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Orange Anime Offers Partial Reasons Against Suicide

Other shows can make suicide look powerful, but the “Orange” anime series strives to keep one friend alive.
| May 11, 2017 | 10 comments |

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

Orange animeIn “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.

Audie Thacker likes to think of himself as a writer, and so far his word processor hasn't been able to convince him otherwise, though one can't fault its efforts. He is the author of the fantasy novels Shifters: Manipulations and Shifters: Judgments.

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I guess it would be a boring story if it was all GO TO THERAPY, DO NOT COLLECT $200. Japan has worse statistics than America does with suicide, and I imagine it doesn’t help that they have a history of ritual/honor suicide.

Also this isn’t quite a happy nice time anime review, where’s my happy nice time?

Kat Vinson

I usually think of these types of stories as the lost’s attempts at plugging a wound, not knowing or realizing the only true healing. Often attempting to inspire or instill meaning in their lives through their family or profession.

(Full Moon O Sagashite is another anime with a strong message against suicide.)

Autumn Grayson
Autumn Grayson

What you said about sharing more friendship and love reminds me of some things I’ve been thinking about when people bring up bullying as a reason people commit suicide. Bullying is wrong and needs to be prevented, but I see some people categorize things as bullying that aren’t actually bullying(according to some people simply disagreeing with more liberal viewpoints such as homosexuality are automatic bullying no matter what…) People act like suicides will stop completely if everyone is politically correct all the time and agrees with homosexuality, or any number of other things.

Instead of teaching people to attack those who are not politically correct or that disagree with certain viewpoints, we need to also help people learn to be strong and independent, and happy with themselves so they realize they aren’t worthless just because a bully says they are. It is important to also teach people to care about those around them, and bullying should be prevented, but suicide rates would probably go down if we could teach people that their happiness and reason for living shouldn’t solely rely on how other people treat them. Realizing this at a young age helped me through a lot. When I had a hard time dealing with kids at school I was still able to be happy because I learned to be content with spending time by myself, reading or drawing or whatever. I also learned to evaluate criticism I received. If it had some truth to it, I would do my best to improve in that area, and if there wasn’t any truth to it, I might feel a little angry, but I would try not to let it get to me other than that. We can’t rely on other people to make us happy, but in many cases we can influence our own behavior.

Of course that won’t completely prevent suicide either, but it’s something that would probably help a lot of people.


“…if we could teach people that their happiness and reason for living shouldn’t solely rely on how other people treat them…”

There’s just something really sad about this. Not that it’s there’s not a grain of truth in this, but humans are social creatures that rely a whole heck of a lot on feedback from other people. Feeling bad when people treat you horribly is a normal response, and I don’t think it’s one that really should be “fixed.” It probably can’t be “fixed,” either, just ignored/repressed. Evaluating sources is something that even adults have trouble with, and while it may help, it may or may not actually do anything about the problem. Even if you accept that your teacher or boss is a bunghole, they can still undermine your well-being with unreasonable workloads and unfair punishments.
But people can accomplish things on a group or societal level that they can’t on an individual level. We can use what power we have to stop crappy things in our vicinity to those with less power. We can stop blaming people who leave crappy situations, because sometimes the best/only way to win is to not play the game.

Autumn Grayson
Autumn Grayson

Yeah. And I don’t really see it as a perfect solution or something that anyone can do perfectly, but it certainly helps to work toward not being defined by other people. The way it works for me is that I like people and want good things for them, but I’m not going to let myself feel worthless just because other people don’t like me, and it’s taken a while to get to that point, but I am very nearly there in a lot of other ways. It takes realizing that other people are impossible to please all the time, that they aren’t nearly always right in their evaluations of others, and that they don’t truly have the authority to judge whether I deserve to live or whatever.

Like you said, though, people can still make people’s life hell through causing problems for them with unreasonable workloads, etc. But I think it helps when we can evaluate a situation and realize if we don’t deserve it. Bosses and teachers aren’t a permanent part of our lives, so if we realize we don’t deserve their treatment we can work toward getting out of that situation, and realize it doesn’t necessarily matter if people blame us for leaving that bad situation. It’s ok to feel a little bad when people criticize us and we need to take other people’s feelings into account, but we should work on not letting them rule us to an unreasonable extent.

I can name examples of how this has played out in my life if you like and it is something I’m still working on, but I do feel like I’m in a far better place than I used to be.