Review/discussion about: Orange
I really like the color orange; it’s one of my favorites from the rainbow.
Orange, like any other color, has symbolism attached to it. Happiness, energy, fun. It’s a pleasant color that keeps the mind and body at peace in its welcoming, warming glow.
Orange, the anime, may be a dramatic tale that ultimately tastes more sour than sweet. But, at its core, it is just as warm and happy as the color it channels.
In Orange, Naho Takamiya receives a paradoxical letter addressed to her – from her future self. In this letter, events play out exactly as written, and it lays out what Naho should do differently this time around. Naho can barely believe what’s going on, but, when the letter directs her to protect and save her new friend Kakeru Naruse, she makes it her mission to follow the letter and change the future forever.
When first looking at Orange’s narrative, it does not immediately give off the sense that problems will soon arise. That letter seems physically unfair, but it’s simply a way to get the story started. Naho somehow still fails to follow the letter despite how it gets literally everything right, but it’s chalked up to (as Naho would claim) the fact that people cannot change their personality so suddenly (which is true). And Naho’s feelings for Kakeru get sidelined for some jerk girl, but the audience hopes that the two obvious lovebirds will get somewhere eventually.
Once the story starts to get underway, though, these elements do become problems.
The idea that a black hole, known for their gravitational warping and massive sizes, exists somewhere within the Bermuda Triangle on Earth treads into ridiculous territory (more ridiculous than future-past letters, anyway).
Naho eventually puts away the letter, believing that she can make the right choices on her own. A valiant effort – if she hadn’t already been screwing many of the events up even with its help. Worse still, the anime randomly writes in all offhandedly how, after some time, she starts looking at it again. As if the short period without its aid meant very little.
And the romance – if it can even be labelled as such. Strong moments like the hand holding at the pool as the fireworks sound off exist. But when Naho freaks out at even Kakeru’s slightest touch, and when they refuse to officially get together and instead opt for this weird, pseudo-boyfriend-girlfriend-but-not-actually relationship, the anime puts them in this frustrating zone somewhere between friends and lovers (without the benefits).
On a larger scale, the plot twist, that all of them have their own individual letters, is one of the better moments since it is not that predictable and it makes the rest of their fevered involvement more understandable in hindsight. However, it also invites the inherent problem that, since they all own letters, then next to nothing should go awry because they have five simultaneous people telling them each what to do. That’s with ignoring the fact that they can all just read ahead and plan everything out meticulously.
This minor plot annoyance leads into one of Orange’s worst plot conveniences. The letters describe, word-for-word, what happens and what they should do. However, as is shown, the plot goes where it wants when it wants to. Sometimes it follows the letter, sometimes it doesn’t. The explanation being that their deviations from the set path rewrite what’s to come. In other words, the anime gets to unnaturally pick and choose whichever plot points it wants to cover, avoid, or have happen without consequence.
Despite all these problems, Orange still manages to give its more dramatic moments justice. Kakeru revealing the reason for his early absence comes as a shock and as a dose of reality. His breakdown with Suwa at school and Naho’s subsequent confession comes from the heart. The final deliverance of the letters from their future selves to Kakeru marks a definitive turning point in all their lives.
These scenes are personable, earning emotion and empathy through their kindness and understanding. Furthermore, the anime’s themes on hardship and longing and trust are relatable topics, sorrowful feelings that many people have experienced and can easily relate to.
And the major takeaway running through everything is its mantra on no regrets. Naho, Suwa, and the others do what they can to correct the wrongs that their future selves made, hoping to not only experience a better life for them and their friends but also save Kakeru in the process.
It’s not an absolute idea; nobody has no regrets. Indeed, the very catalyst for the whole plot – Kakeru avoiding his mother the day she committed suicide – is a regret that Kakeru, Naho, and the others must carry for the rest of their lives. And, in the older, future timeline, they must carry an even harsher regret: not having done enough to protect Kakeru.
