What They Say:
Second-year student Naho Takamiya thinks it’s a joke when she receives a letter from her 26-year-old self, forewarning the tragic future of a boy named Kakeru. But the advice proves true when he transfers to her school—just like the letter predicted. As their lives intertwine, Kakeru’s dark past keeps him from opening up to anyone, and every day becomes a challenge for Naho to change his future. Fortunately, she isn’t all alone in her task. Surrounded by a close group of friends, there may be more hope than Naho expected. Will their combined efforts be enough to prevent the greatest regret of their lives?
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English dub gets a 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded with the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is one that focuses largely on dialogue with little in the way of challenging material for it and that’s just fine. It’s a dialogue driven work with a lot of emotion that comes through in a good way and with all the right warmth to it as well as placement and depth as needed when multiple people are on screen at the same time. The encoding is spot on here and the opening and closing sequences have the additional warmth and richness that I expect so it’s a solid mix between both that’s free of problems such as dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episode series is spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by Telecom Animation Film, the show has a great look and design about it with some fantastic colors that give it a certain richness to stand out while not being so overdone as to be saccharine. The backgrounds have a lot of detail to them and the character designs definitely express themselves through the eyes but also with some well designed outfits for school. The sweeping moments with the mood definitely are captured well here and it’s encoded very well with clean colors and a strong look. But the source material can be problematic in the darker scenes with how it was animated, frustratingly so in some place, with the visible gradients that just detract with all the contours that you see. It’s simply what the show is and not an encoding issue but it’s no less frustrating.
The packaging design for this release comes in a slim heavy chipboard box with a great key visual for both sides where one has the animated version with the group together and the camera looking down on them while the other side has an illustration piece looking upward that shows them in a different light. It definitely makes me want to see the manga more with how it looks and especially the color design for it. Inside the box we get a slightly thicker Blu-ray case that has a good image of Naho on the front while Kakeru is on the back so that you can easily envision their hands intertwined. Though there are no inserts inside we do get a reversible cover that uses the same style background but has the whole group running that’s just filled with great expressions.
The limited edition pack-in material is pretty sweet as we get a great squarebound booklet that clocks in at about thirty-six pages. It has some great character pieces and visuals from the show but it also includes some episode summaries. The more interesting piece for many may be that the main voice actors all write letters themselves to their past selves and you can see some good thought went into some of them to really put themselves into it. The other pack-in for the limited edition is a set of six great art cards that gives us the full poses from the reverse side artwork together that would make for a fantastic framed work.
The menu for this release is a pretty nice one overall as it takes up most of the screen with the clip showing off the fireworks that gives it a pretty good feeling. It’s something that catches your attention and you don’t mind leaving running for a bit either, which is not something you want to do with a lot of menus. The logo is through the middle with its simple design that doesn’t detract from the clip piece itself while the navigation block along the bottom is fairly standard with a lot of space taken up for it and the basic selections there quick to access both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback.
The on-disc extras for this release are kept pretty simple with the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences, which there are a couple of, and the original Japanese promotional videos.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Ichigo Takano, Orange is a thirteen episode anime series that aired in the summer 2016 season. Animated by TAF, the show lucked out in that the manga had finished the year prior with six volumes so they could work a pretty good ending here. There’s more material afterward as a sequel manga series kicked off and there’s a feature anime film as well and the property even got a live-action adaptation. Because of the nature of the show I had done my best to avoid knowing much about it prior to watching it and I do recommend that because even if some things are easy to track early on there’s still a good bit of uncertainty to it that makes it an engaging watch on that level alone.
The premise is straightforward enough in that we’re watching events play out in two periods of time. The smaller segment is with a group of high school friends that have gotten together intermittently over the years but now ten years past high school they get together to unearth the letters in the time capsule they have. There’s a lot of sadness amid all of this even if their lives have gone well because their friend Kakeru, who had transferred in during the school year, had died just after Valentine’s Day. The group was obviously deeply impacted by it and over the course of it we see that in different ways, which results in the ongoing discussion about how they should send letters to their past selves to try and save Kakeru from his death. Now, the actual mechanics of this is never discussed outside of the comical Bermuda Triangle side of it, and that’s for the best. This is an area where you must suspend disbelief and just run with the idea because it’s working on an emotional hook.
