Orange: The Complete Collection
After giving up on Ichigo Takano’s Dreamin’ Sun, I thought I’d try their Orange, because I was intrigued by the time travel aspect. (There’s a mini-boom in these “what if I knew then what I know now” manga, including Again!! and Erased.)
Naho is a 16-year-old high schooler who gets a letter that says it’s from herself ten years in the future. It tells her not to invite new student Naruse to walk home with her and her group of friends, but she’s reticent to speak up or follow the letter’s advice, until she realizes that what it says is true.
As the story unfolds, Naho and Naruse become closer, and we discover that future Naho is trying to prevent Naruse’s untimely demise. She also wants to prevent her later regrets, where she didn’t put herself forward or try more things. Following her advice pulls the timid Naho more out of her shell and starts changing the future a little, but will it be enough?
Orange: The Complete Collection volume 1 reprints three books from the original serialization, a good choice. The storytelling can be leisurely, and each book concludes with a significant twist. Such a large chunk allows the reader to sink into the mood of reflection and “what if”.
Layering a “had I but known” filter over a typical school romance story sets it apart, although this isn’t really science fiction. There’s little attention paid to how Naho got the letter to herself, except for one scene where a teacher explains time travel, paradoxes, and parallel universes. What’s important are the scenes of trying to pull Naruse out of his depression and building his connections with others.
The theme is what regrets can do to someone — Naruse can’t let go of his, while Naho uses hers to inspire her younger self to try harder and share more. As the letters become less accurate, since things are working out differently, Naho learns to rely more on her friends.
Orange: The Complete Collection volume 2 starts wandering a bit. The friend group is matchmaking, and all of them spend a lot of time getting ready to run a relay race at the school festival. There are only two books’ worth of story here, as the series concludes, so the final third is the author’s “Haruiro Astronaut”, about twin girls and the popular guy they both like.
The series wraps up quickly and a little abruptly, but before then, there’s an unusual chapter focused on Naruse’s thoughts and feelings in the original timeline, what he went through and what drove his choices. We also get to see a little of the group ten years in the future, what motivated them to try and change the past.
But wait! That’s not all. The single-volume Orange: Future is told from the perspective of Suwa, the guy who sacrifices his own feelings for Naho in order to help her and Naruse. We get various versions of what could have happened, more information about the letters, and details from the previous books are filled in. I found it a more satisfying ending than the one in the second volume. It also is where I realized why the series is called Orange.
The idea of being able to give your younger self the benefit of hard-earned experience is an attractive one. The entire series made for a lovely weekend read, particularly since I didn’t have to wait to find out what happened.