OP: 「光の破片」 (Hikari no Hahen) by Takahashi Yu
Orange was at the top of my expectations list going into this summer season – though in truth it’s been at the top of my list for 2016 since the anime was first announced. My history with Orange is odd, like a stranger you met one day a few years ago and haven’t spoken to since, but have fond memories of them whenever they flash back into your mind. For those who aren’t aware, the manga is fairly short (and perfect for a 1-cour adaptation), but suffered for a lengthy hiatus in the middle, to the point where readers believed the mangaka had abandoned the story mid-way through. When I got to that point and found that there was no more left to read, I was severely disappointed. In those nine chapters that I read I could tell this was something special, up there as one of the best manga I’ve ever read. But when it eventually did move magazine and finish its run, I decided not to read it. I kept putting it off, knowing it would be devastating to know it’s over for good… until the anime was announced. Now I have the excuse to watch the whole thing and talk about how high my expectations are.
This first episode adapted the first chapter, like I expected – and hoped – because it sets everything up perfectly and leaves you on a disconcerting note. In fact, one of the strong points of this episode was how off kilter it felt. There were plenty of classic shoujo moments, or scenes that felt genuine and positive, but there was almost always a sense that this all felt wrong – that this is all building up to something tragic, even if the events of this episode don’t give too much away. From the dark colour palette to the sweet soundtrack, the mood was a definite bonus here.
There were some other stylistic choices that I didn’t expect, but didn’t mind once I got used to them: plenty of short still frames, montages, and cut aways that almost felt like something Shaft would do. Thankfully, it didn’t ever feel too out-of-place. Hamasaki Hiroshi is a talented man, having directed both Texhnolyze and Steins;Gate and recently worked on Space Dandy; his experience with Sci-Fi is top-notch, and even if Orange is a shoujo romance/drama at heart, his talent with that genre come through here. Is he the perfect man for the job? That’s hard to say, as some of what we got stylistically was not what I had in mind, but I don’t hate it. If you know me, you know that I value artistic creativity – I love studios or creators that have their own vision or style that shines through in their works; like how you can always identify your favourite author’s writing by the way the sentence flows and the characters develop. And because I respect Hamasaki for that reason, I’m willing to accept that some of the execution will be different from what I had in mind when I first read the manga.
Story wise, Orange presents a very interesting question: If you received a letter from yourself ten years in the future that predicted how your day would unfold, what would you think? And what if it said you were about to fall in love, and that love wouldn’t last forever? It’s a brilliant premise, but I hope that people don’t get bogged down in the unnecessary details. I’ve noticed complaints that there needs to be an explanation as to how the letters are being sent back in time, and I can only think that if that’s what you’re focusing on then you’re tackling this the wrong way. Not every series has to explain every finite detail. Just look at the two recent time-loop anime released this year: Re:Zero and Boku Dake ga Inai Machi. We don’t need to know why Subaru was sent to another world, or how Satoru can jump through time. We could find out why that is the case, but it’s not necessary to the story. I hope people treat Orange the same way; the letters may or may not be explained, but it’s the impact of the words that matter, not the manner in which they are delivered.
One of the main strengths of the episode (and there are plenty) is the characters. Although we mainly focus on Naho (Hanazawa Kana) and Kakeru (Yamashita Seiichirou), we get a good sense of the main friend group and how close they all are. It’s a rare thing to present teenagers that actually feel like teenagers – that speak like real people, that laugh and joke like friends do. The best example of this is my favourite anime of all-time: Ano Hana. In my eyes, that show is perfect. It was practically made for me, and the fact that Orange gives me similar vibes is a sign that history could be repeating itself. Of course, I’m familiar with parts of the manga, but not enough that I could tell you exactly what’s going to happen next and in what order. All I know is this episode reminded me of just how great the manga is, and how down to earth these characters feel. Get ready for some drama, tears, and depressing turns. The set-up here is that Naho has to prevent the death of her first love. What remains to be seen is whether her mistakes and actions will remain unchangeable, or whether she can challenge fate and create a future without regrets.
ED: 「未来」 (Mirai) by Kobokuro