When you hear the word “orange,” what imagery rushes into your mind? Would it be the fruit? How about fire? Maybe even merely the color?
Well, I’d like to give my imagery of what I find. When I hear the word “orange” after having watched this anime, I find myself thinking of the sunrise after a long, cold night. The sun tints a brilliant shade, and provides those who suffer from hardship with a sense of hope.
The anime “Orange” is a fine example of uncovering this sensation. But don’t let my writer’s metaphors be the reasoning behind this review. Let’s get on with it!
On her first day of her second year of high school, Naho Takamiya receives a letter written to herself from ten years in the future. As she reads on, the letter recites the exact moments of the day, including the transfer of a new student named Kakeru Naruse. This leads Naho herself to believe that there is an underlining reason why she was given these letters.
~I’d have to say, the plot really does touch on a lot of major issues regarding social norms as well as mental stability. Very few anime (that I have seen, mind you) seem to thoroughly grasp the concepts of PTSD and suicidal tendencies. As someone that suffers from severe anxiety and a lesser form of PTSD, I was intrigued watching the first episode and learning that the clause of the show, Kakeru, was the driving force.
~Suicide is a hefty subject in the story; in the original timeline where Future Naho resides, Kakeru has committed suicide due to his mother taking her own life after Kakeru chose a day with his new friends after transferring instead of journeying with her to the hospital. At first, you may see something like this as rather childish, even selfish of his mother to do, but when you analyze episode 12 of the series, you find that there was an underlining reason behind why his mother felt the way that she did, and why she ultimately took her life, and in turn, why Kakeru chose the same fate. I won’t thoroughly spoil things, but it’s definitely something to anticipate. Especially if you have a passion for character development as well as mental analysis.
TAKAKO: Takako is one of Naho’s closest female friends next to Azusa. Stalwart, a bit reserved, but fiercely loyal and willing to fight to ensure the safety and justice of her friends, she is by far one of Naho’s go-to girls for advice. She seems to be the glue that holds the group together, and seems to have a strong bond in particular with Suwa.
Sadly, I’m not sure how much that I can really say about Takako aside from that. Among the six, she seems to stand out the least, which is a shame, because I feel like her character could have been expanded on a lot more than simply being the right hand to Azusa and her complete contrast, which is why I have to put her down at sixth. She’s got the potentials to be a good character, but I don’t feel like it was fleshed out enough anime-wise.
SAKU: Better known as Hagita to most, and what I prefer to call him myself, because it rolls off the tongue. He is essentially the butt of everyone’s jokes, being very studious and a manga-lover, bad at sports. He’s your typical nerd. But something about his personality, especially when he’s paired with Azusa, is just so appealing that I can’t help but feel a sense of elatedness whenever he’s on the screen.
He is actually quite funny, and his future self is remotely same. But, as Azusa proclaims, he’s pretty hot without his glasses too. However… I sometimes feel bad that he’s always the ass of everyone’s jokes, and that his character can be left as that too. He’s got such amazing prowess and potential to be better, so because of that, he is actually fourth of my rankings. (…Fourth? What about the fifth?)
AZUSA: Azusa is the most charismatic of the group of six by fair, rivaled only by Suwa. She is the daughter of a bakery owner, and so she always finds a way to have snacks handy for her friends. In tandem with Takako, she plays matchmaker for the love triangle that is Suwa, Naho and Kakeru, and also played matchmaker at a point for Kakeru and another girl named Ueda (…let’s not talk about THAT woman). She is an overall carefree character, loves a good time, and to me, she has the brightest personality of all of the group. I absolutely adore her.
So why is she tied for fourth? It’s mainly because like Hagita and Takako, I feel like we don’t see enough of her until near the middle-end of the anime. Which is a real shame, I’d love to see how she ended up in the future, what she was doing, and I REALLY wish that she could have been with Hagita. It’s so obvious that they’re in love with one another, and Hagita keeps denying his feelings, and- moving on. Azusa, definitely my favorite of the female group, probably could have become my favorite overall if she had been fleshed out a bit more.
NAHO: Now for our main character Naho. She’s a rather introverted girl at first, very calm and motherly towards other characters, but still gets to interact with others as the sweet type. To me, she’s your normal girl in a shojo anime, but that’s not what I’m going to elaborate on. Young Naho develops quite well as she works through her future changlings to grow closer not only to Kakeru, but to her childhood friends as well.
