I always hated it when my mom would often say, “I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I made.” Like most kids, this was always a frustrating thing to hear, but why? My mom was only looking out for me, and since she was older than me by several decades, it stood to reason that she had far more life experience than me. Is it because I want to be free? Is it because I want to live my own life and make my own mistakes? Maybe. Even if following my mom’s advice would guarantee a much happier life than the one I have now, there’s something dissatisfying about it. We don’t want to give up our freedom. We don’t want live our life on rails. As an adult, I have my fair share of regrets, but at least they’re own my terms. Plus, assuming I did obey my mom, I could never convince myself that she was right about everything. I could never convince myself that the alternatives, the paths I didn’t take, wouldn’t have also yielded fruitful results. This is probably the most important distinction between a parent’s life lessons and, say, a letter from your future self. Your future self is you, after all. Your parents aren’t infallible, but you should at least know everything there is to know about yourself. If you can’t trust yourself, then who are you going to trust?
One April morning, Naho receives a letter from herself ten years in the future, which is pretty unbelievable, isn’t it? Imagining myself in her shoes, I can’t imagine myself trusting some letter under those circumstances. How is it remotely possible that my future self can communicate with me? But this is where the suspension of disbelief comes in or else we may as well just stop watching here. It also helps that the handwriting’s the same. More importantly, the events described in the letter actually come true. The letter describes Naho waking up late for first time in her young life (really?). The letter predicts that a transfer student by the name of Kakeru will make his appearance that day The letter tells Naho that she will be asked to pinch hit on the 20th, and she should accept it. The letter confesses that Naho will fall in love with Kakeru on that same day. And most disquieting of all, the letter reveals that ten years in the future Kakeru is no longer with them. Naturally, the last revelation is the one event that has not yet come true, but that’s because it is the pivotal event. We don’t want it to come true. The assumption here is that if Naho listens to her future self, she can prevent this tragedy from occurring.
Naho’s future self is full of regrets, and she doesn’t want her younger self to make the same mistakes she made. Typically, when we hear this same advice from our parents, it’s hard to imagine what the consequences will be. Yes, if I don’t buckle down and study, I won’t get a good job. Yes, if I don’t brush my teeth, I’ll get cavities. But it’s all hypothetical, so none of it really hits home. On the other hand, Naho knows exactly what the stakes are. Look, if I don’t listen to my future self, this guy will die. And apparently, she’s already fallen in love with him, which is a realization that she’ll carry with her even when she’s 26 and has a kid. That’s a long time to be hung up on someone. It also helps that the advice Naho gets is very specific. When our parents lecture us, they usually want us to study harder, eat better, don’t drink, so on and so forth. Naho’s letter contains two specific actions: don’t invite Kakeru out on his first day of school, and pinch-hit in that softball game. Well, that doesn’t sound so bad then, does it? But if the anime continues down this path, then it missing a great opportunity. Nobody wants to live their life on rails, but in our minds, there’s a huge trade-off. With Naho’s first letter (I assume she’ll receive more as the story unfolds) doesn’t contain any difficult trade-offs.
Naho initially doesn’t want to pinch-hit, because she is scared. The opposing pitcher looks tough. Naho also wants to abdicate responsibility; she doesn’t want the blame if she goes up there and ends up getting an out. But honestly, none of her fears are really that big of a deal. Even if Naho fails to hit a grand slam or whatever, at the end of the day, it’s still just a game. On the other hand, choosing not to pinch-hit has much dire consequences. It sets a precedent that when the going gets tough, the girl will fold under pressure. We’ve already seen from this episode that Naho stays quiet when she has good reasons to voice her displeasure. She prefers curry bread, but she doesn’t voice her preference. She received the wrong shoes for P.E., but she doesn’t want to complain. The girl is seemingly afraid to take charge of her life. So you can easily imagine that if she turns down this pinch-hitting attempt, she’ll always be timid and scared for the rest of her life. This personality deficiency can easily build up over 26 long years into a life full of regrets. It is thus difficult to imagine that this decision-making branch in her life actually carries with it any real trade-offs.
When our parents want us to do something, there’s usually a much bigger trade-off. Well, in our minds, at least. Let me give you an example of what I mean. If I spend every night studying, I won’t have a social life. I won’t get to spend as much time as I want with my friends. You get the idea. We put our immediate short-term goals over our long-term ones. This is why we rebel against our parents. Do I want to give up special moments with my friends for a job I may never even get nor want? On the other hand, there isn’t much of a trade-off in Naho’s pinch-hitting scenario. As the story unfolds, I hope our heroine come across far more difficult scenarios. I want to her disagree with her future self from time to time. Conflicts make a story far more interesting, and I hope Orange can avoid the common trap of just being an emotional story that tugs at the heartstrings. I really want it to explore the sort of difficult decision-making that teenagers have trouble navigating. It’s just the first episode, so I’m not holding anything against the story yet. I just want the anime to fully embrace its concept. In the opening, we also see her friends sending letters to their past selves. I hope that their decision-making won’t be easy either.
I do, however, have one major issue with the first episode. When the letter tells Naho not to invite Kakeru out on his first day of school, it merely says, “Seriously.” That’s not very convincing, is it? As you can imagine, Naho and her friends — well, mostly her friends — invite Kakeru to hang out with them after school. There’s no reason not to. Some letter that purports to be from the future merely says, “Seriously.” Well, that’s not going to stop me from making this seemingly benign decision to hang out with the new guy! As it turns out, Kakeru doesn’t show up to school the next day. He actually doesn’t show up for quite some time. When Naho’s friends finally get to ask him where he’s been, he claims he was just ditching school, but we can sense that this is a lie. The episode doesn’t reveal the dire consequences of inviting him out on the 6th, but if you’ve read any synopsis out there, you’ll know why the guy should’ve gone directly home instead. So this is my major issue with the episode: if 26-year-old Naho knows perfectly why they shouldn’t invite Kakeru out that day, then why didn’t she give a better reason? Why didn’t she provide a reason? Seriously. The consequences are that bad, and that’s all you write? “Seriously?” Girl, what is wrong with you? No wonder you have regrets!
The first episode sets the mood for the story going forward, and it’s a somber one. It’s really too early to say how the entire thing will turn out, but the premise seems intriguing enough. As I’ve written above, however, I just hope the story fully commits to its ideas. The animation seems decent at times, but already, we’re being bombarded with lazy still shots. Orange looks to be a slow-moving, emotional shoujo, however, so a reliance on still shots won’t be quite as damning here as it is in something like Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. I can’t speak much to the soundtrack, but I don’t particularly like the VA for Suwa. In the final seconds of the episode, you see that his future self ends up marrying Naho’s future self, but there’s no doubt in my mind that if they manage to set things “right,” the guy will lose the girl to Kakeru. C’mon, you’re not going to win with that voice. As far as the characters are concerned, the story introduces the entire cast, but so far, the spotlight is only on Naho and Kakeru to a lesser extent. Those two are the only ones to have any sort of substantive dialogue in this opening episode. I expect the rest of the group to come to the forefront as they receive their own letters from the future, though.
Alright, time for me to make a decision I’ll regret later, and go eat some cinnamon buns…