It was just another year of high school for Naho, until she received a letter from someone claiming to be her future self. It foretells a new student arriving named Kakeru, and how she falls in love with him. It warns of events culminating in the biggest regret of her life: Kakeru commits suicide. As events start unfolding as the letter says, Naho tries to set things right but finds it challenging. Sometimes she doesn't know what to do, doesn't do it right, or she has to compensate for how she's already changed the future. Will it be enough?
I wouldn't call Orange "amazing" by things that happen, due to its down to earth nature. But a combination of great characters, setup and story can make any show great, as was done here.
As is often the case in anime, there is a group of friends, but none of them is a token character, with each being a good fit for the group. It's impressive the way Orange presents the "good times" with the group, but experiences with them are fun and amusing (and not forced). This keeps the show entertaining while also making the bond between them feel genuine.
Naho is a great heroin as the focal point in the story. She's a timid girl who mainly goes with the flow. Changing the future requires she be more outgoing, resulting in internal turmoil. Although the letter warns of events, she often can't bring herself to follow through. This leads to regrets just as the letter describes, pushing her even more. Naho forces herself to fix things, even if it doesn't always work, even if its incredibly awkward - and that determination overcoming her shyness to save her friend is the kind of memorable development you don't often see in anime (done well).
A brilliant turn comes by taking Kakeru's perspective in episode 12. The first 11 episodes cover Naho's group interacting with him, but his actions always seemed a bit mysterious, because he never opens himself up to others, even as it becomes more apparent that something is troubling him. Sometimes it seems counter intuitive when his friends do their best to cheer him up, only to have him become oddly melancholy. Feeling better often makes him feel even more guilty about his mother's death. His view vividly depicts the mourning and depression which could drive him to end his life.
I only have two criticisms of Orange. The explanation of letters from the future using "black holes" is written by someone who clearly has no damn idea what they're talking about on the topic. Which is a really weird problem for an otherwise well written and intelligent anime. The other issue is Suwa, the guy who's long been in love with Naho, but never confessed. In the future, they marry after Kakeru's death, but saving him means it's possible he'll give up the girl he's loved and a future with her. Orange doesn't say much about the sacrifice Suwa may be making to save his friend. Perhaps the way it's implied is enough, but I think this show could have gotten more mileage out of it.
On the basic constructs, Orange does everything right, with the topic combined with the right protagonist making it even better. I don't want to give the impression this show is a downer, because it certainly isn't. Mixing in romance, and drama, and you've got something well worth watching.
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