Between the standard romance anime with a couple by predestination, and the harem anime where numerous love interests focused on a single point complement each other, lies the love triangle, where rivals vie for one person’s affections. A difficult choice and a painful rejection follow from the premise, so while the blows may be softened, by nature it’s the most drama-laden of the three.
Kimagure Orange Road was an early, example-setting love triangle series. First off, what does “kimagure” mean? I’ve seen it translated “capricious”, “whimsical”, or “unpredictable”. There isn’t any significant “Orange Road” in the series, though in one of the movies there are a few oranges stuck in, seemingly to give the title some basis. Initially a manga by Izumi Matsumoto that ran in Shonen Jump from 1984 to 1987, like many things from the 80s it made a comeback when the manga recently saw publication in English for the first time. The televised anime, however, has been available in English subbed since the heyday of the VHS in the 1990s, and the distinctive colored text subs can still be seen in some of the episodes widely available to stream, while the video tape box set collections are now pricey, aesthetic collectibles on eBay. When watching the 48-episode series, it’s important to keep in mind that it began in spring 1987 and concluded about a year later, meaning the manga was concluded months before the anime, and with a wealth of chapters to adapt there was no need for anime only “filler” episodes.
Middle schooler Kyosuke Kasuga has just moved, and is first seen walking up the stairs of a park near his family’s new place, counting the steps, but is interrupted when he sees a red UFO sail by above him! On second glance, it turns out to be a wide-brimmed woman’s hat, which he leaps and catches. The owner, on the top landing, is a gorgeous girl with long, dark hair. She calls out, “Nice catch!”, but they get to arguing whether there are 99 steps as she thinks, or 100 as Kyosuke’s just counted, and Kyosuke proposes they split it down the middle call it 99 1/2 steps. They share a laugh, and the girl runs off, letting Kyosuke keep her hat, but after the entrancing meeting Kyosuke realizes he still doesn’t know her name.
When Kyosuke arrives home to his twin younger sisters, Manami and Kurumi, we learn that he comes from a family of espers, all three siblings having psychokinetic abilities, can teleport, and have other powers. Inherited from their deceased mother, their normal human father Takashi works as a landscape photographer, but has his hands full trying to keep the powers secret: this was their seventh move, necessitated after Kurumi ran a 100-meter race in 3 seconds! He always tells the kids to never use the powers in public, but Kurumi is often inclined to take the advice lightly. We also get an anime-original addition to the family, their pudgy cat Jingoro, who despite his heft is often toted around town on otherwise canon errands, and even stars in some novel plots.
At school the next day Kyosuke—in addition to meeting Seiji and Komatsu, clingy girl-obsessed males with whom he rounds out something like the “perverted trio” in High School DxD—sees the girl he encountered before, but learns she, Madoka Ayukawa, is reputed a delinquent! Nicknamed Madoka the Pick, for her unlikely ability to throw a guitar pick as a projectile weapon, we see her rescue her younger, short light-haired friend Hikaru Hiyama from a bunch of male delinquents in a typical fight by an urban river bank; Madoka has the same reputation in the manga, but fights more in the anime, seemingly to bolster her cred. Then, as she‘s about to light up a cigarette, Kyosuke really catches her heart by telling her if she keeps smoking, she’ll never give birth to healthy babies. (Criminally, the studio omitted one of my favorite lines from the manga: while Madoka is briefly stunned silent, Hikaru exclaims, “What’d you say?! I’ll show you! I’ll have so many babies your head’ll explode!”)
Given the very visible chemistry, this might’ve turned into a straight, one-perfect-couple romance, but not long after, Kyosuke is playing basketball in a phys. ed. course, and considering using his powers to make a shot and impress the watching Ayukawa, but won’t do that and just misses. But later Hikaru, till now uninterested in Kyosuke, spies him sitting by the wall of the empty gym as he idly uses his powers to make an incredible shot. Something inside Hikaru flips, and from then on she has an abiding, ebullient love for Kyosuke, or more usually “Sempai!” or “Darling!” to her. As childhood friends, she confides in the much more reticent Madoka, and secures her blessing for pursuing Kyosuke. Our male lead, for his part, h