Shoujo / Seinen – Psychological, romance, slice-of-life, supernatural, tragedy
22 Chapters / 2 Omnibuses (complete)
Crunchyroll / Seven Seas
Naho thinks it’s a joke when she receives a letter written by her future self. However, when events start to play out exactly as “Naho” said they would, Naho starts to believe in the letter’s contents. Future Naho’s wish is for her past self watch over new student Kakeru, a boy no longer around in her time. Is it possible to change the future?
Regardless of the target demographic, orange is a wonderful manga that balances life’s regrets and first love.
Orange was originally a shoujo title serialized in Bessatsu Margaret. But after some kind of kerfuffle, the series was removed from Bessatsu Margaret and eventually restarted in seinen magazine Gekkan Action. (Takano says it was because she became close with an editor, but I can’t imagine jumping publishers mid-series unless there was a bigger incident.) The five volumes, which are available on Crunchyroll, were then given a print release in two omnibuses from Seven Seas.
Okay, enough about orange‘s history.
Any manga dealing with time travel gives me a headache. Time paradoxes, inevitability, parallel universes, loops… Ugh. That doesn’t mean I don’t read time travel stories, but the explanations can get complicated. That’s why, overall, they’re far from my favorite. In the case of orange, Naho receives a message from her future self, and this is the only item that crosses time. The manga does give an explanation for how time travel works in their universe, but it’s pretty far-fetched. Regardless, unlike most manga, both Naho and her future self are not completely sure how the affects the other’s timeline. Plus, unlike most stories, there are a couple of complications that makes overwriting the future not necessarily the perfect outcome.
What is also unusual is that the story takes place both in the present and the future. The “main” story takes place when Naho and her friends are in high school, but we also see what caused future Naho to write a letter to her past self. I like this approach. The future is slowly revealed, and future Naho’s true thoughts and feelings remain a mystery for quite a while.
Speaking of Naho’s state of mind, orange is a 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. She herself also deals with insecurities and teenage angst. Many people will relate to either one of the leads — maybe both — as Takano does a wonderful job showing how regrets can pile up and weigh you down.
Of course, when you talk about emotions and regrets, love is always at the center. One of the biggest staples of a shoujo romance is the love triangle, and it’s the friendly Hiroto who fills the role here. Unlike many other “other” guys, Hiroto plays a huge role in the story. He doesn’t exist just to drive a wedge between Kakeru and Naho or to languish about feelings in silence. I always love it when a heroine has two decent suitors to choose from, and, amazingly enough, Hiroto and Kakeru remain friends through it all. In addition, with Naho being incredibly passive (often understandably so considering what’s at stake here) and Kakeru’s awkwardness and uneasiness, Hiroto is probably one of the nicest guys in a shoujo love triangle ever. Despite having liked Naho for a longer period of time, Hiroto fully supports Naho and Kakeru, but we still see how doing so affects his life.
While orange is full of melancholy, the manga isn’t overloaded in sadness. That’s because the three have some wonderful friends surrounding them acting as best friends, friendly meddlers, and wingmen / wingwomen. There’s the cheerful Azusa, cool (and sometimes scary) Takako, and deadpan joker Saku. I was worried when they were first introduced that these three would be satellite characters and do nothing but detract from the main story. The three of them along with Naho and Hiroto warmly welcome Kakeru into their circle. As the series goes on, readers realize how deep this friendship is, making all this even more touching. They (encouragingly) mettle with Naho and Kakeru, but it’s never out of a self-serving interest to see Naho panic or Hiroto suffer like many other supposed cupids. These three often (directly or indirectly) lighten the mood, but the more humorous parts never feel forced. Haku, for instance, is a comedian, but he isn’t the “ha-ha, bust a gut over my lame jokes”-type. I really enjoyed his and Azusa’s interactions, a fun spin on the love-hate relationship. Takako is probably the least developed of the group, and I do wish she, Azusa, and Haku had been given a little more time in the spotlight in both the past and future scenes.
It’s little surprise orange has been made into both an anime and a live-action movie. This is a romance manga with incredible crossover appeal. Despite the majority of the chapters being serialized in a seinen magazine, orange shows off two of shoujo’s strengths: relatable characters and the emotions they feel. Takano also didn’t add fanservice in order to target male readers. Both guys and gals can understand the darker feelings of life and love. Outside of the time-traveling letters, this is the type of drama that could easily play out in schools and offices all across the world. Even the boys in the manga are moved to tears at points, and you can actually feel their pain. I love how orange shows that guys do cry.
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. The manga reminded me of We Were There, which makes sense because both manga have similar themes. 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 are not a lot of SD shots outside of Naho’s blushing. Again, this works because of the rather down-to-earth storyline and overall seriousness of the manga.
The omnibuses also include a bonus manga: Haruiro Astronaut. This story is the length of an entire volume, chapters which were originally included in the individual volumes of orange. Seven Seas puts them all together after the fifth volume of orange, and this made both stories flow smoothly. Haruiro Astronaut stars a pair of twins: one hasn’t experienced her first love yet, but the other goes out with many guys. Mami is the protagonist, and she truly cares for her younger twin. Of course, the two struggle with love, but I enjoyed the story more than an average one-volume manga. Without going any further, I will say one of the romances is atypical and is a nice change of pace. But do know that a good chunk of the second omnibus isn’t set in the orange universe.
Crunchyroll and Seven Seas each used different translators. In both versions, honorifics are used. Seven Seas uses Japanese name order while Crunchyroll uses Western name order. Seven Seas replaces the text in the letters with English while Crunchyroll often left them untouched.
It’s a little hard to compare the translations. Orange (at least the initial volumes) were published twice in Japan, so there may have been some differences in the second edition. So while there are some differences in the adaptations, one may not necessarily be more correct than the other.
Overall, Seven Seas’ seems more casual and slangy, but the letting (especially for the narration) is so much better than Crunchyroll’s TALL AND SKINNY SHOUTING FONT. It’s just awful. Seven Seas does not include any translation notes, which is a disappointment. They do include some color inserts at the beginning of the books.
Crunchyroll’s version is on the left, Seven Seas on right.
As you can see, the overall meaning is the same, but the delivery is markedly different at points. I did notice a few typos in the omnibuses like “brin it to school” and “as Kakeru s now”. Seven Seas’ release is also slightly shorter than an average American manga, which does not really go well with its well-above-average thickness.
Well worth the read, and, more importantly, orange is worth the purchase.
The orange anime available to stream on Crunchyroll. The live-action movie as well as the manga spinoff are unlicensed. Crunchyroll also has ReCollection, another seinen-that-feels-like-shoujo manga written by the same author.