So after years of sitting through shitty shoujo romance after shitty shoujo romance after mediocre shoujo romance after imaginately bankrupt shoujo romance, I’ve finally found one in over a decade (dear god, Nana is old) that’s gotten my attention: Orange.
It’s not close to being amazing, but there’s something to be said about good execution, and this show executes its elements in a way that someone over the age of sixteen and is not entrenched in anime nerd culture – aside from maybe a few fucked up shoujo tropes – can appreciate, which is more than I can say for most anime in this season alone. It also helps that I’m a bit of a sucker for romance stories. Yeah I bash on them quite a bit in anime, but that’s out of my love for when they’re done well and the disappointment I have when they are done with about as much effort as a Let’s Play on Youtube. Orange, on the other hand, has no anime comedy, the characters are mature without sounding too old, and the romance is propelled by a semi-compelling narrative regarding letters from the future whilst making it clear that in said future, the male love interest is a dead man. If it keeps this up for an entire cour, I fully expect Orange to be a shoe-in for my top six anime of 2016.
But let’s talk about the anime itself, specifically the latest episode.
Naho is trying to use the letters from the future in order to avoid the regrets her future self made back then. But is she so caught up in listening to her future self that she doesn’t pay attention to what she herself wants to do? After all, the future is already changing due to her actions, as evidenced when Kakeru joined the soccer club independent of Naho’s actions when he had refused in the other timeline, so it stands to reason that this Naho isn’t going to be the same one we see in the last few minutes of every episode. She’ll most likely be similar, but experiences define a person, and these two females aren’t going through the same routine despite essentially being the same.
It’s clear that high-school Naho does have genuine feelings for Kakeru. But I think she’s depending too much on the letters to save him from his eventual death, let alone be with him. Similar to how Satoru tried fulfilling a bunch of checkpoints in order to save Kayo in ERASED rather than think about the bigger picture, Naho could have easily prevented Kakeru getting together with Ueda if she had confessed to him sometime in the first half of this episode, let alone reveal her feelings when the dude asks her if she likes anyone. Instead, she only gets motivated after reading a letter stating that she should answer Kakeru’s message he had hidden in her eraser. Unfortunately, she responds by putting her own response in his locker, which he doesn’t read until he already accepts the senpai’s forward nature, rather than just flat-out telling him right away. I think you can guess what happens after that.
So yeah, Naho screwed up. However, she has no one to blame but herself, because no matter how carefully laid out a plan is, there’s always going to be human error involved. As a guy who works in IT and has to deal with program deployment every month or so, you won’t believe how many times a planned five-hour meeting goes over seven hours because something went wrong with the server or a previously unknown bug was discovered in the code at the last minute. And sometimes, those problems occur because we stick too rigidly to a plan. Now obviously, going into something so important with no plan is just asking for trouble, but at the same time, there’s no such thing as a foolproof plan. Naho just discovered this episode that the letters won’t be 100% accurate from here on out due to the Butterfly Effect, so there’s a very good chance that if she keeps depending on them from here on out, she won’t be able to form the future the way her future-self wants her too.
But like I said, is that really what she herself desires? I’m pretty sure her future self isn’t 100% sure about this letter plan either. I mean future Naho seems to be happy with Suwa (which I should point out, high school Naho does not know for obvious reasons) and it seems more like she regrets Kakeru’s death than ending up with him in the future. Let’s ignore the fact that Kakeru isn’t that interesting a character since shoujo romances have always had trouble getting the two sides of the coin right (even in classics like Kare Kano) and look at this sorta-objectively. Naho is clearly interested in Kakeru as of this point, but it’s only in a highschool-crush sort of sense. I don’t think she’s looking for a definite future with the guy as of now, and even if she was, it’d definitely be in a “I don’t really know what I want because I’m too young” sort of way since I doubt Naho is one of those exceptions to the rule. Sure your feelings will always get hurt when it turns out that it wasn’t meant to be for someone you like no matter if you’re certain about your future together or not, but that’s life. And life sucks.
I mean, who’s to say that Ueda isn’t a better fit for Kakeru in the long run than Naho is? Granted, later episodes might expose an unpleasant side to Ueda, but let’s focus on the now at the moment. If Kakeru survives whatever it is that killed him (I think it was an accident, but I forgot and I’m too scared to look it up for fear of being spoiled), who’s to say that Naho is the one he should end up with? Sure focusing too much on the future means you might miss out on what the present has to offer, causing regrets that I wish I could write my past self. But there’s a balance that needs to be achieved with this sort of thing. Focusing too much on the present might cause you to miss out on an opportunity that’s only available under certain conditions and you’d only know those conditions if you thought about it. That’s what happened this week with Naho failing to prevent the confession Kakeru received, and I’m sure something similar would have happened if she had prevented it and ended up dating Kakeru herself. After all, her future self can’t give advice on a timeline she’s never experienced. What happens when she suddenly finds herself unable to depend on those letters? Would she have been able to keep her relationship with Kakeru? And most of all, would she be able to prevent his death whilst being in said relationship?
Yeah yeah, I know. Shoujo romance genre and all that. Still, whilst I have to accept some of the genre’s trappings if I’m going to enjoy Orange – and I do enjoy Orange – that doesn’t mean I can’t question it. But I’ve ranted long enough about this episode, and I’m honestly hard-pressed to think of more to say that’s not better suited for discussion in the comments section. I’m sure Emily has got something much more thought-provoking about the show on her blog that you can read by the time this post goes up though. Go check that out. And if you want to discuss everything I’ve talked about regarding this episode, or just the show in general, that comment box is free for everyone – bar the hundred or so IP addresses I flagged as spam over the years.
- I liked the last few minutes of this episode fine, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re a bit cheesy.
- Weekly review will be up tomorrow. I just wanted to get this out first for obvious reasons.
- For the record, I don’t think the last question I asked is all that valid. You’d have to be a really good writer to make “not dating someone” as a vital condition to preventing a future death.