Orange has been a long ride this season as we’ve learned about Kakeru, a boy who committed suicide in what would be the near future, and all of his friends who felt deep regret over not being able to save him. We have seen both their future perspectives and their changing present ones. What changes when you know you can potentially save someone from taking their own life? The real question is wether or not Orange succeeded in showing the situation it wanted to portray.
The real issue of discussion for me here is the nature of Kakeru’s illness and his own feelings. It is hard to recap exactly how poignantly Kakeru’s relationship with Naho borders the line between someone who suffers with illness or is just genuinely toxic. When Kakeru lashed out at Naho with his illness as an excuse I wanted to judge him. It is a problem I have had as someone with mental illness that I forget to be good to those around me in my own misery. I worried for Naho as someone who seemed selfless and I worried for Kakeru in that he was strangling his own goodness. What is important to remember is
that Kakeru is not disillusioned and he is not manipulating anyone: Kakeru never acts in the hopes of gaining pity or solace and genuinely suffers while hiding it. He does his best not to burden others and when he reacts negatively while panicking over his fear of losing someone else he does not expect Naho to apologize for his actions. While what Kakeru did, throwing his phone and deliberating ignoring Naho, was not good he did not do these things with the intention of hurting her. Kakeru dealt with his feelings in an unhealthy way and his response was a resolve to never hurt her again. He knew he should have apologized and it was wrong he did not immediately but he is a teenager suffering with severe depression and suicidal thoughts. Most importantly, he was not getting the help he needed and this meant he had no coping mechanisms.
I think what makes Orange succesful is that no one really did anything wrong in this show. Even originally the friends just did not know the signs of depression and didn’t know how to help him properly. Naho has been taught a certain behavior and is a very shy girl, Suwa was in love and jealous that the girl he loved had feelings for someone else, the other friends assumed he was fine. While we can all say that Suwa is selfless in this world in the other world he chose to let his friend suffer in order to be with the girl he cared about- which is ultimately why I think his other self was okay with letting Naho go. He knew that his own desire to love Naho was less important than the life he would be sparing. I saw the comment that the life he swapped was his own son’s, but he knew that son existed in another lifetime and knew it was the best to be able to allow both Kakeru and himself to be happy.
I am happy in the end because I know Kakeru will be okay now. He had the will to live for once. He looked death in the eye and said ‘I don’t want this’. That is what it takes to survive depression, not just love or companionship, but your own will to live. His friends all gave him the desire to fight and so he kept on going. Suwa deserves the most accomodations for that because honestly, friendship is more important than ‘love’ most of the time. The way you feel in high school is not the way you feel forever more often than not, but a life lost is a life lost.
There are implications for both sides of the field that really either couple could work out. No matter
how you look at it, Naho doesn’t discount that the thought of being with Suwa isn’t something she hates. There is no ultimate winner or ultimate loser, there is just the thought of growth and the open possibility of change. The reason why Orange turns out to be such a thoughtful and spellbounding anime is because the characters really feel organic and genuine. Suwa measures a potential life he has only seen in pictures to a real life right in front of him: one he could have saved. Naho learns to become more confident and overcome her regrets. Hagita is logical but shows his concern and warmth (and he broke that bike like a pro, we were all cheering and you know it!). All of the friends did what was right for them and supported not just Kakeru, but each other.
I think Orange succeeded in an important thing: it highlighted mental illness, someone reacting to mental illness, the signs of mental illness, and what to do when you hurt someone. Everyone in this manga hurt someone else in some way: Naho put her pre cognition and letter above Kakeru’s fears of losing more family, Suwa originally put his love for Naho above Kakeru’s life, Kakeru put his own despair above his relationships with people. Every person involved did it for love or out of grief, but nobody pretended their bad actions or the hurt that resulted wasn’t an issue. It certainly wasn’t wrong for Kakeru to want to look out for his grandmother but was it right to lash out at Naho? Suwa did nothing wrong by simply confessing his feelings, but knew he could save his friends life by holding back.
This is also a success in another genre: love triangles. I have never felt so succesfully attached to both love interests. I yearn for the movie that comes out to show both sides getting an inevitable victory: but I can also live with it if only one does. What truly matters is that Kakeru will have a reason to live now. I don’t think that will change if Naho and he don’t get together: he has more than Naho now. In this world Kakeru has hope, and because of that Orange succeeds as a story.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10