Kimagure Orange Road Singing Heart getting reissued should be a cause for celebration given Kimagure Orange Road has something of a legendary cult status amongst anime fans. It was one of the first anime productions that explored the tsundere archetype as part of a shounen rom com, it is gloriously 80s in every amazing way possible and the music, the focus of today’s review, is incredible.
With the recent interest in anime music on vinyl, and as a nice reprieve to the huge spike in second hand prices for Kimagure Orange Road’s back catalogue of soundtracks, in 2021 Universal saw fit to resissue a swath of classic releases. Kimagure Orange Road Singing Heart is one such release and is notable for containing almost the entire catalogue of vocal tracks featured across the other separate soundtrack releases. While I’m generally not one for greatest hits compilations these days, the thought of having a virtually complete selection of Kimagure Orange Road vocal tracks on a single platter was too tempting, especially considering the cost of purchasing the full series of albums.
So let’s take a deep dive into anime history and 80s nostalgia!
Unusually, Kimagure Orange Road Singing Road kicks off with Natsu no Mirage, the first ending for the series. I say “unusually” because I was expecting a sequential journey of sorts, but after spinning the record a few times it’s a really nice start being a great 80s pop ballad with plenty of pining vocals echoing the kind of melodrama Kimagure Orange Road inspires.
Next we get Orange Mirage, the second opening theme. Back when I first watched through Kimagure Orange Road I was a little disappointed when Night of Summer Side was replaced by this, but years later I have to admit that this might now be my favourite opening. It’s a great pop song in its own right with some fantastic melodramatic minor keys that really bring about Kyosuke’s ongoing pining for Madoka. Throw in a key change at the end with a rad guitar solo and there’s a lot to love here. It might even be my pick from the whole album, it’s pretty damn tremendous.
Still on Side 1 we get Furimuite My Darling, one of the insert songs from Minako Fujishiro. It’s super 80s jpop in composition and vocals, but you know what? It’s a perfect image song for Hikaru. I’ve been listening to a lot of 80s jpop of late and it really holds up and perfectly echoes the era.
Next up we have Jenina, a title which doesn’t make much sense but simply oozes hot-blooded 80s melancholy. It perfectly echoes all that drama and tension from Kimagure Orange Road all these years later. This album is full of all the feels.
Contrasting hard with the preceding track comes Night of Summer Side. My god, I still remember how excited this opening track made me feel back in 2001 when I first discovered Kimagure Orange Road. This is the first opening track and it’s an absolute banger of an 80s pop rock track. Clean male vocals, bass guitar, brass, synth, 4:4 rock drums and the right mix of up-tempo and pining over lost love make this an amazing track. Orange Mirage just wins out for this album, but this is a tight follow-up as my second favourite pick.
Rounding out Side 1 we continue the energy with the fantastic, super jpop track Mou Hitotsu no Yesterday. Playful synths, brass, bongo drums, fantastic vocals from Kanako Wada – this is tremendous stuff. Used as part of the Kimagure OVA media train, Wada’s contribution to Kimagure Orange can’t be understated – after all, we’ve already had three tracks from her on Side 1!
Again, featuring Minako Fujishiro’s second run at vocals so far, is delightfully bubblegum jpop that aims to channel Hikaru’s energy and is a smashing way to kick off Side 2. We get echoes of summers lost in the spirit of youth, assuming your summers were dominated by blobby synths, strumming bass guitars, bongo drums and sweet 80s Japanese vocals. If you’re not bopping along to this one like a dufus in the living room you’re doing it wrong. Or maybe you’re listening to it on a set of headphones so you don’t wake the kids up and instead contribute to the universe’s energy by having a dumb smile on your face. Either outcome is fine.
Breaking Heart starts off as an early 80s rock for the first minute before breaking down in a hail of synths with melodramatic female vocals in the spirit of something from Jim Steinman. Seriously – replace the audio track for “Tonight is What It Means to be Young” from Diane Lane’s performance from Streets Of Fire with this and it might be a perfect match. Get to any of the Breaking Heart choruses, especially the fade out – seriously, just hold off until then and tell me your heart doesn’t explode with excite. I enjoyed it in the context of the anime, but listening to it on vinyl for a few times since spinning this on my deck is locking this into my third favourite track on this album. Until I change my mind, which might happen by the time I finish this review.
Going down a few notches in tempo is Salvia no Hana no You Ni, another track featuring Wada on vocals. This is super 80s (well, the whole album is I guess…), but we get heavy bass drums on a classic 4:4 beat, loads of synth, sexy saxophone solo, it’s awesome.
Keeping the pace with a little melancholy is Kikenna Triangle – sexy saxophones are back, great 80s rock drums with awesome flourishes on the backing vocals. And then more sexy saxophone goodness. So much sax. It’s the radness. This is the kind of track where you can picture your favourite male protagonist from any form of pop media wandering home in the rain after suffering yet another heartbreaking rejection.
Think it can’t get more 80s? Need some orch hits and punchy vocals before folding into sultry female vocals? Kimagure Orange Road Singing Heart has this covered with Kanashii Heart wo Moeteru, the second to last track. We even get a synth harmonica break in there. Imagine if you could take Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine, filter this through the lens of 80s jpop, slow things down a little and this is what you get. This is the second ending theme and I recall that I preferred this over Natsu no Mirage 20 years ago, but on reflection they’re both awesome.
Finishing off the soundtrack is the simply tremendous Kono Mune ni One More Time. Wiggly guitars, gravelly Japanese pop vocals, minor chords lamenting the nature of love and more melodrama you can poke a stick at. Oh, and the sax solo bridge? My gawd. Overlay that against Rob Lowe’s hilariously oily sax sessions from St. Elmo’s Fire and tell me it isn’t amazing. The first time I listened to this soundtrack I wasn’t sure if this is how the album should have ended, but after listening to it a few times I think it’s a perfect send-off. Especially after thinking of it playing during that scene from St. Elmo’s Fire. I haven’t watched that movie in ages, I really should rectify such a poor life choice…
It’s not just the track selection that makes this reissue of Kimagure Orange Road Singing Heart a reason to celebrate. Released on transparent lime-green vinyl and packaged with meticulous attention to detail, this is the kind of release to make any Kimagure Orange Road fan excited. The cardboard stock on the outer sleeve is nice and robust, and the printing quality is stunning, even down the electric yellow and blue obi. The disc comes in a high quality inner sleeve and the liner notes folds out with an awesome illustration of Madoka. The icing on the cake? A massive reproduction foldout poster with Madoka and Hikaru suited up 80s-style.
The pressing is also faultless – gorgeous stereo separation, beautiful dynamic range and an impressively low noise floor. I’ve been fortunate that the last few records I’ve reviewed (Milan Records’ Cowboy Bebop OST and Hikaru Utada’s Japanese pressing of One Last Kiss) have all featured fantastic audio quality in addition to the weeb-friendly packaging. Given this was a pre-order sight-unseen, I’m pretty blown away by Universal’s commitment to make this more than a fan cash-in and get the audio quality up to where it needs to be.
Kimagure Orange Road Singing Heart is an amazing and opportune release on vinyl – it sidesteps the increasingly costly original pressings in the secondhand market with a fastidious attention to detail that knocks it out the park in many respects. This is a fantastic release that should tick all the boxes for fans of 80s anime, synthpop or classic 80s jpop. I’ll be looking forward to spinning this for years to come!