This post features some spoilers for Orange. Do not read unless you have watched past episode 12.
I have noticed throughout the runtime of Orange that there are some very mixed reviews. There are those that say that it is a good anime. There are also those that say that it is awful. I have noticed these things in the comment sections of CrunchyRoll, on Twitter, and in Reddit threads. I know that I should avoid comment sections on the internet but I find the ones on CrunchyRoll are pretty tame and I like to know what other people think about what I watch. I don’t get that chance often.
The most common complaint I find about Orange is the fact that the characters are irrational in a way that isn’t normally featured in romance anime’s. Naho and Kakeru do kiss but not until late into the series and not in a way that can even be classified as a kiss in a romance. Naho doesn’t tell Kakeru how she feels about him and the same happens the other way around. Naho goes through all the trouble of making a lunch for Kakeru and avoids him throughout the day because she is scared of giving it to him for some reason. Every time these two characters appear to be going anywhere their relationship takes a 180 and they must start almost from the beginning.
This is the issue that most people seem to be pointing out and to some it can be a sign of bad writing or poorly designed characters. This is in fact not the case. The irrationality of Naho and Kakeru is what makes them so real and lifelike. They are both suffering from mental health issues. Usually mental health issues are used as a way to further the plot or to develop the characters. Any character that has a mental health problem seems to recover fairly quickly and this is a nearly complete recovery. They may still feel sad about what they went through but they are no longer truly suffering. When a character has a mental health problem from the get go and they don’t recover throughout the course of the story they are either psychotic, sociopathic, plain crazy, or their problem is based around an addiction of some and they are none of the above.
What makes Orange such a great anime is not the fact that it is a good romance with realistic characters. In fact I wouldn’t even call this anime a romance because the romance part takes up such a small portion of the plot. What makes Orange so great is the fact that it features characters who are going through things that people are actually going through. Naho has social anxiety and this causes her to do things that some people would see as stupid or irrational. For instance when Naho pushed through with her too small shoes without telling anyone because she didn’t want to burden them or when Naho’s friends are eating bread together with her and they just assume that she wants a certain type of bread that she doesn’t like yet she never once speaks up. These are things that people with social anxity suffer through all the time.
Kakeru’s mental illness is different. It is featured a lot in fiction but it is normally a minor plot detail. It isn’t that common to find suicide in fiction done correctly and with empathy for people who have actually gone through this. He blames himself for his mother’s death. He thinks about dying a lot. In the last released episode at this point it is shown how he died. It wasn’t an act that he had planned out in detail for a very long time. It showed how suddenly things like this can happen and how little warning there can be. He is difficult to deal with for the other characters but this only shows how actual people can be hard to deal with when they are going through something like this. They can seem irrational.
To those people who see this anime as bad or awful or the worst anime of the season, that’s fine. You can have your own opinion. But keep in mind that this anime resonates with certain people who have gone through the mental health struggles it features on either the side of the victim or on the side of the people who had no idea that anything was going on. I can relate to both Naho and Kakeru. If you ignore all the science bits or the time travelling letters you see a story of people moving past the things that hurt them from within their minds.