For me, the most surprising thing about this series is how quaint it makes the 1980's look. Seeing its schoolgirls in knee-length skirts and boys in pastels, you'd never know they were making White Snake videos just across the big pond. My mention of the Reagan decade should set your radar to buzzing with warnings that Kimagure Orange Road is an anime oldie-but-goodie. So buckle in, kids. This review is going to be chocked full of caveats, "taking into considerations" and "appreciating the legacy of this series" type comments.
Artwork Thus saying, let me get this out of the way first, the art is nothing to write home about. It was about par for the time period, but looks a little washed out and cardboard-ish by today's standards. This is not a series that anyone ever watched because they were in love with the art.
Plot What fans were (and continue to be) in love with is the story. It's a charming specimen of the uniquely Japanese ("Mork and Mindy and "Sabrina, the Teenaged Witch" aside) Science Fiction/Romance/Comedy genre. At the center of the story is a love triangle. Kasuga Kyousuke (new guy in the neighborhood) falls in love with the mysterious Ayukawa Madoka. Madoka has the reputation of being a "bad girl" which she demonstrates by smoking, riding motorcycles, and playing the sax (Like I said, quaint). It turns out that the two go to the same high school. Unfortunately, Hiyama Hikaru, Madoka's exuberant best friend also goes to the same school and immediately falls head over heels for Kyousuke. Despite his affection for Madoka, his own indecisiveness, Madoka's mercurial nature, and Hikaru's attractiveness all combine to keep Kyosuke bouncing back and forth between the two girls.
For me, the trick in getting a love triangle story to succeed is that the author must keep the viewer/reader similarly invested in all the various possible combinations of would-be lovers working out. By this standard, Orange Road doesn't quite succeed as well as some other examples I could name. It's clear in these episodes that Kyousuke and Madoka are the couple that is meant to be. Hikaru, cute and peppy as she is, functions merely a romance roadblock. However, the writing, like Hikaru, is cute and peppy. It's hard not to get caught up in the many near-misses, mistaken intentions, and missed opportunities of Kyousuke and his lady loves.
The science fiction aspect of this science fiction/romance/comedy is that Kyousuke, his two junior-high aged sisters, and their father all have telekinetic powers. With admirable restraint, the author usually chooses not to let Kyousuke use his powers to machine ex deus his way out of plot complications. Several episodes make no reference to the Kasuga family's powers at all.
The word kimagure means "whimsical." That's perhaps the best way to describe Kimagure Orange Road's appeal. It's a light, cute, romantic comedy about two people who can't make up their minds about each other. Kyousuke's telekinesis is one of many out of the ordinary circumstances that add interest to this character-driven comedy. It's charming, amiable, a little old-fashioned, and all the other synonyms I can think to avoid using the word "quaint" again.
Extras One complaint --There are absolutely no extras on these disks. In one way, this is understandable because it's been so long since these episodes were made. However, not even a stinking image gallery? It was an enormously popular series in Japan and was a favorite among U.S. anime fans in the 1980's. Isn't there anything that could be said? No liner notes? No info on the artist? Nothing on the U.S. voice actors? C'mon, AnimEigo, throw us a bone!
Conclusion Well, in summary, notwithstanding my caveats, taking into consideration the times from which this series arose, and appreciating its lasting legacy to modern anime series, I re-confirm Kimagure Orange Road's "goodie" status despite it's "oldie-ness." Sample it as a side dish to a Molly Ringwald film buffet or use it as a preparation for your next Ferris Bueller-type day out!