As Naho struggles with her feelings towards Kakeru, she receives help from the most likely of places, her friends.
A few years ago, I fell in love with a friend of mine. This isn't the story about what happened between the two of us — although it may be told at another time — but rather the story of the friend who supported me.
I had been out of a relationship for a few months when this happened, and naturally I felt fairly guilty and unsure about it. After thinking about it, I decided to send the person I liked a letter, not so much detailing my feelings but just letting them know that I cared about them.
Throughout this entire process — listening to me whine, complain, doubt myself, and pushing me to actually go through with things was one of my closer friends, T.
We initially became friends through anime blogging, but found that our tastes and personalities went far beyond simple media consumption. To this day, I consider them an unofficial younger sibling. When I sent the initial package, T was there to assure me that it was a good thing, regardless of acceptance or rejection, so I could move forward. When the three, or more of our friends, played video games together, T was there to make it less awkward as a partner in crime who was "in" on my feelings. If T hadn't pushed me, it's doubtful as to whether I would have made any move at all, content to observe and pine the object of my affection from afar.
More than making the ongoing experience of watching Naho Takamiya realize that, despite having instructions from her future, her shy and uncertain personality that automatically defers to others isn't easy to change, as painful to watch as possible, Orange excelled at showing the strength of her friendships this week. Hiroto Suwa, and his gentle but firm push to stir her into action, Azusa Murasaka's happy-go-lucky and affectionate attention, and the opening scene of this week's episode where the future version of the friend group visits Kakeru Naruse's grandmother for the second time in their lives — all show a strong, genuine friendship that's rare to see in most anime.
Their friendship is visually reinforced in creative ways — also cost-cutting — ways throughout the series. Episode 4 was no exception, and introduced chalky, animated cartoons to the mix with surprisingly strong results.
In the first episode, this was shown visually through the use of icons, street signs, and maps. This most recent episode relied on a motif of frogs eating taiyaki to represent Naho and company goofing off and eating taiyaki themselves. Throughout, Naho is still distant — keeping her inner thoughts about the letters and Kakeru to herself.
The scene ends with Naho staring off into the distance by herself and a cartoon frog swimming alone. This is then immediately contrasted against the more formal atmosphere of Kakeru's date with Ueda, which seems stiff and awkward in comparison to the friend group's antics — even with Naho's obvious discomfort. Ueda clings to Kakeru awkwardly, and he gives a smile that has previously been identified in the series as one he reserves when he's not expressing his real feelings and going with the flow. In that way, he and Naho are very similar, and Orange's visuals reinforce it here without the two interacting at all.
While this episode ends with the rekindling of Naho and Kakeru's close friendship, what I appreciated the most was the visual reinforcement of Naho's bond with others in her friend group, especially Suwa. It begins with the five friends visiting Kakeru's grandmother ten years in the future, continues with them hanging out together while Kakeru is on a date with Ueda, and again emphasizes their closeness with Suwa, Azusa, and Takako talking a bit in the stairwell before Naho's closing scene and reconciliation with Kakeru.
As infuriating as certain episodes may be, and as much as I want to shake Naho for her inaction at times, I've enjoyed watching Orange. Blogging it is even more fun, as I can express which bits and pieces resonate with my own personal experiences and regrets. How are you all enjoying it? Does it resonate with you personally? Do you also want to shake Naho at times?