Studio: TMS Entertainment
Viewed on: Crunchyroll
Premiere Date: July 4, 2016
Orange is a character driven story and as such every single action and interaction matters. Naho, as the female protagonist, is a vexing character. She is a massive introvert verging on social ineptness. Despite knowing exactly what to do, thanks to the letter, she lacks the confidence to step out of her comfort zone and can often be found crying or running away. I felt that Naho’s growth as a character should’ve been made more evident to avoid audience frustration.
Several times, I found myself saying, “Get an effing grip, gurl”, and this was especially true when she unnecessarily wastes time being indecisive or worrying about things like why her love interest might stretch out his hand with a longing look in his eyes. Thankfully her friends enlighten her on the age-old concept of hand-holding in romance. In some ways Naho’s weak personality is an advantage because it creates both internal and external conflicts that make the story eventful. She eventually gets her shizz together and towards the end appears much less timid.
Kakeru, the male protagonist, may come across as playing into the trope of an angsty teenager but he suffers from depression and suicidal ideation. Episode 12, in particular, pulled at my heartstrings as it gave a gravely accurate picture of the severity of mental health issues. Research shows that Japanese people have very little understanding of depression, and suicide rates (especially among young men) are rather high, so I applaud this series for raising awareness about this serious condition. It was easy to understand Kakeru’s guilt and self-hatred and I found myself ruining my mascara as I ugly cried for him more than once.
The romance between Naho and Kakeru was a bit clumsy and I’m just glad that Suwa existed - hats off to the best wingman ever! He was the most likeable character and is basically a saint. The determination with which he supports Naho and Kakeru, despite his own feelings for her, is truly remarkable. Our two main lovebirds would’ve been lost without him.
The friendship is strong in this story – Hagita, Azu and Takako, along with Suwa, all come together to help Naho and attempt to save Kakeru. I appreciated that his friends noticed his depression, took it seriously and were actively doing something about it. The whole squad naturally complemented each other and I enjoyed their mundanely comical banter. Their different personalities were evident as the story played out, thankfully avoiding the need for character summations.
The character design and aesthetics were visually pleasing except in episode 9 where the drop in animation quality made me gasp in shock. But, that is forgivable. Aside from that, the beautiful scenery and calm background music conveyed well the slow and steady slice-of-life feel to the story.
Even though the mood is mellow on the surface, we are made aware that disaster is brewing underneath and the audience can’t quite relax. I liked the ending song, but I felt the opening was too upbeat whereas a slower and more emotional song would suit the melodramatic feel of Orange.
So, should you watch it? I think yes. The overarching theme of Orange is about not wanting to carry regrets which I believe everyone can relate to. Most people tend to regret the things they didn’t do and this story encourages us all to become braver individuals who take risks. In that sense, Orange is inspiring.
While I was dissatisfied with the romance mainly due to Naho’s initial characterisation, I accept that it was necessary to push the plot forward and allow the story to be told over 13 episodes. In every other way, this tale left my heart feeling full and fragile. The narrative about depression is accurate and it was refreshing to see a very prevalent mental health issue laced in with this anime. Orange is a good blend of romance, friendship, and slice-of-life with a sci-fi twist. If you find those genres appealing, then I believe it will be more than worth your time.
[This review is based on a streaming copy of the series viewed on a premium account paid for by Japanator]
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