Naho Takamiya's first day of her sophomore year of high school is off to an uneasy start. After waking up late, she receives a strange letter addressed to her. However, the letter is from herself—10 years in the future! At first, Naho is skeptical of the note; yet, after witnessing several events described to take place, she realizes the letter really is from her 26-year-old self.
The note details that Naho's future life is filled with regrets, and she hopes that her younger self can correct the mistakes that were made in the past. The letter also warns her to keep a close eye on the new transfer student, Kakeru Naruse. Naho must be especially careful in making decisions involving him, as Kakeru is not around in the future. With the letter as her guide, Naho now has the power to protect Kakeru before she comes to regret it once more.
It’s a well known fact that shoujo anime have never been the most original pieces of work. They follow a very basic and straightforward structure, and more often than not end up feeling way too dramatized and overly-melodramatic for no apparent reason. Once you've seen one you've seen them all, right? Some people would beg to differ, and as to disprove my claim the adaptation of Orange reared its ugly head out of the deepest depths of shoujo hell itself to quickly rise to the top of this season's charts, smirking all the while it does it. Watch as the magnificent story of Orange unfolds,
giving us deep insight into taboo topics like depression and suicide, viewed in distasteful shoujo fashion.
The story of Orange revolves around Naho, a carefree girl in her second year of highschool. One day, she stumbles upon a magical letter that is able to foresee her near future. The letter was sent from Naho to Naho 10 years in the past in hopes of her younger self being able to correct the mistakes she once made in highschool. How did the letter get there? Err.. A black hole in the Pacific ocean.. n' stuff.. I couldn't make this shit up even if I tried, could I? Anyhow, it's up to Naho to correct her past mistakes by saving the new transfer student, Kakeru Naruse, from taking his own life. As convoluted as the plot may seem, it's not bad straight off the bat for lacking a sense of realism. Instead, Orange's problem is that even that which is supposed to be grounded in reality feels like it isn't. What I'm referring to is the lousy presentation the series decided to resort to when tackling both the internal and external conflicts of the characters, like Kakeru being depressed for the sake of it and Naho being the weakest and most helpless creature on planet earth, thus making it unbearable to watch her interactions with Kakeru as she hopelessly tries to undo the regrets that the letter spoke of.
Adding on to that, to say that Naho is not a very outgoing girl would be an understatement. At certain times she appears to be completely and utterly socially inept, despite seemingly being a part of and having a decently-sized group of friends. Such a protagonist works great for Orange though, as having anyone other be the lead instead of such an indecisive girl would bring about a rather quick and uneventful resolution to things as no mind-mindbogglingly unnecessary conflict would ever arise. The fact that Naho prioritizes the most trivial of things over changing the future is also a huge problem. She finds out that there’s a way to undo one of her regrets simply by writing “No” on a piece of paper. And what does she do? She messes it up by postponing it to go and clean the classroom. And even when she isn’t caught up in anything and has a clear resolution of what she’s supposed to do, she doesn’t do it simply due to reluctance. I understand that she’s a refined girl and all but that doesn’t mean that she should constantly refrain from going out of her comfort zone every once in a while due to her shy demeanor when her actions will literally dictate whether a person lives or dies.
Following the cursed traditions of the shoujo genre, it is a given that emotion beats out logic in 99% of cases. And as such, logic and rationality completely cease to exist within the relationships between the main cast. Fuck magical letters that bend the space time continuum, Suwa's attitude towards Naho and Kakeru's relationship is where the real supernatural stuff kicks in. I don't care if he's the nicest guy on the face of the planet, no person has the ability to undermine their own feelings like that solely for someone else's sake, especially seeing as he knows Kakeru for like, what, a month? I'd have a difficult time believing it even if the two knew each other since birth, but at the start of the series they're not even buddy-buddy entry level yet. The relationship between Naho and Kakeru itself often tends to fall into unbelievable territory as well. How unrealistically oblivious these characters are to each other's feelings for a handful of episodes is what makes the series feel so stretched out at times since instead of going from A to B, their relationship has a bad habit of going on detours and wandering off to C,D and F. The "Oblivious teenagers" trope in romance anime has been oversatured beyond repair and it doesn't help when the anime at hand has a set premise that it can't seem to get to the point of because it's too busy playing a game of ring around the rosy with its' romance. Nevermind that they saw the fireworks together or held hands, that's just what friends of the opposite sex enjoy doing. No implications what so ever.
