Orange – 06

Orange - 06 -1This was a tough episode for me to process, for a number of reasons.  Most mundane among them is that I’ve been traveling for most of the week, and I’m pretty wiped out at the moment.  But it goes a heck of a lot deeper than that, because that’s the sort of ep this was.  I said after Episode 5 that it felt like the high-water mark for optimism for the series, and that very much seems to be true.  An ep like this would be a tough one to take on emotionally for anybody invested in the story, but there are personal factors involved too.

Orange - 06 -2Many of you may be familiar with the posts I wrote about Watamote, another excellent series that confronted issues like teenage depression and isolation head-on.  That was a very different sort of anime in tone, obviously – it was the blackest of comedies but it still mainly used comedy to illuminate the human condition.  Orange is coming at this from an altogether different angle (call it “sein-jo” or whatever you like) but both hit unnervingly close to the mark.  I think it’s a testament to how good both of these series are that they can make someone who’s lived with the issues in question genuinely uncomfortable, as if someone is spilling their secrets in front of the world.  The moral, of course, is that our personal Hells are usually much less singular than we imagine, and if we can bring ourselves to share our burdens we’ll find many others who understand our pain.  But like changing the past or one’s own personality, that’s easier said than done.

Orange - 06 -3I said last week that Orange was in essence a story of two competing forces, possibility and regret. And at the risk of immodesty, I feel like that hit pretty close to the mark.  What we saw last week was the ephemeral triumph of possibility – the fleeting sense that tragedy could be averted and somehow everyone would wind up happy.  Well, regret has re-asserted itself in a big way and quickly too, just as I suspected it would.  Regret dominated this episode, it’s greedy fingerprints all over it almost from start to finish.  Regret is the most human of burdens but it’s one that the young are ill-equipped to carry, lacking as they do the perspective to realize that it’s just a part of life, not the end of it.

Orange - 06 -4The possibility that Kakeru and Naho could wind up together certainly still lives in this timeline we’re watching, even as both of them shyly avoid confronting the matter head-on.  Can either of them really have doubted the answer to the question Kakeru placed of Naho – or the one she posed in response?  The other four members of the group are doing their best to push them together (which has many implications, especially in light of what’s revealed at the end of this episode) but the steps they take are baby steps.  This is very, very hard for Kakeru – Naho understands this on some level, but she doesn’t grasp just how hard (or why) – at least not until the final few moments this week.

Orange - 06 -5“Wrong choices” is the term Kakeru applies to his reason for hesitating in taking things with Naho to the next level, but that’s just a fancy way of saying regrets.  Kakeru blames himself for what happened to his mother, and the ripples of that blame run through every aspect of this for him.  He doesn’t think he deserves to be happy – especially with Naho, when it was her invitation on the day of the opening ceremony that caused him to cancel his plans to go with his mother to her new hospital.  Kakeru also knows that Suwa is in love with Naho, and Suwa is a friend who’s gone out out of his way to show Kakeru kindness (again – implications to come), and has known Naho much longer.  What right does Kakeru have to inject himself and all his baggage into that?

Orange - 06 -6That’s nonsense, of course – we know it, watching from a distance.  But Kakeru doesn’t know it.  To be shown the psychological breakdown of a kind, sensitive kid like Kakeru is a brutal thing to watch, and Orange is absolutely unsparing in depicting it.  No child should have to go through what he’s going through, and no one who’s never dealt with depression in their immediate family can fully understand the burden it places on those dealing with it, especially children.  We watch Kakeru and Naho in the process of creating what should be happy memories – watching the fireworks after the culture festival (despite another attempt at sabotage by Ueda and her coven), enjoying the Matsumoto Obon matsuri (which is gorgeously depicted, by the way).  But all the while Naho and Kakeru are alone together, they’re never alone – there’s a ghost present too (ironic, given the timing) and Kakeru is always aware of her presence.

Orange - 06 -7For me, it’s impossible not to wince when Kakeru says “I’ll remember this for the rest of my life”.  Or when his grandmother shares his final note with Kakeru’s now-adult friends.  How long was this boy thinking about doing what he did?  Naho’s “this is not simple” comment about changing his fate seems to me the understatement of the year.  Most painful of all is their shared moment on that park bench on the night of the Bon festival, where she (with the best of intentions) presses him to open up about his mother.  On some level he wants to, of course – he wants to share his burden with anyone, especially Naho.  But he’s also ashamed, as wrong as that it, and he fears that doing so will forever change things between them.  Did Naho’s uncharacteristic insistence on drawing Kakeru out push him back onto the dark path?  Indeed, this is not simple.

