The Flawed Premise of Orange And Why Naho Should Have Thrown The Letter Out

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?

The girls from Orange - Naho holding the jacket.

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?

Just smile Kakeru.

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

18 thoughts on “The Flawed Premise of Orange And Why Naho Should Have Thrown The Letter Out

  1. Excellent writing, if I could applaud I would! 👏👏👏👏👏👏👏
    I haven’t watched or read this series, but I feel what you wrote could be used for any of the time traveling series I see float around.
    We’ve all been plagued by the *what if’s” but in the end, we’re who we are because of the mistakes and errors that led us to grow and mature.
    I’ve heard a lot about this series, particularly that it is heavy and deals with certain themes that are maybe too close to me to feel comfortable starting to read/watch, but I might give it a shot afterwards.
    I do agree that she’s risking losing a future that sounds to be pretty good for something that wasn’t in her hands, but the decision of another person.
    But since I’ve neither watched nor read, I can’t say much more about her decisions/etc xD;

  2. This was a fantastic read and view point never had I thought about this side of things. meddling with time travel never ends well I feel but at the end of reading the manga. I felt a little sad for the child that would now never be born 🙁

    1. I just like that the anime has made me think about it enough outside of watching it. Even though it isn’t the usual kind of thing that get’s to me, I find myself thinking through the events of every episode after it’s finished.

      1. It’s a good thing then orange has been able to do that to you. I haven’t kept up with the anime yet as I know what happens in the manga but ill catch up at some point 🙂

  3. I really agree. But I do get the hang of it. It seems like they’re two different entity(Naho) , I think they are in a different time and space. I guess, the ending of this will show us the result of the young Naho, and her doings has no effect in the older Naho’s life(being married with Suwa and has a baby). Well, the series is so interesting. You guys should watch Proposal Daisakusen(Another regret-theme romance drama and also the story revolves around time travelling into photos, it’s not an anime by the way, it’s a japanese drama.)

  4. As of last episode, the show very strongly suggests that the brand of Time Travel they’re using is the Parallel-Worlds kind. So, no Future Naho would not be removing her child from existence. But there’s no way Future Naho would know that (as far as we know.) Her reasons for sending letters to the past are to erase her regrets, this is clear as we’re reminded nearly every episode. This doesn’t necessarily mean, Naho will go forth acting accordingly, as we’ve seen multiple times already, such as with the “lunch box dilemma” and “responding to Kakeru dilemma.” Granted while both cases didn’t go as smoothly, as Future Naho would have hoped, the simple knowledge of the future changed things for the better, in terms of those two getting together.

    This all raises the question, does Future Naho want to simply save Kakeru, or does she want to save him and also be with him down the line? In either the first or second episode I remember the letter stating that there’s “great happiness in the future” so I doubt she trying to undo her marriage to Suwa. Especially since shes telling herself to pay attention to all Suwa and his kindness. Just because you wish to ease the burden on your past self doesn’t mean your past self will have the same hindsight you do, and be able to overcome their current barriers. Be it emotional, physical, or simply due to personality.

    I hate to say it, but I feel your example of a letter from your past self does not truly apply here. A letter from the past can only be an amusing reminder. People might write down their dreams, and in the future when they read it, you’ll either think “Oh, yeah I wanted to be/do that” or “I did it!” Others might log down their current feelings, and you’ll reflect back on them in possible nostalgia, or you won’t even remember. Your past self has little to no insight when it come to the future, and can do little to help.

    On the other hand, a letter from a future you, knows what you’ve gone through, and can provide help and insight. But as it is things in hindsight are always simpler than they actually were, or seemed at the time. It’d be easy to do as Future Naho does, but results would inconsistent and varied. If I were to write a letter to myself in the past, I would rather send letters of encouragement, in darker times so as to lessen the negative feelings. There’s a lot of options when it comes to sending yourself letters to the past, Future Naho seems to be set on one objective though, that objective being to save Kakeru, which in itself is not a bad objective.

    If I were writing letters to the past in an attempt to save someone, I’d want to first make it clear that the letters are from the future. How would one go by doing that? By “predicting” future events. By doing this repeatedly, you give yourself credibility, and thus when the day comes to save someone, the past me will have faith that what my letters say are true. Future Naho deviates from this slightly, as she also tries to erase her past regrets, and opening Past Nahos eyes to things she may never really paid attention to in the past.

    All in all, I am very interested in where this is going, and wonder how these letters are going to the past and if there are any limitations to them.

    1. i think it’s more of a problem that future Naho seems to believe that she can only improve the life of the present Naho. sure, the parallel worlds interpretation of time travel means her child is safe, but there’s no such guarantee in present Naho’s timeline. so effective, future Naho is desperately invested in potentially removing present Naho’s regrets, but has no issue with potentially depriving her of having the same child.

      1. While the letters are defenitly Kakeru-centric, with this last episode it does open up the possibility that Future Naho isn’t pushing for one over the other, but doubt that to be the case. So while one can question Future Naho’s morality, at the end of the day Present Naho wouldn’t miss something she never had to begin with.

        Do you save the life of your first love, “sacrificing” your child, or do you let them die so you can have your child?

        Meanwhile Future Naho continues on with her timeline unaffected by the good-willed arrogance she displays in the letters. I do not have a problem with the letters, as the focus is on Present Naho, and how she reacts to the letters upon receiving them.

  5. Yeah, I agree with the fundamental flaws of trusting the advice of future Naho. I think it gets even worse, though. I’m assuming from the few depictions of the future that the future has not changed. If we expect the future to change as a result of Naho’s actions, it should have changed from the moment the letter was sent. If the future hasn’t changed, then either future Naho’s plans have failed to change the past (at least the major events/regrets of the past) or future Naho exists in another timeline (as suggested by the science teacher).

    If it’s the former, then future Naho should know immediately that she failed. If it’s the latter (which I think is more likely), then we run into a bigger question. Is there any real point to sending the letter? You’re basically fixing things for a different version of yourself (maybe). Personally, I wouldn’t find any comfort in that. I feel like I would get a similar outcome if I wrote a short story outlining how my life would have been better if I had just done “X” in my past. From future Naho’s perspective, what are you gaining?

    1. Yep. Although that’s kind of the issue with time travel everywhere in stories but as I said, my real issue is that Naho’s life doesn’t seem all that bad. Yeah, she had a little tiny taste of tragedy with the death of a friend but it still seems like a bad idea to try to mess with that given what she’s risking.

      1. well, steins;gate used a multiverse, but the main character inserted himself in alternate timelines, so the events of the other timelines actually had meaning

        1. Steins;Gate was definitely time travel done well. Sure, you could still pick holes in the story if you really wanted to but it kind of made you not want to.

          1. I wrote a post about time travel in the past and it was centered mostly around the presentation in that series. It was probably the series that made me think the most on the subject. Though, it might have had the awkward side effect of making me criticize every other interpretation heavily.

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