Most of the characters in Orange aren’t good or bad, but rather painfully average as they tend to play into various cookie cutter tropes due to the genre at hand. Starting from the bottom in a literal sense, we’ve got Naho. She’s weak, inattentive to an unhealthy degree, lacks the confidence to say a single sentence without stuttering, crying or running away and has no defying personality what so ever. All of these things when combined essentially just make her an all-around terrible character, with her only redeeming quality being the fact that she's relatively cute. You remember that one time you were at the shopping mall and walked by that small child that was very clearly lost? That's Naho in a nutshell. She's got absolutely no clue how to act or even think on her own and while her constant blunders keep the story moving forward, her lack of resolve ultimately makes her an extremely unlikable character.
I know it may seem like I'm nagging on her simply because she is a flawed human being, something that's supposed to make her more realistic and/or relatable. Brief rundown: A character is (not) complex when he or she is not a perfect human being or close relative of Jesus-kun. Whether a character is complex or not is simply the aftermath of good writing, something that Orange lacks entirely. Comparing her to Shinji Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion would be good practice of that. Shinji, at the end of the day, is a well-written, multilayered and sympathetic character. Granted, he is not a likable character, but his personality is entirely justified during the course of the series and the anime makes the viewer very well aware of that. Naho, on the other hand is also unlikable, but her personality is not justified in the slightest, nor is she the least bit sympathetic. She is presented as a mentally-handicapped schoolgirl that can't be bothered stepping out of her comfort zone when her actions literally dictate whether the person she loves lives or dies, and that just makes her a cunt.
Angsty Teenager-kun (Angst-kun for short) first enrolls into the story appearing as a mystery figure, as for a good duration of the story we don’t know much of anything about him. This is totally acceptable though, because by the time the nature of his character comes to light, you'll be wishing he had just remained angsty for no apparent reason. After many not-so-subtle hints throughout the anime, it is then revealed that Angst-kun suffers from clinical depression. I liked you Kakeru, I really did. Due to Naho's over-incompetence in every situation, I had come to view you as the hero who takes the initiative, thus making this story move if but a single inch further. Unfortunately, Orange seems to have a very falsified perception of depression and suicide and for that, Angst-kun had to be the scapegoat and embodiment of the writer's complete and utter lack of knowledge on this subject. There's also no real way to feel sympathy for him either, seeing as his other attributes consist of being heavily controlling and having severe anger-management issues. I can see why him and Naho get along so well. Here's how Kakeru's cycle of depression tends to play out:
Step 1: In case everything is going well, make sure to bring up your dead mother for no apparent reason other than to kill the mood
Step 2: Get pissed off about friends trying to cheer you up and unnecessarily lash out at them (preferably Naho)
Step 3: Quick, make a run for it!
Step 4: Regret doing so & turn suicidal :'(
Step 5: Rinse and repeat
If that wasn't enough, they top it all off by demonizing the relationship between his mother in order to victimize him further, until pulling a Shigatsu where it actually turns out his mother was a living saint the whole time! You know, they were just taking her bad deeds out of context, when in actuality she really cared about him.. Fuck off. Moving on, Suwa is easily the most likeable and respectable character in the entire story. However, while you can tell that unlike Kakeru, he genuinely cares about his friends' wellbeing, his stance on Naho and Kakeru's relationship is far too idealistic to be real. While his goody-two-shoes persona does make him prevail over the likes of Kakeru, it also makes his character all too stale and predictable. His best moments are easily the ones in which he feels conflicted whether or not to act upon his intuition and snatch Naho for himself instead of undermining his feelings. Unfortunately, they are very few and far in between, as for the overwhelming majority of the show he simply acts as Kakeru's wingman without bothering to intervene. No one else in their group stands out.
Art & Animation
Setting aside their heavy resemblance to puddle-toads, the character designs are somewhat visually-pleasing and even help the aesthetic in a sense. The animation doesn’t really have any opportunities to shine as the most intense it ever gets is just the characters running away from each other (I just made myself giggle).The opening looks decent for what it is and the ending is mostly just a slideshow of still images, but the directing is really where the technical department of Orange shines. I was skeptical to see the poor guy behind Steins;Gate and Texhnolyze be reduced to directing Orange, but alas, he once again successfully utilizes many different editing tricks in order to enhance the atmosphere and the various emotions displayed throughout, shrugging aside any previous doubts of mine. If anything, it just proves his talent is being entirely wasted on a project like this, as a few directing tricks ain't nearly enough to pull it back on its' feet.