The bulk of the show takes place in the high school period just as the new year is getting underway in April. The main focus is on Naho as she discovers a letter package that reveals key events of the future that she naturally can’t believe at first from her limited reading. But when things start happening quickly thanks to the transfer arrival of Kakeru, she begins to take it seriously. With the plea to try and follow these steps, for her heart and to save Kakeru from his death, Naho embarks on this journey of trying to figure out what’s real and what changes because of the things she does as each new step alters whatever the future may be. Naturally, there’s a moment in one class that talks about parallel worlds to explain things away in-show but the series does tackle whether this is true or not in both periods of time and it show show the paradox could resolve in a way that negates everything they do, which gives you some enjoyable uncertainty to all of this.
The friend group is about as you’d expect with a core of five before Kakeru becomes a member of it. Suwa has a bit of a crush on Naho himself and we see in the future that they’re married with a baby, which makes you even more wary about wiping out that timeline. While Suwa is the sports guy that bonds quickly with Kakeru we also get our more intellectual guy with Hagita, giving us the obligatory guy in glasses character. He fits in with the second tier group with Azua, the bubbly and outgoing girl, and Takako as the reserved type provide support along the way as they see their friends struggle. There are hints of relationships and bonds among the bottom three of the group but they are definitely the supporting/non-critical side, which is unfortunate as I can imagine some engaging stories coming from them and their interactions with this grand plan that they’re all introduced to by their older selves. Their support of the main couple and Suwa’s involvement in all of it, which is a great little complication that I really enjoyed, definitely sells the hell out of it. The group as a whole definitely works in their efforts to help keep their friend from dying.
Much of the focus is naturally on Kakeru and for good reason since he’s the one slated to die. It’s mostly told from Naho’s point of view as she reads the letters and tries to understand him but there are a lot of things about him that are easy to figure out with what he says, such as things with his grandmother and issues with his mother that makes it unclear early on that she died recently, but we also get an expansion on his story through what the group learns about him in the future that helps to push them to wanting to help more. Kakeru may not be a hugely sympathetic character in some ways unless you’re able to suss out some of what he’s struggling with but it all becomes much clearer toward the end when we get a look at how things worked out from the start of the series in the future timeline.
Naho as the view through which to look at events is definitely the right way because her future self has a lot to lose depending on how it all plays out and she’s genuinely interested in him as time goes on in the high school era. But it was Kakeru that resonated with me as I could see the signs of how he was presented in not wanting to get too caught up with anyone or anything. When he and Naho do get closer, but still not formally dating, and they have their first fight the way he shuts down is just even more evidence. So when we get events from his point of view, showing what happened prior to coming to the school, the lack of a grounding with family besides his grandmother, and a whole lot of guilt over what he did in regards to his mother, it really lands with weight.
When Kakeru describes his feelings of feeling inadequate, to say the least, it’s intense. Particularly as I’ve felt the same way for the last eighteen months and struggle daily to find that reason to keep going on. You could see all the signs with Kakeru beforehand and everyone doing what they could to keep him alive and have something to live for before the dreaded date hits, but without the realization of just how deep seated his issues are they can do only so much. And that just made my own heart sink because half of me wanted them to follow through in things not working out and the other half hopeful that it would. It’s rare that you see yourself in an anime character for a lot of reasons but I haven’t empathized with a character like Kakeru in a long time.
Orange plays in a familiar story concept that we’ve seen in anime several times before to varying degrees, but under the original creator and the adaptation team here it just has a greater weight to it. There’s not any playing to fanservice moments, outlandish silliness to break up the doom and gloom, or a situation where in a sense everyone wins. While it could have been a bit darker for my tastes it delivers strongly with its intent in giving us a group of kids dealing with a very tough situation on their own. Funimation put together a really good package here with what’s included while also getting things right with the dub performances, disc quality, and the on-disc extras. This’ll be a show that should stick with you for a long time to come. Very recommended.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closings, Promos
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: October 17th, 2017
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.