“Orange” is Sweet & Sour, Yet All The More Beautiful | OWLS “Treasure”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s  ninth monthly topic, “Treasure,” I decided to incorporate what would have been my standard review of the Orange manga into a cautionary yet hopeful look at the realm of teen suicide, and how, as an outsider, it is okay feel unsure when warning signs are observed.

There are moments in our lives where we lose our sense of self-worth and value and as a result, we find ourselves deep in darkness or drowning in the ocean. However, every person in this world is a treasure—we treasure ourselves or we are treasured by others—and at times, we may need to be reminded of that. We will be exploring characters who have suffered from mental illnesses, depression, and/or suicide, and then discussing how these individuals cope with these issues, the reasons for their emotions, and how they handled the situations they were in.

For as long as I’ve been avoiding it, alas, there’s no going around the major theme of suicide in Orange, so thanks for the prompt, Lyn! This is also my first manga review, so wish me luck!

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A brief spoiler-free discussion on the 5-volume 2012-2017 manga “Orange,” localized in the U.S. by Seven Seas Entertainment with story and art by Ichigo Takano. 

Death, Divorce, Drugs, Depression

Today, teachers will advise students to omit these four things when it comes to important college, scholarship, or job essays/interviews. This is likely because your employers and admissions offices do not want your pity; they want to hear about your strengths, a time you overcame tough odds, or maybe a moment of positive character development in your lifetime—NOT about the pitiable setbacks along the way.

But if these four items have become such crucial parts in the great cycle of life, why mightn’t you want to write about how you didn’t let the divorce of your parents or attempt at suicide ultimately stop you, or convey how even though drugs might’ve ruled your past that they would not own your future?

Ok, real talk. Depression is, well, depressing. Drugs are weird. And let’s face it, having to console someone about their “recently late” Aunt Susie can be extremely awkward, both for the you and the other party, rest-assured. It’s hard to talk about suicide and say “just the right thing” at “just the right time.” When is that time? Is it my fault for not knowing? It’s all just so . . . pressuring, so time consuming, and your boss probably doesn’t have the time to seat you on the sofa and listen to you express all your life’s troubles.

As much as I hate to say it, business and education are professional. Save your need of counseling for the counselor.

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I’ve Been Running for So Long

All this and more is why I avoid the Four D’s, both on my papers and here on the most informal of blogs. I try not to talk about specific real problems—negative aspects, terrible people, worrisome events—we face daily, but instead offer to celebrate the good that can come from something, even if that bit of positivity is ultimately (and knowingly) insignificant or greatly overpowered. Death and depression are hard to talk about for many, and the last thing I want to do is try consoling someone when I’d probably end up making things worse.

We don’t always get to make that decision, however, as entertainment has integrated these kinds of issues into their stories and characters. I might hear that a certain manga or anime is a “masterpiece of emotional conflict,” yet as soon as I hear “mental illness,” I won’t lie, I get turned off.

This brings me back to Orange, a brief tale about THE WORLD’S GREATEST GROUP OF FRIENDS and their willingness to alter time—risking the wonderful future in store for themselves—in order to prevent the inevitable suicide of a troubled young boy, their newfound beloved, treasured friend. It’s a story so short, powerful, and highly regarded of that it just couldn’t be ignored anymore, and descending into darkness proved well-worth the risks.

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To You, in the Past

The start of Naho Takamiya ‘s junior year in high school was unlike any other: for the first time, Naho overslept, which was also her first mistake. That morning a letter made its way to her, but she was too busy trying to make it to school on time. When she finally arrives, her teacher announces a new transfer student by the name of Kakeru Naruse. According to the letter (which she now has some time to scope out), he’ll sit next to her. And just like clockwork, the teacher seats him in the back right next to her.

To her disbelief, Naho realizes she stumbled upon a letter from herself ten years in the future, which chronicles her everyday emotions and actions for the next six or so months. It’s not until shortly after Naho and her four other friends invite Kakeru to walk home together after class that she, again, violated the letter’s requests: her second big mistake.

