Orange – 13 (Fin)

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Naho vows to give Kakeru chocolates on Valentine’s Day and make sure he knows her feelings, but even though her letters state all of the various opportunities, she still manages to blow by almost all of them without success, which is obviously done to heighten the tension. It works!

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But this isn’t like the squandered opportunities of the past. This is it, with just a day before he commits suicide in the original timeline. She has to get those damn chocolates to him, or at least make up with him. A particularly one-dimensionally evil Ueda Rio provides one last obstacle to Naho, but she doesn’t back down, and by the end of the episode’s first act, victory is hers. It’s a satisfying scene that cuts through a lot of the murk that had built up.

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With apologies, hugs, and tears thus shared, Naho and Kakeru are back to normal; no, better than ever, and all the happier for it. Kakeru even blurts out that he loves her, and she doesn’t blush and run off.

But the hour of his past death is still ahead of them, and the circle of friends remains concerned enough to consider either breaking his bike or waiting at the site of his once-and-hopefully-not-future demise.

Again, we see the future friends planning out the logistics and agreeing to send their letters to the past. Again, it seems a little odd to call so much attention to such a mysterious and hard-to-swallow process that is never fully explained anyway (because it’s time magic).

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In any case, because they’ve changed the future so much, the timing of Kakeru’s attempted suicide is altered somewhat, and because Hagita actually sabotages his bike, he’s on foot when a truck nearly hits him.

Kakeru is wandering the night wanting to die, just like last time, because of the power of the unsent text on his mom’s phone he found. But unlike last time, Naho and the others have had an equally powerful cumulative effect on him, to the point it doesn’t matter that they’re too late to stop him, because he stops himself. He doesn’t want to die after all.

From there, everyone runs to him, thinking he’s been hit but relieved to find he isn’t, and when they have to explain why they’re all there, they finally let him in on the future letters, even giving him letters from their once-but-no-longer selves. And there’s a big ol’ group hug, baaaaaaaw.

Those former selves are still chillin’ in the future, content that they did all they could to make Kakeru in an alternate world a better chance to stay alive, for the benefit of their alternate past and future selves. They created a new world, where Kakeru could live and be happily ever after.

 

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Parting thoughts: In its first three to seven weeks, Orange could almost do no wrong by me, so enthusiastic was I by a show that had the potential to be AnoHana or Toradora! quality, with Hanazawa Kana as its able lead.

But the show eventually regressed a bit as the angst was heightened, and my enthusiasm waned just when it was growing for those other shows. Orange could also be a little cheesy at times (I continue to have mixed feelings about the huge smiles of various characters),  and it never maintained the (in hindsight unreasonable) heights I envisioned for it, but it still really wowed and moved me for a solid half of its run.

I liked these earnest kids and their mission to save their friend, I’m glad they succeeded, and I look forward to the anime movie that continues the tale a little further.

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Orange – 12

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This week we finally get glimpses of life from Kakeru’s perspective, both events Naho and the others weren’t present for, and in the re-telling of important moments we’ve already witness from the point of view of others. More importantly, we see the “initial” future that leads to his suicide. Here, Kakeru finally opens up, and it’s a dark, brooding place.

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Kakeru is clinically depressed, and can’t forgive himself for what he thought as sending his mom over the edge into suicide. It’s shocking to see him make an actual attempt, since it’s the realized fear of both us and Naho & co, who at the end of the day can only see a small part o Kakeru’s daily life, and only what he chooses to show them, which isn’t much.

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Even when he finds his mom’s old phone containing a lengthy apology for what she did to him and an explanation for her actions, he’s so stuck in his head on that bike ride he ends up getting killed, even if that wasn’t necessarily his desire at the time.

All the other events unfold as Naho’s letter said they would, bringing us to that sudden end. But the last thing he sees in his head is the face of Naho, whom he thinks would probably be sad if he were to die. But he can’t be sure, and in any case isn’t sure anything actually matters.

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That brings us back to the present of the “second” timeline, in which Naho and the others have worked so hard, unbeknownst to him, to keep him safe and happy. But like last time, the New Year’s fight with Naho is an open wound that’s hard to heal, even though Naho knows she must.

We check in on her alternate future self and the others deciding to send letters out to sea, hoping the black hole in the Bermuda Triangle will swallow them up and send them to the past.

This is…a pretty ridiculous plan; frankly I kinda wish they had kept the means by which they received the letters a mystery rather than try to clunkily lay out the practicalities of actually doing it. It’s enough that they wanted to reach out to their past selves to try to change things; I didn’t need the details.

In any case, Naho feels like she and Kakeru are drifting further and further away. The awkwardness and helplessness are palpable. So she goes for broke and asks that Kakeru wait until Valentine’s Day. She’s decided she’ll make her stand there. Whether it causes Kakeru to hate her or causes her pain is irrelevant. She’s not going to lose him again.

