here.
Speaking of friends, where is Yuusaku? Yuusaku did not appear once throughout the entire film. He was a childhood friend of both Madoka and Hikaru – surely this alone permits him to play a role here? Furthermore, he spent a great deal of his life harboring an affection for Hikaru, but the television series hinted that it was not simply a superficial one. For example, when Kyosuke, through some mishap, causes Hikaru to cry, Yuusaku is angry at Kasuga for harming Hikaru, rather than being content that there is trouble in their relationship (which obviously benefits him). I thought that this might foreshadow the role that he could play towards the end, but I was wrong. Yuusaku is nowhere to be found. I have to wonder then, what the people behind this film interpreted from Yuusaku’s character. That he was just comic relief intended to draw pity and laughs? I think it is disappointing that he simply disappears from the face of the Earth.
I suppose my point is that there was a delicate balance in the show that, to me, kept it from being the typical shallow soap opera that most love triangles end up as. That balance was caused by the fact that there was really no character who was at fault, nor anyone to really dislike, despite the situation. Hikaru was oblivious and took everything at face value (although the film seems to contradict this, another thing I disliked). Kyosuke was afraid of shattering the group’s friendship and causing anyone harm, so he continued in that indecisive limbo between the three characters. Madoka, though she had her fondness for Kyosuke, was also Hikaru’s closest friend, and she was always wary of doing anything that could end up harming that friendship as well as the friendship of the group as a whole. So she earned our highest degree of sympathy as a character who simply was in an unfortunate circumstance.
But the high points of the show were always the moments where the fondness between Madoka and Kyosuke would come out for a brief moment, and, of course, come to the forefront in the final episode of the series. But this sort of positive sentiment isn’t the main focus of this film. In fact, the film almost trivializes that relationship. For me, the final moments of the television series, under the tree, were a very satisfying and mutual affirmation of a very special bond between them, yet in this film it’s like it never happened, and there is still insecurity and jealousy in their relationship, which is something I just don’t find appropriate at this point and just makes it seem like the same old shallow love triangle. The “love triangle” was never about Kyosuke being indecisive between the two, except in the weakest episodes. It was about a clear relationship between two characters which could not be fulfilled because of the presence of a third.
There was another scene that disappointed me, and that was when Hikaru visited the AbCb cafe after Kyosuke “came clean”. Here was the culmination of a friendship that had lasted since childhood, the final necessity to confront something which had built up between the two girls for years, and yet it was disappointing, as a scene, to me. It was short, and nothing deep, nothing significant was really said between them. Madoka apologizes to Hikaru briefly…..Hikaru complains at the unfairness of what is happening to her…and nothing else really happens. Hikaru leaves in anger. Friendship since childhood….and that was the final scene between them? For so long, Madoka has bottled up her own sentiments in order to prevent Hikaru feeling hurt, and I expected so much more out of this final scene between them, deeper remorse, reluctance, empathy…….I just can’t shake the nagging thought that the film is just “going through the motions” of a love triangle ending without being influenced by the characters and their history.
Oh, and earlier, I mentioned the strange altered characterization of Kyosuke, but Madoko was hit by it as well. Throughout the series Madoka has always valued the well being of others over herself. As I said, this was one of the reasons for the triangle in the first place. It is simply inconceivable to me that her decision to finally act on her own feelings would be accompanied by anything other than a great degree of reluctance and guilt for Hikaru, much more than what was present in the film.
Okay, I’ve rambled incoherently long enough. While I mostly discussed the negatives of this film, I don’t dislike it as much as my post may seem. But I can’t shake the thought that this film, at times, feels like the resolution of some other love triangle, not KOR. Like a template of “love triangle dissolution” was taken and fitted onto the KOR cast. This would be why characters like Yuusaku are absent, why the entire paranormal aspect is gone (not that I consider this essential….but it is a very obvious omission), and why characters act contrary to what has been established in the TV series. Furthermore, it’s also why it never gives the impression that the two girls were childhood friends, that the three of them have grown up together as friends, nor that the love “triangle” being broken was not one of wavering emotions, but rather an obvious and significant bond between two characters which couldn’t be fulfilled due the “triangle”.
I know how many people would probably respond to my opinion – they would say that the film is realistic, and that I am being unrealistic. That’s probably true. I don’t know. But as I said before, I very much an idealist. And by that I don’t mean that I expected a perfect happy ending….but I thought that the way we would proceed to that inevitably bittersweet ending would be more…admirable? I don’t know. But my final bit of advice is that if your favourite aspect of the show is the bond between Madoka and Kyosuke, then the highlight of KOR is still the final episode of the television series.
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