Orange - 06 -8I want to know several things about the letter Suwa admits to Naho that he, too, has received.  Was it from his older self, or was it also from Naho?  Have the other three received letters as well?  We don’t know how deep all this goes or how it works, but we do know that Suwa has acted because he knows what fate will befall Kakeru – and he’s set aside his own future happiness to try and save Kakeru.  The really tragic part of all this is that still might not be enough, because once someone has started down the path Kakeru is walking, it’s very difficult to change their course.  Anyone who understands the issues involved could tell you that, and it’s very clear to me (just as it was with Watamote) that the manga-ka understands that in a way only someone who’s lived it can understand it.

 

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12 comments

  1. Ayup.

    All one can say is … HARD-HITTING.

    Man….

    Good post by the way. 🙂

  2. D

    Man… assuming that the letter told Suwa about his life with Naho and their son, him giving all that up and watching your love get with your friend must be hard. Not to mention actively helping them get together and doing it with a smile…

    Suwa wins best bro 2016 for sure.

  3. I’m not ready to make that assumption yet, but I’m certainly interested in finding out just exactly who said what to who – and how.

  4. It could presentation, but Naho’s letters don’t mention anything about her (future one) current life. Perhaps they decided to leave out details about what became of them to avoid biasing their past selves’ outlook. I mean, could you really blame Suwa if his future self/Naho tells him “yeah, you will get to be with Naho and even have a child! Could you please renounce to this and save Kakeru?” and he decided against it? So I believe that the letters don’t really let the past selves know anything about the future besides their regret about Kakeru’s suicide.

    This episode was really hard to watch for me too.

  5. D

    And what – are they hoping that in spite of their interference, their past selves will eventually get together and have their child anyways? I do remember the line from Naho telling her past self to be thankful for Suwa, so maybe that is the case. If not, I feel kind of uneasy that two young parents would choose the life of their high school friend over that of their newborn child… even if it’s a parallel reality. Feels… wrong.

  6. S

    It’s in essence an unborn child. And yes, the child might still become reality, regardless. Even meaningful relationships don’t have to last. And when they don’t, it’s not always a failure.

    In my mind, they’re choosing between saving a life(and fixing their biggest regret) and giving up nothing that can’t happen anyway. But anyway, at what point does a child’s life become more important than a young adult or teenager?

  7. D

    You or I can easily see the logic behind “well, it’s a parallel reality and the child hasn’t been born, so let’s give Kakeru a shot.” It makes perfect sense to an outsider. What I find less hard to believe is parents making that kind of call in relation to their own child. Say you have no moral qualms with abortion, etc, does that mean you would be okay with telling an alternate, past version of yourself to abort your adult child in their time line, if for some noble cause? I imagine most people would be instinctually repulsed by the notion.

  8. D

    *More hard to believe (not less)

  9. S

    I agree with Flower, great post.

    Thinking short term, maybe Naho did more bad than good here, with her insistence. But she did pave the ground for more good work in the future. Taking the next step is much easier when Kakeru has opened up just a little, even if he reacted badly, he did it in the open! He showed his vulnerability and wasn’t alone and all self-destructive. But you know.. only as long as the next step doesn’t come too late. ‘

    I also thought they handled the internal and external dialogue great here (again! The VA’s are stellar). Saying only the right things is imperative but knowing what the right thing to say is the most difficult thing in the world.

  10. Echoing what many have already said, the scene in the park was so beautifully executed to the point that it hurts.

  11. The one thing that yanks me a bit out of the involvement here is how contrived the usage of the letter as a plot device has become. A lot of the issues seem to be born of a combination of the letter not being clear enough and Naho not reading ahead (until now). On that first day the letter could have said literally “if Kakeru comes with you his mother will DIE” and that would have been sort of a better push to action (though of course not a final resolution, his mother was probably already on the edge and could do the same at any time). The show doesn’t embrace its premise as fully as it could – if someone wrote to their past selves in order to change the future I’d imagine they’d want to be as clear and incisive as possible, not as vague as Naho is in her letter. Everything seems to exist in the service of maximising the drama.

  12. l

    I really liked the scene in the park too. First time I actually teared up, too. ThoughI found it highly irresponsible to just let him leave like that afterwards. I mean they already know he’s highly vulnerable and possibly suicidal even when he doesn’t show it so why would Naho just go home and shrug it off after knowing that he’s probably highly emotional after that talk he and Naho had?! Sure, they can’t monitor him 24/7 and that would be too much as well. But at least make sure he got home savely? He could have thrown himself right in front of the next car as far as we know… So that total lack of worry (that message seems to be written th next day at earliest) kinda threw me off…
    Curious about that other letter though. Even if I’m not completely sure how to feel about that fact yet… just feels like a bit too much messing with the past… especially considering how demanding adultNaho alone has already gotten…..

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