Orange – 07

Yeah, they had to trot out the butterflies sooner or later…

Orange - 07 -1Orange is a wonderful anime – ridiculously involving and insightful.  But damn, it’s a tough one for me to watch and an even tougher one to write about.  I’ve seen plenty of series that strike a personal cord with me, of course, but this one cuts so close to the bone that it’s genuinely uncomfortable to really wrap my mind about it.  Maybe it’s uncomfortable in a good way, like a visit with a therapist is supposed to be.  But it’s a rough ride nonetheless, and each successive episode leaves me feeling more bruised and battered than the one before.

Orange - 07 -2When it comes to Kakeru, opinion seems very sharply divided – I’ve seen some pretty out-there comments.  The only thing I can say in response is something I’ve always hated when I heard other people say it: unless you’ve been there, you can’t understand.  Normally, I think that’s a bullshit line – and about 95% of the time it is.  But there are times when I believe one cannot genuinely understand another person’s feelings unless they’ve experienced what they’ve experienced, and Kakeru’s case is one of those times.

Orange - 07 -3I imagine that many if not most viewers find themselves strongly identifying with someone in the Orange cast – Suwa or Naho, maybe even Saku or Taka or Azusa if they’ve been the helpless onlooker in a situation like this.  Well, for me it’s definitely Kakeru – and I don’t think anyone who can’t identify with Kakeru (and I mean truly identify with him, above all the others) could understand what that means.  I’ve seen this kind of emotional trauma hinted at in anime before (Watamote‘s Tomoki gets at the fringes of it in a darkly comedic way, as an example) but I’ve never seen it confronted so head-on and so brutally.

Orange - 07 -4The thing about Orange, though, is that it’s really a series with a tripod structure – Naho, Kakeru and Suwa are equally critical in supporting the story.  Suwa is the character who’s been the least explored up to this point, but his perspective is no less essential to the drama playing out.  The obvious emotional crescendos have certainly hit their mark, but I find my mind continually going back to Suwa’s wordless stares – they cut right to the heart just as much as Kakeru’s tears or Naho’s fears.  When one thinks of the sacrifice the future Suwa is asking of his younger self, it’s staggering – but spare a thought for Suwa-kun as well as Suwa-san.  It’s clear Suwa-san is sparing him the details of what his future originally held, but Suwa-kun understands his own feelings.  He knows exactly what he’s sacrificing here, and it’s no less than the potential source of his future happiness.  Yet he does it anyway – both of him do it anyway, and I’m honestly not sure which one of them is making the more impressively greater sacrifice.

Orange - 07 -5But again we must ask: will it be enough?  Will anyone’s sacrifice, anyone’s love, be enough?  They may be acting on letters from their older selves (I don’t know whether the other three have received them too, but it almost doesn’t matter) but these kids are trying to save Kakeru very much in the manner of kids.  It’s heartbreakingly innocent the way they try to heal Kakeru with kindness and affection, with attention and presents and general love.  What that tells me as much as anything is that the ones who gathered at Kakeru’s grandmother’s house are still basically those same kids themselves – all of us are to an extent still basically kids at 26, but the tragedy of Kakeru’s life and death seems to have frozen them in time on some level.

Orange - 07 -6Suwa’s approach is as in-character for the kid he is as Naho’s halting self-doubt is of her.  He’s abandoned all subtlety in favor of directness.  When he wants Kakeru to say what his birthday is, he asks him straight out.  He tells Naho and Kakeru to their faces that they should be honest with their feelings.  He forces Kakeru to admit he’s hurting about his mother, and asks him flat-out if he thinks about death (we now know that Kakeru tried and failed to kill himself at least once).  I’m not Hiroto in this scenario, but I totally get that impulse to just grab Kakeru and try to hug some sense into him.  Will it work?  There are very obvious problems with Hiroto’s approach, just as there are with Naho’s hesitant and halting one.  But we do know this much – doing what they did before didn‘t work.  In that sense, maybe beating the bushes and forcing the butterflies to take flight isn’t the worst idea in the world.