Yuck. The happy-go-lucky J-pop feel of the opening and ending made me nauseous. OST and voice acting aren't anything too impressive but get the job done. KanaHana going "Eh?" 20 times per episode made me want to nom on a handgun.
It's been made very evident to me that I'm not the target demographic for this show. Orange is like my antithesis in every sense of the word, from the obnoxious cast and generic plot, to the subpar theme exploration and lacklustre pacing. Trying to complete this series was excruciating in every sense of the word. There was no light at the end of this dark, desolate tunnel. After finishing it, my psyche feels like it's been violently flushed down the toilet, head-first and everything. What was it all for? For the credibility of this review? Definitely not worth it. Apart from the directing choice, there was not a single enjoyable element in Orange to be found. Even the driving force of the show - The drama which all fans of the show (fujoshi, mainly just fujoshi) gush over felt surreal and managed to miss its mark entirely. Muh depression :<
At its core Orange is an extremely character-driven show and as such, a weak cast is the biggest detriment it can possibly have. Poor characterization accompanied by constant, God-awful melodrama and a false perception on serious subjects like depression and suicide drag the series to the dirt, when it could have been much, much more. While the themes themselves are fairly intriguing as they are rarely ever brought up within the medium, the lack of proper execution doesn't give them much of anything to stand on, and as such, they tend to violently tumble over and fall into the realm of boring impracticality, where they'll soon after be forgotten. It prioritizes constant melodrama over everything else, and suffers heavily because of it. Every weaker aspect is subsequently amplified as the show progresses, and the only way it can be fully appreciated is if the doctor's prescription of sleeping pills is currently at a standstill.
School life is so fascinating and a typical shojo romance without a setting in high school isn't common, "orange" is no different but there's a lot more to it than just being your every day's anime.
The plot is quite open from the first episode itself,nothing much of suspense.we're being introduced to Naho a 16-year-old girl,about to attend her second
year of high school abruptly receives letters while on her way to school,the letters are from Naho herself, but ten years into future, who ask her youngest self to prevent her "biggest regret" from happening and that is to save Kakeru from dying.
Though initially skeptical, Naho eventually begins to read the letters as they predict some of the events that would happen in her time, the foremost being the enrollment of Kakeru (the main character), a transfer student from Tokyo, to her class. Kakeru is quickly befriended by Naho and her friends.
Through the letters, Naho also learns that something bad will happen to Kakeru. She decides to do the opposite of the events detailed in the letters in hopes of averting it. At the same time, in future,Naho is now married and has a baby with Suwa, visits Kakeru's former home together with her friends, where it is revealed that they are attending a memorial for the long-dead Kakeru. What surprises them, however, is the revelation that Kakeru died not because of an accident, but suicide.
Now it's up to Naho and her friends to save Kakeru of this timeline where the future of their selves failed.
Mostly,we've been talking about how greatly the show touches our heart and I'm no different, but nothing is flawless and at some point,we've to be practical while judging a work as wholly and can't let our emotions get the better of us,the biggest mystery remains in this show is the execution of time travel mechanism.
It's not like Doraemon use the time machine and deliver the letter to their respectively past selves from the future.
Although we're told that they used the theory of black hole to interact with their past selves but we would never know how they did it,this part is so mess up and I wouldn't have complained if it was just a regular romance shoujo but it's a sci-fiction as well,we got all the rights to know and all other aspects can't overshadow it,Something things are better left untouched rather than bringing up unrealistic logics.
The story mainly revolves around these three Kakeru, Naho and Suwa,although we can't deny the fact the others characters are less important,but they didn't get much spotlight.
Kakeru-I considers him the most realistic character of the show,it's not often that an issue like depression is highlighted in the story these days, but over here it's done precisely in the form of Kakeru.
He's the type of guy who would never show the pain in front of others and will bear it all alone from inside.
Naho- she's like any other girl of her age who believe in first-time love,she was deeply committed to saving Kakeru.
