After a meet up to celebrate the life of their friend, Kakeru Naruse, Naho Takamiya decides to write a letter to her former self in hopes of reversing the tragic suicide that would change the lives of her and her friends.
Much like 13 Reasons, Orange deals with the topics of teen suicide, budding teenage romance and friendship. Naho Takamiya struggles with feelings for Kakeru as well as how to help him when it becomes obvious that something is wrong. She is very much the Clay of the series, unsure at times of how her feelings play into her friendship with Kakeru. Orange illustrates how difficult it can be to help someone who is trying to come across as if nothing is wrong. Elements of depression and guilt round out the deep relationships and motivations of this intimate group of friends.
Why You Should Give It A Chance:
While Orange definitely has a similar subject matter and tone to 13 Reasons, there are a few things that set it apart and make it it's own unique experience. A sci-fi element sounds strange in an anime so heavily focused on depression and mental health. Still, I did manage to get one of my non-anime watching friends to check it out simply based on the idea that it was similar to 13 Reasons and she was pleasantly surprised by how much she liked it. (She binge watched it in two days)
Orange has a strong theme of guilt and the characters are often driven by the idea of what cues they missed and what they could've done differently to help their friend. Naho is as skeptical as anyone when she receives letters from her "future" self, but she soon realizes there might actually be some truth behind the words in the letter. The futuristic element adds a whole new layer of depth, as the viewer sees not only what has to change in the past, but what these characters are giving up in the future to save the life of their friend.
The cast of friends and side characters are also an incredibly memorable part of this anime. Along with being crazy loyal, they don't come across as stock characters--there for only classic comic relief or as the generic best friends. Each has a role to play, and to this day, all I can say is that Suwa might just be one of the best anime friends of all time. Much like Jeff in 13 Reasons, Suwa deserved so much better.
Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day
A group of childhood friends drift apart after one of them dies in a tragic accident. Years later, Jinta Yadomi, the leader of the group with a once promising future, has become a depressed, withdrawn shell of his former self. In a surprising, supernatural twist, the ghost of his old friend Menma, appears to him asking him to help her grant her wish so that she can move on to the afterlife. The problem is, granting the wish requires the help of all of their old friends, and not only has Jinta not talked to his friends in years, he's the only one who can see Menma's ghost at all.
Much like 13 Reasons, Anohana deals with the aftermath of the death of a friend. Jinta's demeanor will definitely give you Clay vibes, as his emotions and struggle to find move on from what are painfully easy to relate to.
Anohana offers a solid cast of side characters, not all of whom are kind or supportive. Some are rough around the edges, weird, or even downright cruel at times. Like everyone who was featured on Hannah Baker's tapes, everyone in Anohana has a different way of dealing with their grief as well as some surprising backstories. From parents to friends, there is no shortage of character development and growth as you watch these people come to terms with a death that's been haunting them for years.
Why You Should Give It A Chance:
While Anohana doesn't deal with suicide, premature death is just as hard regardless. Honestly though, this anime left me screwed up and thinking about it for several days after I finished it. It has an interesting supernatural element to it with Menma's ghost as a main character in the anime. Her relationship with Jinta will seem reminiscent of Clay and Hannah's, as there is obviously a strong connection there.
What sets Anohana apart though, is the sense of closure that comes alone with watching the series. It's obvious these characters are hurting and have been for a while, but it's almost worse watching them get over that pain. Anohana offers a raw look into depression, unresolved issues, and growing up. There is no shortage of emotion in this anime and in just 13 episodes, I found myself questioning how I viewed grief and death entirely. If you're looking for an emotional roller coaster drama, this is definitely one to add to your list.
What other anime would you suggest?