To be honest, I haven’t paid much attention to the anime of Fall 2016, even though there were some really good shows that people are constantly going on about. October was a busy time in my life, and any shows I had put on my list to watch for the final season of 2016, I promptly forgot to even pay attention to, as I had other things to accomplish.
This anime, though, was one from the Summer 2016 season that I didn’t get around to finishing either. Now, finally, I had the chance.
In the city of Matsumoto, away from the urban life of the mega-cities of southeastern Japan, a quiet high school girl named Naho is about to start her second year of high school. Before the school’s entrance exam began, though, Naho received a peculiar letter in the mail. Inside were pages upon pages of writing.
Upon starting to read the letter, Naho realized this letter was actually from herself… 10 years in the future! “I need you to do me a big favor,” the letter says. As Naho begins her first day of school as a second-year, the letter matches exactly what happens to her, even down to the detail of her oversleeping. That day, her class got a new transfer student: a guy named Kakeru Naruse.
Kakeru moved into Matsumoto from Tokyo, and so he’s a bit less familiar with the non-hectic lifestyle here. Instantly, Naho and her friends – Suwa, Takako, Hagita, and Azusa – add Kakeru into their group, and they all get along really well.
“Now, ten years in the future, Kakeru is no longer with us. Please keep a close eye on Kakeru.”
The Plot and Characters
The idea behind the story is an interesting one. Naho does what she can to protect Kakeru and to make sure that he doesn’t die within 10 years, through the guidance of a letter from her future. This letter details the events around her on a day-to-day basis, usually in relation to Kakeru. Each day, the letter usually ends with something that future-Naho regrets, and asks the present-Naho to do or not do. The hope is, with each bit by bit of change, it’ll lead to a future where Kakeru still lives. It’s an interesting concept.
Orange doesn’t do a bad job of giving realistic reactions to this letter, too. Of course, we see Naho be skeptical of the letter, and surprised to see it match up to things around her, and going through a number of steps from there revolving this relationship between her and this letter. Her trouble with how closely and how blindly she should follow this letter, combined with the situation around her that continues to diverge from the path of this letter, feels human and relatable. I give Orange respect for that.
Despite that, the biggest source of my frustration with this show also came from Naho. Pretty early on, we see Naho realize that she’s starting to fall for Kakeru. I can understand her being a shy, timid girl, afraid to speak up when there’s something she wants to say. However, there are times where Kakeru, and others, ask her whether she wants something. Deep down, she does want it, and at times it would take her more effort to say she doesn’t, but yet she denies it anyway. I feel there’s a difference between being characteristically shy, and being shy and “I’m okay as we are” for the sake of padding out the story.
The big focus of Orange is definitely on Naho and Kakeru, their relationship to each other, and how to ensure a future together. Suwa also is pretty instrumental in this as well, and he gets a lot of screen time alongside the main two. However, Azusa, Takako, and Hagita all get sidelined a decent amount in the series. They appear more on screen towards the latter end of the series, but at that point… Naho, Kakeru, and Suwa have already gone through some emotional experiences without them, and it feels a bit like they’re the lesser friends to this smaller, closer group – friends that have been put out of the loop.
I know it’d be kind of hard for a 13-episode anime to make all six of its main cast get a comparably decent amount of time to develop (not impossible, but not the easiest), but I wish that more than just Suwa and the main couple got really developed. To be honest, it seems more like Azusa and Hagita were more meant to be comic reliefs in this series anyway, and they both get some pretty funny lines (usually playing off each other). Takako… I don’t really know much about her. I feel she really didn’t get any time at all to actually become interesting in her own right.
Kakeru is the final piece of the puzzle that is this list of characters. He’s the focus of everyone’s efforts, and the one that, unfortunately, deals with the most hardships. I really feel for the guy at times. The anime does a really good job of really showing him being emotional and showing a human reaction to the difficult things that gets thrown at him in his life. Where lesser shows would’ve handled these issues with disrespect or misinformation, Orange treats the issues as real, and presents them appropriately. He and Suwa are definitely the strongest characters in this series.
