OP Sequence

OP: 「光の破片」 (Hikari no Hahen) by Takahashi Yu

「LETTER 01」

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 Sequence

ED: 「未来」 (Mirai) by Kobokuro

46 Comments

  1. ALL ABOARD THE HYPE TRAIN

    Ever since I read this manga, I wanted an anime adaption. Now it’s finally here, and so far, so good. I just hope it lives up to my expectations. This is definitely one of my favorite shoujo/seinen manga in recent years.

    Show Spoiler ▼

    Nikki
  2. Thank God you (as in you, Samu) picked this series!

    Yep. I honestly think there are bizarre directional choices here (the highschool montage) and there (that moment Naho decided to pinch) but I am happy the tone was pretty consistent all throughout the episode. Yet… I think things will go dark from now on, no?

    I am a sucker for regret-themed series so I am seriously considering orange as my AOTS if it keeps on showing stuff like this.

  3. I really appreciated hamazaki’s directional influence in this ep; texhnolyze is in my top ten favorite anime of all time after all. I can always count on him to make something atmospheric and palpable.

    sonicsenryaku
    1. Naho’s eyes look glassy a lot of the time, it’s sort of distracting, though I’ll probably just get used to it. No wonder it takes up all of the animators damn time animating character eyes!

      Bamboo Blade Cat
  4. Sadly I think I got a mild case of hype backlash while watching this episode. I still thought it was ok and its the first episode after all, hopefully I get to see why people like it so much in later episodes.

    xephx
    1. The character design for this show is really throwing me off.

      The best I can compare it to is it’s like the uncanny valley with robots. It’s like they’re trying to make their faces so realistic when they do the really up close shots and it’s just making them even less so. Especially Azusa… every time they did a close up of her it freaked me out… maybe it’s the lips?

      qwert
      1. Yeah, I wish shows didn’t try to go for “realistic” looking, cause it always ends up looking sort of lifeless and fake. I’d rather they just settled for generic animation, as it’s not as distracting. I don’t think that’d impact the story whatsoever anyway.

        Bamboo Blade Cat
      2. Oh, there is a certain way of making things look realistic. The aesthetic is hard to achieve but it can be done. I think in this case it’s more a case of how the camerawork was done and the character design choices, in addition to what movements were depicted and highlighted via their stylistic choices.

        Nishizawa Mihashi
  5. Yay! I’m glad, Samu, that you’re covering this anime! I have not read the manga either, but I’m already sold on the premise as the first ep won me over. I love the friendship between the characters, and both Naho and Kakeru seem like interesting MC. I look forward to reading your reviews.

    dcho
  6. ‘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.”

    For a show like this, this is definitely true. The mechanics of how the letters are being sent is essentially unimportant, just like how some people got hung up on the science of a perpetual motion train in Snowpiercer.

    Bamboo Blade Cat
    1. Sidenote: the manga didn’t explain (much) about how the letters went back in time either. Though the letter itself hinted the sole death in those ten years shaped the letter.

      ps. There’s (going to be) a lot of spoilers in the comments. Good thing I got past the point where most of the trolls spoiled.

      info600
  7. Though I do hope these reviews are more about the episode as opposed to comparisons to the manga, cause that can get old real fast.

    About the story, it’s an interesting idea, trying to right the wrongs/regrets of your past, but the issue with that is, if you do change your past and erase your mistakes, you no longer become the person who you later become, for better or worse. Perhaps that’s what the theme of the story will be, that you have to make mistakes, experience loss, have regrets, otherwise you learn nothing by not having to experience those hardships, as that’s what can make you stronger and wiser, if you take the right lessons away from it. Should be an interesting watch.

    Bamboo Blade Cat
    1. Well I try and not simply recap what happens in each episode, but I think that’s the most boring thing to read (unless it’s a dense series that requires picking apart). But I won’t be referring to the manga that much from here on out, I just did so here because chapter 1 was fresh in my mind.

      Samu
  8. This is brilliant, I’m so glad I found this show. It’s going to be a great summer!

    I noticed one thing, the text that Kakeru sent when they asked him to walk home with them. I get the feeling that it’s relevant somehow, either to Naho’s message about not inviting him or to his two week absence from school. Basically I’m thinking that Kakeru cancelling his plans and walking home with Naho & co was something he wasn’t allowed/supposed to do, or something to that extent. And future-Naho knows that of course, here’s hoping it doesn’t end up being too big of a deal that it still happened.

    JayDrink
    1. I think you’re right – that text message is definitely key to the drama that’s about to unfold. Thankfully my memory of the manga is hazy so I can’t accidentally confirm anything, but it seems like an obvious point to remember.

      Samu
  9. While the RC preview did sway me i will say I gave this a watch solely on how hyped you were for it on Twitter. I will admit I am intrigued. Will definitely stick with this.

    goukaryuu
    1. Keep your thoughts in your mind, your whole comment is a spoiler and should be deleted.

      As for the story, I read only two chapters and adaptation already looks more promising than manga. I hope it brings some fresh air keeping “shoujoness” away.

      Seya-chan
  10. Beautiful. Though something sets me off with the 26-27 year old anime charecters this year that all have regrets, it sits so close to home when I am in that age range, and I keep pondering what my regrets are.. should I have regrets?

    Regardless, one word for this show is ‘beautiful’ and I felt empty by its end, like a weight has been pulling me down.

    Surely, do hope no one aims to spoil the series and I don’t end up spoiling it for myself. I love a good video directing, and everything felt beautiful to watch. Oh did I say beautiful again?

    Thanks!
    M.

    Mi-Chan
  11. Good start. MC doesn’t have much personality, but I like the premise of doing things differently so as not to have any regrets. Kakeru looks like the kind that has a traumatic past and keeps things bottled up, so I suppose this will be a melancholy feels trip in some ways.

