Orange – Mid Season Review
Original Air Dates: July 2nd, 2016 – ???
Synopsis: Naho Takamiya is late to school on the first day she’s ever overslept. Before leaving the house, she grabs a letter addressed to her from– herself? Naho discovers throughout the day that this letter, purporting to be from a future version of herself, knows the day’s events and predicts them spot on. The letter informs Naho of a new transfer student, Naruse Kakeru joining her class and urges Naho to take a different path than she did. It implores Naho to keep an eye on Kakeru, whom it cryptically suggests won’t be around in the future.
Mid Season (6 Episode) Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Orange has been often hailed as a moving, dramatic story and having read the entire series and now watched the anime up to the mid point, I have to warn those who seek logic in their stories to stay away. While Orange does manage to drum up as many dramatic moments as possible, a lot of them come at the cost of the author and the story avoiding explanations or sacrificing common sense for the sake of upping the drama. If you have no issues with that and want a story to drown you with feelings and melancholy, Orange will delight you. But if you have an analytical approach to fiction, you’re going to find yourself gritting your teeth in frustration as you watch the characters often do things or act in a manner that lacks common sense.
Tom: Unfortunately, I’m a viewer that can’t help but question and note the logical inconsistencies, which are quite frequent and sometimes all too apparent. One of my ongoing frustrations is how severely under explained the logistics of the situation are. We have a letter that was, somehow, sent back in time. While Sci-fi is noted as a genre here, it’s an exceedingly underused component, and the genre tag seems to mainly exist as justification for the letter’s time traveling properties. By the mid point of the series, this aspect has been briefly touched upon, but the discussion feels more like lip-service to the idea, rather than any kind of foreshadowing for a more thorough explanation. While Erased’s time traveling mechanics bothered me less, perhaps because the series spent time discussing the ins and outs of the ability, even if it skimped on the origins, Orange’s almost complete disinterest in servicing the idea feels lazy. I’d almost prefer it not even discuss the time travel aspects if it’s going to provide zero meaningful answers anyway.
Linny: For those who will surely defend Orange as being meant as pure drama and not to be criticized for its sci-fi element, here’s a question that’s eaten at me from the start.
(WARNING HUGE SPOILER FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T WATCHED THE SHOW TO THE MIDPOINT YET.)
By this point, we know that Naho and the gang are aware that Kakeru killed himself because he couldn’t stop feeling guilty about his mother’s suicide. So basically, if Naho had let Kakeru go home directly after school that day, they might have been able to completely avoid his death with one single gesture. Yet Naho’s letter never tells her the truth and simply says it’s very important that Kakeru not go home with them. Has Naho forgotten what a timid girl she used to be and that she would need a lot more encouragement than that? Also, if it were to prevent TWO deaths, wouldn’t anyone else simply come right out and say that in the letter from the very start instead of remaining vague and beating around the bush? Does adult Naho not give a damn about saving the mother of a guy she was in love with? Now of course we need the deaths to happen as they are the main source of drama for the entire series and without the deaths we wouldn’t even have a story in the first place. That’s the simple answer one would give to counteract all my questions. But it still comes off as poor execution and makes Naho an extremely unlikable protagonist and is going to most likely drive away anyone who thinks about the story’s logic rather than focusing on the sadness factor alone.
Tom: The biggest problem is the way the letter is handled. From Linny’s complaints above, they highlight how “dramatized” this letter is. It’s clear that the way the letter is used, both in how it is written, and Naho’s own use/interactions with it, that many of the series’ issues stem from providing drama and revelations for the audience. For example: Naho never reads the letter in its entirety until the mid season mark. There’s a throw away line of dialogue that explains she could never muster the courage to read through the entire letter. Yet in previous episodes it seems as though she’s read the final page, or skipped around in the letter. This is without even addressing the issues of how she manages to read snippets that pertain to events just as she’ll need that knowledge. How is it, for someone so scared of reading the letter, she never accidentally misses an event? It’s this dramatization that causes a slew of logical inconsistencies and questions to pop up throughout the series, especially for viewers who are more critical. While it works dramatically, it damages the believability of the narrative and can easily yank you right out of the story. It doesn’t help that some of these are avoidable. For example, an easy way to ensure Kakeru’s mother dies, without keeping the letter intentionally vague, would be to have it arrive damaged, with chunks of the letter illegible. But instead, by keeping future Naho’s letter vague, it speaks unfavorably to the character, as if keeping secrets from her younger self purely for dramatic effect.