But these very same regrets inspire them to improve themselves. They learn to listen to Kakeru and one another. They start thinking less about themselves and more about the ones they love around them. And they simply aim for their own cherished happiness. In other words, they reflect on what they have done, and they think about what they will do moving forward.
In the end, that’s what matters most in Orange. Not the unfair letter or the silly decisions they make or the frustrating romantic moments. But rather the lessons one can take away from this anime. Lessons that may not make up for the regrets one already has but makes getting at a life of no regrets easier than ever before.
Orange finds itself surrounded by controversy during its run – and for very fair reasons.
Before getting into this unavoidable discussion, it’s worth noting that Orange is quite a pretty show during its first four or five episodes. Most noteworthy are the character designs and the realistic setting. Their toothy smiles, the detail in their eyes, and the casual, green school clothes they wear which complement their plain yet attractive looks demonstrate a lot of care on the creators’ part. And the backgrounds, which sometimes seem to be ripped right out of real life, give the different scenes their weight through expert use of lighting, realism, and detail.
Then somebody behind the scenes flips the wrong switch.
It cannot be understated enough: Orange’s art and animation gets bad. Really bad. It possibly goes down as one of the worst decreases in quality ever in an anime and, if nothing else, one of the worst within the last few years.
Particularly, episode nine is almost unbearable. Character reactions are unfitting, models are poorly drawn, and the high amount of activity required by the characters as they run, tackle, and move during the school competition just cannot keep up.
Honestly, it got so bad that it redefined how horrible an anime can get on a visual level before it starts to hamper the actual watching and digesting of the show itself. It would not have been so intolerable had the plummet not been so grand. The gap between the crisp, refined looks of the characters to the degraded, laughable mess that appears on screen is huge, making the unfortunate transition from the former to the latter a punch to the gut. And the face. And the eyeballs.
Orange has a decently sized cast: Kakeru, Naho, Suwa, Azu, Hagita, and Takako (in order of relative importance).
On the low end sits Takako. She arguably has one moment in the whole show: when she threatens Ueda, the mean upperclassman that briefly dates Kakeru, with violence should she try to hurt Naho in any way. Beyond this brief scene, Takako sadly sits on the sideline as little more than a cheerleader. The anime does not explore a possible relationship with Suwa in this timeline, and she doesn’t seem to have any special connection with Kakeru given the lack of interactions between them.
Hagita and Azu are similar in that they do not interact with Kakeru all that much. Hagita at least tries to teach Kakeru about comedy, and Azu comes off as the most active of the bunch, bringing them all bread when they hang out or smiling with glee at her efforts to get Naho and Kakeru shacked up. They have an edge over Takako since their meager, implied romantic relationship (that never comes to fruition) provides some fun banter.
Again, these three do not get much attention throughout Orange. This outcome can be seen in one of two ways. Either as a negative since they are part of the show to a respectable degree or as something not worth worrying about since the other three are more important. It’s most likely a combination of the two.
Regardless, Orange places a lot of focus on Naho, Kakeru, and Suwa.
With Naho, the anime emphasizes a certain trait of hers. When the group first comes together, and Azu brings her family’s bakery’s bread, Naho does not speak up about wanting the curry bun that she likes. Instead, she says, “I’m fine with anything.” Sometime later, she explains to Kakeru how, if she can, she will do her best not to inconvenience those around her, letting everyone else get what they want before she does.
Unsurprisingly, this very trait of hers gets challenged, becoming the main conflict and drive for her character. For while she remains the same, kind Naho, she now must take it upon herself to “inconvenience” Kakeru. Talking with him about his feelings, pushing matters when he resists, and generally being there for him when she can.
It’s not easy for her as the audience sees. She expresses how people cannot immediately change their personality, and, despite knowing exactly what not to say, she still doesn’t get through to Kakeru quite right when it truly matters.
Even so, she gets closer to him. More so than anybody has ever done before. He bops her head in a playful manner. He gets her a hairpin that she cherishes. They connect at night, hands holding tight and fireworks booming overhead. While Orange awkwardly keeps this couple in a together-but-not-really status, there’s no doubt Naho’s relationship with Kakeru turns into something special.
