Orange reveals its hand this week with an emotionally heavy episode.
I don't usually post disclaimers, but his particular write-up will discuss very serious topics including suicide, since they're integral to Orange's plot.
I keep returning to the idea of Naho's letters as points on a map. They tell her where to go, and outline the route she should take, but it's her choices during the journey that will make the difference. Even then, there's no guarantee that her choices actually will affect Kakeru Naruse enough to change his future, or theirs.
This episode is about control, choice, and a lack of both of these things.
Orange's sixth episode kicks off in standard fashion, with Naho and Kakeru awkwardly admitting their feelings to one another in the awkward way that only teenagers can. The moment itself is framed as something to remember, with the two basically confessing their love for each other, holding hands while fireworks bloom in the sky. Yet this, and Kakeru's other moments with Naho in this episode are not enough to stop his overwhelming feelings of regret and guilt involving his own mother. This leads him to pull away from Naho and their friend group, ultimately resulting in Suwa's admission to Naho that he too received letters from his future self.
With Suwa's confession that he also received letters from himself, a lot of his actions in this and previous episodes make a lot more sense — Suwa, not Naho, pressured Kakeru into joining the soccer club, for example. His giving nature and gentle prods to both Naho and Kakeru, continuously pointing them in the direction of each other, always ran counter to his inner desires. We aren't allowed many glimpses or hints into what Suwa's initial run through the timeline looked like, but it's hard to imagine Suwa actively arranging for Naho and Kakeru to be forced into romantic situations, especially when he has his own feelings for Naho and would be unaware of the depth of Kakeru's feelings.
This makes Suwa an interesting character alongside Naho. He too has regrets, despite the fact that seemingly receives what he wants in the future: a family with Naho. His future self is willing to sacrifice all of this, his family that visibly means the world to him, in order to ensure that Kakeru stays alive.
Kakeru's map has a definitive end. He kills himself in future Naho's timeline. She, and her friends are then overwhelmed with the burden of guilt — if only they had been able to save Kakeru, if only there was something that they could have done to change his future. Their guilt provides the impetus for the letters to their past selves.
There's a poem I read in one of my high school English literature classes — I unfortunately cannot remember which one, or the poet who penned it — the nature of which read that regardless of temperament, or whether someone wants to die, they will inevitably be overcome with the urge to fight it naturally when actually faced with death.
At a point in time, I felt so guilty about something that I contemplated taking my own life. What "saved me," so to speak, was not the words of another person, my family, or anything of that nature. It was the fact that I fell ill with swine flu. While my entire family was attending Christmas parties in Connecticut, I was drifting in and out of consciousness on my parents' couch. Fighting the sickness invigorated me in a way I can't explain. I didn't think about all of the happy moments in my life, or feel inspired by another other than a desire to feel well again. After my health improved, I went about addressing my overwhelming feelings of guilt.
You may ask why I'm sharing this. The answer is because the questions of why a person would want to take their own life, why they would change their mind, and what could inspire them to change their mind are all integral to the story of Orange. What changed my mind was that something else — swine flu — inspired me to live. This is different for every person who has ever thought of taking their own life and come out the other side.
There's no way that Kakeru could have "saved" his mother, but the guilt he carries is palpable and runs parallel to Naho's own regrets in her future that she couldn't somehow stop Kakeru from killing himself. Kakeru feels as if his absence on that one day was what killed his mother. The 26 year-old Naho feels as if there was something she could have done — which is what inspires her to prod Kakeru so insistently in the first place — or a key hidden in Kakeru's behavior that will unlock the path where he chooses to live.
Should Naho succeed in "saving" Kakeru, she won't be really saving him at all. No amount of school cultural festival fireworks moments, pseudo-dates at the Matsumoto summer festival, or single moment will suddenly transform his misplace but relatable feelings of self-loathing, guilt, and responsibility towards his deceased mother. Even opening up and letting Naho in doesn't mean that those emotions have been sorted out or alleviated in any way. This isn't Naho's fault, and it isn't Kakeru's fault either. There's only so much, even with their letters providing a roadmap, that Naho, Suwa, and company can do.
Please be kind in the comments. Thank you.