Overall, the story shown here was really interesting, and I liked it a lot. It’s character-driven, and I like how the characters (at least 90% of the time) acted and reacted as humans would in situations like these. My difficulties with Naho, though, and some unrealistic things in the latter half of the series keep me from feeling the writers (or original material) really hit this out of the park.
The first thing that stood out to me in this series, visuals-wise, was the unusual eye design. By the end of the second episode, I found myself thinking, “Now this is what almond-shaped eyes really look like!” I feel they were going for something more realistic-looking than your standard anime eye design, but it ended up just looking a bit… odd.
This show has proven to be inconsistent with its art and animation throughout its 13-episode run. Although the first number of episodes all looked pretty good, there were notable dips in quality during the latter half. Not even the distinctive eye design was immune, and more “standard” eyes made an appearance. Episode 9 was particularly bad, followed by episode 10, which looked pretty good in comparison (episodes 11 and 12 wavered between the two). It seems this show fell victim to the poor time management curse that besets many an anime production, which is disappointing; this show would’ve been more effective to me, emotions-wise, if it were able to keep its quality.
I liked Orange’s character designs overall, moving on past their eyes. There are many a time where Naho just looks absolutely adorable, and Suwa looks all-around great throughout almost the entire series. Azusa also tends to look quite good throughout as well. The background art definitely looks watercolor-painted, and it’s pretty alright looking. Again, I’ve been spoiled by the absolutely stunning work of Kyoto Animation, but this show’s backgrounds are still pretty nice. I honestly don’t have any complaints about that.
The background music for this show, as you’d expect, has a lot of piano-filled pieces that are meant to be tear-jerkers. If the tracks didn’t sound so generic, they may have been more successful in really getting tears to move. Overall, though, the background music is not necessarily bad, but it’s not going to stand out, beyond you noticing that it simply… exists. That being said, there is a particular track used a bit over halfway into the final episode that I actually rather liked. If more of the soundtrack implemented those instruments, the show would’ve really benefited from it.
One thing I also really liked about Orange is how it did its background characters. To most, this will probably be a rather minuscule detail, but I honestly really liked it. For a lot of the scenes, we can hear conversations of the background characters and they sound like actual genuine conversations between classmates or what-not, rather than something standard or plain. It’s little things like that which really gives this world some life. It’s possible that I really only notice this in Orange because Crunchyroll subtitled these conversations here.
The opening song felt rather appropriate for this anime. It isn’t exactly the type of song I go out looking for, but it felt nice here. The opening animation was only comprised of scenes of nature, and the characters standing around or running. It’s a more cliché-looking opening; it’s inoffensive and simple, and it isn’t the worst thing for a more drama-focused show like this, but I may have liked something a bit more interesting.
The ending song, simply called “Mirai” (Future), is more of a ballad song, which isn’t really a song style that’s up my alley, honestly. The song’s not bad though, but I didn’t really have much desire to listen to it. The ending animation usually involves images of the characters panning on screen, which isn’t the most visually engaging, but it’s okay. Overall, the ending was pretty dull for me, but part of it is certainly my personal preferences.
Final Remarks / TL;DR
Orange is a story about regrets, and going back to change them. Specifically, it’s about the regret over the death of a close friend. The hardships and feelings of the “friend” in this case, Kakeru, is really well done; the female lead, Naho, also proved to be human and relatable at some points… but at many points, she also provided some of my biggest frustrations for the series. This was not helped by the drop in visual quality for the latter episodes.
All in all, though, if I sent a letter back to myself, I wouldn’t tell myself to avoid this show. I did have fun with this show, and although there are certainly some negatives to its characters and presentation, the positives outweighed them in the end. This is a serious, character-driven drama; if that’s your type of thing, you won’t want to have regrets about missing this show. I recommend it.
Recommendation: Watch It
+++ handling of serious issues is well done, Suwa is awesome, Naho’s reaction to the letter from her future
— visual quality is inconsistent especially towards end, Naho’s shyness causes frustrations, some characters in this friend group get short end of the stick development-wise