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Orange – 11

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After the sports festival ended with a kiss, the next hurdle in the battle to save Kakeru is Christmas Eve and New Year’s. Specifically, Naho wants to avoid a fight she believes may have led to Kakeru closing his heart and taking his own life not long afterwards. Suwa later comforted her that night, and also confessed to her, leading to the future where they married and had a kid.

It makes sense for Naho to want to avoid getting in a fight with Kakeru on New Year’s, but this time her letter was a lot more vague about what exactly she could do.

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After a relay race win that was a team effort for her and her friends, she’s on her own again, and Suwa is more concerned with keeping himself out of the equation all together: no shrine visit, no comforting, no confession.

Hagita wonders if changing the future to such an extent is really okay and right…but Suwa sees it another, more quantum way: the minute they got their letters from the future, they were no longer in the world that led to that future. They’ve on off on a tangeant that will result in a new future, while that old future will continue on unaffected.

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Temporal technobabble aside, nothing Suwa does or doesn’t do matters in the end. In the end, Kakeru wants to go home to his grandma, and Naho asks if he’d stay a little longer, assuring him his grandma will be just fine. That confident assertion sets Kakeru off. He rejects Naho’s notion one can simply decide things will be okay, because he thought that way about his mom before she took her life.

He still blames himself for her death, which means Naho is only able to do so much; she’s no therapist, and it’s possible no words she could have come up with, up to and including a prompt apology for angering him, would have done any good. Suwa comforts her again, but skips the confession, instead urging her to go after Kakeru.

But when she calls Kakeru, he smashes his phone, clearly fed up with talking. Naho, Suwa & Co.’s best just wasn’t enough to avoid history from repeating itself. Here’s hoping there’s still a way to salvage this mess.

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Orange – 10

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Kakeru continues to look and act forlorn, and even Naho in a cheerleader outfit doesn’t change that. What ultimately does is a team effort by Naho, Suwa, Hagita, Azu and Tako, which is not only used to help Kakeru carry a futon (kind of a bizarre errand in the middle of a sports festival, if you ask me).

The metaphor is not subtle, but effective: his burdens will be lighter because they’ll help bear them. Kakeru feels safe enough to reveal the cause of his less-than-stellar mood: he’s unsure if he should be laughing and having fun when his mom could be watching.

Well duh, any mom would want their kid to be happy, and to not let himself be happy would only worry her, jsut as it worries Naho and the others.

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It becomes clear to all that there’s no way they’ll be able to dissuade Kakeru from participating in the relay, so they have to carry it out, doing everything they can on their end to make sure it’s a victory, and hoping fate doesn’t rain on their parade in the form of Kakeru worsening his injury, losing the relay to the blue team, and restart a spiral of regret and self-hatred.

Just before the relay, both Suwa and Kakeru are given extra motivation to win the whole thing: a kiss from Naho, which she neither agrees nor disagrees to (she’s too shocked by the prospect). As for Azusa and Hagita, yeah, this is starting to get old. Just date already. Right now. Do it.

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I never thought I’d get all excited about Emotionally Significant School Relay #937…but with some serious stakes in play, I daresay I was. A strong lead by Suwa starts to erode when Tako and Azu run, but Hagita manages to pass a few people.

After Naho’s leg, Kakeru summons heretofore unsummoned athletic ability and hits the finish tape first, no down cheered on by the telephone-style message constructed by his teammates, ending with the sentiments that they’ll all be together in ten years

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After the race, Kakeru’s grandma recalls a relay in the past that his mother attended not long after getting divorced, when Kekeru looked down-in-the-dumps…until he won, and flashed the same smile he flashed today. So all’s well that ends well; Naho & Co. change the future again, without any further speed bumps in the relay phase.

That only leaves the matter of Naho’s “promised kiss.” When coming in close to bandage his shoulder scrape, Kakeru ends up stealing a little kiss to her cheek before running off, no doubt over the moon. Naho reacts exactly the way you’d expect: stunned silence, followed shortly by a warm expression of acknowledgment in said kiss’s power.

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Orange – 09

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Now that it’s confirmed everyone in Naho’s circle has letters from their future selves guiding them support Naho and Kakeru, we see the first instance of someone other than Naho and Suwa reading their letter and acting on it. In this case, it’s Azusa, whose letters are a lot more fancy and flowery than Naho’s austere correspondence.

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The letter instructs her, during her birthday, to make sure everyone refuses to let Kakeru borrow their umbrella, so that he and Naho can share one and walk home together. It works like a charm, and just like that, Orange has arrived in episode 9 where Momokuri got in it’s second half-episode.

Naho even holds out her hand for him to take, insisting once isn’t enough. But the two still maintain they’re fine with things they way they are, rather than officially going out.

