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「LETTER 07」

Suicide is a tricky and often taboo topic when it comes to anime. Off the top of my head I can’t think of many shows that treat it seriously and tackle the issue head-on – I can think of plenty of comedies that play it for gags, however. If I were to bring manga into the fold then there would be several that are worth discussing – one that I’ve recently been re-reading and re-confirming its greatness is Oyasumi Punpun, which throws you headfirst into a depressing spiral that makes orange seem like child’s play – but as far as anime go, orange has to be one of the hardest hitting. I don’t know Takano Ichigo’s history, but I suspect the creator of such a story must have been affected by suicide at some point in their life. It’s entirely possible that she wrote this without that personal experience, but there’s a believability to Kakeru’s actions, false smiles, and mannerisms that seem too real to ignore.

After Suwa revealed he received a letter from his future self as well, it now feels like we’re striking to the core of the series. Naho’s approach up until now has been skeptical yet believable (if you can put aside the fact that she didn’t just read the whole letter in advance), but with Suwa now helping her it allows them to be honest with each other and work together to get to the root of Kakeru’s impending suicide. Their attempts to figure out his birthday and then shower him with gifts was sweet, and it wasn’t until a few minutes later when it clicked that they are just trying to make him as happy as possible. With concrete details, dates, and events that lead up to Kakeru’s death now in place there’s something for Naho and Suwa to work towards… but the fact remains that this new timeline is already different from the one before it, and I suspect things won’t go so swell. What occurred one day in the past may happen early or later in this version of events; if that’s the case then they’re going to have to keep a close eye on Kakeru at all times in case he slips through their grasp despite their best efforts.

After we learn about Kakeru’s first attempted suicide with a bathroom towel, Naho’s reaction to him talking about jumping/flying out the window was like a punch to the gut. I know if I were in her position and knew what she knew then I’d say the exact same thing. She doesn’t play along with his idea but instead does what she can to nip that notion in the bud before it leads to him attempting to take his life for real. It gets even more dramatic when Suwa steps in and, less subtly, confronts Kakeru face-to-face about what happened with his mother and how that has affected him. In the events of the past timeline it seems no one ever suspected Kakeru had these thoughts, and I can only imagine how naked and alone he must feel, yet relieved when he’s forced to voice his true feelings – the fact that he thinks about killing himself every day since his mother died.

I love some good old fashioned melodrama in my anime (or just drama in general) when it’s done well, and everything is on point here. I care about all these characters, I deeply want Kakeru to survive, and I’m continuously intrigued by the future timeline and how their current findings lead to Naho and Suwa (and perhaps the others?) to send those letter to their past selves. We’re just over half way through yet it feels like we’ve already spent 20-odd episodes with these characters. This is a great example of a well-paced, believable, and thoroughly painful drama that’s sure to hit a nerve with those who have been unfortunate enough to suffer from or be affected by suicide in their own lives.

August 16, 2016 at 5:39 am
24 comments »
  • August 16, 2016 at 6:12 amRando.#

    Such bromance…

  • August 16, 2016 at 6:35 amAzsurance

    Anime that discusses about the reality of suicide needs to be applauded, especially coming from a suicidal culture such as Japan’s. Everything is stressful and people generally don’t open up to someone else, or get laughed at when they do; and that’s when the build-up just pops.

    The timeline is definitely changing now that they have intervened the do-or-die point, which is when Kakeru attempts to meet his friends. But I just wonder if it was enough to totally halt it to the point of zero possibility.

    Also, Suwa’s such a perfect human being, is his character and personality even real in this world?

    • August 16, 2016 at 7:14 amBear

      , Suwa’s such a perfect human being, is his character and personality even real in this world?

      Real, but I think rare.

    • August 16, 2016 at 11:00 amSamu

      Agreed regarding suicide. As for Suwa being too perfect, I think it’s believable since we know the ‘original’ Suwa didn’t act the way the current one is. The Suwa we know is purposefully acting selfless to the point where he almost doesn’t consider his feelings valid. It’s a tough thing to do, but given the bizarre circumstances it’s believable enough. He’s just a pretty swell guy.