Linny: The over reliance on Naho’s shyness and hesitation to create drama can be a source of further frustration for some viewers. Once again, it is obviously done to add to the drama but watching your lead, and the sole person who can save Kakeru so far, failing so spectacularly to do the the simplest of tasks is irritating. When compared to her constant self declarations of being determined to save him from his sad future, it becomes all the more frustrating. It also becomes predictable that she is going to keep messing up whatever she has to do in the upcoming time period because the story needs all the drama it can conjure to keep the audience captivated.
Tom: While it’s not spelled out early on, it becomes painfully clear, even before the show acknowledges it outright, that Kakeru meets with a terrible end. That makes Naho’s indecision and hesitation painfully frustrating. A young man’s life is on the line, someone she supposedly is falling in love with, and she allows herself to constantly succumb to her own insecurities? I find her character borderline selfish, and it feels like she only has a marginal interest in doing the right thing. Her meekness would be understandable if the show addressed this conflict of interest more, but it doesn’t, with only passing mentions of this internal struggle. Naho often creates her own misery, and while there’s something to be said for how difficult it is to stand up and do the right thing, especially as a teenager with fear of ridicule, rejection and embarrassment, it makes her feel like an especially weak individual. I find myself far more drawn to the side characters, Particularly Suwa, who puts his wishes aside often to ensure the happiness of his friends. While that wouldn’t make him a compelling protagonist, it would’ve been nice if Naho tried a little harder to more selfless.
Linny: Like Thomas mentioned, Suwa emerges as the true hero of the story even when compared to Kakeru, our supposed male lead. One could excuse Kakeru’s distant and sometimes thoughtless behaviour as arising from his depression and guilt. It is a genuine and believable explanation and even if you dislike him for it, it is easier to forgive and understand. Kakeru also takes genuine steps to ensure he doesn’t hurt Suwa which makes that much more likeable. He does seem rather wishy washy when it comes to making decisions about other matters as we know from how he ends up dating and then shortly dumping Ueda. When it comes to the other characters, Azusa and Hagita seem to exist mainly as a source of comic relief and are enjoyable in their roles while poor Takako is relegated to being the least explored member of the gang. I would also like to discuss the character of Ueda, Kakeru’s (now) ex-girlfriend who is clearly meant to be a somewhat villainous character. She is shown to be shallow and cruel and a lot of it stems from her jealousy. It’s understandable that audiences will view her as a completely unlikable character but they might overlook that some of the blame falls on Kakeru for flaming her jealousy and leading her on by dating her even when he was clearly looking for reasons not to.
Tom: My one comment about the animation stems from the character’s eyes. It took me a while to pinpoint what I found odd about their designs, something that kept them feeling off compared to other anime this season. The thing I find distracting is the characters more ‘realistic eyes’ where they’ve given Naho and the rest extremely tiny pupils, compared to other big anime eyes, which gives their gaze a very intense look. It takes some getting use to, but its worth noting the stylized difference.
Linny: That difference in style helps to give Orange its own unique look but it might be unsettling for some viewers when starting the show. Some might even notice how often the animation shows a LOT of the characters’ teeth as compared to other anime where teeth are often not shown or have less emphasis on them. Thankfully, if it bothers you, it is easy to get used to and if you are sucked into the story, you’ll find yourself noticing this stylistic difference less and less as the show proceeds.
Tom: Orange appeals to a specific type of viewer, one who is more caught up in the heart of the story and less concerned with the facts and details. It speaks to viewers more interested in the inter-personal drama, less questioning of flaws or potential holes in the story. Orange just doesn’t stand up over increased scrutiny, and for more detail, narrative focused viewers it’s probably best left aside.
Linny: For those who are curious how the show has been adapting the source manga, it is faithful when it comes to how the events play out but it does add quite a bit of filler montage such as when depicting the gang hanging out with Kakeru on his first day after school, or when depicting the school festival. There’s also a bit of filler animation sequences that have a different animation style from the show or the manga itself but all of them are over quickly and do not interfere with the actual story. If you’ve read the manga and loved it, or prefer drama over reason, you’re going to love this adaptation as well. However if you dislike drama that often lacks logic, you will not have a great time.
Orange is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.com