Nikku is an indie game developer, a freelance translator, and an avid anime viewer.
Orange is based on a shoujo manga of the same name by Takano Ichigo. The story follows a group of six high school friends living in Nagano (a prefecture northwest of Tokyo). We have the main character, Takamiya Naho, her two female friends, Chino Takako and Murasaka Azusa, and her two male friends, Hagita Saku and Suwa Hiroto. A later addition to the group is a transfer student from Tokyo, Naruse Kakeru. One day, Naho receives a mysterious letter from her future self. The letter details future events that will occur and pleads with her to help prevent a tragedy that befalls Kakeru.
As I haven’t read the manga for this series, this is the extent of my knowledge of Orange. The above synopsis, however, was enough to pique my interest. Even as a male viewer, I enjoy watching shoujo anime because they tend to be of higher quality than most of what’s produced solely for male audiences. I like the shoujo anime/manga aesthetic when it comes to character design and art style; I find it to be more detailed and appealing. As someone who dislikes the fan service rampant in male-oriented anime, it’s always refreshing to watch something devoid of it. Shoujo anime also tend to have stronger characters and stories than their counterparts (excluding maybe the main male characters, which often tend to be similar).
Of course, this is just my opinion and a mere generalization. Also, it’s not to say that shoujo anime/manga aren’t without their fair share of issues. For example, there tends to be a checklist of plot points that many shoujo anime feel obligated to pass through, such as the sudden appearance of a love rival. It’s too bad, though, that we get so few offerings of shoujo anime each season in comparison to anime aimed solely at males, almost 10 to 1. Unfortunately fan service is what sells, so I don’t see this dynamic changing anytime soon.
Now to rein this tangent back on track, I have high hopes for Orange. I’m not expecting a masterpiece, but I think it’ll deliver a strong, touching story with a likeable cast. Let’s see how it turns out.
Episode 1 starts off ten years in the future, with the adult versions of the cast digging up a time capsule. As they reminisce over the letters and pictures they recover, Naho laments to herself about the many regrets she has in her life.
After the opening credits, we’re back in the present. It’s April and the first day of Naho’s second year of high school. As she’s leaving her home, she picks up a letter addressed to her, from strangely, herself. In a hurry though, she leaves without reading it.
Later at school, Naho gets a chance to read the strange letter. It states that it’s from herself ten years in the future, and asks her for help in not making the same mistakes she has. As a bit of proof, it even details some events that occur, like how she overslept for the first time in her life that day, and the arrival of a new transfer student named Naruse Kakeru. And sure enough, a few seconds later Kakeru walks into the class, is introduced to everyone, and ends up sitting next to Naho.
After school, Suwa rounds up the group to head home. He also invites Kakeru, and after initially declining, they’re able to convince him to come along with them. (I particularly liked Azusa’s somewhat threatening way of inviting Kakeru. I thought it was funny). The letter mentions this, and strongly asks for Naho not to invite Kakeru. Even if the letter had been right about a few things so far, it’s still too early for Naho to trust it, and so it’s no surprise that she ignores the warning and they all head home together. They show Kakeru around the area, eat bread from Azusa’s family bakery, and all in all, have a good time together. The warning from the letter seemed to be for naught.
However, the next day, Kakeru doesn’t show up to school and ends up being absent for two straight weeks. This causes Naho to take the letter more seriously. Kakeru finally comes back to school during the ball sports tournament. He plays off the reason for his absence, and slips back into hanging out with Suwa and Hagita, but doesn’t participate in any of the games. Naho and the girls, however, are participating in the softball matches. Just as the letter states, Naho is asked to pinch hit in their last game. She initially declines, but after thinking about how the letter says she’ll regret this decision, she decides to do it and smacks a homerun over the fence to win the game. Also just as the letter says, Naho starts to realize her feelings for Kakeru.
The time switches back to the future and we see Naho looking out at the city from atop a hill. Suwa shows up with a baby in his arms and some flowers for Kakeru. Before the episode ends, it switches back to the present as Naho continues to read the letter. She finally gets to the heart of it and the main request from her future self. In the future, Kakeru is no longer alive, and she wants Naho to watch out for him so that she won’t end up living a life of regrets.
So the first episode is a light introduction to the characters and story. I wasn’t expecting the troubles surrounding Kakeru to surface so quickly, but we already see that something is going on when he’s abruptly absent for two weeks. It’s still early and nothing has been presented yet, but I get the feeling that Kakeru is dealing with some domestic issue, possibly abuse from one of his parents or guardian. He appears to be the type of person that bottles things up, which might be why he notices when Naho is holding herself back (whether it’s about bread or her shoes). This combined with what we know later happens to Kakeru leads me to think this, but it’s still too early to say for sure.
I thought it was interesting that this episode kept switching back and forth between the present and future. I was assuming that the letter from the future would only serve as a backdrop to propel the story in the present, but it appears that the anime will continue to go between the two. I’m not sure if the future scenes will only serve as commentary and to reinforce the fact that Kakeru is no longer alive, or if it’ll be more fleshed out as a separate world. For instance, I got the feeling that Naho and Suwa might be married in the future, and the kid we saw was theirs. If Naho succeeds in saving Kakeru, what’s going to happen to this? Should we be rooting for this future to be replaced? Or can we treat them as two separate, alternate worlds?
As this review is getting too long, I’ll just end with which characters I’m liking the most so far. It’s still early, but Azusa and Hagita stood out to me. Although they aren’t the main characters, they seem like they’ll be providing a lot of entertainment as the series goes on.
starting from the July 3, 2016