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Naho is tasked by her future self to get to know Kakeru Naruse better—to make him feel welcomed, loved, cherished, and understood—for ten years from now, Kakeru no longer walks among the living, and his loss was her greatest regret. Now unfolds a fatalistic love story that spans across time, a tale full of many emotional ups and downs.

Everyone Needs Friends Like These Guys

I find myself in the same boat as Naho; depression is hard to talk about, so she often skirts around the issue by using the excuse of “making him smile.” I suppose both technically work, but clearly, Naho has no idea how to make Kakeru happy. While I can relate to her frequent indecision and lack of self-confidence, C’MON GIRL, JUST SPIT IT OUT ALREADY. I love Naho’s cute and considerate character to death, but man, telling a guy that you have lunch for him shouldn’t be that hard. I guess it adds to Orange‘s drama, and that some social anxiety can be just as stressful as depression.

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Orange is only complicated on an emotional level, concerning itself almost exclusively with Kakeru’s depression and Naho’s inability to act the way she truly wants to. The relationship between the two of them is such a focal point that I couldn’t help but wish more of Naho’s friends played a bigger role. There’s the ever-teased soccer “giant” Suwa, a real team player, and he’s just about the best friend you could ever ask for. I’ll avoid spoilers by merely saying that he’s a funny guy full of heart, and that if anyone’s willing to take one for the team, it would absolutely be him. (Props to creating one of the most challenging love triangles ever.)

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But there are others: the girls, including the loud and cheerful Azusa and the cool, strong Takako. These two are almost always up to no good, snooping around whenever and wherever they can, but their presence makes me feel most at ease. They’re both overly caring, and despite how bratty Azu can get, or scary Takako may seem, they only mean to stick up for their friends.

Lastly there’s poor, poor glasses-kun Hagita, who likely would’ve been my favorite character had he been more than just the team’s punching bag. He’s picked on and ridiculed for nearly everything he does, but his logic and reasoning, no matter how pessimistic, often lead to the solutions everyone’s been looking for. Several times throughout the series he’s hinted on having a huge involvement with the finale (which could’ve led to something really cool), when in actuality, he’s just as equal in importance as the other girls.

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*gulp* Here We Go

It doesn’t take a second glance to see that Kakeru is dealing with his own demons. His smile may be pretty and sparkly, but underneath that shine is a whole lot of self-doubt, trauma, and shitty memories from his previous school. On top of it all, his parents are divorced, and he blames himself for his mother’s sudden suicide early on, which is what triggers the events of Orange! Well geez, it’s no wonder he’s thinkin’ about offin’ himself all the time!

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Suicide is big. It can be hard to stomach and awkward to talk about, I covered this. But because it can be so off-putting for some people, odds are that they will have a difficult time with Orange. It doesn’t help that Kakeru comes across as particularly frustrating and ungrateful. But we gotta help the guy out, that’s what we do, right? With these kinds of people and situations, we need to get as close as we can to hear them out. From there, we can only go with our gut and advise them, appreciate their efforts and tell them that  it’s almost always never their own fault, and that they are never alone.

In my opinion, Naho did what was right by involving all of her friends in on the dilemma. She took her sweet time, but thanks to plot convenience (and a neat twist), everyone becomes gung-ho about saving Kakeru. Take things slowly, sincerely, and whole-heatedly, for if you can save the life of a friend, then it’s always worth the time. You may not get it right the first time, but at least you tried.

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Regret and Happiness

I boast that one of Orange’s winning features is its short 5-volume run, but maybe that’s because I can’t take +10 volumes on suicide. Suicide plays a big role in the story, I’ll admit, but it’s not the real enemy here—regret is. As if all of the characters play supporting roles, Regret is the main antagonist (Guilt his henchman), whilst Satisfaction and Happiness work together to calm not only Kakeru’s mindset, but everyone else’s regret-filled future, too.

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It just sucks when you have to give up what could have been your dream life all because you felt a little guilty for having that blessed life in the first place.

