On Orange…

Life never is, and never will be, without regrets. But what about the regrets that end the life of someone? Then that someone was Kakeru, well, regrets are contagious: in a certain timeline, Kakeru commits suicide and his friends Naho, Suwa, Azu, Takako and Hagita feel guilty and regrets dwell in their hearts for ten years. More than enough time to carry out a plan to get rid of their regrets; and what’s the perfect plot device that requires no explanation to its mechanism? Time travel by mail, of course! So in a different timeline, high school freshman Naho gets a letter from the future that gives her guide to her actions over the next year and warns her about Kakeru’s future.

I sounded rather cynical in the synopsis but Orange is a show that’s never about the plot. It’s about the narrative. It’s about, as cliche as it sounds, the power of friendship. Let me be clear, I like Orange. But I had high hopes for it after watching the first episode. I loved the first episode, the art style was beautiful. The background music was crisp and refreshing. The opening had beautiful cinematography ( I wish there would be more orange sunsets shown in the opening rather than all those trees- not that it matters much). The ending promised a heartwarming story and the voice acting was stellar…  Naho’s voice actor Kana Hanazawa sounded very natural and ‘in character’ and I take nothing away from the other voice actors who made this show stand out from the other anime in this season in the sound department. In fact, this reminds me of the dominant strengths of this series: character interaction.

Now Orange is set in high school, and there are high school students who are played by adults. And of course, voice acting as high school students is not a struggle for most voice actors since they are well trained. But the voice actors in this anime seemed to have a skill to catch the flow of the conversation and making it seem natural. The conversations sound like the everyday conversations in high school. The cast talk like they should at their age, and this level of organic interaction is rare in anime this days; boys don’t have raspy voices like edgelords and girls don’t have that shrill, ‘moe’ voices. It’s not just the way they talk; the dialogue is no less commendable. The rhythmic dialogue is accompanied by acoustic BGM and the background sounds in this show seemed to always have that realistic buzz we experience in real life. Orange never had a silent, dull moment in terms of sound. Overall, the sound department in Orange is exceptional and very consistent.

The visuals seemed to be a strong point in the first couple of episodes but later, the drawings got a bit awkward and simplistic. But hey, maybe I am just being a bit too nitpicky. Here’s a comparison:

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Episode 1
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Episode 9

Perhaps, only the background art always had that gloss throughout the series. Nevertheless, the art got detailed in the important moments, like these:

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My desktop background for the last month
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Utskushii!

AnimeRuss has made a video about the series’ directors use of lighting and colours to suit the mood of the scenes (click here to watch the video). And episode 11, I saw this attribute to its full revelation in the ‘fight’ scene between Naho and Kakeru.

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Change in lighting and sound

Overall, the visuals got bit sloppy in the middle but redeemed itself in the last episode.

What else is left? Oh the characters. Hmm… frankly, the characters were faulty. I mean, the dialogue was great but in the view point of both the future and present Naho, I cannot be sympathetic to some of their actions; I mean, why would she read her letters one each day? Why didn’t the future Naho mention in her letters that the others got them as well? Surely that would have helped and then Ueda wouldn’t be a problem for Naho. The plot, like I mentioned before, is not as substantial as I hoped it would be. The time travel is not explained, the other characters had little or no development.

But the anime latched onto its single narrative point and never let go, in that way, it took little risks and turned out the way I hoped it would in terms of story telling. There were no subtleties and no ‘little things’ in the behaviour of characters that I could pick up on, well, except Suwa.

I highly recommend this show, sure there are fault lines in terms of plot and visuals in the middle, but overall it makes sense and in the end, it’s a heartwarming show about teenage love and friendship and… regrets.

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