A lot of people like to condemn Naruto and I’ve never understood the appeal, although its overwhelming popularity and ubiquitous presence in anime fandom at large does make it an easy target. There’s something relatable about Naruto Uzumaki’s dorky nature which translates surprisingly earnestly within the series itself.
I personally enjoyed my time in the Naruto fandom. When I became bored with the pace of the anime, I turned to fanfiction. Time passed, I became interested in other types of anime, and whenever I thought back to Naruto, I checked in with what happened in the manga, never really caring about spoilers since I was long past wanting to watch or read it immediately.
Then a friend told me that Masashi Kishimoto had begun writing a sequel: Boruto. She also told me that it was hilarious.
Robot high-school student Nano Shinonome is late for school. She calls back into her house — a small, older unit close to the train overpass — not to a parent but to her young professor before dashing out the door. Running, she checks the small digital watch set in her forearm. It’s 7:50 a.m.. “Maybe if I run, I’ll just barely make it,” she says.
As she nears the first intersection, a blond boy with headphones appears. He hums along to his music while walking. Nano begins flailing her arms like pinwheels in an attempt to stop suddenly. “Watch out!” she yells. It’s too late. The collision causes an explosion felt all over town. A few moments later, debris hits fellow high-school student Yuuko Aioi.
“Anytime I need to see your face I just close my eyes
And I am taken to a place
Where your crystal minds and magenta feelings
Take up shelter in the base of my spine
Sweet like a chica cherry cola”
–I Want You, Savage Garden
This song takes me back. I just close my eyes and I am taken to place where I’m standing against the gymnasium wall at a middle school dance while one friend is crying in the bathroom and the other is trying to hook me up with my science lab partner, “because we both have glasses.”
When the Orange manga was first recommended to me, I was hesitant. I’ve stayed away from shoujo manga and anime due to my growing personal frustration with it. The insipid storytelling based on years upon years of tropes coupled with often insidious messages for young women found in most shoujo romances is still far more difficult for me to ignore than routine sexual fanservice aimed at men. I approached Orange with trepidation, but came away rewarded with a strong story that skirts around these expectations by focusing primarily on regret and the premature loss of a friend.
Orange is less about romance — despite the ever-present tropes — and more about dealing with the death of a loved one.
Due to the well-worn nature of its subject matter, the second episode of Orange is grating, especially to those who have seen a large amount of shoujo anime — perhaps only one was enough, considering that gifting food to a romantic interest is so common of a cliché that it appears in nearly every shoujo romance. Throughout the majority of Episode 2, I wanted to shake Naho Takamiya by the shoulders and yell at her to give Kakeru Naruse the lunch she prepared.
In fact, Orange could easily fall into the trap of becoming just another shoujo series — and there are a few more clichés to come — although I have confidence that it won’t for two major reasons. One is a source material spoiler from the original manga around which I’ll try to tread lightly. The other is the deft visual touch of director Hiroshi Hamasaki.