Suwa-The most cheerful guy in the crew,despite his feelings toward Naho he tried his best to keep her happy and help Kakeru.
Hagita- A creepy character but he did something good at the end.
Azusa-The official bread girl.
Takako-A friend,I really don't know what else to say.
Who doesn't like a love triangle?Probably many but still I would like to bring up.
In the future timeline, Naho fell in love with Kakeru but things didn't work out right and had much lesser interaction,meanwhile, Suwa couldn't control his feelings anymore,confessed to her,Kakeru died and they end up together but a feeling of regret always remained in Naho which hurt Suwa seeing her like this
In the parallel timeline, Naho fell in love with Kakeru as usual and was able to understand him better and spend more time,while Suwa deeply in love with Naho knew the outcome if he was to confess his feelings,so he didn't let himself become a bother to their relation and ended up acting as the selfless good guy but no one is certain of the future.
I don't know why so much hatred towards Kakeru,everyone got their fair chance in both the timelines.
Another breakthrough point for an anime besides the plot is the animation and over here,it's pretty mediocre.
Although the background seems to be quite up to the mark but the characters design,movements are so sluggish and imperfect,it's really disappointing to see.
The opening 'Hikari no Hahen" by Yu Takahashi is really splendid and set the mood for the next 20 minutes of the show while the ending "Mirai" by Kobukuro act as a catalyst to all those feelings we go through.
And it's a anime with deep emotion and with the right tone,it did justice to the show.
I did enjoy it and each episode was an emotionally roller coastal ride for me, but I somehow felt that the manga was better in depicting each aspect to the fullest.
Emotion is something that fuels us,as everything we do is fueled by love,hate,passion,sadness;thus opening up an infinite number of paths which will inevitably change the way we see thing forever as every second goes by,Positive or negative there will be changes and that gamble of nature is thrilling.So get ready to ride on the feel train.
It may not be the best adaptation right now but as a whole, it was worth watching and one of the best, the summer has to offer.
Adorned in lush textures of green and wrapped up in the endless blue horizon of the summer sky, Orange rests softly on the lips like a faint drop of nostalgia just waiting to be recollected. Approaching the quiet slice of countryside that remained dormant over countless winters, we're flung back 10 years to where it all began. The place where two paths collided but only one was allowed to move forward. A place tucked away behind walls of foliage, cradled in a valley older than time itself. There it resides, a small town that carries with it a sense of cultural simplicity that only the
exclusion of the outside world could allow. Under the cover of low hanging branches, the sun pierces its way through, lighting the path where a group of friends walks side by side to a future that lays bare before them. And in this huddle of jovial faces, we find Naho; a soft-spoken girl that has within her grasp a letter. A letter that will forever alter the course she takes and the fate of the ones huddled around her.
And with the arrival of a new student named Kakeru from Tokyo, this quiet little town perks up, and so does the latent curiosity that rests in the girl's heart. A spark ignites as these two worlds collide, their fates forever becoming intertwined in the process. And so begins the tale that unravels before us. A tale of bittersweet consequence, regret and seeking solace in the embrace of others.
Breathing new life into what many would consider a worn out formula, Orange proves that even overused set-pieces could be spun into something engaging and authentic. By only giving events a gentle push when need be, the anime is allowed the freedom to run its own course. To emote in ways that feel at home for its characters and not at the mercy of the scriptwriters pushing an agenda. And with acclaimed director, Hiroshi Hamasaki, the man behind such works as Steins;Gate and Texhnolyze, taking the helm, this is instantly felt with the first painted frame that makes itself known to us. And as things come into focus, we're formally introduced to its world and the tale it wishes to display.
After opening a letter addressed to her, Naho is rendered speechless by the contents written inside:
"I'm writing this letter ten years in your future."
Was it a practical joke? Her friends leading her on for harmless fun? Or perhaps it was something more profound... and maybe, just maybe, the words addressed to herself, from herself, was real? But as the day transpired the unlikely answer became truth and any doubt that might have lingered faded away with the realization of what she held in her hand. This was no mere trick, this was real.
"This is the one day I don't want you to invite Kakeru", she didn't listen before, but now she heeds the words. Now she knows that this far-fetched truth isn't something to disregard. Whether it be something as grand as divine prophecy or simply an elaborate setup she's incapable of figuring out, what is for certain is that the letter wasn't wrong; a window into the future, a truth beyond comprehension.