Orange - 07 -7Each little moment – Kakeru wearing the sports bag and Naho’s reaction, the sleight-of-hand withe the bouquet of flowers going from Suwa to Kakeru to Naho – is a reminder of the stakes here.  Kakeru’s eyes as he stares out the window and whispers “Whoosh” are a reminder of the long odds against changing fate – that Naho will ever get to see the smile she longs to see, the Kakeru without a ghost over his shoulder. The eternal tug-of-war between possibility and regret knows no beginning and no end, and perhaps the only reason to have hope is that Naho and Hiroto (both “now” and in the future) may just be too innocent to realize which one invariably wins.



  1. g

    I’m very biased but this manga has become the one of my favorites exactly because Kakeru’s character, as I was too once like him. It’s not fresh but it’s still raw as when I read manga again / or watch the anime I’m still crying like a baby. Not in many different form of media, and especially in manga/anime, I’ve seen so good description of clinical depression and a depressed person like here. I don’t know if the author has dealt with it in some form or she’s that talented but she’s captured the pain, the associated feelings and wrapped & twisted thinking perfectly.

    And when I was reading the manga for the first time I saw very weird or negative opinions about Kakeru too (this and unfortunately, people were more interested in shipping wars than if friends will save Kakeru) and I was envious how lucky are those people, who don’t understand.
    It’s a main reason why I think somebody like Suwa is not fair as a character in a fiction, especially with such imperfect characters like Naho or Kakeru to compare, because it’s too easy, effortlessly really, to like him (and make everything about him).

  2. Well, for me the thing that really clicks is the depiction of what it feels like to have a family member with depression lay that guilt and sense of responsibility on someone. That’s why I keep bringing up Watamote, because it touched on that with Tomoko and Tomoki. You don’t see it in anime very often.

  3. Z

    (That’s cutting it too close for comfort for me, sorry. – Enzo)

    I feel your pain about the shippers though. They can to be so caught up in what they want to happen that they lose all empathy with the other characters.

  4. Z

    And yes, Suwa is probably my favorite character for reasons that haven’t happened yet. I’m just saying it is very possible that inside he is a quivering mass of indecision as well 😉

  5. No matter what happens / at least they are trying One thing I am surprised they dont try to get him professional help. Personally I have been down and out and then there is somebody that stepped in to change my mood!

    One thing I am not drained yet as the animation is so good.

  6. N

    A question: who is “Hiroto”? A reference to another show?

  7. g

    No, it’s Suwa’s first name. But not many people use it, so I’m not surprised you haven’t known it.

  8. As far as great bros and solvers of romantic conundrums in anime go, Suwa is just one letter away from Suna. Coincidence? I THINK NOT!

  9. I hesitated watching this episode because I dread what this episode would show. After getting over the hesitation and watched it, this episode met my expectations in being brutal. I knew it was coming but it still hit me like a speeding freight train. This episode hit way too close to home for me in respect of my younger days.

  10. s

    Orange is just too beautiful and painful at the same time.

    Kakeru is in a really tough place emotionally because he’s carrying two burdens: his own depression, and the weight of his own mother’s depression in the form of regret. A close friend of mine experienced something similar – their mother basically depended on them for emotional stability when they were a teenager, and it created a lot of emotional difficulties not unlike Kakeru’s to my friend (Mom and friend are both okay now). But in retrospect, they said it was something no parent should ever do to their child, and no child should’ve ever gone through that. That’s just how hard it is.

    Now that Suwa has entered the equation, it’s interesting to see how different his approach is, being so blunt and straightforward. But will Naho and Suwa’s efforts bring the odds in their favor? Changing someone’s mind when they’re in a dark place is no easy task.

    I wonder if getting professional help from a counselor is a thing in Japan. My general impression is that, in Asia, it’s sadly very uncommon.

  11. This is something that most of the ignorant Kakeru haters seem to be unaware of. Therapy and counselling do exist in Japan nowadays, but it’s much less accepted than it is in the West (and even there, it still carries a stigma for a lot of people). There’s a great concern that by admitting you need that kind of help you’re bringing shame on yourself and your family, so most kids don’t seek it and most parents and school officials don’t push for it.

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