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That’s a not entirely honest position that is put to the test during the sports festival, when the group of friends are to participate in a relay. There are a number of events preceding that race, during which we get a look at everyone’s parents.

Suwa makes sure Kakeru’s grandma comes so he’s not too lonely…but he still feels lonely, because he’s not sure how long it will be before he has to move, before he “disappears.”

Suwa elects to rattle his cage, asking him if it’s really okay to not be going out with Naho, and if it’s really okay with him if he went out with Naho. Kakeru, gloomy and dejected, says that would be fine; not even a bad idea. He’s still speaking from a place of self-hatred and resignation to an uncertain, lonely life in the wake of his mother’s suicide.

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Things take a turn for the worse between Naho and Kakeru when the former dresses Suwa’s wound with the same care she bandaged Kakeru a ways back. The timing sucks, and when Naho offers to dress his wounds too, Kakeru recoils, even slapping her hand away. Immediately ashamed, he scurries off, and Naho wonders what she did wrong (nothing, really).

But Suwa is still optimistic that he’s put Kakeru on the right track to more forcefully and confidently stake a claim and pursue that which he wants – Naho. I’m…less optimistic. Even with the whole circle of friends working toward a single goal, it isn’t going to be easy to bring Kakeru and Naho closer together.

Not when they’re so cripplingly inept at courtship, and possess so little self-worth, thinking the other person too good for them. I don’t envy their friends: this isn’t going to be a smooth ride, and a future where Kakeru is with them is far from assured when he’s still speaking with dark permenance about the certainty of ‘disappearing’.

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Orange – 08

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This was not the strongest Orange—indeed, it’s the weakest yet—but it’s still pretty damn good; hardly a dud and still very recommendable. But despite the revelations contained in this outing, it still felt a little slower than I’d like, and that it was covering already-tread territory.

Azu and Taka don’t unreasonably assumed that because Naho and Kakeru made their love for each other, they’re now officially “dating.” But neither Naho nor Kakeru believes this is the case, as both are worried that going out would somehow “hurt” the other. I’m not really a fan of that line of thinking.

Also, considering how closely Naho has follows the letters, it seems a little arbitrary and shortsighted to start questioning them after Kakeru faints during soccer. And abandoning the rest of the letters altogether borders on reckless.

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And yet, that’s what Naho does: she puts the letters away and starts acting in the way she thinks is best for Kakeru. The letters tell her and Suwa not to let Kakeru anchor the class relay, since he’ll twist and ankle and lose, but instead, all five of Kakeru’s friends stand up to share the relay duties with him, since he wants to run, but is also worried he’ll let everyone down if he fails. This way his load is lightened, but the letter isn’t being followed to the letter.

A letterless Naho turns out to be a nearly rudderless one, as each time Kakeru holds out his hand to hold hers, she has no idea what he’s doing, and ends up frustrating him. I know the two aren’t used to physical contact, but the gesture he’s making could only mean so many things, especially when she knows he loves her.

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This latest “problem” with Kakeru almost leads Naho to go back to the letters, but instead Suwa is found out by Azu and Taka, who ask Naho what the trouble is and laugh when they learn how simple and easily solved the “problem” is: just hold hands with the poor guy!

Suwa encourages Naho to tell them the rest of the truth, about the future letters, and as expected, they respond by revealing their own. All five friends wrote to their past selves. All five regretted what went down with Kakeru, and all five are committed to saving him.

Now it’s all out in the open…except for Kakeru himself. Even if they all have the best intentions, the fact they all have this secret they’re not sharing with him could have serious problems down the road, no matter how hard they try to hide it.

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Orange – 07

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Orange continues to be a particularly hard show to assail, which explains all the 10s I’ve been doling out. It is without question First in Feels, that ahs affected me like no show since AnoHana.

Like many mysteries in fiction, I believe like my RABUJOI comrades that less is more in terms of explanation. To that end, Orange has kept away from explainin how the future letters work. What matters is that they are a means for Kakeru’s salvation, and now Naho is no longer alone in that struggle, and never was.

Suwa suggests they coordinate their moves in order to share the load of saving Kakeru. They do so by finding out his birthday and then asking him what he wants. Not only to Suwa and Naho do this, but the others as well who (as far as we know) are unaware of the letters.

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But because Kakeru and Taka want to support Naho’s pursuit of Kakeru, even being out of the loop doesn’t stop them from helping the cause. Taka finall gets to directly threaten Ueda, but stops short of assault and instead promises the school will know of the scorned girl’s continued bullying if it persists.

It’s still troubling that Ueda continues to pop up on the edges, since she still represents a wild card in the grander scheme of saving Kakeru, but good to see the united front against her. I daresay I’m also starting to feel bad for Ueda. Awful a person as she is, it’s true Kakeru dumped her pretty  fast, and if she’s going to be dumped, then Naho needs to—and forgive the crude metaphor—piss or get off the pot.

