There were many standout moments in this second episode of Orange, but I think the most vital piece of dialogue here was said by Naho in a transition scene that was overshadowed by the dramatic shift in the second half:
“A letter can’t change a person’s personality so easily.”
It’s when she says those words that it puts into perspective just want sort of series Orange will be. It was obvious this was going to focus on the regrets of the Naho from the future, but what’s more important is how the Naho of the present deals with that information. While us watching at home have the luxury of knowing more than the characters themselves, it’s unfair of us to judge Naho for not making sudden decisions that are out of character for her. Everything she did in the past she did because that was the type of person she was; without knowing the full details of Kakeru’s death, she’s having to piece together what little hints these letters give her and actively become a different person along the way. People may call her a boring protagonist (and people have), but I think her introverted qualities shone through in this episode, and I expect that to continue in future episodes as she’s forced to become someone more bold and outgoing.
The first part of this episode once again proved that having a realistic group of teenagers is more than enough to carry these seemingly empty scenes – scenes of conversations that feel natural, with voice actors who don’t sound like over the top caricatures; who instead say the words like a real person would. Of course, when it get dramatic, that’s changes, but that’s the nature of this sort of story. Every good drama needs its downtime, and the little scenes were just what we needed before Kakeru’s big bombshell.
The first key revelation is the reason for Kakeru’s two-week absence: his mother committed suicide on the day of the opening ceremony. We don’t learn the details of why she did this or what we relationship was with her son, but Kakeru saying the words so bluntly was more than enough to leave an impact. It’s then that you realise he’s been trying his best to force a smile and enjoy what he can of his daily school life, but then once you remember a line he says in the opening minutes of the episode about his mother not making him lunch, it’s all the more painful. He’s clearly masking that pain, and knowing his eventual demise is not too far away, it adds a sense of urgency for both Naho and us, the viewer.
Unless it wasn’t obvious, Kakeru is most certainly dead in the future. The other detail we learn is that he died at the age of seventeen in an accident that Naho considers preventable. With less than a year until the dreaded event, it’s now up to Naho to do everything she can to become the person her future self so desperately wants her to be, so she will not feel those same regrets. Yet it also makes you wonder whether Naho from the future really has it all that bad? We see that she’s with Suwa now and they have a baby together, and her friends seem like they’re enjoying their lives, even if Kakeru’s death is a regret that lingers over them all. If Naho of the present does everything she can to prevent him dying, what will that do to Suwa and their future child? Will another timeline be created? Will it be overwritten? Or perhaps Kakeru’s death will be an inevitability – just like his mother’s. We got more answers in this episode, but also plenty more questions. But those questions are fascinating, the directing is strong, the characters feel genuine, and it seems like we’re in for one hell of an emotional ride to get to the bottom of this mystery.