And just like that, orange saves the best for last. Gah, what an episode. This is the level of high drama and emotional poignancy that I expected from this adaptation. Some episodes may have been less exciting, but a good ending makes all the difference, and this was pretty much a perfect ending. I can’t think of a better way for the story of orange to reach its conclusion other than what we got here. Thank the anime gods this came in at 37 minutes rather than the usual 21, because it would have made for a rushed finale otherwise. There were quieter moments here squeezed between the monumental ones, and giving that extra time to breathe made all the difference once things got serious. Really serious.
First off, this episode looked great. It wasn’t gorgeous, but there wasn’t any off-putting facial expressions or unsightly animation tics; some scenes were almost beautiful, even if that was mainly down to the backgrounds and vibrant colours. It’s obvious that orange suffered in its production midway through its run, and whether that’s down to scheduling or budget or anything else will remain a mystery, but I’m glad that more effort was put into this final episode. Without that extra touch to make it burst off the screen, it might not have been so impactful. Previous episodes suffered from that lack of emotional investment when the characters just looked so wrong that you couldn’t get dragged in by their stories. Here, everything fit together nicely, and the result was exactly what we needed.
I’d like to mention just how much Naho has grown these past two episodes. I never hated her or blamed her for all this mess, but I do think it took her longer to reach that point of clarity that would have been preferable. But now that she understands what she has to do and how she has to approach Kakeru head-on despite the worries in her heart, she’s proven herself a fitting protagonist to this story. Again, Kakeru kept trying to push her away and avoid conversation. But she didn’t give in, even when an unsightly face confronted her at the worst opportunity. She persevered and got through to Kakeru in the end, changing his fate forever.
Kakeru’s actions this week weren’t too surprisingly, but they had me on the edge of my seat. Knowing that this was the exact moment he would kill himself, and that the events were playing out exactly the same despite the groups best efforts, I didn’t know what to expect. For a moment, I thought we were going for a tragic end, but then everything became clear and the answers we got were fitting and rewarding to the story we’ve watched unfold. Even though all of Kakeru’s friends were waiting at that intersection to stop anything bad from happening, it would have been cheap if they only stopped him in this moment. The fact that Kakeru saw light at the end of the tunnel and pulled away from that truck just in the nick of time is the ending we needed, deserved, and got. It goes to show that the efforts of his friends were worth it in the end, and that it all paid off. Slowly, day by day, they got through to him until he felt loved enough to keep on living. Every day he considered taking his life, but when the moment came, he paused and remembered what he’d be missing out on. Suwa may have shouted at him afterwards – when he thought Kakeru had been hit and only survived out of luck – but this goes to show that their nurturing, loving, and tender methods to show how much they cared for him worked out in the end. It’s not so easy to just shake those bad thoughts out of a suicidal person’s head. You can’t just tell them that life’s worth living, you have to show them. And that’s exactly what they did.
I’m shocked but relieved that they spilled the beans on the letters. If they bottled up that information for the rest of time, it would be unsettling to know Kakeru was left out of the loop throughout his high school years. His reaction was much better than I expected, and the moment where the group handed their personalised letters from the future, that’s when I started to well up. I had major Ano Hana flashbacks right there, and anyone who knows me knows that an Ano Hana comparison is a sign of true quality in my eyes. It was the perfect emotional conclusion to this tale, even if Kakeru wasn’t saved in the previous timeline. His friends from back then will be haunted by their ignorance forever, but the fact that they were willing to make the effort to save him, even if it meant still not seeing him again, shows how much they cared for him. It’s a happy end for all, in one timeline or another. Naho proved herself, Kakeru survived, Azu and Hagita are still adorable, Takako is a supportive friend, and Suwa is just the best. They’ve all lived happily ever after, and it feels wonderful. I love a tragic ending when it’s done right, but a happy ending this earned is incomparable.
I feel like I’ve already said all that can be said about this finale, so my final impressions won’t be as lengthy as usual. What I can say is that I had high expectations going into orange, as I had read the first half of the manga and knew what level of quality storytelling to expect – I knew it would be raw, emotional, with a killer premise, and present a bunch of teenagers that you couldn’t help but root for. Now, I have to be honest and say this isn’t the adaptation wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, similar to Boku no Hero Academia last season. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just that the director’s vision and the limits of anime production meant that the result didn’t live up to my hopes. However, I did appreciate the distinct directing by Hamasaki Hiroshi, and I think by the end he and his staff did the best they could manage.
It’s been fun (and also very emotional) to write about this show these past three months, but what’s even better is there’s a movie sequel on the way! That came out of left field. I don’t think anyone was expecting that to be announced after this double-length episode, but there we have it. It sounds like it’s going to be a retelling of the TV series from Suwa’s perspective while also adapting the two-chapter story that mangaka, Takano Ichigo, is publishing shortly. It feels like we’ve already got the ending we deserved, so I expect this movie to be an extra treat rather than an attempt to make up for past mistakes. It will hopefully give Suwa some well-earned screentime for his sacrifices, we’ll see Naho and Kakeru being cute and smitten with each other, and hopefully Azu and Hagita finally get together and make their current world the one where they get married.