But what she does understand is her friends. The clique that always welcomes her with open arms. Free to look on at their antics in silent bliss. Hitaga's larger than life persona, as he fends off comments, constantly being playfully antagonized by the quick-witted Azu, taking pleasure in seeing him fluster behind his thick-framed glasses, while Suwa towers over them amused by the "married couple" squabble taking place. Takako hanging back instigating with Azu complying gleefully, as they all crack a smile enjoying each others company. Trailing behind them with a small gesture of content, Naho doesn't ask for anything more than this. These are the moments that they live for. The moments that Naho feel at home. And with Kakeru being brought into the mix, it's these moments she never wants to let go of.
Despite being indoctrinated into the group with ease, Kakeru remains the anomaly. He flashes a reserved smile, accepts their gestures of friendship, humor them when they tease each other, and even participate on occasion. But just behind his gentle expression, there's a feeling of distance. A wall that keeps them outside from the truth that's eating away within. A mind that's off somewhere else, a lonely place that only his thoughts are allowed to occupy. And staring back at him is Naho, fixated on the truth behind the smoke and mirrors.
The truth she now possesses. Kakeru isn't going to be around for long if he follows this path. An idea that saddens her to the core.
The pain of carrying that burden alone. A life resting in her hands. A life she cares for immensely, yet can't express without the fear of rejection, or perhaps even more unnerving, the fear of being loved in return. Determined to save him, she's forced to open up. A girl who's not confident in her own self-worth having to muster up enough courage for both of them. And though she may fumble over her words, go about nervously to even make eye contact, afraid of being adored by another, scared to death at the thought of being yearned for, she still presses on. Whether she manage to surpass the regret of her future-self at one minute to only fail the next task, every fiber of her being want to keep Kakeru alive. A love that's equal parts selfish and unquestionable. A love she feels guilty for; ashamed at the thought of pressing for answers that she knows will hurt him to express. A pain of caring too much to see him go but being too bashful to say what's needed to make him stay.
Regret, suicidal tendencies, adolescence, young love, life altering decisions, self-acceptance, self-awareness, selfish desire, deceit, earning trust, learning to let go, accepting defeat, perseverance.
A whirlwind of dilemmas is heaped onto her plate the moment she decides to take action to stop the inevitable, whether she's aware of them or not.
But is it alright to change the future, to listen to herself 10 years ahead? A 26-year-old Naho, willing to change the decision of her reserved younger self for a future that would rob her of the life of a newborn child, nestled in the bosom of a loving mother's arms and a man who's in his own right the right match for her? This decision becomes about much more than saving someone, it becomes about weighed sacrifices. Nothing can be gained without the loss of something else. Is it right to gamble the happiness of others, and possible life of another, just to fulfill a want to preserve someone else's? Even the most trivial of occurrences could tip the scales in one side's favor. Fate doesn't choose favorites. The slightest swing of the pendulum determining the fate and love of those involve. A fragile web that's only held in place by the desire to mend wounds not yet made and save a life that's not yet lost.
The summer breeze caressing her cheek, orange hair fluttering ever so gently with eyes of emerald looking outward to the unforeseen outcome of her actions. Was it right for her to challenge destiny? Was it her call to make? Resting his steady hand on her shoulder, a caring look of reassurance offered, Suwa eases the burden; don't worry, I'm on your side, no matter the decision. A silent exchange that says everything.
These are the moments that are brought to life by the talented team staffed with seeing the vision through. With vibrant earth tones protruding through brushstrokes of greenery, a rustic, yet polish look that's acid washed in Hiroshi's unique stylistic choices; everything displays a delicate touch, fine-tuned by people who care about the projects they're working on. With character design credit given to Nobuteru Yuuki, the same man that lent his talent to Kids on the Slope and Paradise Kiss, it all comes together into one cohesive piece. Carrying this off is a soundtrack that gently chimes in when the time calls for it, with the soft stroke of an acoustic guitar, thump of drums, piano keys and the occasional presence of zany instrumentals used when the time was right. It's a soundtrack that doesn't drown out the actions on screen but instead works in synchronicity with it. Choosing to be a supporting act than the main attraction.