  • August 16, 2016 at 7:40 amNishizawa Mihashi

    Uh wait, why did he wanna off himself after his mother died anyway? Something crazy happened after she died I guess? I dunno, I don’t watch this show or read the manga so yeah.

    • August 16, 2016 at 10:12 amLord Nayrael

      His mother had a mental illness and killed herself because he was not an obedient boy. Now he blames himself for her death to the point he becomes suicidal.

      • August 16, 2016 at 10:31 amJohn

        “my mother killed herself, god damn, better kill myself now” only in anime logic

    • August 16, 2016 at 11:06 amSamu

      @Nishizawa Mihashi: His mother committed suicide because he wasn’t there for her when she needed him most. He feels immensely guilty for that and obviously must think over in his head: “If I was just there for her she wouldn’t take her own life.” Those sorts of thoughts swimming in your head every day is enough to make someone depressed or suicidal themselves. You should watch it and see why it makes sense.

      @John: Anime logic? Are you for real? Suicide doesn’t just affect those who take their lives, it scars those who are left behind whether they knew it was coming or not. It’s not unreasonable to assume that if you perhaps contributed to the death of a loved one that you would be overcome with grief and regret and want to take your own life in turn. It’s not anime logic in the slightest. I think anyone who has personal experience with suicidal thoughts or losing someone to suicide would understand that.

      • August 16, 2016 at 11:41 amBear

        Even worse he broke a promise for (as he sees it) a selfish reason which he feels led to her death. His text to her makes his regrets even more devastating.

    • August 16, 2016 at 11:59 amNishizawa Mihashi

      Huh… So that’s it. You don’t get to know the full details of most real accounts regarding this topic but I’ve a few books that have some edited accounts of them. Plus it’s my field, and I specialize in this kinda thing so I try to read as much as I can. In any case, based on the posts and all, this dude Kakeru’s case is textbook depression, more specifically the atypical kind. Now, I don’t really know the circumstances of his specific case but perhaps I’ll give this show a try and see what’s going on. What I’m trying to understand more is his reasoning behind his feeling suicidal. Because as far as I’ve studied, what tends to happen is that people end up fearing and wondering about how long they will survive, and whether they’ll surpass the age of those that committed suicide, or what’s more frequent is that people are simply left thinking “Why?” for a long time since their passing. And then there’re others who say that they’re selfish for taking their own lives and all that but ultimately, it really does come down to one’s relationship with the person who took their own life vs. one’s own socialization, knowledge and perceptions.

      • August 16, 2016 at 5:57 pmBear

        One size doesn’t fit all. There are also cultural aspects of this that don’t necessarily show up in anime. Failing to live up to some standard (failing to get into a university for example) or doing something dishonorable that can trigger a suicide in Japan is more prevalent than in the West as I understand it. His mother’s suicide is compounded by his disobedience to his parent: a dishonorable act in Japan.

      • August 16, 2016 at 8:44 pmNishizawa Mihashi

        Which was what I mentioned in my final sentence in which it ultimately comes down to one’s relationship with that particular person vs. one’s socialization, knowledge and perceptions. That’s the key.

  • August 16, 2016 at 10:12 amKabble

    Anime that discusses suicide need to be protected, treasured, loved, and seriously need to be put out there.
    I’m so glad that Suwa and Naho came together cause I have not the slightest clue if things would have gotten stridently better if the two of them were under the impression they’re operating alone.
    It’s been breath taking watching this show, but now people are leaving me irate with their ‘frustrations’ that Naho isn’t Suwa and insist she’s been useless thus far and are full blown ignoring the very powerful strides she has made in her own regard. Even the smallest ounce of care means so much more to those feeling depressed or even suicidal.
    To say I cried doesn’t even sum this up, I’m STILL scouring the world looking for my shattered heart pieces. It’s tragic. This episode was so powerful.
    I’m honestly trying to see how this anime doesn’t become AoTY for at least me. I have always appreciated stories with a powerful message over just action and drama.

