Orange – 04

Orange - 04 -1We’re only 4 episodes in and Orange has already kicked my ass and left me for dead by the side of the road, so I can only assume the next two months-plus are going to be a rocky ride.  I’m hard-pressed to think of too many anime that hit you with so many emotional broadsides so early in the story – the approach here is very direct, but even if you know the punch is coming that’s no help to you if you can’t avoid it.  Orange is the sort of series that seems to bring out the “M” in us.

Orange - 04 -3The only real disappointment I have with the current run of events is that I’d hoped Ueda-sempai might not end up being so unlikable.  That would have made things a little less black and white, because seeing Naho suffer through watching Ueda and Kakeru together is already gut-wrenching enough (especially knowing what’s going to happen).  Ueda ending up being (by current appearances at least) a stuck-up and possessive b-word has a more cliche shoujo feel than anything else in the mostly cliche-free Orange so far (as my friend Samu pointed out, the serialization actually finished in a seinen publication).

Orange - 04 -4In the final analysis that seems more of a style than substance issue, though, because the basic premise is pretty well-established.  It’s funny, because superficially at least that premise seems very straightforward – a terrible thing happened to someone she loved, and adult Naho is trying to save him through metaphysical/magical means.  But I still feel as if I don’t know the endgame here.  It’s going to sound like a funny thing to say, but it almost feels to me as if this series is a battle of wills between the two Nahos – the teenager and the adult.  But just what the true stakes are I’m not yet ready to say.

Orange - 04 -5If it weren’t for what was happening with those letters from the future, the relationship dynamic would seem quite normal for a shoujo drama (and frankly, a real high school situation).  Ueda takes Kakeru away not just from Naho, but from the group, and the group resents her for it.  Takako wonders “whose side” Kakeru is on – an understandable but fruitless question.  All the while the distance between Kakeru and Naho widens, even though her elder self admonishes Naho not to let that happen.  She stops making lunches; she stops waking him up in the morning.  He’s hurt, very hurt – even if he’s not the sort of kid to admit that to Naho, it’s plain for us to see.  And the notes from the future keep coming.

Orange - 04 -6This is a very important question that hasn’t been addressed – just how is Naho seeing these letters?  Did she receive a big stack of them all at one and is reading them piecemeal, or do they keep coming one after the other?  And if it’s the latter, do the incremental changes caused by Naho’s behavior impact the world the older Naho is seeing when she writes those letters?  If every letter Naho writes is coming from a slightly different future, always changing as a result of the last letter and young Naho reading it, that’s certainly a game-changer.

Orange - 04 -7I’m quite torn by what I’m watching here, between what I want superficially and what my mind is telling me is really going on.  Flat-out, I want to see Kakeru saved – desperately want it.  I don’t think there’s a lurking evil side here – I think he’s a kind boy who’s been through a lot, and at some point loses hope and decides to stop fighting (besides – “I forgot what I was going to say”?  How can you not like this guy?).  What decent person wouldn‘t want to see that prevented?  It’s heartbreaking to think of this good-hearted kid killing himself.  But what’s the cost of that change – is it really so simple?

Orange - 04 -8I’m very much with Naho when she expresses frustration with her adult self over these commands she’s getting – it’s easy to look back with the benefit of hindsight and give orders, but it’s not so easy to follow them when you’re trying to live your life.  Think about it this way – Naho did the things she did the first time around because that was her natural, instinctive behavior.  That’s not to say there aren’t times when we should fight against our tendencies, but Naho-san is asking Naho-chan to act against her very nature, pretty much by definition.  That’s hard – for anyone, much less a 16 year-old girl.

Orange - 04 -9This is the real torture of Orange.  As much as you want to be happy when Kakeru reacts angrily to Ueda knocking Naho down, and they end up talking openly at last – and you are happy – there’s a part of you screaming “This isn’t right – it wasn’t supposed to happen that way!”  And then there’s Suwa, smiling helplessly in the stairwell (is there something suspiciously knowing in his face here?) after he pushes Naho into Kakeru’s arms, calling to mind the image of the adult Suwa and the baby he had with Naho.  Orange would be painful enough as the straightforward teenage drama so much of it is, but that’s only the most superficial layer.  And I suppose that’s the real genius of it as a series.

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7 comments

  1. D

    The manga doesn’t make it as apparent, but the show does a good job of conveying just how much pressure the letter is putting on Naho. Initially, it was easy to dismiss as overall positive, but having those words always infront of you, nudging you to act in a certain way is damn harsh. Especially for a teen girl that already comes with her share of worries and insecurities.

