I am a big fan of this show and have thoroughly enjoyed the watch thus far, but episode 11 delivers one thing I find really frustrating. Episode 10 was beautifully tense and dramatic building up to a wonderful climax leaving us with a cliff-hanger. Episode 11 resolves and diffuses any tension from that in about two minutes. It just feels kind of cheap in the end and in most shows I wouldn’t even bother to comment on it, but I’ve come to expect more from Land of the Lustrous.
However, it isn’t all doom and gloom with the plot being progressed nicely as Phos realises everyone knows Sensei has a secret and she determines that she isn’t content to just let it be. It will be interesting to see what this decision leads to in the final episode of the season.
Which is why part of me is concerned about the awakening of a new character because I do wonder just how much we’ll be left hanging at the end of this series.
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6 minutes about a girl who the write up tells me is named Rin who is 17 who lives in a simulated world.
If this had been an advertisement for a table or virtual reality and a product name had come up at the end I probably wouldn’t have been surprised. Apparently it is meant to be a music video (or so says Facebook, six thousand other blog posts, and Twitter – though interestingly enough the description of the video on Crunchyroll doesn’t mention that).
Other than the initial woe is me dialogue (at least she doesn’t say she’s an ordinary girl but she does do the insist-I’m-not-lonely thing), the anime is silent until the end except for the music that plays over a montage of what is at first an ever changing virtual world controlled by the girl’s tablet and then her memories which reveal where she is and how she got there. It’s actually beautiful to watch and they do build a fairly emotional narrative despite the short time frame and large absence of dialogue. Worth 6 minutes of your time. Probably not worth the flames and words that people are throwing around arguing whether or not this is anime.
Ten years ago Kakeru committed suicide. Now his friends, feeling regret, send letters to their past selves in an effort to save him.
I reviewed this week to week so if you are interested in my thoughts on individual episodes click here.
For those following week to week, it is no surprise that there are definitely aspects of this show that annoyed me. That said, it is actually quite a nice drama and if you are into teen romance between emotionally stunted characters with possible mental health issues you will probably find a truly touching story to follow. That said, I’m probably not the intended audience which might be why I became progressively more annoyed with the characters and plot.
My main issue will always be Naho and Kakeru themselves. You can argue that they are supposed to be flawed characters suffering from various issues (depression, social anxiety, etc) but that doesn’t stop them being irritating to watch. One or the other may have been fine on their own as an exploration into characters with mental health problems but the two together, dominating the screen time, are hard to take and mostly you just want to slam their heads together and tell them to hurry things along. Or maybe that’s just me being callous but the issue is that these two are not engaging to watch (for me at least). Sawako in Kimi ni Todoke has a similar mentality to Naho but I never found her to be quite this frustrating and possibly that was because she was partnered with someone significantly more outgoing (even if he did have his own issues to deal with).
The second issue that comes between me and actually enjoying Orange is the plot. The time travel explanation is rubbish and I still fail to see why (if you could send a letter to the past) you would openly work to undermine the life you have (especially in Suwa’s case). you could argue they are being selfless or maybe we could argue that the characters don’t believe it will affect them because any changes will occur in a parallel world but they don’t know that. It is a theory and speculation. They gambled the life of their future child on a theory that could not be proven ahead of time. The more they discuss and explain time travel (particularly in the last couple of episodes) the clearer it makes it that they did not know what the consequence would be but decided to do it anyway.
My final issue will always be the lack of development for any character outside of Naho and Kakeru. The friends exist to be friends. And while they all get to show up smiley and happy in the pictures, the bottom line is it always comes back to Naho and Kakeru while everyone else put everything on hold.
With those issues on the table I do want to point out some positives.
The story is complete in and of itself. No looking for answers elsewhere, no wondering about the outcome. They have a goal established in episode 1 and they work towards it until episode 13 and then the situation is resolved (whether you like the resolution or not it is resolved).
Neither Kakeru nor Naho actually do a complete 180 and are magically cured of their issues by the power of friendship or through sheer determination. You know what, they aren’t just going to get over it. They are going to slowly take steps forward and backward and may or may not eventually move on or maybe they are going to deal with issues their whole life. I actually liked that they treated their issues with this sort of respect. You can’t get over social anxiety just because you want to. And Kakeru isn’t just going to get over his guilt and subsequent depression just because he has friends and a few good times. While these characters may not be good together, individually it was great to see both of these characters and the way they were dealt with by the narrative.
Visually, Orange is a mixed bag of soft and pretty followed by some occasionally terrible animation. Don’t look too closely at background characters and mostly it won’t bother you. Thematically the story works well and while I’m still annoyed at the time travel treatment there isn’t a lot more you could ask for in thirteen episodes.
