Naho Takamiya receives letters from someone claiming to be herself ten years in the future, asking her to help erase her biggest regret, which has something to do with the new transfer student Kakeru Naruse. At first skeptical, Naho begins to notice that the letters start to accurately predict events happening around her. When the letters tell Naho and her friends (Suwa, Takako, Hagita, and Azusa) to not invite Kakeru to walk home with them after the Entrance Ceremony, they decide to invite him anyways. He ends up being absent from school for the next week. To prevent another mistake, Naho looks to the letters for guidance before something terrible happens to Kakeru.
This is a really hard anime to talk about. When I first saw Orange on the Summer 2016 list, I wasn’t really interested in it mainly because of the time travel aspect. But I think it was a good choice to watch this even if it was a bit of a struggle all the way through. I will say before I begin though, if you have issues with depression or suicide, please go into this anime cautiously. I wouldn’t recommend avoiding it altogether however, as it has a lot of great things to say about supporting someone who is struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. Coming from a county with a pretty bad history of mental health and suicide, I think Orange shows just how much this culture is starting to change.
Orange uses a time-travel mechanic to play with the question: “If you could go back in time, what would you change or do differently?” For the future selves of Naho and her friends, it was the regret that they couldn’t prevent their friend’s suicide. While she tries to use the letters to avoid making the wrong choice, we also see this other big question: “Are there things that can’t be changed or shouldn’t be changed?” These two questions have been at the back of many if not all stories with time-travel plots, and are in some ways integral to a good story that uses this mechanic. But I think what Orange does a little differently is how it shows that sometimes dwelling on these regrets and whether something is the right choice or not isn’t always a good way to go. Sometimes the choices you made were unavoidable at that time, and that’s something Naho comes to realize, and maybe future Naho needed to realize as well. It is always easier to focus on the “what ifs” when you look back rather than looking forward and coming to accept what you have now.
There was a point too in the series where events started happening that weren’t listed in the letters or were happening in slightly different ways. By making small choices, Naho had succeeded in at least slightly changing the future, showing that even the smallest things can have a large impact on both future choices and the people around you. This is another great difference, rather than events playing out the same each time, the small differences prompt Naho to set aside the letters because they become no longer useful to an extent. She now has to rely on her own power and have confidence that her choices are the right ones. But, even when it might not have been the right choice or things to say, the characters show that there is always a chance to fix things by trusting and relying on your friends.
I can’t speak professionally to the kind of depression we see with the character of Kakeru, but as someone who has gone through mental illness both personally and as a friend, I was really impressed with how they handled it. I also can’t talk about everything that Kakeru struggles with through the course of the series as that would ruin a good chunk of the plot, but the kinds of problems are universal for most people struggling with depression. We see Kakeru question whether he deserves happiness and watch as he agonizes over whether a certain choice may lead to a regret in the future. He puts others’ happiness before his own as he can’t see a future for himself or realize that he has people around him who care about him. And that’s the greatest thing that this series tries to change. All the characters do a great job of both taking the things he’s feeling seriously and showing him that it’s okay to open up to the people around you to share some of that weight. The simple act of letting someone know you care and are there for them is one of the biggest things to do for someone with depression, and trying to share that kind of burden alone is one of the worst things you can do for yourself and others. Orange shows just how much friends and loved ones can be effected by someone’s death, even ten years in the future.
While there were a lot of great things that Orange does right, there were a few things that I thought they needed to improve on as well. For one, the main reasoning behind the letters reaching them in the past was that they were sent through a possible black hole in the center of the Bermuda Triangle. Honestly, this seemed a little out of place, but I get that needed to put in a reason for the time-travel and concept of parallel worlds. But, I would have been just as happy with a time-traveling, magical mailbox at a lake house mainly because it wasn’t really the time-traveling that became the central focus of the anime. Also, though the series is only 13 episodes, I thought he characters of Azusa, Takako, and Hagita could have used a little more characterization. Overall, they seemed pretty flat, only serving as support to the main three characters. I think the series would be a lot stronger if they were a more fleshed out group.
Along with great music including an awesome opening and great backing guitar pieces and animation that is reminiscent of shows like Your Lie in April, this anime is great for someone looking for a more serious show to watch. I will say, though, to prepare a box of tissues next to you while you’re watching and to pace yourself as a lot of the content can be very heavy.
And as Orange talks heavily about suicide, I want to remind everyone that if you’re feeling depressed or find you’re having suicidal thoughts, there are a bunch of resources at your disposal. You’re never alone and don’t feel scared to turn to friends and family for help. And if you know anyone struggling with depression, don’t be afraid to just be there for them. The best thing you can do is listen and take what they’re feeling seriously.
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