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Back in the old future, Naho, Suwa & Co. are still visiting Kakeru’s room, and the others reveal to Naho that Kakeru always loved him. Naturally, Naho’s instinct is to blame her inability to give a response contributed to the spiral of depression that led to his demise.

This time, they remember his birthday, Naho gets him a flashy sports bag—to replace the one his mom threw out in an act of possessiveness, an important symbol of moving on. Suwa gets Kakeru flowers, like he jokingly asked for, but just as Suwa does in his place in the future, Kakeru immediately gives the flowers to Naho, as an even stronger symbol of his feelings.

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Their friends file out and allow Kakeru to properly confess his feelings for Naho, though he doesn’t expect an immediate response. That’s just as well, because it takes some nudging from her friends for Naho to summon the courage to answer him.

Not only that, it takes a letter dated September 23, the day Kakeru attempted suicide after his friends from Tokyo visited and laughed off his stated desire to die. Neither Naho nor Suwa are going to let that happen. Suwa joins Naho and Kakeru for one of the tensest and most emotionally intense scenes in the show so far.

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In it, Suwa tells Kakeru no to hang out with his Tokyo friends, but with them, and goes further, saying he doesn’t want to just laugh with him. He, and Naho, want to know what’s really troubling him. Suwa’s firmness gets Kakeru to admit he wants to die all the time because he regrets breaking his promise to his mother and thinking her texts were “pain.”

As Suwa rightly puts is, Kakeru did nothing wrong. Everyone at some point feels the way he felt. It wasn’t his fault his mom died, and they don’t want him to continue blaming himself for everything. Not only that, Naho chimes in at the right time to deliver her unequivocal response: she loves him, and doesn’t want him to go away.

Kakeru’s joyful tears and smile are still tinged with melancholy, but Naho is in. She did what her past self could not, and she and Suwa, with their friends’ help, changed the future once more for the better. Now that Kakeru and Naho know how they feel about one another, the question becomes what comes next, and how to keep the good going.

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Orange – 06

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This week, as Naho and Kakeru grow closer and Naho learns more about the future, the enormity of her “mission” begins to weigh on her once more, and she again starts to doubt her ability to make the changes that needs to be made to save Kakeru. After all, she’s already failed the letters twice: when she invited Kakeru to hang out the day his mother died, and when she let him start dating Ueda-senpai.

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Since those failures, and the extra problems they created, Naho has been careful to carefully follow the bullet points in the letters. They are saying she has to watch the fireworks with Kakeru alone by the pool, and so that’s what she aims to do.

Knowing that these two are gradually becoming a couple and eager to help them out when they can, Azu, Tako, Hagita and Suwa all work to assist the two in getting together in the ideal time and place. Kakeru brings up his past regrets when asking Suwa if it’s really okay to be in love with Naho and to pursue her.

Suwa’s answer is that it has to be, because being in love isn’t a choice (and also because he has a pretty good idea how Naho feels).

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The consequences of Naho’s second failure almost derail the entire op, but Azu and Tako thankfully find Naho on the steps lugging Ueda’s contest prizes and take over the task, while Suwa and Nagita keep Ueda away from the pool in a way that will surely mean Ueda isn’t done fighting with the group. If she can’t have Kakeru and be happy, no one can. That could prove deadly to Kakeru later on.

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But we’re allowed to forget about Ueda and all her bullshit for a few wonderful, beautiful moments, as Naho and Kakeru are united before the fireworks end. In the courageous mood her future self told her she’d be in, she answers his question about which boy she’d most want to as her out (him), and he in turn answers hers (via Azu): that he’d want her to ask him out. The night ends as one neither will forget for the rest of their lives.

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Future Naho asserts that Kakeru’s regret stems from being unable to save his mother, while her regret comes from not being able to save him from the accident. Wondering why she can’t simply save Kakeru on the day of the accident, Naho reads ahead, and learns it wasn’t an accident – Kakeru rode his bike into a speeding truck on purpose, so he could go to where his mother was and apologize.

Knowing when it happens is irrelevant. Naho can’t save him from something his mind is set on anyway. Her true mission is to save his heart. That means learning more about his regret, which means asking about his mother. When Naho and Kakeru’s friends again arrange it so the two are alone for the Matsumoto Bon Bon, she gets plenty of opportunities, while also enjoying each other’s company.

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Despite their ongoing denial about not being a couple (at least not yet), the two look the part, and the camera captures them in a number of gorgeous isolated shots. Most affecting is when they pray to the shrine, which gives Naho her in.

After he evades her question of what he said to his mother at the shrine, Naho resolves to get him to answer her properly, even if he ends up hating her. Saving his heart is more important than preserving their romance, underscoring Naho’s role as a reluctant heroine.

