Company: Telecom Animation Film/TMS Entertainment
Format: 13 episodes
Date: 3 Jul 2016 – 26 Sep 2016
Synopsis: Takamiya Naho is a shy and reserved high school girl. On her way to school, she receives a mysterious letter that is supposedly sent by herself ten years in the future. She doubts the contents of the letter, until she realizes how it accurately describes everything that takes place involving an incoming new classmate named Naruse Kakeru. The letter explains things that her future self regrets not doing for Kakeru while in high school, and contains instructions on how to prevent each and every regret. Though these acts may seem small at a glance, they will eventually help to prevent a tragic outcome from taking place, one that is too much for Naho and her friends to bear.
Concept: Promising at first, but gradually becomes a typical melodrama.
Time travel: Several plot holes at the convenience of a feel good story.
Themes: Awkwardly handled; time travel conflicts with drama on several occasions.
Characters: Great chemistry and genuine emotions, albeit very questionable actions.
Drama, specifically one of high school setting, is perhaps the most common genre in anime, and writing an exceptional one is also arguably the hardest. Since almost every season is bound to have one such series, it’s becoming difficult for a high school drama to stand out from the rest of the pack. In comes Orange, a show that dares to do something different by making use of time travel. Time travel isn’t an original plot device per se, but it’s not something we see all the time and seemed promising at first. Unfortunately, the show slowly becomes yet another pedestrian, mushy drama that inadvertently illustrates how awkward things can get when a plot device and a genre come into conflict with each other.
To set the record straight, Orange is not a sci-fi series. It’s technically a high school drama that uses time travel in the narrative. Time travel is a concept that has fascinated us for years, and time travel-based stories are compelling because it opens up endless possibilities of how actions affect reality. In narratives, the significance of time travel is the cause and effect, and this serves as the central motif in Orange. The show is divided into two parts: the future and the present, and it shines in exploring how the present affects the future, especially when it is working under the future’s advice. Figuring out how the instructions of the future and actions of the present affect reality is the show’s strongest selling point.
However, time travel and high school drama may not necessarily gel with each other well and Orange demonstrates why. While time travel is thematically based on science, the show’s main focus on drama causes some plot holes to emerge in the plot as it progresses. The crux of the story is about preventing a tragedy, which touches the topic of changing the past in time travel. Yet, the show doesn’t tackle the issue of consequence; in particular, how changing the past will alter the future. Even if the idea of parallel worlds is thrown in to render the plot more sensible, the motives of the characters’ actions aren’t clearly addressed. Sentimental drama, emphasized at the expense of logical storytelling, creates cracks in the show’s narrative and causes it to devolve into yet another high school drama.
The characters are a mixed bag. What this show does well is exploring the characters’ emotions and their camaraderie. The friendship and chemistry among the main cast are genuine, and Naho’s internal monologues serve as a window to understanding her feelings about both her present and future self. What this show doesn’t do well is discussing their motives: the characters’ future selves made the decision to change the past using letters seemingly without considering the impact it will have on themselves. At the same time, though the show made a worthy attempt at explaining how the characters’ present selves tried to be responsible for their own actions, it eventually reverts back to the original plot of ‘listening to the letters’. It renders the story uninteresting, making the viewers follow the story passively instead of making them wonder what will happen next like it did at first.
Despite sharing the same plot device, Orange is nothing like Steins;Gate or ERASED (1,2). It somewhat tries to take a shot at explaining the mechanics of time travel but unfortunately fumbles. The show could have been simplified by not explaining the origins of the letters and forgoing the topic of time travel altogether. Alas, this is yet another instance of a high school melodrama that had a novel idea but a clumsy execution. Time travel seems to be a trending theme in anime in recent years, and I hope that upcoming ones will handle it better.
The Rating: 6
Reviewed by: AC