    • August 16, 2016 at 11:08 amSamu

      There should be more anime out there dealing with suicide – especially considering how it is affecting Japan in this day and age. It may not make for easy viewing, but it wasn’t until this episode that I realised so few anime even bother with the topic in the first place.

      • August 16, 2016 at 5:12 pmplanime

        Does Koe no Katachi deal with suicide or was it just bullying? There’s going to be a movie next month but I don’t know how long it will take for it to be translated.

      • August 16, 2016 at 8:39 pmNishizawa Mihashi

        Nah, just bullying in general. ReLIFE from this season deals with the former. Won’t tell who though.

      • August 17, 2016 at 7:18 amNishizawa Mihashi

        Correction, ReLIFE does explore bullying in addition to what I said previously. Once again, you gotta watch it if ya wanna know more :D

      • August 17, 2016 at 10:12 pmsarasva

        Koe no Katachi does deal with suicide. But it’s more accurate to say it deals with how people find reasons to live and try to connect with others, instead of exploring suicide itself.

  • August 16, 2016 at 10:28 amFD

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  • August 16, 2016 at 12:29 pmHalfDemonInuyasha

    Gah, I can’t remember what movie, anime, or something I recall a similar thing – a person asking someone else if they jumped from an edge, I think it was a building roof or something, if they would be able to fly in a suicidal mindset. I just instantly knew I saw something before with that exact same type of scene before…that’s how powerful such scenes can be…

    http://randomc.net/image/orange/orange%20-%2007%20-%20Large%2007.jpg

    Also glad to see Takako (still love her) put Ueda in her place, even if she didn’t actually punch her. Still, it did expose the bully that Ueda is – a lot of talk and intimidation to those “weaker” than herself, but when faced with someone not afraid to stare her down without a care about her popularity and such, she quickly becomes a coward.

  • August 16, 2016 at 12:31 pmyoloalchemist

    http://randomc.net/image/orange/orange%20-%2007%20-%20Large%2036.jpg

    Show Spoiler ▼

    Anyway, best episode yet hands down.

  • August 17, 2016 at 9:04 pminfo600

    For once I can believe how Naho is being hesitant to openly state that she likes Kakeru (and vice versa infinitely), given how her alternate self didn’t find out until 10 years later.*Sniff* Shut it, it’s the onions. Also making the current timeline’s birthday party and subsequently event all the more emotional.

    http://randomc.net/image/orange/orange%20-%2007%20-%20Large%2031.jpg

    Suwa, forever best bro and guardian angle. (Knowing how the alternate Naho reacted to Kakeru’s death makes a lot of differences.)

    • August 17, 2016 at 9:07 pminfo600

      gah, way too many mistakes…

      -2nd image

      -guardian angel*

  • August 19, 2016 at 9:08 pmdcho

    I loved this episode. I can imagine that perhaps Kakeru has so much trouble sharing his feelings with his friends because of his experience of feeling overwhelmed by his mother’s depression. He doesn’t want to overwhelm his friends as well, perhaps making them feel guilty later if he does decide to take his own life.

    I imagine that Kakeru, being so young, did not know how to cope with his mother’s serious depression. It’s so difficult to suffer from depression, and it’s also hard on the caretaker. Poor Kakeru’s mother, feeling so isolated and totally dependent on Kakeru, and poor Kakeru, who is unable to set any boundaries with his mother, because he is all she has.

    There are most likely a lot of cultural aspects to this that I don’t know about. I kept wondering if they had other family members or friends that could help Kakeru and his mother, another adult who could offer to take the mother to her appointment, because relying too much on one person, and a teenager no less, is a recipe for disaster. But perhaps culturally, it would not be ok to share family problems with others? I don’t know but would love to know more about how Japanese society helps those with mental illness.

    In any case, great episode, great story, and great recap!