Recommendation: For those into drama and romance that aren’t put off by slow moving stories or awkward characters. I’m not the biggest fan of the show but I can see why it appeals to others. And I can see why it would be irritating to some.
That title: “The Flawed Premise of Orange and Why Naho Should Have Thrown the Letter Out” really sounds like I’m getting ready to dump on Orange.
I’m not actually suggesting there is something wrong with Naho as the protagonist of Orange or of time travel as a fictional concept. Mostly because the whole point of fiction (particularly sci-fi and fantasy) is to ask ‘what if’. What if you could go back and change all those stupid things you did as a teenager?
As a story concept it works so let’s leave that alone.
However, while watching Orange and reading various reviews and discussions about it, I couldn’t help but think how stupid and arrogant future Naho is.
And then, once I realised that some of Naho’s advice may very well lead to Kakeru not dying and Naho and Suwa not getting together, leading to Naho not having her very upbeat future baby, I started to really get annoyed at future Naho.
Yeah, you might have regrets now, but if you rewrite history via letters to your past self and you undo the existence of your own child, isn’t that going to be a pretty big regret?
Naho, won’t you miss your child?
Although, I guess that’s always an issue with time-travel fiction. Every change will have ripples so essentially as soon you start tampering with time you are accepting that the time line you are currently in is more or less coming to an end. Wow, I wonder if future Naho really hated her life that much?
This isn’t Terminator. Future Naho isn’t trying to stop a world destroying war or save the future of humanity. It isn’t Dr Who where she’s meddling in events in the lives of other species and planets and mostly just undoing the stupid messes she created by messing with time in the first place.
This is a girl who as a teenager missed some opportunities (due to being an introvert) and now in all of her adult wisdom feels that telling her past self to ‘fix’ things will… Okay, I’m really unclear about what she hopes to accomplish. Undo past regrets by creating all new ones I guess.
Certainly helping Kakeru is a noble goal but everything else these characters have done and will do is going to change because of this. And aren’t regrets part of what shape people in the first place? Is undoing something just because you decided you could do it better reason enough to risk your future child?
Time travel and the chance to do something over are perfectly fine plot points and plot devices but Orange opens a whole series of questions about the actual motivation behind it. What does future Naho seek to accomplish and why can’t she, like most people have to, learn to live with the regret and take the lessons on board for the future?
By redirecting Naho’s actions, she’s simply robbing her past self of the opportunity to learn whatever wisdom she feels she has in the future.
All of this makes me wonder what I would do in this situation and the bottom line is I would never attempt what future Naho is doing.
That isn’t to say there aren’t situations that I wouldn’t have liked to see go differently, and looking back I can see how I could have easily done things differently, but if I changed it I wouldn’t have learned what I did from the result I got. Essentially I wouldn’t be the me I am today. And while I’m pretty sure I could be a better me, I could also be a lot worse.
And how would I know which lessons I learned from which events are actually the critical ones for making me who I am?
When we were in school, we had to write a letter to our future selves that the school then had posted to us after graduation. I remember when I got mine that I rolled my eyes thinking what on earth would past me have to say that was in anyway relevant to who I was today.
Turns out, past me is not someone I should rely on for advice, because she is a sarcastic pain in the neck. The letter was an A4 page with no greeting or sign-off or anything else. If the envelope hadn’t been addressed there really wasn’t anyway to know who had written it. There was only one message on the letter, written just off the centre of the page.
“Figured it out yet?”
To which my honest answer will always be no. No, I don’t know if I’ve made the right choices or if things might have been different or better or worse or anything else. No, I don’t know if there was ever anything else I could have done. No, I don’t want to waste my time thinking about what could have been when I have to keep thinking about what is and where to from here.
So if past me is unreliable when looking to the future, I somehow doubt future me has any particular insight into what past me should have done in any given situation. Even the letter itself. Should past me have written something more profound or meaningful? What would that have accomplished?
The letter was perfect as it reminded me of who I was then. It reminded me of the hour I spent at that school camp staring at that stupid piece of paper and thinking that the entire activity was just plain stupid. It reminded me of how much I hated doing things that I didn’t think were worth my time, which is why I ended up writing anything and just stuffing it in the envelope.
That letter made me realise how much I’ve grown and changed, and how much I’ve stayed the same. Because part of me still wants to write a mocking and sarcastic statement on a page and walk away from things I think are pointless and that is always going to be part of me. And part of me wonders if maybe giving into that temptation is causing me to miss out on something else. And I will always wonder.
Naho, throw the next letter out.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
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