To You, in the Future

Like the titular fruit flavor, oranges taste so sweet and delightful. That is, until you notice that subtle sour tinge. Once it stands out to you, that’s all you can taste, and the fruit no longer becomes desired for its sweetness.

Naho lives one of the coolest lives ever imaginable, surrounded by her dearest friends and caring family. But as soon as Naho experiences Kakeru’s false smile, the sourness just punches her in the gut and pushes her to the brink of tears and exhaustion. That’s when she remembers Kakeru’s value to not only herself now, but herself in the future: “Ten years from now, I’m still regretting Kakeru’s death and the fact that I didn’t even notice how he truly felt.”

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At this point, she makes a desperate call to fate, the ruler of this timeline, wishing to keep the treasure that she found—that they all found—in Kakeru’s heart. And if fate didn’t grant her this treasure, then she’d take it by force. I’m no love expert, but that’s pretty cool of Naho, and I’m glad that this sour story found its sweetness once again by the end—it just makes it all the more beautiful.

“Kakeru . . . is my greatest treasure. Please let us change Kakeru’s future . . . I will not let this be his last day.” – Naho Takamiya


What’s the moral of the story? Well, you could say “Never give up,” but I rather like the sound of “Live without regrets.” The author Ichigo Takano herself, in the epilogue, hopes that our future is a happy one, and that years from now we are still living without regrets. “If you have someone like Kakeru in your life, please find a way to save them. Every life is precious. Please treasure each and every day, the present, the moment, and yourself. Thank you very much.” 

If we notice someone displaying potential signs of any mental illness, don’t feel afraid to step out and let them know you’re with them. Never expect to know EXACTLY what they’re going through, but be prepared to get them the right help just in case. I’m excited to watch the Orange anime now, and with a LTD ED release coming this fall thanks to Funimation, I know what’ll bring my wonderful experience full circle! For now, the manga receives the “Caffe Mocha” approval rating!

A very special to Gigi (Animepalooza) over on YouTube for gifting me with the first volume as per her giveaway—without you, I would not have been allowed to experience this endearing story of romance and very attractive artwork, so many thanks again~!

This concludes my September 19th entry in the OWLS “Treasure” blog tour. Prior to me, Hazelyn (ARCHI-ANIME) wrote about reasons for living in the otome PS Vita game Collar X Malice, and just tomorrow the 20th, Crimson (Crimson is Blogging) will walk us through the Katie Green novel Lighter Than My Shadow! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Plastic Memories: Sadly and Ironically Unmemorable

A review of the 2015 spring anime “Plastic Memories”

In the near future, androids that possess human emotions called “Giftia” can be seen all over the place. Produced and managed by the SAI Corporation, these Giftia practically blend in with society, the only catch being that they cannot live to be older than nine years, after which their memory needs to be wiped clean to prevent further contamination.

Upon bombing college entrance exams, Tsukasa Mizugaki is offered a position (through his father’s unknown relations) at one of SAI’s Terminal Service Department. Their job –  to retrieve nearly-expired Giftia and delete their memories.

Tsukasa descends into madness as he begins to take away the precious memories of his friends one by one, discovering that they are Giftia. Teaming up with a rebellious organization to stop SAI from creating more false hopes and plastic memories, Tsukasa and his sexy female companion Isla arm themselves to spill blood and delete data in hopes of a brighter future. But can a future be salvaged from these lost, crushed dreams?

Naw, I’m just kidding. It deceptively feels this way at first, though we could only wish it continued. Plastic Memories is actually a love story. Yep, one unmemorable love story at that.

Tsukasa is partnered up with Isla, a petit Giftia whose only practice and profession is serving tea to her co-workers. She’s a bit of a klutz and quite shy around him, but after a few retrieval cases, the two fall for each other and become more than office co-workers. Little does Tsukasa know, Isla only has a few months remaining before she herself is to be turned in.

