Feb 12, 2023
This series has been fan translated by Peter Pane & Chris Reed. I recommend checking out the web page "KOR Documents & Novels" for more information.
Rather than basing itself on the manga, SKOR continues the story from where the anime-original movie "Ano Hi ni Kaeritai" left off. As such, it serves a pretty important role in cementing the message of said film; that breakups suck and can be emotionally devastating, but that life ultimately goes on. As for whether or not the novels live up to this promise? The answer is that they could have, if only they weren't just as lacking in impulse-control as
the series they are based on.
The first volume is easily the most important and - for lack of a better word - necessary part of the story. It showcases the futures awaiting the KOR cast members and attempts to provide some form of resolution to the uncertain state of Kyosuke and Hikaru's future relationship. Unforturnately, Matsumoto & Terada seemed intent on finding a way to continue the series' central love-triangle drama at any cost, despite the fact that it had already recieved a satisfying conlusion several years earlier. In a way you could even say that this is where the love-triangle truly started, as the novels are the first enrty in the series between both the manga and the anime to ever hint at Kyosuke having any legitimate interest in Hikaru.
Regardless, it's a deeply disappointing decision. The movie that came before is legendary for the amount of creative self-restraint it employed in order to tell an emotionally resonant story. As such it feels deeply disrespectful toward the film to take the plotline it sought so hard to finally put a satisfying end to and drag it back into the spotlight kicking and screaming. Especially since, with only three volumes to its run, SKOR fails to provide any conclusion of its own to this love triangle.
The first volume also comes with it's fair share of other issues, most of which are fixed in the anime adaptation. Kyosuke's coma incident is handled in a strangely tonally dissonant and comedic way, which is a problem when the comedy is terribly obnoxious and unfunny. The story also concludes without any fanfare; future Kyosuke just returns home on his own once past Kyosuke has dicked around for long enough. On the whole it's a really mixed package.
The second volume on the other hand is my second favorite piece of KOR media ever created! Granted, that's not saying much as only the first movie beats it out, and nothing else even comes close, but at least I can say I got something positive out of this series.
The story surprisingly plays out like a reimagining of the kidnapping episode of the OVA, complete with repurposed plot-points. This time around though it's a much more polished and legitimately gripping narrative, featuring a few novel elements that pleasantly surprised me, such as it's heavy focus on mid-90's internet culture, and it's vibrant and culturally varied American setting. I also like how it explores the ways in which Kyosuke is affected by his visit to Bosnia in the last volume. It all comes together to form a much more mature story than any previous part of the series.
Admittedly, this might conflict with the more down-to-earth nature of the franchise that so many long time fans adored about it, but luckily I'm no such fan.
The main issue at hand is the rather laughable motivation of its twist villain. They try to lampshade it away by repeatedly describing said villain as being "insane", but it doesn't distract from the fact that it reeks of a forced last minute twist employed to quickly wrap up this huge sprawling narrative that was just getting too out of hand. Even so, I still thought the writing held up reasonably well even after the reveal. The villain is terrible, but the novel still does about as much good as could have been done with it. The way the reveal affects established characters and our understanding of them is what saves the writing in the end.
Lastly, the third novel is just not very good at all. I thought the first story might be worthwhile, but at the end of the day, I can't say it really accomplished anything. It's a very half-baked backstory for Madoka and Hikaru's background as punks, and it ultimately pulls back on all the interesting concepts it had, such as Hikaru potentially finding out about Kyosuke's powers.
The final story was just pure torture to read. Imagine all the groanworthy, dated, played-out tropes that the manga recycled for every chapter, and cram it all into one big needlessly drawn out "comedic" story. It's actually painful to think that for however much progress the KOR franchise finally managed to make after several years of continuous pop-culture prominence, the final chronological scene in the franchise's decade-spanning canon is of a 22 year old Kyosuke desperately trying to keep Madoka from finding out he nearly just molested a 13 year old Hikaru.
So, if you for whatever reason still have any interest in reading Kimagure Orange Road in the year of our lord 2023... I reluctantly recommend checking this out so I can inflict just a tiny little bit of this pain and frustration upon someone else.
Reviewer’s Rating: 5
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