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Turns out, Kakeru doesn’t hate her for pressing, though it’s clearly a painful subject to discuss. Indeed, he was worried she’d hate him if he told her the truth: that his mother, psychologically unstable, committed suicide the day he blew her off to hang out with Naho. That makes Naho’s first failure the reason Kakeru carries the regret that will ultimately destroy him if unchecked.

It’s an overwhelming blow for Naho, who can’t muster the words to comfort him. Suddenly, saving Kakeru’s heart seems like an impossible feat, especially all on her own. So she boldly reaches out to Suwa about her mission, and he seems to already be in the loop. You see, he also got a letter. BOOM.

That’s an explosive revelation right there, delivered with impeccable timing right at episode’s end. But it’s not so shocking, because we’ve seen Suwa and the others working so hard for Naho and Kakeru’s sakes.

I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone had letters, but it stands to reason if Naho could write a letter to her past self, she’d also write one to her future husband. It also explains why Suwa isn’t challenging Kakeru. In any case, now Naho knows his isn’t a mission she has to undertake all on her own. Everyone wants to save Kakeru’s heart.

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Orange – 05

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Last week’s episode ended on an optimistic note that I’m glad was carried through. Naho will never stop worrying or going over things in her head, but on multiple occasions this week, she says and does the things she needs to do to keep changing her (and Kakeru’s) future for the better. Note I said her future, as well as Kakeru’s…not her future self (more on that later).

On a rainy day when Kakeru forgets his umbrella, Naho is prepared not with a handkerchief, but a bath towel. Her friends, who know exactly what’s going on, get her and Kakeru can walk home together, and take a detour into a park with a picturesque view of the city. There, Kakeru gets Naho to close her eyes as he gives her a hair clip and snaps a photo of her wearing it.

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The letter said everyone would walk home with Kakeru, but here in the present it’s just him and her. The letters are from a static future, one that she’s not changing. But she is changing her own future, which means the people around her are starting to say and do things differently than the future Naho’s past.

We learn categorically that Kakeru and Ueda have broken up, and all I have to say about that is GOOD. But more importantly, in a somewhat on-the-nose side-lecture by the science teacher, Naho learns (or at least learns about the theory) that going back in time and changing things creates a parallel world containing the new future, branching off from the future that was, which remains intact.

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That lecture really got Naho down, because such a theoretical system means there’s nothing she can do about her future self’s regrets, nor Kakeru’s loss in that world. BUT, and this is key, she CAN keep herself from going down the same road she went down before, so there is absolutely value in continuing her mission.

A letter eventually informs her that some of her words and actions will erase memories good and bad, including an instance of Kakeru asking Naho out to the fireworks, just the two of them. When Kakeru no longer asks her that, Naho takes it upon herself to ask him, and leaves no room for misinterpretation: she wants to be with him and him alone.

It’s a phenomenal leap for Naho, who is surprised herself that she managed to say such words for the first time. This is what I was hoping for: that Naho would start to grow and take her future in her own hands.

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Obviously, the consequences of her more aggressive pursuit of Kakeru is that Suwa ends up the loser, as the entire circle of friends (other than Naho) are aware he likes Naho, even Kakeru. Suwa, a jock, takes this like any soccer match he’d lose against a superior opponent: c’est la vie.

Time will tell if he’s truly okay and even happy as long as Naho is happy (even if it means she’ll be happy with Kakeru and not him), but for now he seems sincere, and when Azu and Taka confront him about their intent to side with Naho, he tells them he’s on their side too.

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So they’re all in agreement: Naho x Kakeru will be supported and encouraged as much as they can, without getting to intrusive. That means Suwa swapping duties with Naho at the cultural festival so Naho can be with Kakeru.

Unlike Suwa, Ueda isn’t quite ready to concede defeat quietly, nor does she have the slightest intention of rooting for Naho. Rather, she takes the smaller girl aside into a dark corner, and asks questions that are none of her damn business while flanked by her stooges, generally intimidating the hell out of Naho, who finds herself in the unwanted kind of uncharted territory.

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Things seemed ready to spiral out of control when Naho slaps one of the girls away, but thankfully Ueda chose a corner with a window that offers Suwa (who just happens to be walking by with some girls who like him) a clear view of what’s going on and ample time to put a stop to it.

I shudder to think what would have gone down had Suwa not arrived, and breathed a big sigh of relief when he came between the girls, towering over even the statuesque Ueda, and leading Naho out of the combat zone.

I hope this is the last time Ueda pulls something like this, but I won’t hold by breath, as the more conflicts Naho has to face only adds to the overall drama. No one said this would be easy.

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Suwa makes one last gesture in favor of Naho x Kakeru by slipping the latter some bandages to put on Naho’s scratched hand. Kakeru makes it clear Suwa gave them to him, and Naho makes sure to do what the letters also directed: thank Suwa for looking out for him.

