Orange First Impressions (Episode 1: Letter 01) [Spoiler‑Free]

Orange starts off on a quiet note, but is it setting up an intriguing tale of time-travel?


The summer 2016 anime season has officially begun! While all of ReLIFE‘s episodes are available to watch, the rest of the shows are keeping with tradition and airing once a week. Before the season began, the Yatta-Tachi Twitter account asked which show you wanted me to review week after week. Over half the voters (56%) decided that Orange was the show to watch. With that said, let’s take a (spoiler-free) look at the first episode and see if it sets the stage for a bright rest of the season.

Story

Orange First Impressions: Naho holding the letter from her future self.

Orange revolves around Naho Takamiya and the mysterious letter she receives on the first day of the new school year. The letter appears to be from herself ten years into the future. The letter tells Naho what to do and what to avoid in order to prevent her future self’s regrets. These regrets involve Naho’s classmate, Kakeru Naruse. Although she doesn’t believe the letter to be true at first, she changes her mind when its predictions come true. This episode and the series follows Naho’s decision to heed the letter’s advice.

The premise is definitely an interesting one. While there are plenty of time-traveling shows out there, this one comes from a different angle; by using letters as a means to change the past, it keeps a pretty solid divide between the past and the future, since Naho doesn’t physically travel herself. Most stories show the reason for trying to change the past: in anime, this is true about Steins;Gate, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and ERASED. The episode does show us scenes from the future, but they are kept relatively short and vague. All we know is that Naho wants to have fewer regrets, but not what those may be.

The only complaint I have so far is with the montage scene after the characters introduce themselves. I don’t think it added much to the episode except to show that they’re all friendly with one another. It’s possible that there’s more to it than that, so I’ll be keeping it in mind as the show progresses.

Characters

Orange First Impressions: A photograph of the main cast in high school.

Most of the time is spent in the past, during Naho’s second year in high school. This episode introduces the main protagonist and her group of friends and gives a sense of some of their personalities. For example, Azusa comes off as an outgoing and fun-loving girl when the group hangs out together after school.

While we haven’t learned too much about Kakeru just yet, we do have some sort of idea about our lead, Naho. From the actions she takes in this episode, she seems to be on the shy side. When she debates whether or not to heed the advice of the letter for the second time, it’s a struggle between her doing something that could prevent a regret for her down the line and her own sense of potential embarrassment as well as the disappointment of her classmates. This makes me curious as to whether the rest of the show will have similar moments: will she always be able to put aside her present feelings and listen to the letters, or will she have moments in which she fails? It’s a compelling concept.

Animation

Orange First Impressions: A close-up of Azusa's face.Orange First Impressions: A close-up of Kakeru with Naho and Chino in the background.

When I first saw a preview for this show, the character designs reminded me of those from Paradise Kiss. Sure enough, the designs were done by the same fellow: Yūki Nobuteru. His designs help the show stand out, particularly with regards to the character’s eyes: a number of shows lack enough differentiation, and characters end up looking a little too similar to one another in the face. For example, each female in the main group has distinct facial features, so that even if you remove their hair and the color, you can tell them apart. The backgrounds are nicely drawn, with details given even to the tile in Naho’s house. The animation is a little less impressive; there aren’t any stand-out moments in this episode, but their efforts to have small things like people moving in the background is appreciated.

Music/Sound

Orange First Impressions: A group shot of the gang during the hangout montage.Orange First Impressions: A map showing where the group of friends are going.

The voice acting sounds pretty natural. The tone has a conversational cadence: Naho gets shy and nervous, but her voice actor (Kana Hanazawa) doesn’t take that to an extreme. Though energetic, Azusa’s voice actress (Natsumi Takamori) also keeps it toned down which meshes well with the rest of the cast. If you’re not into over-the-top voice acting, this will probably be your cup of tea. My favorite moment voice-wise was when the characters talked over one another in different conversations: it’s something that happens often that you don’t really see in movies or TV shows.

I’m a little on the fence about the soundtrack. Its sound certainly stands out, but I’m not sure it fits with the rest of the show’s tone. The twanging guitars that play during the montage scene struck me as strange. If they lived in the country or were doing things related to nature, then it might fit. I’ll definitely be looking to see if this is a recurring theme with the soundtrack.

Things to Watch Out For

Orange First Impressions: Naho reading the final page of the letter.

A few details caught my eye in this first episode. These are things that I’ll be keeping in mind as the show progresses, either to see if Orange returns to them or brings up similar details again. During the introduction scene, some of the surrounding trees have no leaves yet, while the background that’s further away is lush with greenery. Since Episode 1 begins in April and the cherry blossom trees are in full bloom, I thought that seemed a little strange. Looking back, the first scene of the episode also contains dead trees. Perhaps it acts as a reference to Naho’s initial doubt?

The final scene also struck a cord with me. Spoiler-free version: Naho’s future self says something that makes me question the images shown during the scene. 

Potential spoiler version:
Is the baby hers and Suwa’s? That would mean they end up together in the future. However, while she tells her past self that she has “a lot of joy and happiness ahead” of her, she also hopes that she “doesn’t let it slip away” from her. Is she not as happy as she seems in the future? Past Naho’s goal is to help lessen Future Naho’s regrets involving Kakeru. Since she falls in love with him in high school, it makes me wonder just how much her future self is hoping to change. This is definitely something I’ll be thinking about as the season continues.

Overall

Orange‘s first episode is a simple one. A few things were put in place, and I’m interested in seeing where those go. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Naho’s future, whether she’ll be able to resolve the rest of her future self’s regrets, and if her initial disbelief will end up causing problems.


What did you think of Orange Episode 1? Was there anything that grabbed your attention and made you curious about what will happen next week? Let us know in the comment section below!

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About the Author

Cindy Caraturo

Continual student of the Japanese language and valiant attempter at novel (and article!) writing. Enjoys when it's softly raining outside and is an avid drinker of quali-tea. Also thinks she is amusing. Take that for what you will. (⌒▽⌒)

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