The Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” has provoked controversy over its attempted portrayal of suicide. But while that series risks making suicide seem edgy and powerful, the heroes of the Orange anime do their best to prevent their friend’s suicide.
I had heard about about the anime “Orange” by Ichigo Takano, but hadn’t thought much about watching. Then the series was mentioned in a friendly exchange with someone with Redeemed Otaku podcast, so I decided to give it a shot.
Orange anime story
Now in their mid-twenties, Naho Takamiya and her four closest friends from high school meet to dig up a small time capsule they had buried ten years before.
They also meet to remember their friend Kakeru Naruse, who had died in an accident not longer after the time capsule was buried.
Ten years earlier, Naho Takamiya is preparing to start her second year of high school, when she receives a letter from the person she will be ten years in the future. The letter tells her of events that will happen during the school year–things the future Naho regrets doing or not doing, and she wants her past self to do differently. Much of what the future Naho writes about concerns a new student named Kakeru Naruse. He’s fated to fall in love with Naho. He is also fated to die in an accident, that might not have been truly an accident.
This series excels at developing its characters. Friends interact with each other very much like how one might expect a group of high-school friends to act.
Given the speculative element of the time-traveling letters, it also makes sense that the older people would want to try to tell their younger selves how to act in certain situations, especially regarding something as serious as a friend committing suicide.
The story kinda-sort explains its time-travel element with references to black holes and parallel universes. But it stays focused on the characters and what they want to do. Often their desires involve sacrifice–especially a sacrifice the oldest friend, Suwa, is honest enough to show his younger self, by showing himself the future he might lose by saving his friend’s life.
Orange anime regrets
In “Orange,” older people want their younger selves to avoid actions they have grown to regret.
During their high-school time, Naho often falters in her attempts to follow her older self’s advice so she would not live with those regrets. Kakeru suffers the guilt and regret of his mother’s death, and is challenged by his friends’ attempts to cheer him up and help bear his burdens (once very literally).
I loved watching these people really try to help each other, especially their weakest and suffering friend. They will not give up on Kakeru; they won’t even simply let events play as their future selves foretold until Kakeru ends up taking his own life. Their admirable and noble actions, and mature wisdom in boldly preventing suicide, is striking.
However, the five friends’ solution ends up being: share more friendship and love. This comes as too much like putting a bandage over a mortal wound. To be sure, human friendship and love are good gifts from God. But should we put such faith in these gifts? Can Naho really be sure she can pull Kakeru back from the edge? What if he is ever again overwhelmed by guilt and regret? Can any person really keep themselves, let alone another person, from feeling pain or doing things they will regret later on?
Even if you can prevent a person from dying by his own hand, that person will eventually die anyway, through some means.
This shallow solution cannot survive reality. No person can be happy all the time, and no person can keep another person happy all the time. Our problem is simply too deep and profound, too much a part of us, to allow for such a shallow solution.
Orange anime’s real solution: make all things new
Too easily can I think about my past actions and wish I’d done them very differently. I can easily consider my selfish arrogant, and dishonest moments, and the times I supported the wrong things.
However, I’ve found a greater promise in the forgiveness of sins promised in the Gospel of Christ to those who repent and believe in Christ. I have some idea of the truth behind the biblical saying “All our works of righteousness are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). For me, saying “I am a sinner” is not some kind of attempt at self-righteous boasting about my supposed virtues. Rather it’s a statement of reality from one sinner to others.
As a believer in Jesus, there is some sense in which I am already made a new creature. But I find a greater comfort in the Bible’s promises in Revelation 21: that there will come a time when God will make all things new.
People like to say, “The Gospel is for Christians too,” and this is true. Christians need to be encouraged to do good works motivated by this truth. But we must also remember what God has done for us. While we are still living as both justified and sinful people who are not completely sanctified, we must remember that we are not saving ourselves. Christ of His own choosing and by His Father’s will made the sacrifice for our sins. When guilt and regret haunt us, only this fact about Him and us provides us true comfort.
“Orange” is a fairly good series. It’s well-written and has many very moving moments. Of course, you should watch it with discernment, and not just let the emotional moments cover over its weak ideas. You might find it worth a look.