Present Naho had gotten into such a groove with Suwa (not to mention Azu and Taka) that she’d started to take Suwa’s kindness for granted. Future Naho married Suwa, but only after the first choice was lost to her. That being said, they seem like a happy enough couple, and they’ll continue to be a couple in the parallel future our present Naho is now separate from.

Sure enough, Suwa does appreciate being thanked profusely by Naho, to the point of tears of joy…and, maybe, also tears of resignation and sadness that Naho is out of reach. But this isn’t Suwa’s story. It’s Naho’s. You wanna make an omelette, you gotta break some Suweggs (I’ll show myself out).

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Orange – 04

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I’ve mentioned how cold and bleak and dreary things look in Naho’s “bad future.” With Kakeru dating Ueda, it’s like that coldness has seeped into present-day Naho’s world. Heck, the first image in the present is of a futuristic—and somewhat frightening—looking interior of an automatic ice cream cone-serving machine.

In it, two cones are stuck in their stands, so close together and yet inexorably separate, being pushed and pulled by outside forces ever further away. One is filled with pink ice cream – which I saw as a symbol of the aggressive redhead Ueda’s new regime in Kakeru’s life.

The workings of the ice cream machine seem unchangeable, but that’s just an illusion brought on by its cold, intimidating, mechanical nature. In order to prevent the same thing happening this time, the machine has to be unplugged and reprogrammed. And Naho is the only technician who can do it.

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Kakeru is most definitely dating Ueda-senpai. He is also most definitely miserable, because of the note he got from Naho a hair too late. Now he’s trapped, and Ueda will not leave him alone. She’s hot, but she’s also clingy, monopolizing, and singleminded. She’s also not a fool, so she sees the glances between Naho and Kakeru, and doesn’t like them one bit.

There’s already tension—like Weyoun and Dukat when DS9 was occupied—that Naho could capitalize on if only she had the nerve to. Alas, she still doesn’t. Letters that tell her she can’t keep ignoring Kakeru, even when he calls you to her and Ueda is nearby (as she always is) seem all well and good to Naho, but her future self is looking back; she’s not in the moment, trying the best she can but coming up a few seconds or a few inches too short.

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What present Naho doesn’t realize is that those seconds and inches become the years and miles that end up dooming Kakeru. Ueda will be the death of him if Naho doesn’t stop running away.

When Kakeru says “bye” to Naho, and Naho calls out his name, Ueda hears it all and takes her revenge by knocking Naho over on her way to her boyfriend. But it backfires: Kakeru doesn’t take the side of his current girlfriend—who just demonstrated that one should never pick someone based on looks alone—but Naho’s side, angering Ueda, who storms off in a snit. Smell ya later, missy.

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Back to the subject of color temperature: what had been a cold and bleak episode got much warmer and more comfortable, starting with the Ueda fight and continuing throughout the remainder of the episode, as things start to turn around for Naho, her colors of green and yellow (or, ya know, orange) start to replace the blues and reds.

Naho alone may not have the strength to do what her future self asks of her, but her friends lend her some of theirs, including Suwa, who is putting Naho’s happiness ahead of his own feelings. He, Azusa and Takako have plainly seen what Ueda (whom they loathe) has done to their Naho and Kakeru. They want Naho to know it’s okay to talk to Kakeru; after all, he wants to talk to her too.

Interestingly, Suwa’s mini-intervention wasn’t in future Naho’s letter; Naho takes it as a sign that the positive change she’s affected so far has already started to change the timeline. She can’t very well stop now.

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She doesn’t, and we finally get to end an episode NOT in the depths of despair. Yay! Naho speaks up, from across the street (then crosses after looking both ways. Good Naho!), and she and Kakeru reopen a very enlightening dialogue.

Kakeru is thinking about dumping Ueda, and not just because of the little public fight they had. Naho’s “no”, which she assumed he’d forgotten or ignored, has weighed heavily on him ever since he said yes to Ueda. It’s never felt right as a result, because he only chose Ueda because, at the time, he didn’t know Naho’s position, and Naho’s position is far more important to him than arm candy.

What Kakeru won’t reveal to Naho is the person he likes more than Ueda, even though it would be clear to anyone who wasn’t Naho that he’s talking about her, and like her is too afraid to just come out and say it. But never mind; just the fact he’s considering dumping Ueda makes this a small but crucial victory for Naho.

She realized that her future self doesn’t  have it easy. She’s dealt with ten years of regret of not doing what she’s telling her to do; Naho’s only dealt with a few weeks. And while future Naho can do nothing about any of it because Kakeru is gone, Naho doesn’t have that problem. Kakeru is right there. She has to keep her chin up, and think warm thoughts.