This was also true with the opening and ending themes, with "Hikari no Hahen" by Yu Takahashi capturing the essence of what's seen when you visit the world of Orange and "Mirai" by Kobukuro capping it off with a bittersweet performance that embodies the latent emotions that makes itself more apparent the further you venture in. The two, art and audio, found a space that they both occupy with complete acceptance of the other, making it a match that felt just right. This isn't to say that the presentation is always consistent, there are certainly moments that falter, but when it counts, it really drives things home.
Orange takes school rom-com setups and elevates it beyond the stereotypical trappings and downright formulaic reactionary content it's usually infamous for. Where most school-orientated anime see fit to typecast characters with a small stock selection of personalities to choose from, often being identified by garishly colorful hairstyles and borderline caricature appearances, Orange breaks away from this cast-iron mold, going against typing and the very notion of limited range for what's supposed to be considered as "relatable" characters. Instead, we're given teenagers that look and act like teenagers should. There's no token tsundere or mullet sporting high school delinquents, only different people with their own mannerisms and personalities being brought together under one roof. This unit all compliment each other, in a manner that's done without so much as outright stating it.
We simply see it in their daily interactions. The socially inept know-it-all Hitaga's stubborn outward gestures against Azu's teasing, the two practically joined at the hip, refusing to address the source of their partnership. Takako's level-headed outlook on her friends, eons ahead of them in maturity but won't hesitates to join in on 'girl talk' if the chance presents itself. Naho's reserved nature, a person too kind to say no, satisfied with just being able to see others happy. And then there's Suwa's adopted role as big brother, putting aside his own happiness in order to aid the happiness of others. He willingly becomes the anchor and bearer of unrequited love. Harboring his feelings to allow another to blossom, all while doing it with a smile on his face.
Each of these friends existing independently of each other but choosing to pool together where they have others that complete whatever they lack. Good on their own but better when there's a shoulder to lean on. Someone to share their happiness, troubles and existence with. The very idea that frightens the outsider being accepted within their circle.
Kakeru admires but fears the very idea of their friendship. A lingering thought that he carries with him, afraid to open up to let others in:
"I don't deserve it. I haven't earned it. I'm not good enough. No one understands me. If I get too close I will only hurt them in the end. How could anyone care for me after what I've done? I shouldn't be allowed happiness."
He sits there, eating away, wanting to reach out but pulling away out of fear. But whenever he's had enough, ready to end it all, there's always a voice ringing out in the distance. His name being called out by the short-statured girl with burnt orange hair. A girl that tugs at him to stay. A girl he wants nothing but the best for.
Orange isn't filled with characters spouting out summations of themselves, nor does it bother to hammer home points not expressed explicitly through dialogue. It lets the actions, the expressions, the mannerisms, the scenes, the camera, the color, the music, the very nature of the show itself, to do all the talking in its place.
And while I've expressed nothing but the utmost praise for Orange, there's still a great deal of issues that plague it. For one, details pertaining to the conflict itself.
Admittedly, the romance aspect can get clumsy at times. There are occasions where it's awkward and that doesn't count scenes when it was done so on purpose. With the density of some characters really pushing it, especially when considering their giant progressive leaps forward in the latter half of the show, it does wane on you a bit, if only temporary. A big confessional scene could be truncated for awkward teenage crushing by the next episode. A kind of regression that felt like it served only to pad out the schedule running time than it did to service the material at hand. While some of these issues could be credited with the fact that they're teenagers and are not fully capable of expressing themselves to the best of their capabilities, it still doesn't magically make the feeling disappear. But of course, that's an excuse I'm sure many have grown tired of hearing, despite the fact that it inherently holds a great deal of truth about any youth in the middle of their teenage years. It's not always an answer we like but it's still one that's accepted for the sake of immersion.
