We’re so damn close to the end now, and my primary emotion at this point is probably trepidation. Orange has pretty much sucked me dry, but I’m glad my sudden travel plans happened now, because I’m going to need my full faculties to try and process next week’s final episode I suspect. And it certainly wouldn’t have felt right to short-post it (though depending on how things play out, my final piece may saltier than normal).
As is often the case with anime, I felt myself somewhat absorbed by two dramas – not just the one happening on-screen, but the one happening in the fandom. It seems odd to keep comparing Orange to Watamote when the two shows are so tonally different, but I find striking similarities – the on-screen ones I’ve made reference to, but maybe even more so in fan reactions to the… Well, I can’t really call Kakeru the main character (again – he’s more the MacGuffin), but to he and Tomoko.
What it really comes down to is this: viewer reactions can basically be broken down into two categories, and those categories mostly depend on whether or not the viewer has experience with what Tomoko and Kakeru have gone through. Maybe you’re the one going through it, maybe (as I suspect is the case with Watmote’s writer) someone close to you was. But I strongly suspect that the chorus of haters with their “I hope he does get hit by that truck!” attitude are the ones who haven’t been touched by depression and social anxiety. I can’t imagine anyone who has saying such things – no more easily than I can imagine them berating Kakeru as selfish. That could hardly be more beside the point.
Whatever the case may be, this was really the first time, I think, that Orange treated Kakeru like the protagonist. Certainly it was by far the longest exposure to his inner workings, the events which led up to his suicide seen through his own eyes. And I think that was necessary, no matter what happens in the finale. We needed to see what he saw to understand what he felt. There are several key moments that stand out for me:
- Kakeru noting that Naho “reminds me of me”
- The bullying incident at Kakeru’s old school
- Kakeru’s grandmother admonishing him to go to the hospital
- And of course, the message from his mother
That message – why in the world didn’t she send it? What we’re left with here, I think, is a picture of someone who’s come to believe that’s incapable of not hurting those he cares about. Kakeru at this point seems himself as a kind of poison, and it’s only natural that he can’t bring himself to become a couple with Naho even though he desperately wants to. Not only does he want to avoid hurting her, but he sees the same vulnerability (rightly or wrongly) in her that he has in himself.
In the end, what drove Kakeru to that terrible decision was the complete loss of hope. “To keep on living is the most painful thing” could hardly be a more apt encapsulation of severe depression, and Kakeru saw no way out of it. The failed attempts by Naho to bridge the gap between them after their New Year’s fight (the second time around) by apologizing were hard to watch, but not surprising in any way. Kakeru was trying to protect Naho as he saw it, in the only way he felt he could.
There’s a cruel irony here, in that Kakeru and his friends each saw something impossible and took illogical actions as a result – Kakeru wanted to apologize to his mother, and took his own life on the hope he might meet her. And his friends, a decade later, ached to change the past and apparently took one hell of a flyer to try and do it. Hagita’s explanation was so silly (as silly as his admonishment that none of them were to blame was sage) that I prefer to imagine it to have been metaphorical rather than believe the quintet sent letters to the past through a black hole in the middle of the ocean. But whatever the case may be, in the end this all comes back to Kakeru – if he’s going to be saved he has to want to be saved. He has to see possibility again, not just regret – and right now, as we watch the new ED sequence play out, it’s hard to see how he gets there from here.