Orange (Takano Ichigo) /オレンジ (高野苺)
Manga-ka: Takano Ichigo
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Shoujo, Romance, School Life, Slice-of-Life, Supernatural, Tragedy
In the Spring she was 16, Takamiya Naho receives a strange, but detailed letter from herself, ten years in the future. At first she thinks the letter is a prank, but then the things written in the letter actually happen, including the new transfer student that sits next to her in class, Naruse Kakeru. In the letter, her 27-year-old self tells her 16-year-old self that her biggest regret is that Kakeru is no longer with them in the future, and asks her to watch him closely.
So I don’t usually read – much less write – posts around the shoujo/drama genre, but there was just something about Takano Ichigo’s Orange that compelled me to get typing. The story revolves around a high school girl called Naho, who somehow receives a letter from herself 10 years into the future. The letter basically tells her to re-do the things that her 10-years-later self (let’s call her Naho2) regrets even to her present day, from the little things such as not stepping up as a batter in a class softball tournament, to not being able to save somebody very, very precious to her.
Gosh I feel old but it’s about half a year since I’ve turned 21, and chungky’s also just turned 21 so Happy Birthday dude. Anyway, around the time I turned 21 I started doing everything I always wanted to do, but had been afraid of failing, or having people laugh at me since 1991. There’s always this nagging at the back of my head saying “Well you could’ve done it 10 years ago; you just chickened out,”. I should have been more persistent, I should have been braver, I should have said this, I should have done that. Should, should, should.
But I didn’t.
We all have many regrets in our past; and I’m sure that there’s something that every single one of you out there has or has not done, and wish you could’ve done things differently. It could be something as simple as wishing you didn’t blow all that cash on some stupid top, or as life-changing as deciding to take the road less taken. We aren’t perfect; we make mistakes, we fumble, we fall, and we get back up. Some are better at getting back up than others, some aren’t able to get up at all, and others sink even deeper instead. There are the regrets that you eventually learn to accept, and there are the regrets that continue and continue and continue to plague and haunt you for the rest of your life.
In Orange, Naho2 and her friends carry the regret of not being able to help Kakeru, a transfer student from Tokyo who they quickly become friends with. She hopes to remedy all that by giving her past self a list of to-do and not-to-do things. I’m really not much of a shoujo fan – and high school girl dramas are usually my least favourite – but there is a more mature air surrounding Orange that I can appreciate as an older (??) audience. At this stage of life, I feel like I can really relate to Naho2’s regrets and requests. With the exception of perhaps her first warning, the rest of it generally revolved around being braver, grasping the moment, and saying what you truly felt. Through all this, Naho2 believes that it will save Kakeru in the future.
There is something about shoujo that usually leaves me with this superficial aftertaste in my mouth; all the shallow bitching-around; should I choose the hot dude who’s super cool (what?) or the popular, good-looking dude who’s always so nice to me (screw that I’ll choose the douche); everything will change once I get a makeover etc. etc. Oh, of course Orange has some of those themes going on as well, but there’s something about the way Naho handles everything (with the guidance of Naho2) and that constant threat of the future that make the whole experience a lot more meaningful, rather than being depicted as some petty high-school occurrence that makes you roll your eyes and think “oh get over yourself god dammit you’re only 15”.
I suppose a lot of it has to do with the fact that Naho and the reader are aware that her actions could possibly change Kakeru’s future. The whole time-travel theme along with the high-school life setting makes the portrayal of the present a very precious thing, as all of it is already predicted to end in a tragic manner. We all know that whatever we do in the present affects the future, but in this case Naho already knows the worst case scenario of what could happen if she doesn’t change the way Naho2 did things in the past.
Usually with time-travelling manga, we see characters rushing around to fix things they did in the past (e.g. Steins Gate, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, both very, very good and highly recommended!). However, the opposite seems to happen with Orange where Takano Ichigo depicts a high-school life where the characters really seem to savour the moment, taking things one step at a time, and living as fully as they can in the present; at the same time however, the clock is constantly ticking. The differences from the usual time-travel story can be attributed to the amount of time available, and the nature of the whole problem. The outcomes in this case are a little different from usual, as there’s no guarantee that changing the past would truly secure Kakeru’s future.
I get the feeling from Naho2 that although Naho may be able to support Kakeru, Kakeru’s fate ultimately lies in his own hands; therefore, even ‘changing what I did in the past’ may never be enough – and that’s possibly an even scarier notion. Eventually, Naho2’s letters may outlive their usefulness since her past life would be different from Naho’s present due to the inevitable butterfly effect. But there’s always this bliss, this satisfaction and this relief I feel every time Naho really puts herself out to do the things Naho2 wanted to. Things she herself wants to do, but was afraid of doing. The things she wanted to say, but was afraid of saying. The way Takano presents Naho2’s desire to change the past (in its literally direct point-form) makes it extremely relatable, allowing even hard-hearted readers to empathize.
The title ‘Orange’ comes from the orange juice that Naho gets at one point in the manga, in which she describes it as ‘sweet and sour’. It was mainly used to describe Naho’s feelings, but I also find that it a very fitting description for the overall manga – Naho’s living a very sweet life right now, but there’s that tang of sourness from the tragedy in the future that’s already permeated into the present. It sums up the manga pretty well, but this rant/review doesn’t do the manga as much justice, so just go and check it out!