    The background art is really pretty and the op song is perfect, but I’m less enamoured of the character designs. Looks like they were going for a realistic look, but I just don’t like the way the faces are drawn, especially the lower face…Chihayafuru did the realistic designs far better, in my opinion.

    kinako
  12. I’m getting Butterfly Effect vibes here. Usually when dealing with time travel and trying to change the past leads to consequences. The future person might thing they’re doing a good thing, but there’s no way to predict what the outcome of even the smallest changes can be. I would also mention the fact that you can’t change the past because that would cancel out the reason those letters were sent in the first place, but that might just be worrying about unnecessary details as you’ve said.

    sealouse
  13. 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.

    Yes, and that’s a good part of the show. The realism of the show comes from the fact that the show is not anime of Cute-girls-doing-cute-things moe anime.

    fripsidelover9111
  14. I actually found the directing to be really strange in this episode. Like the storyboard didn’t quite translate to the animating. Other than that, as a manga reader, I am so hyped for this.

    Crunchie
  15. Currently kinda negative on this.

    Part of it is the animation (though the art and backgrounds were beautiful). The eyes and lips were really freaky looking.

    Part of it is the sense of annoyance at the type of information in the letter. IE: Do A instead of B on day 1; do C instead of D on day 2; etc. And somehow expect that all these things that happened, still happen even after you did something that you expect to add up in a butterfly effect. How long does it take for the letter to become worthless?

    There’s the gut feeling that, for her to not regret how she lived her life, she has to change as a person. Yet the letter is not suggesting any such change, only that she take certain alternative actions. It’s like she wants to have her cake and eat it: to not change as a person, but to take actions that only a different person would do.

    Part of it was the impression that she never even read past the first page of the letter, a few weeks after the initial events.

    Part of it was how her attitude reflected a perfect storm of dislike: the stereotypical useless/hopeless shoujo heroine; the willingness to give up; and the epitomized, “I just don’t want to cause anyone else any trouble” attitude. Worst of all, how believable such a character is, because it reflects very real behavior patterns.

    The overall feeling is that the extent of expected change is for her to go from a doormat to a puppet, which leaves me very much wondering why I should care.

    Maybe there’s a better story underneath, but it’s going to have to convince me it’s worth continuing. Will give it another episode or two.

    David
    1. Part of it is the sense of annoyance at the type of information in the letter. IE: Do A instead of B on day 1; do C instead of D on day 2; etc. And somehow expect that all these things that happened, still happen even after you did something that you expect to add up in a butterfly effect. How long does it take for the letter to become worthless?

      That very point gets examined in the manga (and I assume the anime) when Show Spoiler ▼

      Overall as a alternate universe show I think Orange holds together fairly well.

      Scruffy
    2. It’s even more disconcerting when that kinda attitude reflects an entire society of over 100 million individuals. Scary thing when you start thinking about it. But yeah, apparently the show’s exploring it but I don’t know in what manner. I’m not watching the show though but it’s still interesting to just look around and see what everyone else thinks. I’m just an observer.

      Nishizawa Mihashi
  16. One thing that bothers me: Why the letter doesn’t explain the reason in detail why the MC will have a regret if she does not follow the advice from her future self?

    2 possibilities at least: (1) There is a good reason for future Naho not to do so, which will be revealed later in the show.

    (2) Future Naho didn’t do that, for no good reason whatsoever (then, So stupid). The author made the future Naho decide that way simply because the author had no good idea of what to do with the story if future Naho gave detailed explanations.

    I have a hunch that (2) is the case. I really wish I will turn out to be wrong.

    fripsidelover9111
    1. One thing that bothers me: Why the letter doesn’t explain the reason in detail why the MC will have a regret if she does not follow the advice from her future self?

      She does and it’s in the letter shown at the end of this episode. It says that in 10 years in the future Naruse is no longer with them .. ie he is dead. Her regret is that she could have saved him but wasn’t able to.

      Scruffy
    2. Scruffy //

      She does and it’s in the letter shown at the end of this episode. It says that in 10 years in the future Naruse is no longer with them .. ie he is dead. Her regret is that she could have saved him but wasn’t able to.

      I watched the ending scene where past-Naho read the part of the letter. But it’s not what I was trying to talk about. Here is an example: In the letter, future Naho asks her past Naho not to refuse to play a hitter in the game, but gives no explanation of what will go wrong, and how her refusal will bring about a bad consequence (i.e., Kakero’s death?). Future Naha simply says “You will have a regret unless following my advice” (too vague). maybe future Naho meant to say “These advice is all for preventing Kakeru from dying in future”? Even if that is the case, it’s still too vague. Why not tell about detailed description of the chain of cause and consequences she knows?

      My question is, (assuming that the letter is all about preventing Kakeru’s death or some other grave tragic event), why not explain how refusing to be a hitter is related to Kakeru’s death ??? Did future Naha have a good reason not to do so? I wish she had. Otherwise, I will be a little disappointed.

      fripsidelover9111
  17. Hamasaki’s directorial influence was instantly recognizable here. Despite this being a shoujo and a brightly lit show, his signature style is all over this. He’s one of my favorite anime directors currently working in the industry(let’s just ignore Blade & Soul and Terraformars S1…).

    The first episode showed a lot of potential. Looking forward to more.

    Mormegil
  18. This show is why staying to the source material is good thing. Not just narrativily but character wise as well. I mean if some things have to be changed around for better story flow then so be it, however changing character relationship around just to please a fanbase to me is shallow and disrespectful. It is shallow because it’s saying a show is only as good as the fans want it to be which is the definition of pandering and it’s disrespectful because changing something is taking someone else’s work and twisting it into what will get the most popularity rather then being drawn into the narrative by its story and characters.

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