Orange Volume 5 – Review Discussion
Synopsis: As the doomed day approaches, everyone steps up their game to try and ensure that they don’t lose Kakeru. Despite their best efforts, things seem grim as Kakeru seems to act in the same pattern that eventually led to his death.
Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
As this is the final volume of the series, rather than give a chapter by chapter breakdown, I will be sticking to pointing out what I loved and what bothered me about the story in an attempt to avoid giving away too many spoilers. Let’s start with the good. We see Naho stepping up more and more, breaking out of her meek shell a lot more than she has in the past. Given that the forewarned event is quickly approaching, it’s a relief to see her put in some actual effort to the point where she is visibly uncomfortable but isn’t letting it hold her back.
If you’re someone who enjoys the supporting cast a lot more than our lead romantic pair of Kakeru and Naho, then this volume did a great job of showing the chemistry between our supporting characters and also injecting some much needed humour and comic relief through them. There’s also a lot to love about Suwa who continues to be the self sacrificing saint and is headstrong about putting Kakeru’s happiness above his. It’s heartbreaking to watch him be full aware of the risks and losses he faces in this lifetime by choosing to save Kakeru and yet doing them with a smile on his face, And for someone who seemed to be relegated to sheer comic relief initially, Hagita gets a lot of attention and contributes quite a bit to the efforts and the lead up to the event too. For those cheering for him and Azusa, there’s plenty of flirting and interaction between them and their relationship is constantly a source of humour and joy in the volume. But beyond that, he also proves himself to be equally worried and concerned for Kakeru, maybe doing even more than the others have. He’s unafraid to show his affection for Kakeru to the point of embarrassing himself and everyone around him as well.
Kakeru’s personal depression is addressed in more details and that gives the readers an insight into why he is so withdrawn and hard on himself. We get a glimpse into the relationship he had with his mother and even the actual lead up to her suicide. As we knew so little about the actual events and experiences he went through before this, it was frustrating to watch him be so withdrawn and even dismissive of everyone’s efforts to connect with him and bring him into their group. But thanks to the exposition in this volume, even if you do not warm up to Kakeru, you get a taste of what he had to go through and why he kept it all to himself for so long. It might even make the story a lot more relatable or heartwarming for those who went through similar experiences or feelings of depression which is a topic that isn’t always handled well in media. There were times when it felt like Kakeru was acting in an extremely selfish or stupid manner but one could brush it off as being so either for plot purposes or personally, as someone who hasn’t had to deal with extreme depression, I assumed that it had to do with his depression controlling him and not letting him think his actions through.
And now to the bad, which might not come off as that bad to others as tastes and preferences are such a subjective matter. First off, Naho has to be one of the blandest and extremely under-defined female lead characters. She isn’t shown to have any real interests or passions besides being all about Kakeru. Yes, she is timid and thus just blends into the background all the time..and the only reason she comes out of her shell is because of her feelings for Kakeru. While some readers may have no issues with that, it’s always frustrating as a female reader to gave a female lead be mainly and mostly defined by her love for a male/another character. Also, it is flabbergasting that despite her future self being so certain that she would end up with Suwa no matter what, she seems least bothered to mention this to her past self. One could defend her action saying that her certainty of a future with Suwa made her future self think that even if she didn’t mention Suwa, she would end up with him regardless. But it also raises the thought amongst more jaded readers that maybe Suwa was a consolation prize of sorts for her. That she wouldn’t mind ending up with Kakeru in the new timeline and doesn’t give a second thought to leaving Suwa out in the cold. It’s a disturbing thought that she is so focused on saving her first love despite claiming to have a happy married life with someone else, someone with whom she even has a child now. Now before you grab your pitchforks in her defence, I do not think Naho is evil at all. At worst, she comes off meek and boring and could have used some more character development.
In general, I feel like the girls in this series were really underdeveloped. They seem a lot less proactive about saving Kakeru and besides their starting defining characteristics, they never seem to actually change or grow. While Suwa started off as carefree and goofy, we get to see that he is actually doing a lot of sacrificing and acting very mature for his age. Even Hagita turns out to be a lot more passionate and caring than his earlier aloof personality. But when it comes to Azusa and Chino, they are forever relegated to being the bubbly one and the quiet but strong one. Not to mention how Kakeru’s ex girlfriend is used in the story to basically come off as a bitter bully. It’s frustrating because her bullying seems to appear and disappear in the matter of a few panels and more often than not, her appearance felt meaningless. It also frustrates me that Kakeru never once addresses her directly as he is partly to blame for her hurt feelings and resentment. He accepted her proposal on a whim and then dumped her on a whim. Imagine yourself in Ueda’s shoes and imagine the humiliation and pain of being broken up with after a very short relationship only to realize that someone else had been on your lover’s mind all along. This doesn’t excuse Ueda’s constant bullying of Naho, but it does make her come off as more than just the villain that the book seems determined to make her out to be.
My other major issue is with how underexplained the so called sci-fi elements of the story are. We never get any real answer as to how exactly the letters ended up back in time. There’s two separate instances of references to and discussions about black holes and parallel timelines but not even one panel about what method the group used to send the letters. We also find out that every single friend had recieved a warning letter but considering how dire the situation is, almost every single one of them seems to be making minimum effort to actually save Kakeru besides some passive gestures every now and then. One could excuse the kids for being kids and therefore being clueless about how to help a suicidal depressed friend. But since the letters came from their adult friends with instructions, couldn’t the adults have done some proper research into it all rather than giving their past selves extremely vague clues and hints in some cases? There are several instances where even Naho doesn’t seem to act with any real sense of urgency despite noticing that the letter is able to correctly predict everything that happens. For example, when the letter tells her that it is of utmost importance that she read a note that Kakeru leaves for her, she runs off to do other stuff and completely forgets to look at it until it’s pretty much too late. Realistically, if you were in her shoes, wouldn’t you be literally jumping out of your seat to read what the note says and deal with it? Naho acts like she is extremely concerned and in love with Kakeru yet she keeps hesitating to act despite knowing that doing so could lead to his death.
If you’ve made it to this point of the review, no doubt you might be thinking that I abhor this series but that isn’t the case. I thoroughly enjoyed and will recommend this series for featuring a lovable group of friends and how, despite its romantic tag line, it actually proves to be a story about friendship rather than just romance. Unlike the recent common trope of people using time travel to constantly reset events, in this case, the cast only get this one chance to do things right leading to drama and suspense (which also makes it that much more frustrating when Naho keeps hesitating to do the necessary things). All in all, Orange was an enjoyable read thanks to the character drama introduced through Suwa and comic relief thanks to Hagita. It has enough drama and emotional content in it to please those who prefer mushy stories and don’t mind the lack of logic . However, if you’re looking for a smart drama or one that focuses on mainly romance, Orange will most likely disappoint you. I leave Orange happy with the entertainment I got from it but also with a lot of questions and issues and while I enjoyed it, I am most definitely not on the hype train for it.