Orange Episode 12 Review (Letter 12)

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Episode 12 throws a lot of information at us. But is it too much, too late?

This is the last episode of Orange before its big finale. With all of the misses over the past few weeks, can the series recover in time to provide a satisfying conclusion and wrap up the story?


Note: The following review contains spoilers from the twelfth episode of Orange. If you do not wish to be spoiled, please watch the episode before you continue reading. If you haven’t seen the series, be sure to check out our first impressions (spoiler-free).


Warning

This episode and review discuss mental illness and suicide. Reader discretion is advised.

Synopsis

In this episode of Orange, we see events from the perspective of the Kakeru from the other timeline, giving us some insight into his decision to end his own life. We then flash to the future to see the other members of the group meeting under the cherry blossoms like they had always planned to do with Kakeru.

Though the others want to find some way to save Kakeru, Hagita insists that time travel is impossible and they must accept that nature took its course. Even so, he mentions where they may be able to find some black holes, a possible method of time travel. The gang decides they will find a way to send letters through in the hope their past selves will receive them. We then flash to the present, where the fallout from New Years has had a devastating effect on Kakeru and Naho’s relationship. They have reached a point where they can barely talk to each other.

The Good and the Bad

The scenes with alternate Kakeru are some of the best we’ve seen in a while. The raw emotion of his descent into depression is shown very well. The way each event builds on each other, you can really see how things seem to be stacked against him. His older classmates blame him for a loss at his old school and his mom moves him. Kakeru visits with his friends from Tokyo, and they laugh off his suicidal thoughts. He tries to take his own life once but is saved.

Orange Episode 12 Review (Letter 12)

I thought this was a great set up. We get to see what’s gone wrong in his life and get some great insight into his mental state. We see that it’s not just one or two little things, these are feelings that have been plaguing Kakeru for a long time. It’s moments like this were Orange really shines.

After his near death experience, Kakeru resolves to shape up and live his life. But then he falls in the relay race and blames himself for the loss. He gets mad at Naho for New Years and refuses to talk to her. But all the while, Kakeru wants to talk to her more than anyone. But feels like he hurt her and can’t speak to her. Suwa reveals he confessed his feelings to Naho.

Orange Episode 12 Review (Letter 12)

He finally breaks when he finds mother’s cell phone. It contains a message to him that apologizes for everything. Kakeru blames himself for his mother’s death and rides off into the night on his bike, where he is struck by a car.

This scene is especially powerful. You can see how his mother’s text crushes him. It’s painful to even watch. I could really see the desperation over his regrets. This was a very strong way for the series to show us exactly what is at stake.

In the next set of scenes, where we explore more of this timeline’s present, feels a bit wasted. The whole situation between Kakeru and Naho seems silly because it could be resolved if they just both sat down and talked about their problems. But instead, the resolve to awkwardly avoid talking to each other, even though we know they both want to talk. It’s something we’ve seen played out in countless other series, and it wears a bit thin.

We know from the first part of this episode that this extended silence is a contributing factoring in Kakeru’s decision and it’s frustrating to see it all playing out again. Given the stakes, you just wish Naho would corner him in the hall and confront him on everything. But that just isn’t the kind of person she is, and the letters still have not been able to change that part of her.

Orange Episode 12 Review (Letter 12)

Then after we have the earlier emotional scenes, we get…the Bermuda Triangle? I know they needed some explanation for the time traveling letters, but black holes at the bottom of the ocean? This plot point seems very tacked-on. It sounds as if they just chose a random time travel theory and stuck it in series. I was starting to wondering if they were every going to explain the letters, but I can’t say I’m happy with the explanation. However, I did like Hagita’s pragmatic attitude in this scene. He serves as a good ground for the group to reign them in a little, but at the same time offering hope. He’s become one of my better-liked characters of the series.

Orange Episode 12 Review (Letter 12)

General Thoughts

I found episode 12 to be a disheartening experience, mostly due to the rushed pacing. I know the series is getting pressed for time, and it really shows in this episode. It feels like they are trying to put in as much as they can before it ends next week. The information in the episode wouldn’t be so overwhelming if it was spread across a few episodes. Several times I’ve felt that not enough happened, that the story wasn’t progressing. This week, it seems like they are over compensating for those times by putting as much into one episode as possible. While I appreciate that they are trying to tie up all the loose ends to give the fans a satisfying conclusion, it just feels…rushed. They had plenty of time to set all this up. It is really a shame to see the series coming to an end like this.

Orange Episode 12 Review (Letter 12)

That being said, the scenes of the alternate Kakeru are quite powerful. We see how he has tried to get better, but his will keeps getting knocked out of him with every misfortune. I didn’t expect to see this. It was very interesting to see how things might have been, how they were before the future was changed. But even as you watch all these events being retold to you, you can see how some of these things are repeating. His mother still dies, he still has suicidal thoughts, he still fights with Naho and can’t bring himself to talk to her. It has me wondering if they really can change the future. Or if things will end the same as they did before.


What will episode 13 of Orange bring us? To be honest, I don’t really know anymore. I’ve gone from thinking “yeah, they’ll save him, their caring will win out!” to “they aren’t even addressing the real problem.” Now I’m somewhere in the middle. I feel like they still have a chance to save him, but I don’t know if Kakeru will cooperate. Unless they can get him to open up, truly open up, I fear they may not succeed.

All these hiding emotions, hiding thoughts that should be shared, it doesn’t bode well for any of them. And to some degree, it doesn’t make much sense. Given how often they tell Kakeru he can tell them anything, he still refuses to say what is really bothering him. To his credit, they don’t push for him to tell them, either. Whatever next week brings, Orange will have been a bumpy ride. I don’t know if any conclusion will smooth it out.

If you or someone you know are experiencing similar feelings or thoughts, please contact a medical professional or your local suicide hotline. For more information, please visit the MentalHealth.Gov website.

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Mark (Zeke)

I've been interested in Japanese history and culture for much of my life, but found my passion for it flourished during college and the years following. I don't keep up with the pop culture as much as I would like, but still consider Japan in general one of my main interests. I work in architecture, but enjoy helping out the site in my spare time. Mostly I edit, but I do write from time to time. I'm an avid collector of manga and various board games. And card games. And video games. And dice games...

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