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Orange – 03

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Mother of God…this show. The emotional hold it has over me was maintained this week; in fact, it only tightened and intensified its formidable grip on my heart. I have to tip my cap to any show that is able to make such an relatively small, personal drama and tragedy feel like a world-reaching epic.

Naho seemed so confident and resolved to change the future, and so convince it was happening, and so happy that her efforts were bearing results.

And then Ueda-senpai happened. I know, right? A “prettier” love interest moving in on the heroine’s man…Naho will surely prevail, because it’s true love between her and Kakeru, right?

This shouldn’t be such a big deal, and yet it is. It’s a huge deal, because Kakeru has no future if he dates Ueda. The two things are firmly intertwined.

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This isn’t just about Naho getting the guy. It’s about saving him from oblivion.

Sure, I care far more for Naho’s happiness than anyone else’s (which is as it should be), but the specter of that increasingly bleak, almost nightmarish future considerably raises the stakes for Naho to win the Kakeru Sweepstakes.

Naho’s fatal flaw now—and in her future self’s original past—was that she cares for others before herself. She questions whether it’s right to trample on Ueda’s feelings to satisfy her own desire. She hesitates, and before she knows it, what had been an iron resolve to save him last week starts to rust and bend.

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What’s so impressive is just how goshdarned fast just a little bit of hesitation can get Naho into such serious trouble. Kakeru asked her flat out if she likes anyone; she couldn’t answer. He asks her “what she wants” before going to get drinks; all she can say is “orange juice.” In both cases, Kakeru is, consciously or not, reaching out to Naho, and it’s either not the appropriate time, or she just can’t muster the words she needs to.

So she ends up behind the curve, and Ueda steals a march on her with the tools Naho desperately needs to develop in a hurry: Directness. Persistence. Initiative Guts. She gets his hidden eraser note too late. She writes her reply to the question of whether it’s okay if he dates Ueda (Hell No) and sticks it in his shoe locker, instead of running to Kakeru herself and yelling “NO!” at the top of her lungs in front of him and Ueda.

Instead, Ueda corners Kakeru, and both overwhelmed by Ueda and absent a clear answer from Naho, Kakeru says yes, he’ll date Ueda, and go out during the break. I was so devastated by this development, even though it was sure to come along, I had to pause the TV and pour a glass of water to calm myself. It wrecked me.

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The only, and I mean only faint glimmer of hope comes when Kakeru finds her “No.” But I imagine he’s too nice a guy to dump someone so enthusiastic about dating him so soon after saying yes, so it could well be that Naho’s response was too little, a hair too late.

As expected, Naho is so crestfallen by the events of the day, she can’t eat, let alone pretend to hide her feelings to her mom. She goes up to the bed, pulls out the juice box Kakeru bought her before everything turned to shit, and drinks it as tears fall from her eyes. Sweet, sour, sorrowful…and utterly devoid of solace (Sorry, Suwa…)

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There are a couple of “post-apocalyptic” shows out this Summer, but none of their dystopias have been as and desolate and dismal as Naho’s future in Orange. It’s still, cold, desaturated, and the trees are leafless. Kakeru’s friends find that his note isn’t to himself, but to all of them.

He didn’t write to himself because he knew he didn’t have a future, which obviously insinuates he may have taken similar steps as his mother rather than suffer an accident. At the same time, no one’s dreams for the future came true, even his wish that they were all still close.

Tears well up in everyone. They shed those tears not just for Kakeru, but a bit for themselves, past and present: This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.

Despite all that went awry for Naho and how steep a hill she must climb, I have to believe things can be made right; that a more hopeful future can be made. I may well end up even more disappointed and disheartened than I am now, but so be it.

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Orange – 02

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I never like awarding 10s and RWHL certifications willy-nilly, but I was compelled to give this episode the score it deserved, which was, to me, the highest score possible. This episode was an emotional roller coaster that sucked me in and wouldn’t let go. It contained no less than All The Feels. And it made missing the next episode, or indeed the rest of the run of the show, seem like as big a mistake as Naho not listening to her future letters.

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Naho is a good girl. She has a gentle, generous heart, but she also lacks confidence, and sometimes isn’t able to say or do what she wants. The letters she’s getting say in no uncertain terms that if the behaviors that come naturally to her in the present persist unchanged, Kakeru will be out of her life in ten years. Naho is currently falling in love with Kakeru, so she really doesn’t want that to happen.

So when the letter tells her to make Kakeru a lunch, she plans to do so. She doesn’t tell him when it seems like the best time to do so, hesitating until the latest possible moment in the day, and only after her friends tell Kakeru she makes her own lunches and Kakeru “jokes” about wanting her to make one.

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Saying it was just a joke, and worrying about “bothering” Kakeru by foisting her unworthy slop upon him (well, she’s not that harsh on herself), vex Naho terribly. Interestingly, her thought process mimics her mom’s.