Built in a sci-fi setting centered on a broken concept, this anime could have gone in several more interesting directions. Had I known that it was a love story from the beginning, then maybe I could have appreciated it more. Thing is, the anime also tried to be more than romantic. Slice-of-life, comedy, and sexual teasing are all tossed in to hinder the true development of the couple. You’d have a truly touching scene at the apartment, then someone waltzes in naked, Tsukasa freaks, and the whole moment is lost; “Plastic Memories,” more like plastic emotions –  Quit toying with my feelings and cue the tender skits, please!

Also, for sacrificing the whole potential plot towards this absentminded relationship, the romance isn’t even that great! I didn’t feel any pull between Tsukasa and Isla until the end, which is obviously too late. Plastic Memories was ultimately too distracted with other elements, and thus couldn’t keep my absolute focus – But right as I decide to close out of another wasted episode, the show manages to hook me back on with a heartwarming event.

When it comes to romance, or whatever this anime decides to sport, it’s up to the characters to convey the feelings out of my heart, and very few times do they actually achieve this goal. Determined Tsukasa and shaky Isla kindly function as one and manage to keep things as genuine as possible, but the supporting cast really likes to bump heads with our leads. They’re the typical office cast: the sideline tsundere drama, the loud spoken honest boy, the soft spoken kind boy, the grungy pervert man, the boss too kind for anyone to handle, the supervisor with a stick up their ass, so on and so forth. Had the directors not spent so many episodes of Isla and Tsukasa bumbling around in stupid antics with said cast, then they could have received actual depth rather than cheap one-liners. I really wanted to like this cast, but I couldn’t get into them because anytime deep fondness was expressed, someone had to jiggle their boobs or put another in a headlock. So frustrating!

The only character I’d like to highlight is Michiru (Eva’s Asuka lookalike), a well-developed tsundere who, like the series, could have taken a very different route. It’s obvious that she harbors feelings for Tsukasa, which could have made Plamemo a stereotypical love triangle, but Michiru is not there to makes things worse. She sticks up for Isla and even tutors the two, guiding them down the love path she wishes she could walk. Thanks Michiru for not fitting the mold and being delightful all by yourself! 🙂

Previously I had not seen any anime by studio Doga Kobo, so this was joyfully new for me. Characters and their expressions are cutely designed. Architecture of this futuristic setting was handled well, too, and the colors are always bright. There are a few awkward inconsistencies when it comes to facial details, and sometimes the action transitions choppy, but none of it was particularly bad; nothing spectacular, either.

Going back and listening to it now, the OST contains several upbeat string and vocal songs, usually featuring a guitar as well. For the softer scenes, tracks like “again & again” in the first half set the mood with beautiful piano. The opening “Ring of Fortune” by Eri Sasaki also accents this beauty. Overall the OST is not standout, but sweet and supportive.

Plamemo‘s biggest problem is the fact that it starts out with several heartbreaking retrieval cases that are honestly so depressing you can’t help but shed a little water from your eyes. This exposition starts you off thinking, “Oh god, I’m going to have my heart torn to pieces by the end.” But then when the show shifts to the romance, it distracts itself with dumb antics that don’t feel they should belong in this kind of show. It was only by the final Ferris wheel scene where I could actually feel the connection.

But I couldn’t feel sad either, for after all of this nonsense in the office and quiet days at home, it was time for the show to end, which it did so happily and without regret. It’s sad and ironic to say that I won’t remember Plastic Memories all because of its misplaced foolery and nonsensical direction, but it was the one that decided to poke fun at itself, not me.

“Having happy and beautiful memories won’t always bring you salvation. The more beautiful a memory is, the more painful it can become. Both for the one who’s leaving . . . and for the one left behind.” – Isla

+ Heartbreaking first four episodes are so powerful; compelling end on par with beginning

+ Michiru’s character added depth where there was none

– Continuous, overused antics stop this anime from being memorable

– Interesting premise with varying direction, route chosen was somewhat disappointing

– Side characters lack dimension

And that concludes my thoughts on an anime that tried to juggle it all, but dropped the pins. For cafe awarding, it can be found under the “Coffee” menu. Did you have other thoughts on Plastic Memories? Leave your comments below, “like” if you enjoyed this review and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host