And then there're viewers that would address the issue regarding time-travel. Let it be known that there wasn't any need to try to explain the mechanics of the time-travel used since time-travel was nothing but a narrative tool to set in motion what really mattered: the characters. But even with that being said, it doesn't negate the fact that that element of the show was never properly explained in a meaningful way, and given the form it came in as a letter, required some suspension of disbelief as to why more wasn't done to take full advantage of it. However, I believe downplaying the time-travel as something that's not needed to drive its narrative or be used to reset mistakes if they fail to follow through on the words written the first time, was the best decision to make. Had they been able to repeat key events constantly, it would diminish the regret and success of their efforts throughout the course of the show. The letter was simply a timeline for them to follow, the actual legwork, struggle, pain, happiness, lessons learned and obstacle conquered was of their own accord. And when their efforts, or lack thereof, diverge from what's written on the letter, it disproves any omniscience to control the course of time or predict it flawlessly, which makes this an example of a plot device not being abused. And when accounted for how often that isn't the case for anime that include time-travel, or other forms of media for that matter, that's a great accomplishment.
And in a nutshell, that's Orange's greatest strength, taking things that are quickly disregarded such as school rom-coms and time-travel setups and turning them into something that could be engaging and level headed.
If time-travel is readily abused, don't make it a central focus of your narrative, use it as more of a guideline instead. If school rom-coms are infamous for having color coordinated one-dimensional personas, take a subdued approach that pulls from the same core values but brought to life with personalities that feel far more believable. Orange takes the basics and proves that with enough care it could be acknowledged again as a viable means of storytelling.
And as we step back, leaving the world of Orange behind us, zooming past the aged walkways, green linen jackets worn by adolescence; back through the cracks of the skyline hidden behind a wall of leaves hanging above, we know that we're leaving a place with a memory to take away from it. And as we become less aware of its existence, going about our own routines, the world of Orange and its inhabitants continues on, living their day to day lives, making memories of their own and looking up in bewilderment at the endless blue, pondering as to what their future may hold.
"Sometimes it's better to learn from the past than to try and go back changing it all... But if given the chance, what would we really do?"
Have you ever regretted something so much you'd do anything possible to change the outcome? Maybe it was something as trivial as not asking that one person out, forever leaving the question out there of "what if?" Or perhaps you even knew of someone hurting internally from depression, and didn't give your best effort to help them cope, with the worst possible outcome reaching fruition. At times, this can make us feel helpless, responsible or even apathetic. Hindsight is
20/20, but what if that retrospective approach could be realized? What if you could alter your previous regrets and change the outcome of the future? Would you finally get a chance to forgive yourself? Would this corrective measure spawn even worse implications? In the end, are things are better left as they are, or fixed to fit our own perception of "correct"?
The truth is, there may not be a single correct answer.
OBLIGATORY SPOILERS WARNING :D
Orange is a series that had me intrigued since I first heard about it. Personally, the premise was irrelevant based on director Hiroshi Hamasaki's previous works as the lead on Steins;Gate and Texhnolyze. The Slice of Life genre can be so hit and miss with me, so I had no idea what to expect coming into it. Orange focuses less on the day to day lulls of everyday life and more on love, loss and the importance of relationships. Mix in the ever ambiguous element of time travel for good measure and you've got a series destined for some great table talk, if nothing else. It's not the most "exciting" show around, and will stumble along the way, but in the end will give viewers a new outlook on the Slice of Life genre entirely.
Naturally, the first anime I could compare Orange to is that of Anohana- The Flower We Saw That Day due to the subject matter of premature loss. Granted the death in that anime was purely accidental, the retrospective grief exhibited by the main characters here is reminiscent of the series. Another difference between the two are the plot devices. For some reason, everyone seems to have their own take on how time travel works. Although it's never actually been completed on record, some have formulated rather complex technicalities regarding the theory. Of course, Orange exposed its own narrative to these figurative pencil-pushers when it introduced the element into its story, and even I'll admit it is done rather half-assed. Did you know that throwing letters into a black hole somewhere near the Bermuda Triangle could, betwixt space and time, send them 10 years into the past? No? Me either.
In order to actually enjoy Orange, this is the time I ask you to put your critical thinking caps back on the shelf, and focus on its important aspects. It's easy to become distracted by such melancholy narratives and skim over glaring plot holes, but this is best in Orange's case... or you might miss a rather enjoyable anime. Forget about how much you think you know about time travel and experience the series for what it truly is, a drama slice of life.
