Orange – 12

orange-12-1We’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).

orange-12-2As 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.

orange-12-3What 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.

orange-12-4Whatever 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

orange-12-5That 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.

orange-12-6In 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.

orange-12-7There’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.

ED Sequence:





  1. I understand your point about people reacting negatively Kakeru, but I have to say, as someone who’s loved Watamote and identified a lot with Tomoko, I think in these things what matters is a delicate balance of personal experience, quality of writing, and the way they interact. It’s a frail thing, because for me Orange doesn’t work much while Watamote does. In a way, Watamote’s sense of self-irony helped it work, I think, whereas Orange is so intently serious and straightforward with its tropes that the human truths for me are lost in the sea of how much anime this all feels, and how it consequently yanks me out of my suspension of disbelief. This episode’s long flashback was perhaps one of the best bits of the show yet, but most of the rest of it isn’t and when the show doesn’t work, empathy and emotional attachment to the characters go out of the window.

  2. Z

    Interesting. I have the completely opposite reaction. I find Orange to be emotionally manipulative, but it’s straightforward earnestness keeps it palatable for me. I forced myself to finish WataMote, but for me, it’s treatment of the material left me feeling queasy and sad after each episode.

  3. Well… that’s the point, isn’t it? Same for me. But Orange’s emotional manipulation is transparent, while Watamote was smart enough to actually make me feel repeatedly punched in the gut. Which is a sign that it actually was achieving what it set out to do. When I watch Orange and I start laughing at silly details instead of feeling engrossed by the tragic story of Kakeru and his friends that shows that it’s not working. Narrative is like sleight of hand, Watamote is the great magician that manages to pull off the trick while hiding the way it works. With Orange you see the dangling wires all over the place.

  4. F

    I’m also on the same opinion as Simone, and what I find the most crucial factor in deciding that whether a show of this type works for me or not is actually in a big part the quality of writing as mentioned before. Aside from characters and tone, in orange the relatability of the dialogues is nowhere near from invoking a visceral reaction out of me, I usually just find myself a little sad or incredulous after watching an episode. And while I wouldn’t say that Watamote was a literary masterpiece of describing depression and the human condition (I would say that Neon Genesis Evangelion or Welcome to the NHK excels in that area), the scene composition and the writing were far more effective in Watamote than in the case of orange and some episodes really left me with an overbearing feeling of queasiness. And in my book if a show manages to punch me in the gut and then is able to transform that squeamishness into a brooding, pondering frame of mind while forcing me to confront the presented ideas and reevaluating my values then that show is doing something right and I did feel that way after watching Watamote. So it is really a shame that I just could not immerse myself in orange like I’d like to because well-composed dramas are rare and anime dramas are so few and far.

  5. S

    I enjoyed this thread ^^

    I really like Orange because I haven’t really seen an anime trying to tell the same kind of story. Orange might be ham-fisting everything, but the actors are great, and Kakeru coming clean to his Tokyo friends was excruciating to watch, you can’t deny that. That was not ham–fisted in any way, btw. it was extremely sincere and believable, I thought.

    The overall story is great and new, so I’m easily going to forgive Orange for a few things that’d make me drop e.g. a sports anime. Watamote is brilliance on a whole ‘nother level. Also: I’m struggling to find a worse explanation for the letters. Jesus christ.

  6. s

    “What we’re left with here, I think, is a picture of someone who’s come to believe that [he’s] incapable of not hurting those he cares about.” Spot on. That, and he’s also come to believe that life could not be anything but pain and hurting. That bicycle scene really broke me.

    I agree, we really needed this insight into Kakeru’s mind and experiences. He’s been sort of a black box character – we see his actions and reactions but not really what’s inside, much like how his friends see him. If he does get saved, hopefully Orange shows how his mind shift happens, from seeing only pain and regret to starting to see hope. I’m kind of trembling in waiting for the next episode.

    That black hole conversation was kind of meh. But shot out to Hagita for always speaking out the truth–and for being that weird, sarcastic, funny friend.


  7. For me, the series has faded. There’s just this awkwardness about saving Kakeru that’s similar to the whole “preserving smiles” thing. It’s just very odd. I guess I’m still watching because some things do work. But the black hole idea? Sometimes it’s better to leave a loose end than to tie it badly.

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