Naho’s character as a whole seems to shape into a fashion that defies what I think of others in her archetype–she actually desires change in herself in order to work at saving Kakeru’s life, falls in love with him, and overall becomes well-rounded. At the same time, she retains the person that she was in high school into her future self. And while she doesn’t change her personality, her character does grow stronger. Of the six main characters, I’d put her at third place due to her development.
KAKERU: Kakeru is a second year transfer student from Tokyo to Naho’s high school in Matsumoto.
Kakeru is the catalyst of the story of Orange, and it is revealed quite early that he helps to bond the group of six together as Naho quests to save his life and ensure that he has a place with them in the future. But further than that, Kakeru is troubled.
On the day of the opening ceremony, Kakeru decides to go out with his new friends instead of going to the hospital with his ailing mother. When his mother urges him to come home, Kakeru refuses, telling her that she isn’t a child and that he can’t do it anymore. These actions drive her over the edge, and she commits suicide. This traumatizes Kakeru and becomes the driving force of his downward spiral. In the late winter of his second year, he gets into an accident, being hit by a truck while on his bike. Only ten years later is it revealed that he left a note; his death had been no accident.
When I first got to see Kakeru’s development in action, I found myself relating the most to him overall. I was a bit older than Kakeru when I lost my mother suddenly, and it traumatized me to the point where I felt that I had regressed into a helpless child that only wanted to have more to say. Sometimes I still feel as if I am trapped in my own mind, which is why I find so much resonance with Kakeru’s feelings of suicide, his lost state of mind, his inability to find trust in others with his feelings until Naho uncovers the letters of her past self. There’s so much that I can say about Kakeru’s downward spiral and how his newfound friends assist him, but it would take up all of my work here. So, I’ll end it on this. His relation, his believable reactions, everything about him puts him at a solid second for my rankings. (What? SECOND?)
HIROTO: Yep, that’s right! Despite all of the comparisons that I can make with Kakeru, my favorite of the entire cast is without a doubt Hiroto Suwa! (Yes, if I had to pick, this would probably be my #1 anime guy of the season.)
Suwa is by far one of the most well-developed side-main characters I have seen in a long time for a shojo/drama based anime. A soccer fanatic, supportive, and sweet, he is a character that seems likable from the start, but the more that time goes on, you discover that there is more to him than just your standard jock type.
In fact, you discover about four episodes in that Suwa has some secrets of his own, secrets that he shares with Naho. He is also a keeper of the letters from the future. He plays a powerful role in changing Kakeru’s fate, but what he comes to terms with is part of what drew me to his character. And I’m going to elaborate on that here. (SPOILERS BEWARE.)
~PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE: Hiroto and Naho~
Ten years into the future, Suwa is married to Naho, and they have an infant son. While Naho and the others feels regret for not helping to save Kakeru in the future, Suwa in particular regrets that he didn’t support them both as a friend rather than seeing Kakeru more as potential rival for Naho, and that he doesn’t know how to make Naho happy after Kakeru’s death.
He feels the most compassion towards wishing that he had been better not to Naho as someone that truly loves her, but to them both, and that is incredible to consider.
In his future, he loves Naho, he is married to her, they have a child together, strengthening their bond together… and yet, if he had the choice to be able to go back in time and correct things, he would have given up his happiness in order for Naho to have her own with Kakeru if she so chose it.
Yes, you read that correctly. He literally would give up everything that he haves… just to make sure that Naho gets her happy ending. He sacrifices himself for her, his best friend, the woman that he loves more than anything. Do you know how rare that is to find in any kind of media these days? That’s truly beautiful, and such strength for a character like Suwa, who seems so typical at first. He defies so many odds, and that level of compassion is what made me so drawn to Suwa as a character.
Sometimes it makes me feel while watching this anime, Kakeru was not the driving force towards a better future. I feel that it was Suwa that ultimately led them all towards that sense of happiness that everyone deserved.
I thought that the animation reminded me of another anime of a similar style to this, Blue Spring Ride. But I personally find the story of Orange to be far more appealing, and the characters stand out more to me.
Actually, even some of the characters themselves resemble others from that show (Ex: Naho and Futaba, Kakeru and Kou.)
All in all, I felt that it wasn’t bad to look at animation wise. The character designs are more defined, and it shows well for them. The scenery could have been a bit better, but I think that the animation was pretty top-notch for its genre that it was trying to fulfill.