Although, too many times does Naho fail to understand the situation or refuse to make a necessary move. Either because the anime wants to extend the drama or because Naho seemingly hasn’t grown as a character, her inability to inconvenience Kakeru despite what she experiences only serves to negatively frustrate the audience through her unyielding trepidation.
Thankfully, this situation is where Suwa comes in.
Not counting Kakeru since he’s the target of their support, Suwa goes down as the most rational of the group. The person who the audience can rely on to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done. Another common (and perfect) way to put it, Suwa is the bro-est of bros through and through.
Suwa’s initial characteristics paint him as gluttonous for food, tall in height, and skilled at soccer. His affable personality puts his friends at ease and brings them together. But, most important of all, he truly cares for everyone. Especially Naho and Kakeru. He encourages Naho not to run away at crucial moments, pushing aside his own feelings for her to save his good friend. And he doesn’t back down from Kakeru, embracing him and yelling at him to demonstrate just how much he means to him.
He’s not like Kakeru who changes as a person over the course of the season, and he’s not like Naho who has a fundamental part of personality challenged. Suwa is simply the right guy in the right place at the right time, and, without him, nothing would have changed for the better, making him arguably the most important person of this story.
In the end, though, this story is not about Takako, Hagita, Azu, Naho, or Suwa – it’s about Kakeru.
Kakeru is a quiet kid. A main reason why he connected with Naho rather early on given how energetic and forward the other members of the group are. However, the group does not get to be with him for very long early on because he misses school for many days in a row.
He later confides in Naho why: His mother committed suicide the day they invited him out. While he seems somber about what happened, he never outright complains or shows emotion. In fact, he goes so far as to apologize to Naho for speaking about something so personal.
Like Naho, it’s in this moment that the anime highlights a certain trait about Kakeru: his reluctance to express emotion. He’s a very troubled person who does not like sharing his thoughts with anyone. Be that because he does not want to harm those he loves or because he feels as though nobody else will understand his grief, Kakeru often keeps his true feelings contained.
However, his emotions can and do escape him. His infectious smile rarely appears, but, when it does, the audience knows that he is truly happy. His tears of sadness prove how much he has been hurting. His outburst towards Naho, the girl he loves, indicates his anger easily enough.
Kakeru’s struggles with his emotions are nowhere more evident than in episode twelve. As the entire plot of the future timeline plays out, he hides his thoughts, he maintains his somber quietness, and he ultimately (and semi-accidentally) ends his own life. In other words, this timeline shows what happens to Kakeru when he keeps everything bottled up and nobody tries to open what he has sealed shut.
With this characterization in mind, Kakeru represents a realistic portrayal of someone fighting desperately with deep depression. That unwillingness to share what’s inside him, the outward signs that are tough to catch, his negative feelings of worthlessness and self-blame. Even when he tries to talk about his current state with his old friends, they dismiss him. An all too common occurrence for people, depression or otherwise.
Truthfully, it can be annoying watching Kakeru only reveal part, rather than all, of what he’s feeling to Naho when they sit on a park bench at night after the local festival. And it gets extremely frustrating when, near the end of the season, he continuously distances himself from her after their small argument. But this annoyance and frustration means that it’s real. Many people act in a similar manner when they are going through something as or even more tumultuous.
Altogether, Orange treats his character with respect. Yes, maybe slamming his phone on the ground is a bit over the top, but, for the most part, his troubles and his representation make him someone not only relatable to those who have experienced similar thoughts but also understandable to those who have encountered another person like him.
Thankfully, Naho, Suwa, Azu, Hagita, and Takako are there for him. They encourage him during the school competition, each friend carrying one part of the mat as they listen to what he wants to say. They each ask about and get him a present for his birthday. And they each run out late on the fateful night to search for him before he does something that he and the others will regret forever.
Through their efforts, both big and small, Kakeru does not follow through on getting himself hurt. The time he spent with them – the relationships he formed, the thoughts he shared, and the fun he had – stick in his mind and let him realize that he has a lot in his life to live for.