There are a multitude of "little things" Orange nails with its direction. The way Naho and Kakeru act toward each other is a perfect snapshot of teenage romance. Everything is awkward, there's lots of dead air in conversation and enough blushing to make any weeaboo giddy with excitement. This relationship is a seed, gently nurtured a little each episode, inelegant in all facets but eventually blossoms into a unique thing of beauty. This is pretty spot on for what real love looks like. The writers also do a fine job showcasing the sour side of love when Naho gets pushed to the side or showing Suwa contemplate his own feelings in secret regarding her. This is a very important part of the show, and I must say Suwa has quite the iron will for everything he let pass him by along the way. This genre of anime can often be melodramatic or exaggerated immensely, so it's refreshing to see an anime like Orange create a high school atmosphere we can all identify with instead of one with unrealistic, heavily endowed 16 year olds and scrappy Tsunderes flying around.
Another well written aspect of the series is the pacing. There are many instances in SoLs where "things are happening, things are happening.... BAM! Insert major timeline jump or plot twist with no foreshadowing". The series slowly builds up over time, with the eventual conclusion offered as a reward for patience as a viewer and honestly it felt rather satisfying. Rewatching the first few episodes of Orange kind of made me smirk due to the many intricate foreshadowing elements sprinkled around each episode. It's certainly something I didn't expect from this genre of anime.
I can imagine how difficult it would be to tackle heavy-hearted subjects in anime such as suicide or mourning. Most anime often treat death as something that happened in the past and default to flashbacks and scenes with the shrine of the deceased loved one. Orange places you in the moment, and truly builds up your own relationship with Kakeru, making the realization of his fate that much more impactful. It isn't delicate with its approach, and shows both sides of the coin with its description. I can say it left an impression on me and changed my outlook on suicide in general.
The ending of Orange, or rather the final 3 episodes caught me off guard. I was initially assuming the viewers wouldn't get a take of Kakeru's side of the story. On the surface, it was hard to fathom why anyone would actually kill themselves the way he did, with the reasons he did. It's obvious as a viewer that his mother's death wasn't his fault, yet he bares the entire load himself. The anime from his side of the story is eye opening, and builds into a fine ending with appropriate closure (something we don't see often enough in anime). I personally appreciated it's honesty, and it wasn't necessarily a "rose colored" ending we were probably all hoping for but it was real. Well, except for all that time travel jargon.
I've already professed the relatability the characters in Orange exude. They act like high schoolers without an over-dramatized personality, they interrupt each other's sentences and there are few to no tropes present overall (something I was excited about). Naho is a very "real" main protagonist. As much as I wanted to shake her through my tv screen at times, it reminded me of how stupid I must have seemed at similar points during my own high school life. It does seem odd that this group of friends rarely argue or have moments of strife within their click, but I guess that's not necessarily a bad thing. The final episodes tied up the loose ends I had with Kakeru as a character and it couldn't have been presented any better. Those of you shelving this series before the last 3 episodes... I urge you to pick it back up and try again.
Unfortunately, Orange is produced by Telecom Animation Film, a relatively unsuccessful studio. This leads to rather inconsistent or sloppy animation at times, but not quite enough to affect the show's overall atmosphere. The directing was a gleaming fault I can bring up as well. Aside from the positives I mentioned, it's rather lackluster. I understand this is one of the first popular manga adaptations for this studio, but even so, there are some portions of scenes that felt rather dull or ill-envisioned. The best part of the directing? It doesn't really ruin it for me. In Re Zero, the plot was weak but good directing made it rather enjoyable while with Orange the good plot isn't ruined by bad directing. It was a crucial lifesaver for this anime.
I hated the OP the first couple of weeks with its odd animation and music, but it actually grew on me by the final episode. The ED is also fitting for the series, atmosphere wise. The soundtrack was average, but I often didn't notice background tracks. This can be a double edged sword from an enjoyment perspective but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt here. Voice acting is very good with Kana Hanazawa (Black Rock Shooter, Onodera from Nisekoi) nailing another solid performance as Naho.
Should you watch Orange? Well, if you can live with my added disclaimer regarding the time travel concept, the series has quite a bit more to offer. Sure it stumbles along and deals with very touchy subject matter, but it is something I truly believe anyone could enjoy. Realistic characters with great pacing and a beautifully crafted ending works to overshadow the time travel eyesore and subpar directing and Ill say it does so quite well. I am impressed with how much I ended up liking it in the end and would recommend it to any anime fan. As always, thanks for reading and be sure to check out the rest of my Summer '16 anime reviews!
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