Post via black holes. Well, that’s a new one.
What’s the Story?
One day high school student Naho gets a very strange letter. It claims to be from herself ten years in the future and lists all of the events that are going to happen over the next year. They tell her that she will fall in love with a new transfer student called Kakeru and that he will die come the winter. At first Naho doesn’t believe it, until the events in the letter start to come true. Can Naho change the future, erase her regrets and save Kakeru?
Don’t let the time-travelling letter fool you the fantasy element of this series is really just an excuse for the story to take place (I’m not calling it a science-fiction element because again, postal service by black holes, I prefer my science soft but that is non-corporeal right there). Instead at first glance this is a story about a teenage romance with a little twist and a lot of heartache. The story is a very slow burn, it takes a realistic approach to dialogue and emotions, a lot of the time it’s just characters chatting away about nothing really as normal people tend to do. This can sometimes mean that it takes a little while to get going, especially when our two romantic leads are so awkward and nervous about admitting their feelings for one another, sometimes you just want to smack their heads together and tell him to get on with it.
I know I said the whole letter thing was an excuse, but it does help the story a great deal. It adds a level of tension to those earlier scenes were things are taking there time to get going, because you know this is all going to go wrong at some point down the line. You need it in those earlier episodes until you’ve built up a bond with all of the characters. It also adds to the frustration as you know unless Naho pulls her finger out there’s trouble ahead, but she’s so meek and doubting of herself that she can’t do anything. It takes a letter from the future and her friends to get her to take a step, even if it’s only an agonisingly small one.
This series isn’t just about a couple of kids getting together though; it does tackle some fairly heavy issues such as depression and suicide. There are several scenes with Kakeru that are tough to watch, a lot of them revolving around how Kakeru blames himself for his mother’s death and beats himself up over the fact that his last words to her weren’t the nicest things, they weren’t terrible, but he regrets them. So much of this series is about regret, mostly regret of actions not taken or apologises ungiven, every character is carrying a regret around with them and these letters are their future selves way of trying to erase them. Kakeru’s regrets are the deepest though; driving him to hate himself and even begin to believe that he’s life isn’t worth living. You just want to see the guy be happy and forgive himself, but he keeps getting pulled back into that dark place no matter what his friends do, now I’ve never had suicidal thoughts (morbid certainly, but not suicidal) but to me that is what I imagine it’s like for people going through stuff like that.
Orange knows where to hit you where it counts, in the feels. It’s frustrating, it’s agonising and quite often tear-inducing and at other times so heart-warming you’re likely to melt. You feel for Kakeru and you’re constantly cheering on the others to save him and screaming whenever something gets in the way, especially when it’s the characters themselves tripping themselves up. Seriously, Naho, girl, I will shake you until you find your courage and tell Kakeru how you feel (and it is such a relief when she finally does).
Kakeru isn’t the only guy I feel sorry for though, my heart goes out to Suwa too. He is in love with Naho just as much as Kakeru and in the alternate future ten years from now the guy is even married to her and they have a kid, but by trying to save Kakeru he’s preventing that from ever happening. Sure the way time travel works in this show is that the present we are watching is creating an offshoot reality to the one that sent the letters, so when you think about both are running concurrently, which means there’s one where Naho is married to Suwa and one where she’s with Kakeru both existing at the same time. It’s a bit of a cheat, but still Suwa is willing to let go of the girl he loves and watch her potentially married someone else, just to get rid of his own regret. It also kind of speaks to just how affected these people have been by Kakeru’s death, I mean ten years on and all of them are still so haunted by it that they’re willing to risk erasing their timeline (because they’re not sure how time travel works). Now that’s friendship, also a deep-rooted obsession, but hey no one’s perfect.
The only area where this anime really trips up is in the animation and that’s only ever so slightly. It’s not that the animation is bad, it does its job perfectly fine, I believe in the characters and the setting, but there are no real moments where it pulls out all the stops to awe me. It’s a very quiet and slow anime and the animation reflects that, though there are a few moments that feel a little cheap, like the shots of crowds and the classroom to save on anything really detailed while people are just talking. Or the weird framing of the scene where Kakeru kisses Naho on the cheek (I had to watch that a couple of times to work out what even happened). I’m not the biggest fan of the art style either, again not bad, but there’s just something about the way the faces are drawn, especially the eyes and mouths that just feels off to me.
In the end Orange is a really emotional story, it’s not about love or time-travelling letters, but instead it’s about regrets and being saved from them. The characters all feel genuine and likeable, even if sometimes they can be really frustrating. But it’s only that way because this anime makes you care about them and their goals. This can be really tragic at times and tackle some heavy themes, but in the end it’s a truly unbreakable friendship that pulls everyone through. Get your handkerchiefs ready if you’re going to watch this one.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.