It was quite sometime ago that I began reading Ichigo Takano’s works. I fell in love with Yumemiru Taiyou’s Zen and just kept on moving from there. It came to my attention that her work Orange had finally gotten finished after hefty delays. We finally got a conclusion mid last year. Massive spoilers abound.
Story: The story of Orange centers around a teenage girl named Naho. In the very beginning of the manga Naho receives a letter that is labeled as being to her and from her both. This letter details out the events of not only her day, but of the next few monthes as well. It pleads with her to save a boy from her class who is no longer with them ten years in the future. The boy is Kakeru Nanase a new transfer student who’s life takes many dramatic turns over the course of the manga. Not believing the letter at first Naho and her friends invite Kakeru to hang out with them after school the day of his transfer. This starts a spiral of emotions that are difficult to deal with, starting with Kakeru breaking a promise with his emotional unstable mother that results in her committing suicide.
As it turns out Kakeru blames himself for his mother’s death and he begins to fall into a deep depression. A depression that he tries his best to hide from his friends. As Naho begins to try to change things though and begins to fall in love with Kakeru she too must learn to break free from her shy shell and become someone who does not need to be saved but does the saving as well. She finds out that her friend Suwa from the soccer club also received a letter from his future self as well. He will not reveal the full contents of his letter to her. The truth is Suwa and Naho were married in the future, they have a child, and are happy together in spite of their regrets from the past. Suwa being the selfless person he is didn’t want to sway her from saving Kakeru even if he loved her too.
So as it turns out the other three friends revealed over time that they had letters too and were trying to change things in the background. It is sweet and so innocent how the characters try to deal with the issues at hand as well as growing up.
Ending: Do they save Kakeru? Yes and they tell him about the letters too. They tell him that they wanted him to be with them in the future, and that he really did nothing wrong. In the end it’s Naho who saves his heart and Suwa’s words that pull him back to them. The end of the manga is bittersweet and sad with one laugh out loud moment thrown in from Hagita who always keeps things a little light. Like their future selves the characters put letters into a time capsule to be dug up in ten years. This time though I get the impression that Kakeru’s words aren’t a sorrowful farewell, but of warmth and love instead and his dreams of a future with Naho.
Art: The art is beautiful and expressive. When a character is crying the art holds emotional weight, when their faces light up into a smile it feels genuine, and when they are angry you can feel fire coursing through the cast. It’s amazing to watch the art grow with the characters emotions and to literally see them falling in and out of love.
Characters: The characters are fantastic. They always stand up for eachother and never back down. Contrary to common shoujo troupes the side characters matter just as much as the leads. Suwa especially puts aside his own feelings time and time again to be the backbone of saving Kakeru. And speaking of which Kakeru is a character whom I was surprised I fell in love with, I find dealing with suicide stories to be a little taxing, suicide is a selfish action that I personally cannot condone, but I still found Kakeru endearing, perhaps because we watched his emotional turmoil first hand? Azusa and Hagita tried their best to keep things light through their bickering like an old married couple. It was sweet.
Enjoyment: I’m not going to say that the story is without flaws, like the way they sent the letters back through time for instance. But it’s written in such a beautiful heartfelt manner that’s it’s hard to hold anything against it. I love this manga and highly recommend it.