Have you ever had a regret that you wish you could reverse? A moment that stuck with you for far too long, making you think, “What if things had gone differently?” That is where the story of Orange attempts to tread, and while it succeeds in some ways, it also falls flat on its face in others.
The series follows the character of Naho, an introverted and easily embarrassed high school girl, who receives a letter in the mail from herself ten years into the future. She quickly has to come to grips with whether or not the letter’s contents are real, and how that will impact her actions going forward. She also discovers that the new transfer student in her class, Kakeru, will die in the winter of his 17th year, and her future self regrets not being able to help him. Determined to change the future, Naho begins to take steps so that doesn’t happen. Unfortunately, she makes several choices throughout the series that may leave viewers confused and annoyed.
I really liked the initial premise of this show, but it also helps that I’m a sucker for time travel stories. Granted, Orange doesn’t necessarily fall into that same category, but it does entail attempting to change the past, so I let it slide. My biggest issue with the story is that it felt haphazard, where some scenes didn’t feel relevant or progress the narrative whatsoever. For instance, one scene showcases the inner workings of an ice cream machine (for no apparent reason) while Naho and her friends hang out. These non plot-centric moments slowed the momentum of the show to a crawl. It also led to issues near the end, where I wondered how the show would resolve in such little time.
For the most part, the story is rather lighthearted, until the moments when it focuses on Kakeru’s internal struggles. Then we as an audience see a pretty stark portrayal of depression & heartache, as he deals with his inner demons. The contrast between those moments and the rest of the show illustrates his conflicted personality and gives significant weight to the regrets that Naho is fighting against.
The show revolves around a core group of high schoolers: Naho, Kakeru, Suwa, Hagita, Azusa, and Takako. Suwa is the big brother type to Naho, always watching out for her and making tough choices when push comes to shove. Hagita, the nerdy/straightforward character in the group, tends to overly exaggerate his responses, which leads to some hilarious moments. Azusa is the ecstatic, nosy friend who constantly bickers with Hagita. Takako is the more quiet, stoic but hard-edged tomboy who stands up for her friends in times of need.
Together, they all have their own strengths and weaknesses, but most of them don’t feel like static stereotypes. Just like real people, they show emotional range, flipping back and forth between lighthearted and serious, goofy and introspective. There isn’t much focus outside of the group, which is good, as it would be distracting and disrupt the narrative.
Animation and Music
Generally speaking, Orange is fairly consistent in its animation. However, just past the halfway mark, things start to get a little… wonky. Characters’ faces are misshapen, they stand still like wooden boards, and their bodies contort in unnatural ways. This led me to believe that the studio was rushed for time and maybe contracted out pieces of the animation. There are instances where the art switched to 3D, but the show, thankfully, did not rely on it.
As far as music goes, the majority of it felt like background noise and didn’t really stick out. There was a random Rockabilly insert song in an early episode, but it was only memorable due to its inappropriateness. The opening and ending songs (“Hikari no Hahen (光の破片)” by Yu Takahashi & “Mirai (未来)” by Kobukuro, respectively) truly seemed to convey the tone of the show. The opening was upbeat and hopeful, while the ending was somber and slightly melancholy. This duality mirrors the show’s highs and lows, a reminder that not everything is sunshine and rainbows.
Overall, this show just frustrated the living tar out of me, especially as the season wore on. Looking back, I wouldn’t say it held up to the “time travel” premise I anticipated, but that’s okay. If you’re looking for a semi-dramatic slice of life with small elements of fictional “science”, Orange may be for you. Do I think Orange is worth watching? Yes, if you plan on binge watching it. Instead of having to wait weekly to find out answers to lingering questions, all episodes are available to watch free on Crunchyroll.