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Book Review: Orange

April 22, 2017

Orange: The Complete Collection 1orange: The Complete Collection 2Orange: The Complete Collection Vol 1 & Vol 2

by Ichiguro Takano
Seven Seas Entertainment Inc
Library Books

I’m going to review both Orange Volume 1 and 2 as one, because the story continues across the two volumes. I essentially read them as one, pausing just long enough for the hold on the second volume to come into the library.
When Naho is in high school, she gets a letter that claims to come from herself ten years in the future… It lists the events that happen in her day, and urges her to change some of them so that she won’t have regrets in the future. At first, she thinks it’s a prank, but the letter predicts events so exactly that she starts to believe.

The advice in the letter hinges on preventing the death of a newcomer to the school and to her group of friends, Kakeru, who has wrestled with depression and guilt, after his mother took her own life. The details and advice about small things like going for snacks, joining the soccer team, or the school field day, have the added weight of trying to help Kakeru have reasons to heal, maybe to move towards finding ways to be happy. So, in some scenes, it’s new friends hanging out after school, razzing each other at the field day, giddy with first crushes. But then, in some scenes, it’s grappling with some heavy themes and raw emotions. There are also flash-forwards to the high school friends as grownups, who have come together to reminisce, wishing Kakeru was still with them.

It’s an engrossing story, with characters who have a lot going on. I got hooked on just following the characters through their friendships, through their choices. Naho, intense and fiercely loyal, but sometimes stuck in her own head or shy and unsure of herself. Bubbly Azu who has a keen grasp of social dynamics. Kakeru, trying to fit in, and wrestling with tough emotions that make him want to push everyone away. Suwa, who seems like a blustering jock and kind of a smartass, but cares deeply. (Also, although the story from page one pretty keenly sets up Kakeru and Naho, I think it could also have easily set up Suwa and Kakeru pretty cleanly. I ship it.)

I’m ordinarily not an avid reader of YA romances, though the time-travel, change-the-past element made it more my style. But the way the characters engaged with each other, and the depth of feelings got me so hooked I wasn’t sure I even needed the time travel angle to be invested.

Also: it’s a Manga.

Panel from the manga Orange, Letter 3, Panel 44, in which a character drinks orange juice and contemplates love

As in, a story told entirely as a graphic novel. And originally told in Japanese. Reprinted in English, but with the panels and story progressing right to left. When I was reading Volume 1 in the break room, a coworker saw where my bookmark was, and commented “so you’re just starting this?” not realizing that I was reading in reverse and almost done.

Side note: reading a story like Orange, where the point is the emotions of trying to have friendship strong enough to change the future… is kind of massively awkward to read in a staff lunchroom. It’s the kind of story I needed a hug after finishing. And it’s just pure luck (and knowing there was a second volume) that kept me from getting weepy.

It was my first time reading in a new-to-me format. It took me a couple of weeks, and several tries to get into the first installment of Orange. I kept having to remind myself to slow down, to turn pages what felt like backwards. Even tracking individual conversations in individual comic panels felt all weird and backwards, because the reading sequence goes in reverse.

But man, when I was hooked, I was hooked.

Now that I’ve zoomed through reading both volumes (I meant to get cleaning done, really I did, but like I said, hooked) I’m curious to see what the reading experience would be like if I flipped it over, or how individual pages would fare, if read in my accustomed/default direction of text. Especially given the way the future and the past are so ingrained in the way the story plays out.

Will I go on to read other manga? I’m not sure. I’ve picked up and put down a couple, in my quest to make sure I read manga. I’ve wanted to make sure I read what the teens in the library love. I’m invested in the characters, and the emotions that went on here, so I would be open to a story that had some emotional and character complexity. Any suggestions?

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