By Ichigo Takano. Released in Japan by Shueisha and then Futabasha, serialized in the magazines Bessatsu Margaret and Manga Action. Released in North America by Seven Seas.
I always feel a certain need to geek out when reviewing titles like these, such as explaining that it’s not a typo in the header, orange really is meant to be spelled with a small O. Or talking about the odd move from a shoujo magazine (Betsuma) to a seinen one (Manga Action) when the author switched publishers. Or that the complete series is out digitally via Crunchyroll (though I haven’t spoiled myself). But honestly, there’s enough to talk about in this title so that I don’t need to go into that at all. (cough) This is three volumes in one, and tells us the bittersweet story of a group of friends, struck by a tragedy from their youth, who unite in order to stop it happening. It’s a chunky book, but is absolutely worth the time.
orange, for the most part, reads like a shoujo romance, as you’d expect for a series begin in Betsuma. Naho, our heroine is cute but shy, and Kakeru is cute but troubled, in the best manga tradition. There’s a guy with an obvious crush who suppresses it in order to support his crush’s true love, and those two girls who exist to contrast with the heroine; one spunky, one grumpy. It honestly reads a lot like Kimi ni Todoke in many ways, but there’s a twist: Naho has a letter from herself ten years in the future, telling her she has to prevent a tragedy; the fact that Kakeru killed himself when he was just seventeen. It’s the science-fiction premise that’s what really drives this book.
The doubts and self-awareness that comes from teenage love meshes well with the doubts and self-awareness that comes from changing the timeline. It’s all the more poignant when we see flashes forward to the future, the one without Kakeru, and see that Naho and Suwa are married with a child. It weighs so heavily on the two of them that they’re willing to sacrifice everything in order to save their friend. Of course, it’s not all angsty drama, there’s a lot of fluffy humor and fun here. Everyone’s basically a good kid. The issue is Kakeru has a huge amount of stress in his life – he’s moved from the city, his mother just killed herself and he takes the blame for it, and of course he’s also falling for Naho, even as he tries dating someone else.
We get the first three volumes here, and by the end you realize that Naho is not the only one who got a letter from her future self. This of course makes you want to go back and reread what you’d just seen, to see if it’s now more obvious that everyone was acting based off of future knowledge. And there still remain the question of whether or not they’ll succeed – these sorts of series can also be tragic, and it would not surprise me if things ended with Kakeru dying in any case. I certainly hope not, though, as I want to see everyone here happy. In the meantime, fans of shoujo should absolutely make orange a must buy.