And that it’s exactly the same for the audience, too.
The strength of Orange’s opening track does not just come from the acoustic guitar and the passionate singing. It also comes from how it synergizes with the anime itself. The piece feels like having no regrets, capturing the spirit of the story that it precedes and filling the audience with a satisfying sense of direction. It’s a wonderful track that stands as the highlight of all the music offered.
The ending track goes directly for a bittersweet tone with a slow pace, emphasis on violin, and some harmonizing vocal work. The length of the track is perhaps a bit too long, but the piano, chimes, and softer guitar playing are gentle on the audience’s ears, keeping the ED from completely overstaying its welcome.
And while the voice-acting performances are nothing worth praising, the original soundtrack sticks with what it does best. Tons of acoustic-guitar-heavy pieces, added piano for sadness here and there, and woodwind instruments for that slight sense of hope. Like the OP, these tracks get at that feeling of no regrets that drives Orange, adding to the show’s overall level of execution.
While watching this one, I had one of those moments where I said, “Are you me?” with one of the characters: Naho.
I’ve thankfully never lost anyone close to me to suicide, and I’m not a female, so these characteristics of hers are not ones that I relate to. So, what is it about her that I not just empathize with but actively take part in myself? The answer: not wanting to inconvenience others.
Naho says, “I prefer it if it’s just my loss. As long as I’m not a bother to others.” I cannot list how many times my family has gotten frustrated with me when I maintained a similar mindset. Not bothering the waitress if she sends the wrong side dish with my meal. Accepting whichever movie gets proposed for viewing that night. Saying nothing when I have a headache because everyone seems to be having fun.
For me, I don’t like making more trouble for those around me. So, when Naho felt or acted the same, I understood where she was coming from. She was obviously in a much more serious situation than ordering dinner, but it was still interesting to see a part of myself in animated form and know that I, too, can learn to be a bit more assertive in my everyday life.
Besides Naho, I also liked Suwa. I felt sad that he was passing up his own chance at romance, but his sacrifice is something commendable and something I only hope I could replicate if I were also stuck in the same position. Hagita and Azu’s bickering had me laughing. And Kakeru, despite his (understandable) sometimes standoffish attitude was someone that I wanted to find comfort and peace of mind, and I was glad when the ending gave just that after everything he and the others had to go through.
Looking at the bigger picture, I took away a lot from this anime. Enough to write a whole essay on it and reconfirm my own personal tenets. The anime emphasizes listening to others, thinking of loved ones more dearly, and finding happiness in whatever form that takes. Three life lessons that I more than resonate with and which made me very happy to see.
I do wish the romance was not so wishy-washy all the time and that Naho stopped overreacting at even Kakeru’s slightest movements. Plus, I thought for sure that they would have depicted Naho and Kakeru together (with everyone else) in a second future timeline. Still, I had the heart skips and the cheers and the smiles for many of their romantic exchanges.
Altogether, this anime is one that I may not rank too highly, but I still appreciate what it set out to do.
Orange unfortunately has a lot of problems the further along it goes. Its story gets riddled with oddities and frustrations, and the quality of the art severely plummets. But these issues do not completely take away from some of the characters’ roles, the thoughtful music, and the lessons that it teaches its audience. The anime is not as colorful as it could have been, but it is by no means fully desaturated.
Story: Fine, despite the plot conveniences and frustrating romance, the narrative still hits its emotional moments, resonating with its ideas on how to live a fulfilling, happy life
Animation: Terrible, one of the worst degradations in art and animation quality within the last few years that redefines just how off-putting visuals can unfortunately get
Characters: Fine, Naho’s trait of inconvenience gets challenged, Suwa is a super bro, and Kakeru respectfully represents someone battling depression
Sound: Good, great OP, okay ED, good OST, and okay VA performances
Enjoyment: Good, Naho was relatable, the life lessons were spot on, but the romance needed to be less wishy-washy
Final Score: 5/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3