Blu-Ray Set Review
Funimation recently sent along a large stack of review copies for us, and in it I was pleasantly surprised to see that Orange finally got its home release on blu-ray and DVD. The Limited Edition (LE) set that we received included an envelope with art-cards that featured all 6 main characters.
It also includes a small booklet that has some impactful moments from the series, as well as letters written by the English voice actors to their past selves.
In the past we’ve given Funimation a hard time about the goodies included in their limited edition sets, but I have to say this is a step in the right direction. While the blu-ray extras are still pretty flat (textless openings/closings does not an “Extra” make), the art cards and booklet help provide an additional layer of insight to the staff and production of the show.
Overall, it’s a well packaged and created limited edition set, and while the MSRP may put you off ($85), Funimation currently has it on sale for $64 at their site here.
Before you go spending the money, however, it’s probably a good idea to get a feel for the show as a whole. Therefore, enjoy my series review below. (Originally published in September of 2016)
Everyone is burdened with regrets. If given the opportunity to do things over – what would you do?
A group of 5 friends, Naho, Suwa, Azusa, Takako and Hagita, reunite 10 years after the tragic death of their 6th companion, Kakeru, to contemplate how things might have been. After realizing that Kakeru had committed suicide, the group collectively mourns his loss yet again and wonders what they could have done to save him. In a parallel world, their younger selves receive mysterious letters detailing their lives and are given a single task: save Kakeru. Despite being armed with hindsight, the friends find themselves mired in the difficult task of giving Kakeru a reason to live. Will they be able to avoid tragedy? Or is their friend destined to end his life after all?
If you’ve been following my reviews this season you probably caught that Orange was one of my favorites early on. The first few episodes really drew me in: striking animation, a group of teenage friends that were sincere and believable, and a dramatic plot with just a hint of sci-fi elements thrown in. This balanced blend made for a strong opening to the season, and despite some hiccups in terms of animation quality in later episodes, I was on board for a great series.
I was particularly impressed with the emotional climax of episode 7. After multiple episodes of seeing Kakeru’s fake smile and forced laughter, Suwa forces him to confront the feelings he had and dragged his thoughts of self-harm and suicide into the open. The dialogue and emotional impact could not be understated, as the message is a valuable one not just for Japanese audiences, but for American audiences, European audiences and beyond. Still, with the culture surrounding suicide in Japan, the battle to save Kakeru’s life becomes even more profound. Orange makes it clear that despite knowing full well what was going on, depression and suicide don’t have an easy fix, and their success wasn’t guaranteed.
Unfortunately, following the tremendous performance in episode 7, Orange had more than a couple hiccups in the last 4 weeks of its run. The animation quality seemed to drop off a cliff around episodes 8-9, and episodes 10-12 were a painful slog both in terms of the animation as well as the baffling character decisions.
Still, Orange made it through the wilderness and finished out the season strong with a powerful finale that brought Kakeru back from the brink and seemed to secure his place among the living. There were a few moments in the final episode that gave me pause, namely the numerous times that Naho insisted she would be the reason Kakeru lived and promised to forgive him if he ran off and hurt her, etc. Something about it just screams “emotionally unhealthy” – but then again they’re 16 year olds who want to make each other happy…excessive self-sacrifice seems to be readily offered.
In the end, Orange’s saving grace was its characters. The group of friends chatted about sports, TV shows and movies. They poked fun at each other’s mannerisms and behaviors. They were able to hang out and have fun, and at the same time still have very meaningful and sometimes intense confrontations with one another for the greater good of the group. The MVP of the group, however, has got to be Suwa. Renowned throughout the season for his maturity and next-level friendship, Suwa often took on the heavy lifting when it came to exposing Kakeru’s real feelings. Without Suwa, I seriously doubt the group would have been successful in the end.
If you didn’t get a chance to watch Orange this season, I would recommend giving it a watch. While the animation ultimately stumbles, the likable cast combined with some top-shelf drama of a very authentic look at depression and suicide makes for a great viewing. Who knows? It could be the show that lets someone out there know that they would be missed – that there might be something fun in store for tomorrow…if they’re only here to see it.
Orange (Complete Series)84.98
- Handles a sensitive and important theme like teen depression/suicide well
- Great character dynamic
- When the animation is good, it's really good.
- One of the major plot elements (time-traveling letters) isn't really explored
- Naho's thoughts on keeping Kakeru happy may give you pause
- Animation quality can be frustratingly inconsistent