Orange – 03

Orange punches like Joe Frazier in his prime.  It’s only the third round, and I’m already on the ropes.

Orange - 03 -1I seriously don’t know if I’m going to survive ten more weeks of Orange.  To be this wrecked by a third episode…  It’s going to be a tough haul, that’s for sure.  The temptation to just read the manga now is overwhelming to say the least, because the emotional bar has already been raised so high.  It’s definitely not a story that takes its sweet time in laying out the drama – the punches start early, they come often, and they don’t let up.  At least not so far.

Orange - 03 -2It’s interesting that two of the best shows of the season involve young adults in their mid-late 20’s interacting with their teenage selves in unnatural ways.  Adult Naho seems to have things a lot more together than Arata in ReLIFE, it’s true, but both of these stories are in effect time-travel pieces about young adults passing advice to teenagers – in Naho’s case to herself, and in Arata’s to the friends he makes in his second go-around.  I don’t use the word “unnatural” here by chance – it isn’t natural for a teenager to have the benefit of adult experience in dealing with adolescent traumas.  And I think it’s very much an open question whether it’s good for an adult to push that experience on a child, no matter how kind their intentions.

Orange - 03 -3I also don’t use the world “child” by chance, because in watching a series like Orange it really hits home that kids in high school – especially before their final year – are children.  They’re almost adult-sized and some of the boys shave and some of them are engaged in the full spectrum of romantic entanglements, and they might have part-time jobs or take care of younger siblings – but they’re kids.  That’s why this story is so heartbreaking, because we’re watching kids go through something that kids should never have to go through.  The six members of this little social circle are bonding in all the carefree innocence of youth, enjoying their lives, but a freight train is barreling down the tracks towards them – and one of their number has already suffered a terrible emotional blow.

Orange - 03 -4How integral is Ueda Rio (Sakura Ayane) in the events to come?  We don’t yet know, but she was certainly integral in making this an incredibly gut-wrenching episode.  She’s the glamorous sempai who’s taken a liking to Kakeru, even as he and Naho seem to be drawing ever-closer.  There are clearly changes to the timeline of the older Naho’s letter already – Kakeru decides to join the soccer team rather than quit, for example.  And it’s Naho he asks to call him at 5 A.M. to wake him up for morning practice (which is a pretty big imposition, truthfully).  When together they shyly dance around the subject of their mutual affection, asking leading questions whose meaning should be obvious to both of them.

Orange - 03 -5But when Ueda asks Kakeru to date her, he doesn’t instantly turn her down – he begs off till after the school break.  His answer to Naho’s “Do you like Ueda-sempai?” was refreshingly honest: “I like her looks.” (dammit, I really like this kid – that’s what makes what’s coming so agonizing).  Naho hasn’t confessed, and she’s had her chances.  You just want to reach into the screen and bash their heads together, but these are the silly things kids do.  What ends up happening is that Kakeru slips a note under the cover of the eraser Naho loaned him, and her older self has warned her about its presence.  It’s notable that even knowing that note was present Naho still can’t bring herself to look at it right away – that’s how hard being an adolescent really is.  When she finally does read it, it contains a simple question – “Is it OK for me to date Ueda-sempai?”

Orange - 03 -6Well of course, we know what the answer is.  And to her credit, Naho finally writes a note with an even simpler reply: “NO”.  But she slips it into Kakeru’s shoe locker and by the time he reads it, it’s too late – Ueda has pressed the issue and Kakeru has accepted her proposal.  You have to ask – is it possible that in pushing her younger self to write that reply, has the adult Naho made things worse? Is it regret over knowing how Naho really feels that pushed Kakeru into depression, and down a path from which he won’t recover?  Who knows – we’re dealing with uncharted waters here, trying to change the past from ten years in the future.  Maybe that note was a size 12 boot that trod right on a butterfly’s wing.

Orange - 03 -7The final scene of the episode features the five surviving friends gathering together to open a time capsule they’d buried ten years earlier, and it’s pretty brutal stuff.  None of them have achieved those childish dreams – “Pro soccer player”, “Doctor”, “Marry a rich guy” – fair enough. But Kakeru’s dream for his future is actually a benediction to his friends – “I hope you’re still together, and you’re happy”.  It’s the note of a boy who believes he has no future, which of course calls the circumstances of the “accident” which took him very much into question (especially given his family history).  It’s heartbreaking to see the broken child in these five barely-adults bubble to the surface at Kakeru’s words, but it’s also quite vexing to see Naho – with Hiroto as her husband and their child close at-hand – confront the issue of changing what’s happened in the past.  To what end – and at what cost?  I have to ask again, is she doing this for Kakeru’s sake or for her own?  Regrets are terrible things to live with, but sometimes living with them is the best alternative available to us…

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9 comments

  1. D

    Some years back, I remember reading that Japan has a very high suicide rate, but I can’t quite recall (at least, off the top of my head) many shows that touch on the subject. Is it frowned upon to draw attention to or discuss it? I’m curious if the show will tackle the issues of depression and suicide or if it’s one of those passing notes.

    And I’m not sure if it’s really possible to determine why someone in Naho’s shoes would try to do this. If it’s a really close friend (and, obviously, more), isn’t it natural to try and save them? If nothing else, this episode reinforced my curiousity about Suwa’s and Naho’s adult relationship. It’s all guesswork, of course, but maybe she doesn’t really love him in the same way, and they just ended up together because they were close childhood friends.