Initially, she casts my heart into the cellar by deciding against making a lunch for him. But thankfully she reconsiders, and gets “fired up” making the best damn lunch Kakeru will ever have tasted.

For a second, I thought she was making lunches for everyone to provide cover and hold back rumors of favoratism. Of course, to all her friends, including Suwa, who likes her, they already know the score with her and Naho.

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But making the lunch is only half the battle for Naho. She must inform Kakeru she’s done so, and deliver the meal to him at the proper time. The time between when she nervously greets him to the lunch bell is tortuously long, as demonstrated by the montage of various teachers giving lectures intercut with quick shots of Naho and the bag containing the lunch.

But when that lunch bell rings…she CHOKES! My heart, having just started back up the stairs, ends up in the sub-basement. I was literally banging my fist on the coffee table, furious by her self-defeating inaction. But then, she waits after school for Kakeru to be done soccer practice with Suwa. And again, Kakeru gives Naho the fresh opening she needs, offering to walk home with her—and only her.

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Naho engages in idle conversation meant to learn more about Naho in basic terms: where she lives; what she does when she gets home, her hobbies. Naho’s truthful answers are nothing flashy, but Kakeru still seems to enjoy them.

Then Naho starts to ask him questions, but gets more specific…like where he was and what he was doing those two weeks he was absent. Because Kakeru has feelings for Naho, he wants her to know, but also clearly exhibits some courage of his own by coming out and saying it:

The very day of their opening ceremony—the day the future letter warned Naho not to invite Kakeru to hang out with them—his mother committed suicide. With that, my heart busted through the floor of the sub-basement and into a subterranean aquifer.

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At this point, even though they were sitting down and Kakeru clearly expressed his hunger, Naho had not yet revealed she had made a lunch for him. But by hearing Kakeru tell her something so intimate and sad, and realizing what not listening to the letters did, Naho finally summons the courage she needs to present the lunch to him.

He accepts it with elation, having hoped she’d followed through on fulfilling his desire, even though he called it a joke at the time. My heart starts another long descent as she finds her footing, promising she’ll make him lunch every day from now on, and give him wake-up calls if he needs them, or any of the other things a parent does until you find someone you love who does them instead.

Returning to her letters, details emerge: Kakeru dies in an accident in the Winter of his seventeenth year, and she and the others always regretted not saving him when, as her future self sees it, they could have. Well, that’s that; Naho WILL save him, no matter what.

GO NAHO. (Sorry, Suwa.)

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Orange – 01 (First Impressions)

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16-year-old Takamiya Naho gets a mysterious letter from her 26-year-old self in the future. The letter details everything that will happen in her second year of high school, and asks that she make different choices to avoid the regrets her future self harbors.

Most of those regrets involve transfer student Naruse Kakeru, who Naho promptly falls in love with. Reading the letter, Past Naho learns that ten years in the future, Kakeru has passed away.

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I’ll admit, at first my cynical ass was a little put off by the sheer raw earnestness of Orange, particularly the exaggerated, almost grotesque expressions made by Azusa and little in the way of comedy, but I gradually got used to the character design and soft, gentle colors evoking a wistful look back to almost idealized better times.

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I also like how Naho doesn’t immediately start doing what her future leter tells her to do, because it’s a lot to take in and she’s certainly a bit weirded out about the situation.

Of course, when she chooses not to keep Kakeru from hanging out, Kakeru ends up absent for two weeks, doing God knows what, so the next time a choice comes, Naho realizes the regret she’d feel if she didn’t pinch hit and her class lost the softball game.

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The stakes here are still low, but a tiny kernel of regret can grow bigger and glom on to other little regrets until you have enough to compel you to write a letter to your past self, so Naho steps to the plate and belts one, too-small shoes and all, and wins it for her classmates.

Kakeru is there to treat her foot injury, in a tender and beautifully lit scene that establishes the romance that’s likely to come, not long after Kakeru makes it plain he doesn’t much care for Suwa, who also seems to like Naho.

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And while I knew full well Kakeru wasn’t in future Naho’s life, just as Menma was a ghost in Jinta’s, when Past Maho reads that part and we see the letters on the page, I still got chills. It was a masterful dramatic blow right to the gut that earned the episode a 9. Kakeru, who Naho only just fell for, won’t be around if she doesn’t make different choices.

It’s probably more responsibility than a carefree high schooler should have to bear, but she seems a lot better off than her future self. Despite being a wife to Suwa and mother to a child, makes it plain that the joy and happiness her past self is currently experiencing will slip away if she loses Kakeru. Will “keeping a close eye” on him be enough?

In all, I was impressed with this first episode. It’s always great to have Hanazawa Kana in a meaty leading role, and as I said, the ending packed a punch, as did her winning homer. Definitely looking forward to this one…even if it might break my heart!

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