Hey everyone, it’s Chris! I’m also helping to fill in for Cindy while she is still getting situated over in Japan. Since I’ve been watching Orange all season too, let’s jump right into the breakdown for Episode 9! After the reveal at the end of episode 8, what does this mean for the group? How will the story progress forward?
Note: The following review contains spoilers for the ninth 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).
After Naho learns that the rest of the group has received letters from their selves ten years into the future, they make a plan to save Kakeru together. Hagita, Suwa, Takako and Azusa scheme to push Naho and Kakeru closer after Azusa’s birthday celebration at school. A plan to which Naho appears completely oblivious. The day of the school athletic relay arrives. Suwa has once again changed the future by inviting Kakeru’s grandmother to watch the event.
However, a feeling of despair and sorrow hangs over Kakeru. When Suwa asks him why he’s not going out with Naho, he makes vague references to “disappearing”. He suggests that it would be better if she went out with Suwa. After both Suwa and Kakeru get injured during the event, Naho tends to Suwa and tries to help Kakeru. But he refuses her aid and leaves. As the episode closes, he realizes he is hypocritical about what he says he wants and how he’s acting.
The Good and the Bad
For starters, I really like how this episode shows a lot more of Kakeru’s internal angst. Although the moments are just brief flashes, they convey a deeper meaning and give a melancholiness to the otherwise upbeat series. For a show that is centered around preventing a character’s suicide, it typically doesn’t feel like the show portrays it or brings it up as more than a passing reference. We as the audience see most of the events from other characters’ perspectives (particularly Naho’s). We forget about the underlying problem that Kakeru is dealing with. Perhaps the show is doing this on purpose, so that when it highlights it in an episode, it stands out more as a contrast to the rest of the scenes.
I particularly like when Kakeru is talking with his grandmother at the relay and the scene switches to a blur of faces and voices, before ending with him in isolation. That, plus the moment where he recalls his mother taking his photograph before having to snap back to reality, stood out to me. Those are the audience’s indications that he is struggling to cover up his emotions. A factor which carries through the rest of the episode. After that point, he puts up a passive front until pushed too far by Suwa, and winds up taking out his emotions on Naho.
On a lighter note, the show also excels at little character moments that come out of nowhere. For example, Hagita drawing abs on his body with a permanent marker is flat out ridiculous and fantastic. Honestly, from all that I’ve seen, he should be given an award for best supporting character. The scene of him grabbing Suwa’s fries and eating them all felt awkward and out of place. But, it still brought a chuckle and adds more dimension to his character.
Another instance is the episode’s focus on Azusa, when it comes to her letter from the future. The animation style change to accentuate her story was adorable, and it really represents her character well. Plus, we get to see more about her and her family. The moment when she asks her little sister to pray for rain is golden (mostly due to the look on her sister’s face).
Now, can we talk about this episode’s animation? Because OH MAN does it get awful for quite a bit of the run-time. There were many times when I felt myself becoming too distracted by the art to focus on the storyline. I mean, when I see people’s heads turn nearly around like they’re the girl from The Exorcist, that’s a problem. Then we have scenes where faces look off or just don’t align properly. Plus scenes where nothing really moves except the mouths. Also, Azusa’s mom looks like she has stared into the abyss, and the abyss stared back. It’s like we’ve reached peak uncanny valley, and there is no going back.
The crazy thing is, right after some of these shots, it switches back to the detailed quality that we’ve come to expect from Orange. I’m sure there’s a reason behind it, whether due to time constraints or possibly outsourcing. But it sticks out like a sore thumb and took me out of the show on a number of occasions.
At this point in the series, it feels like the show needed to add the group in to help Naho. Up till now, she’s been her own worst enemy. Throughout the last few episodes, she is not listening to the advice from her future self. Or she is consistently second guessing what she should do. Even when she knows the right answer (with the letters guiding her), she hesitates and nearly makes the same mistakes again and again.
Also, I could forgive the show for Naho being a little oblivious and/or naive about her feelings towards Kakeru at the beginning. Now I think they’re running out of excuses. Kakeru and Naho have already said they love each other, but somehow she can’t seem to put the pieces together. She even said in this episode that going out with Kakeru has crossed her mind (once). Yet she is SO introverted that when he lays the suggestion at her feet, she half-answers and it comes across as a “no.”
On top of my issues with Naho, I think the main group doesn’t understand how exactly to help Kakeru cope with his feelings. They tend to shrug off his depression as “being sad about his mother”, and the best solution they can come up with is bugging Kakeru to go out with Naho. I suppose that speaks to their high school mentality, where being in a relationship can seem like it will save you from any troubles in your life. They’re approaching the problem at a surface level and are not able to see anything past that.
Just because being with Naho makes Kakeru happy, it doesn’t erase the deep-rooted regret that he feels about his mom’s death. AND despite the fact that the entire group knows he commits suicide in the future, I don’t think they treat that knowledge with the consideration that it should be treated. It also doesn’t help that all of them had an opportunity to save Kakeru’s mom, and failed to do so. This version of them will all carry that regret with them, no matter what.
Although this series is making me shake my fist at the screen more and more as it wears on, I’m going to see it through to the bitter(?) end. I would love to see the show resolve with Kakeru being around ten years in the future. I’m feeling more inclined to believe it won’t happen. The others don’t know the true extent of his pain and he won’t talk to them about it. An episode like this one highlights Kakeru’s isolation and despair, which the group doesn’t understand and therefore aren’t equipped to help with. This leaves me to wonder how they will somehow band together in the remaining episodes to reach through to Kakeru. I guess only time will tell.
See what I did there? Time will tell? Anyone? Okay, I’ll see myself out.
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