What would you do if you received a letter claiming to be from yourself 10 years in the future giving you advice on the decisions to make, offering you a chance to prevent yourself from experiencing some pretty big regrets? Would that decision change when the events described in the letter start coming true?
This is the situation that 16 year old student Naho Takamiya finds herself in, as she and her close circle of friends prepare to start another school year together when a new student, Naruse Kakeru, transfers into their class. The letter that Naho receives references him, and she begins to wonder… could it be real?
Orange is fairly pure Slice of Life drama. It is the story of these characters living their lives, just with the twist that they have an idea of what is coming from the letter. So what really matters here are the characters. Fortunately, Orange’s cast is fantastic. Each and every member of Naho’s circle of friends feels like a living, breathing character – the type of person you could really picture knowing in school. And they have inane conversations just like normal teenagers. It feels very mundane, which helped to really sell the show for me. This is one of those rare occasions where mundanity proves an asset.
The other thing I wanted to mention about the characters is that they looked more realistic than you tend to see in anime. Not in the context of them being better animated or drawn in a different style… but rather, they looked ordinary. Every character in this show is not drop dead gorgeous, not the epitome of some fantasy or another, and not hyper-sexualized. They’re people. That’s not to say they’re ugly, they’re just relatively ordinary, flawed people. It was a great change from what I’m used to seeing.
There is one specific thing I want to talk about, and this is going to be a bit of a spoiler. I hope it won’t be too big of a spoiler to ruin the show for anyone, but if you’re concerned – stop reading here. This show tackles a subject that is so frequently mishandled… and it does it really well. That subject is suicidal depression. One of the characters of this show fights the entire duration with depression, and their fight is so very believable. I found myself relating to this character on a deep level, as I have gone through that myself, and I was able to recognize what they were going through.
So often you see depression just dismissed, or you get the canned ‘oh hey I have a girlfriend now so suddenly everything’s perfect’ or ‘I have friends now so life is great’… but depression doesn’t work that way. And Orange doesn’t fall into that trap. The character continually fights with it throughout the series, and even at the end after the show’s conclusion, it’s not ‘cured’. He is still dealing with it, he just has gotten past the worst of it and is starting to come to terms with it. As much as it is a bit sad to watch, I am really glad a show was willing to give this subject the attention and focus it deserves.
I’m sorry to have to do that, I normally don’t go into spoilers in my reviews… but in this case it is such an integral part of the series – and something that mattered to me personally – that the review would have felt empty without it. Moving on, there was one part of this story that really felt out of place. Given the nature of the show, I would’ve been much happier if they’d left the ‘how’ of the letters a mystery. I didn’t need an explanation of how somehow these letters came from the future… yet they tried to explain it anyways, and the explanation was both awkward and pointless.
Unlike a lot of Slice of Life, Orange features a pretty heavy story going on amidst the mundanity. If I had to pick one problem with the overall story, it’s that they do a relatively bad job of making you care about the relationship between Naruse and Naho. The two seem so oblivious that it’s hard to really feel like they should be together. The overall friendship between our six characters is really well-written, as are each of the characters themselves as I mentioned above. I was just left feeling as though the relationship between the two of them was so forced it was hard to like. Fortunately, there were other relationships that didn’t share that issue, and since the characters share the limelight a lot in Orange, that made a big difference.
Overall, Orange is a very strong Slice of Life drama. It had a few significant flaws, including a fairly weak ‘main couple’, but it makes up for those flaws with an overall very strong, believable cast and a relatively good story. It also touches on a very difficult – and oft mishandled – subject in a respectful way. I had a great time watching this show, even despite a few minor hiccups. And the show’s ending was simply perfect.