Orange you glad that— *is shot*
I’ve been binging on Crunchyroll’s manga service this past weekend, having not really utilized it much since I got a subscription back in November – and, really, I got the subscription more because I wanted to contribute toward this being a valid option in the marketplace, since, quite frankly, I had no interest in any of the titles in the initial launch of the service (although I did read a decent chunk of UQ Holder, albeit more because it was there rather than a genuine interest). Luckily CR has been adding new series at a fairly decent clip, so I finally parked myself with my tablet and hopped to it to check out a few series I’ve been eyeing, to include Star Light Woman, A Silent Voice, and the one I’m reviewing here today.
Orange is both enjoyable and frustrating, sometimes in the very same moment. Our heroine is Naho, a veritable wallflower and limp noodle who is never willing to be anything other than wishy-washy out of a higher concern for the happiness and well-being of others than herself. This is a girl who, we learn, has been wearing athletic shoes for gym that are a size too small for over a year because she doesn’t want to cause trouble by requesting a larger pair of shoes. And our male protagonist is Kakeru, a new arrival at her school, who is pulled into Naho’s group of friends by the more outgoing members of the group. And the twist is that Naho received a letter from her future self and started reading it that very morning, a letter that tells her that she must make amends for her future self’s regrets by choosing differently at various junctures where her future self thinks she made the wrong choice. And now its up to Naho at age sixteen to have the courage to do what seems so easy from a 20/20 distance of ten years.
I’m just going to go ahead and spoil what the driving point of the manga is, as revealed at the end of volume one, although its easy to figure it out much earlier than that – Kakeru is dead by the time that future-Naho writes to her younger self. Future-Naho, then, wants Naho to fix this, which itself implies that if Kakeru still dies young that it is Naho’s fault. Wow! What a thing to lay on a sixteen year old! I realize its her future self doing it, but even so its a crappy thing to do to a person. As we get some more information about the whole situation, this piece just gets more horrifying, although I don’t really want to go into it since it’d mean more spoilers (and I’m mulling a separate post for it anyway).
And then there’s Naho herself, whose face may as well go next to “doormat” in the dictionary. The good news is that Kakeru doesn’t hail from the “asshole-with-a-heart-of-gold-lol-not-really-j/k-he’s-just-a-handsome-asshole” school, as he encourages her to speak up and voice her own feelings and concerns. However, wouldn’t it be nice if Naho was able to have figure out by herself that living like that is a bad idea? Its hard to know if Naho ends up thinking she should try to take more care of herself because she actually gets that it isn’t healthy to be such a doormat or if its merely because its what Kakeru has told her (I’m betting on the latter).
All that being said… I do like it, even if we’ve got a few key players who are afflicted with Teenage Failure to Communicate Syndrome. Naho’s tendency to fold so easily is annoying to watch, but she’s a sweet girl, and the cast surrounding her is rather likable. The dynamic that sprouts and grows between Naho and Kakeru feels genuine, and its easy to root for. And the issue looming in the background, that of having a friend die at a young age, is one I can really relate to (I actually found reading these two volumes a bit, well, traumatizing; it doesn’t quite re-open old wounds, but it does bring certain aches to the forefront).
I’m curious, too, to see where this all goes. The second volume throws in a deeper take on the question of time-travel, which came as a surprise as I didn’t expect this to be addressed at all; I do think the manga could’ve just let the mystery of how the letter traversed time stand unanswered and unexamined, although by considering the question more the bittersweet feeling comes out more sharply. I remain inclined to think that ultimately Naho will triumph in preventing Kakeru’s death, but volume two lessened my certainty about that. The end of volume two also throws in a possible reveal that could illuminate some of the characters’ actions a bit more as well as making the story more intriguing. Its hard to comment on it much, though, without giving a lot away!
As for CR’s effort with this title, thumbs up! I read this on a Nook HD tablet, and it looks wonderfully crisp, and the page transition is smooth and fast. Of the various legitimate digital manga services that have been and are available, with the exception of eManga, I think this is the fastest to good product I’ve seen in terms of the translation (let me note, though, that I think eManga’s offerings have receded in quality of translation as more and more of the Digital Manga Guild-produced titles have been introduced). Recalling some of the early subs of CR, I was impressed, although I probably shouldn’t be given that CR is a veteran company by this point.
Even with its issues, Orange is shaping up to potentially be a rather complex and interesting manga, and if it does end up going that way it may also be solving some of the problems it does possess. Two volumes and a couple of additional chapters are currently available on Crunchyroll for subscribers. Really looking forward to where this all goes.