I almost want to apologize for that terrible pun, but I hate admitting defeat.
It’s no secret that Japanese relationships function a little differently than American ones do. There are quite a few similarities of course – namely, the intimacy, the desire to know more about the other person, the fact that it’s hard, the fact that it’s expensive, and the fact that trying to rush the physical side of things just ends up making you look like someone who follows the teachings of Gary Brodsky. But the list of what’s different about relationships in the East goes even longer, and I’m not going to read it out in full, but let’s just say it starts with Japan’s honorific system and gets even more complicated further down. I know history played a large part in forming them, but is it really a wonder that Japan’s population is on the decline with all these rules? It’s like an MMA fighter trying to make it in the world of boxing and the only attack he’s allowed to perform on his opponent is a gloved slap.
However, no matter what cultural differences there are, one thing is for certain: love triangles are a pain. My god, sitting through them is the equivalent of being subjected to the Ludovico technique in A Clockwork Orange whilst someone’s roasting a hot dog underneath your chair. Having said that, I got to give props for Kakeru realizing a lot of the drama that happened was his fault, and decided to do something about it in one episode rather than the rest of the series (whether this week is the end of this subplot or not, I’m not sure). He took a chance on a girl whose looks he liked, it didn’t work out, and things sort of spiraled out of control to the point that he decided to break up with Ueda. Sure, Naho is partly to blame for his conflicting feelings with her note from last week, but I didn’t really get if the future Naho gave him the same note in her time line. If not, then Kakeru and Ueda were destined to be in conflict anyways, because one of the letters mentions that they end up having the same argument that present-day Naho witnessed. If so, then that just increases the responsibility on each corner of this triangle for why things went out of control the way it did.
I mean what the hell is up with that “you can’t see other girls when you’re dating me” train of thought anyways? Yeah, Ueda was kinda justified in her anger at Kakeru for trying to talk to Naho multiple times given how he never seems to want to talk with the other female characters to the same degree, but where exactly in Japanese culture (or dating culture in general) does it say that the person you’re in a relationship with is exclusive only to you? Sure, you’re supposed to hang out with them most of the time because they’re supposed to be “special”, and they’re allowed to have mild jealousy when you’re hanging out with members of the opposite sex, but does Ueda not have any other male friends, let alone female ones? I notice Kakeru hasn’t exactly been able to hang out with Suwa or any other male buddies outside of soccer practice. Granted she’s a senpai, but she could have at least made an effort to get to know Naho’s group. After all, being with a person means being with everything around said person. They don’t all have to like you, but one thing that’s more true of Japanese relationships than American ones is that approval of the opposite party’s friends is considered important, and the last thing you’d want to do is to steal said party away from them. At least, not without said party’s approval.
Of course, the focus is supposed to be on Naho and her perspective of things, plus this is a shoujo romance anime, so I wasn’t too surprised that Ueda ended up coming across as unsympathetic in order to push the supposed “true couple” together. It’s just disappointing to see, especially considering that we never really got to see much of her at all. Regardless of whether Ueda’s jealousy is a custom thing or not, I prefer to see romance stories (whether the actual romance actually succeeds or fails) to be carried by unique strengths and insecurities, and Ueda’s problems feel like something any fictional Japanese girl would feel in her situation. Hell, Kakeru’s contribution to the mess feels like what any fictional Japanese boy would do in his situation. He may be the most stable part of this whole affair, but that has less to do with his character and more to do with the fact that the author never really puts too much focus on him. We see him mostly through Naho’s eyes and even her friends get more of a perspective on him than he does on himself. But in a way, that sort of works in these characters’ favor because I could see them moving on to a new relationship that’s hopefully better for each somewhere down the line.
I can’t say the same for Naho, the person who we’ve been staying with the most and thus I’ve grown to learn about her far more than anyone else in this show. And based on that knowledge, I’d say she definitely should not even be in a relationship with Kakeru or anyone with the way she thinks right now (let’s ignore the fact she ends up marrying Suwa in the future for a bit). She might be happy for a month or two, but right now she’s still depending a bit too much on those letters from the future to guide her way rather than take things into her own hands, and she can’t even come through when she knows the future because of how it’s easier to see what you could have done in retrospect rather than actually doing it in the present. If I can’t trust her to take her life into her own hands with that sort of foreknowledge, how am I supposed to trust her to do that when she can no longer depend on them? At this point, she kind of reminds me of Kanae from 5 Centimeters Per Second, and whilst I don’t have the time at the moment to elaborate on that here, I want to say that I came out of that movie fully endorsing Kanae’s decision regarding her feelings for Takaki. After all, the dude got himself a girlfriend later on in that film, and look how that turned out.
It’s true that relationships can help people with emotional problems, but very rarely does the relationship last in the process (at least, not in a way that’s believable). If Naho does end up getting together with Kakeru or anyone as she is right now, I won’t be satisfied with any ending that doesn’t involve the relationship dissolving and her going on to marry Suwa in this timeline as well. Which I’d be fine with of course, because with the exceptions of Natsuyuki Rendezvous and Whisper of the Heart (which were all about the main couple overcoming their issues in order to be worthy of each other), all of my favorite romance anime have ended with the main couple not having a future together. But I’m not sure Orange’s main fanbase shares my opinion and whilst I could read the finished manga to see if that’s the case, I don’t fucking want to. There’s no way that’s going to benefit my watch of an anime that I’m still enjoying and at worst, it’ll either just cause my opinion to become as incredibly biased as the Parasyte/ERASED fans who already read the manga or make me lose interest in seeing what happens animated, like what happened with Monster. Besides, I’m still catching up on the One Piece manga right now, so no time!
But anyways, I’ll leave it to the future to decide my overall thoughts on Orange. Right now, all I can do is respect how things just didn’t work out for these characters this time. There were regrettable decisions on all ends that led to the fallout, but what’s done is done. Now let’s never bring it up again except when it’s being used to avoid the same mistakes when pursuing something new, shall we?
- So is anyone besides Suwa in Naho’s group ever going to be important? They’re likable (unlike a certain other group consisting of unimportant chuckle fucks) but I’m not blind to the fact that they have no role to fill other than the obligatory “large group of friends” all shoujo romances seem to have.
- I’ve been given to understand that people did not enjoy Episode 3 given that its MAL score is no longer in “8” territory as of this time of writing. Guess Ueda and/or Naho pissed more people off than I thought.