    After last weeks episode, I snapped and dove into the manga. It was a couple of pretty rough nights. Obviously, I’m not spoiling anything and in general I’ll just try to keep my mouth shut untill the show is over, but you’re right – knowing the punches are coming didn’t make it any easier, even watching this episode.

  2. I think the fundamental questions here are: would saving Takeru mean changing Suwa and Naho’s future as a married couple with a child? and Is Naho betting on that or she just wants to save a really good kid who died way too soon? The answers to those questions are part of the core of this series and then we have the “is right to change the past?” I’m really liking the anime so far.

    Man, is so tempting to go a read the manga (I have the five volumes here on my hard drive), but I want to wait until the anime is over.

  3. M

    You put my thoughts about the whole black and white of the situation into words, I felt it was almost off the way the situation with Ueda played out.

    Also, is it just me or this episode had a really big drop in budget? So many off character drawings and such.

  4. R

    Amongst my top 5 favourites of the season, orange tops the chart. Four episodes in, orange never ceases to skip a beat, sucking me in the story and soaking me up the emotions.

    Having said that, the setup of the fight between Kakeru and Ueda came across overly convenient and dramatic. However, there were two super cute moments this week. The first one was when Papa Suwa quickly took away the tea cup from the baby — the interaction amongst Papa Suwa, Mama Naho and the baby was so realistic that the words “young family” were simply written all over the screen. The second one was when Kakeru blushed with a big smile when replying Naho, “That’s a secret.” He then quickly ran away… I love that the shyness felt so real and the joy felt so genuine — a big smile on Kakeru’s face was the best reward this week.

  5. E

    This is crazy off topic but I wanted to talk about Adachi and this is like the only semi adachi related blog i know. I’ve been on a nostalgia trip on Adachi mangas lately and its amazing how i can smell the sun and hear cicadas everytime i open one of his books, its just so powerful. Also I’ve realised that I hate Adachi protagonists that dont achieve aything, i.e. Miyuki, because at that point their only redeeming quality is that they exist and care about the female lead. Also the fact that I’ve disliked every one of his manga with in-family romance like Jinbe and Miyuki but I’m holding out for Mix being better simply because I adore the characters.

    Also Ive found a few authors that have given me the same Adachi feeling as of late, Regatta by Hara Hidenori and his other mangas and Jinrui Nekoka by Mizutani Naoki.

  6. While I’m rather curious about how the info arrives, whether by trickle or dump, in a way it doesn’t matter. There’s an organic way to resolve that either way it goes, or so I hope. I think adolescent Naho really came to life this episode and that made it difficult to watch. I’m not watch much of this season’s offerings, but this feels like the one that has the most going for it.

  7. i really did not enjoy this episode at all. Quite a departure, but it felt how the previous episodes went, only more enhanced. Naho reads a part of the note, remembers it when the exact situation comes, does not heed the note, X person/thing motivates her to rectify situation, *cue* uplifting and happy music. rinse and repeat.

    It didn’t bother me as much as in previous episodes, but when naho ran away after Ueno/kakeru’s fight, it really pissed me off because realistically, there was no turning from that situation. It wasn’t like Suwa, conveniently shoehorned into a knight in shining armor scene, offered anything new to naho. Everything he said, she had already known. kakeru had already pretty obviously been trying to communicate with her, but she chose to ignore/freeze him out of embarrassment. She already knows the implications of not helping kakeru (HE DIES) and still chose to accept the situation again and again. So when suwa rolls off his ‘friendship speech’, and she has that lightbulb moment (seriously, what was her brilliant revelation in that moment?) where she suddenly overcomes all her insecurities, I had to fight very hard to roll my eyes. And consequently, the whole “payoff” scene where kakeru and naho reconnect just felt so fake and contrived.

    With regards to what future naho, I think everyone in the future group has the ability to write back to their former selves and reshape kakeru’s fate. It’s beginning to look like a concerted effort on behalf of everybody (or at least Suwa and Naho) to save kakeru. That brief ‘changing the future’ comment during suwa’s intervention kinda indicated to me, because nothing naho did really should’ve affected the way suwa dramatically interceded; it felt really random unless directed otherwise. And really, that seems to be the one common thought that future version of the group shares: reflecting on kakeru. I don’t think it’s out of any dissatisfaction with their current lives, moreso the regret of not being able to save kakeru when they had the chance to.

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