Shoujo / Seinen – Romance, tragedy, supernatural, slice-of-life, psychological
18 Chapters (ongoing)
Crunchyroll / Seven Seas
Naho thinks it’s a joke when she receives a letter from her future self. However, when events from the letter start to play out exactly as it said they would, Naho starts to believe it. Her future self’s wish is to watch over new student Kakeru whom is no longer around in her time.
Note: this review has been updated and can be found here.
Regardless of its target demographic, Orange is a wonderful manga balancing life’s regrets and first love.
Orange was originally a shoujo title serialized in Betsuma. But after some kind of kerfluffle, it was removed from Betsuma and eventually restarted in seinen mangazine Manga Action.
Any manga dealing with time travel gives me a headache. Time paradoxes, inevitability, parallel universes…Ugh. That doesn’t mean I don’t read them, but the story can get complicated. But one of the things I like about Orange is that Naho doesn’t know how the future will be changed. The manga (eventually) tries to explain its universe’s time travel rules, but even the characters don’t know how their actions affect their future selves. It’s also rare for a manga to show both the present and the future. While the main story takes place in the present, a good amount of scenes show what Naho and her friends are doing in the future. It’s also interesting to piece together future Naho’s thoughts and actions.
Speaking of Naho’s state of mind, Orange is also a fairly psychological manga. Future Naho hints at Kakeru’s deeper issues, and present Naho spends much of her time wondering if her actions are truly affecting him. It may seem unusual to label a manga as both “supernatural” and “slice-of-life”, but I think this series manages to pull it off. We, as readers, see the characters going about their lives in the future, and despite getting glimpses of her days, present Naho goes through much of the typical teenage angst. Again, this plays into the psychological aspects of the series. Because even if she knows some of the future, not everything will always happen as expected.
One of the biggest staples of a shoujo romance is the love triangle. Here, the story’s protagonist is a relatively typical naive shoujo lead. Naho doesn’t assert herself much, and she constantly questions her actions. In this case, it actually makes sense, as she knows she’s trying to change the future. In a rather refreshing scenario, neither of her suitors are jerks. Suwa is the more energetic of the two, and Kakeru’s awkwardness and uneasiness is a key point in the plot. And even though Suwa has liked Naho for longer, he fully supports Naho and Kakeru.
I was a little worried when the manga also introduced three other friends. I was worried they would be satellite characters and do nothing but detract from the main story. While the three involved in the love triangle are at the forefront, the other three welcome Kakeru into their group. And as the series goes on, readers realize how deep their friendship is. They (encouragingly) mettle with Naho and Kakeru, but it’s never out of a self-serving interest to see Naho panic or Suwa suffer like many other supposed wingmen and wingwomen. I really enjoyed Azu and Hagita’s interactions, a fun spin on the love-hate relationship. Cool (but friendly) beauty Takako is much less developed, but perhaps this will change in the future (no pun intended).
The artwork is less refined than typical shoujo fair. It’s not really a criticism, but this is not a series full of bishoujo and bishounen or two-page spreads of visual closeups. Orange eventually becomes a seinen manga, so it doesn’t want to alienate a male audience. It’s partly rougher, but it’s also more down-to-earth. Eyes are often drawn as fully black unless they’re in a close-up. Unfortunately, this makes some of the more emotional scenes less powerful. The “blackout eyes” with no pupils is a standard manga technique to represent a severe emotional shock, but Takano’s style uses a similar appearance for distance shots. Lots of blank space is provided to add weight to Naho’s thoughts and letters. Since the series has humor but not comedy, there’s not a lot of SD shots outside of Naho’s blushing.
Honorifics are used. Terms like “bo-taoshi” are kept and provided translation notes. While the normal text is a standard manga font, I didn’t really care for the font chosen for the narration from letters. IT’S TALL AND SKINNY AND FEELS LIKE IT’S SHOUTING. Close-ups of letters are written in English. Some manga just keep using the same font for everything, so it’s nice the letter(s) try to add a level of realism. The font for close-ups also look like handwriting and not just a random selection. Otherwise, I really didn’t notice anything unusual or out-of-place in the translation. I don’t know if Seven Seas will get permission to use Crunchyroll’s version or will re-translate it.
Well worth the read. I will definitely buy the physical volumes from Seven Seas. I thought this series might be tricky to license since it is/was published by two different companies (Shueisha and Futabasha). Highly recommended!
Crunchyroll also has ReCollection, another seinen-that-feels-like-shoujo manga written by the same author. However, Takano is probably better known for her unlicensed series Yumemiru Taiyou. Seven Seas plans to release it in two omnibus volumes. So perhaps it is confirmed to end at volume 5?