  2. Is there any country where suicide – especially teen suicide – isn’t a social taboo? Japan does have a quite high suicide rate (not the highest, but above average for the industrial world) but I wouldn’t say that the topic is any more more off-limits than in a Judeo-Christian culture. And as a complicating factor, ritual suicide has been a part of Japanese society for most of its history, much more so than in the West.

  3. R

    A well-written review again, Enzo…it’s written from your heart.

    There’s no return now — these kids are pulling all the strands of my heartstrings, and I’m longing for more…and more. Save Kakeru please. This has become less of a romance story for me, so please..save Kakeru.

  4. w

    I don’t recommend that you read the manga. Not because it’s not good, but because it’s so good that the anime would pale in comparison and become a disappointment. Perhaps it’s me being nitpicky again, but there are decisions made in the anime that I feel like would have been more investing for anime-only viewers but as a result caused a detachment to some and even a feeling of ridiculousness because of those decisions. I would suggest you read the manga after the season ends though, but that’s up to you of course. ^^

    On the other hand, the anime is doing a good job on making it frustrating and at the same time thrilling. Kakeru is so much like Naho in some ways. He couldn’t ask her that question and went an almost impossible-to-notice route of asking. His decision though at the end was deftly paralleled with the aftermath of Suwa’s pressuring, and the anime handled that well just like making Kakeru feel far away from the others while getting drinks.

  5. P

    I’m not that eager to watch the anime because I bought and read Seven Seas’ omnibus manga before the show aired. Maybe I should have watched the anime first before reading the manga so I can appreciate both mediums.

  6. If you’re getting wrecked at only the 3rd episode, I wonder how badly you will be pummeled in another 3 because this series looks like it has more to reveal that will raise the stakes. I am bracing for more gut-punches in the coming episodes.

  7. I have a confession to make. I really can’t seem to like this Orange anime.

    Now before you guys decide to throw me to the wolves and leave me devoured down to my shiny white bones, let me explain myself. I find that the story itself to be quite good, and I’m really intrigued by how future Naho’s letter will affect the future, and what exactly happens to Kakeru that would lead to his death in the suspicious “accident”. The main reason I just cannot seem to like this anime though is because I can’t quite connect with all the characters. For instance in this episode when Kakeru going in roundabout ways to ask Naho if she should date Ueda senpai, or Naho finally unable to contain her feelings when she saw Kakeru had accepted Ueda’s confession, I found myself just watching the scenes listlessly. I just don’t “feel” these characters, and during the scenes that should be full of emotion, I find myself feeling very detached from it, and I’m just waiting for the scene to just hurry up and continue the narrative instead of lingering on portraying the emotions of these characters.

    It’s become quite a problem because I honestly am very interested to find out how the story will play out. But after these 3 episodes I find that I’m having to almost drag myself to watch each episode every week. I see some people saying that the manga is a much more superior than the anime, so do you think I should give it a read if only to see that the portrayal of the characters in the manga will resonate much better with me?

  8. g

    No, honestly. And I’m telling you this as a huge fan of the manga, who could completely feel empathy for main characters. If you don’t like characters now or can’t resonate with their feelings at all, then you’re not going like it anyway, the manga or not. It’s not about the story but mostly about characters and their feelings. Of course some things are explained and stuff (can’t write, because spoilers, obviously) and it’s important but it’s such a small portion of the manga.
    Well, of course, you can blitz through the manga (because it’s completed) or wait for the anime’s ending – maybe it’ll be easier not have to wait for the characters’ next step but frankly speaking, form your words, it seems you don’t feel anxious and overwhelmed by the tension, what characters do next and what they’ll feel. If you don’t care about the characters and their feelings at all, you might as well read summary on wikipedia (I think there’s the wikiportal for the title). It will be faster and you won’t feel you’ve wasted your time and start to hate the anime.

    The manga isn’t much more superior either. Maybe it’s slightly better and has some advantages. The most obvious one is better art but still the anime’s design is trying to be similar the most it can. Next is the pace you can regulate yourself while reading, it depends how fast you can/ want to read but it can be huge factor for enjoying something or not. There’s more small humours and goofy scenes in the background too (mostly with Hagita) but it can be advantage or flaw, depends if you like the story lowers the tension from time to time or to have a moodier atmosphere from start to finish and any attempt at humour is distracting.
    But in its core it’s still the same story, for now (but I doubt they change something drastically). Of course, they snipped some things here or there but that’s how it is in adaptations. Sometimes it can shift the tone of scenes or even whole story but that kind of situation didn’t have a place here till now.

  9. Thanks for your opinion. After much thought, I think I will follow your suggestion and just drop the anime. I have to accept that no matter how good or well regarded any anime is by other people, in the end the most important thing is whether I myself enjoy the anime or not when I’m watching the show. And despite liking the story and feeling very interested in how it will play out, my inability to relate with any of the characters makes watching each new episode feel like a huge chore instead. I wonder though if I’m just really incompatible with most shoujo centric romance anime as I also couldn’t go through watching both Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun and Ao Haru Ride.

    I don’t think I’ll go through the manga though. Instead I’ll just read the weekly episode reviews here to get the gist of what happens in the story, and the pictures will be colored too, and just be satisfied with that.

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