Orange Series Review

Overview:

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.

Review:

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.

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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.

 

 

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Orange Episode 13

Review:

I’m definitely feeling conflicted about whether I liked the way this ended. The extended episode was nice because it meant we didn’t get an abrupt pace shift in this final episode. The story has progressed slowly and steadily and the extra time allowed them to tell this final part the same way. I still think the way the friends approach some situations borders on creepy and I haven’t quite figured out why Kakeru doesn’t call them on it earlier. Naho spends the first part of the episode being just a little bit too Naho and ultimately, despite her being a central character she really doesn’t do all that much. Suwa remains the most interesting and dynamic of the cast and honestly I am still waiting for him to genuinely realise what all their meddling is going to cost him. Anyway, I’m done because if you want to know any more you are just going to have to watch the episode.

Orange is available on Crunchyroll.

 

Orange Episode 12

Review:

Okay, that’s seriously going to be their explanation for how the letters got back to the past? Right…

That was even worse than getting no explanation. However, it does fit the overall tone of the show. Completely irrational. Five different sets of instructions (that clearly weren’t written in consultation given different bits of information have been given to different characters) sent back by wishing and hoping that an insane conspiracy theory might pan out and that some random stranger will be able to read Japanese and will then follow said instructions, giving insufficient detail for the recipient to make an informed choice and not really knowing what the outcome of any of these changes might be… Well, I guess it’s a plot but logic left this particular group of characters a long time ago.

The only positive that really came out of this was at least we finally got to see Kakeru’s point of view and the process that lead to his decision to die in the original timeline. Given the show has been about saving Kakeru, very little time has been given to allow the audience to actually understand him as a character. Admittedly, this half-episode series of flash backs doesn’t give us much more depth than we got from the other characters’ letters but it feels like he’s actually a person now instead of a goal post.

Orange is available on Crunchyroll.

Orange Episode 11

Review:

Suwa is taking an awful lot on faith that the science teacher was right in his theory on parallel worlds. And even if Suwa in the other timeline has regrets, why should current Suwa be forced to bear the consequences? I was super relieved when this happened.

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Good job. Now just do the same to Naho and Kakeru.

While they might still pull off a mushy, happy, and fairly unsatisfying ending at this point, it really feels that this episode has tipped the scales firmly toward tragedy. The only question remaining really is how much has their meddling messed with the original timeline and did any of it make any real difference?

Orange is available on Crunchyroll.

Orange Episode 10

Review:

This episode needs to come with a warning about the sheer amount of cheesy scenes they are about to throw at you. We’re still at the athletics competition and we finish with the long awaited relay. Ignoring the over the top words of encouragement the friends are throwing around (which should be making Kakeru wonder if his class is actually some form of cult at this point) I now have to wonder if the guy in the blue team who now lost the relay gets to send a letter to his past self telling him to win to undo a past regret. It seems unfair that only Naho and gang get to make every situation turn in their favour. And how did they even win after subbing out all the actual racers from their class? Anyway, relay done, lots of happy photos, touching moments, and now I’m waiting for Suwa to realise what he’s done to himself and to explode.

Orange is available on Crunchyroll.

Orange Episode 9

Review:

While this episode is an improvement on last week the show is very much stretching things out as far as they can go. Kakeru and Naho still aren’t ‘dating’, just walking home together, giving each other significant looks and becoming unreasonably jealous when other people interact with the other. Naho’s friends are completely ‘supporting’ her but I’m pretty sure most of what they do this episode is what normal people would consider intrusive meddling. I don’t think this episode is any worse than any of the earlier ones but I do think my patience has run thin which is making it all a little harder to deal with. They either need to move forward or something new has to happen other than the two main characters awkwardly circling one another.

Orange is available on Crunchyroll.

Orange Episode 8

Review:

Oh-no, Kakeru collapsed. Is this foreshadowing that the future is fixed regardless of actions taken by our group of plucky friends? Well, don’t expect an answer to that this episode. Instead we have plot contrivance at its worst when 6 students are picked for a relay team with Kakeru chosen for the anchor. Why six students on a relay team? So that our core group of friends can all volunteer to swap places with the chosen students and we can have an all friends team. Yay! That is probably the worst development yet in this story. Couple that with Naho not understanding basic body language (boy you like holds out his hand, boy wants to hold hand) and mostly you end up with a frustrating viewing experience. Admittedly, the others finally admit they also got letters. Come on Orange, you’ve done better than this up until now. Don’t derail this close to the end of the season.

Orange is available on Crunchyroll.

Orange Episode 7

Review:

Episode 7 brings us a wonderfully emotional episode. Early on you just can’t help but wonder why Suwa would show Naho his letter only to have left the last part of it at home. It becomes clearer as the episode continues, but it still makes you wonder why Naho didn’t find that suspicious. The low point of the episode is the continued high school drama as Naho continues to be bullied by Kakeru’s ex and continues to fail to stand up for herself. The ending is really solid and quite affective except that Naho is definitely coming off second best to Suwa in terms of actually changing things or even just articulating them. All and all, Orange continues to be a pleasant drama but its feeling more and more like tragedy is inevitable. Maybe they just want us to feel that before switching it up or maybe we really are in for a tragic ending, either way I’m watching this all the way through to find out what happens to these characters.

Orange is available on Crunchyroll.

Orange Episode 5

Review:

It’s nice to see Naho finally thinking things through and wondering about the ramifications of altering the past (even if that thought process was triggered by a pretentious science teacher). Also good to see her finally attempt being a little proactive even if the results weren’t what she had hoped. Still just going to point out that she really should just read the whole letter and then make her own choices without continually referring back to it.

What I really like is the relationship being developed between Kakeru and Suwa as they are clearly friends but also both aware that they both like the same girl. In honesty, that’s probably the biggest appeal of the show at the moment is how to resolve this relationship. We know future Naho is with Suwa but she regrets Kakeru’s death. This show remains pleasant enough if a little slow moving and I’m quite enjoying its relaxed atmosphere.

Orange is available on Crunchyroll.

Friday’s Feature – The Flawed Premise of Orange

Okay, I’m not actually suggesting there is something wrong with 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?

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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.

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?

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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.