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Have you ever picked up a book expecting it to be average and predictable, but instead being completely blown away by how amazing it is? Well, that is how I became acquainted with Ichigo Takano's Orange.

I picked up this series thinking it would contain all the usual shoujo manga tropes: a headstrong but awkward heroine, the cool and handsome love interest with a mysterious past. Instead, I discovered a heartwarming story that tackles very heavy emotional issues in an earnest and refreshing way.

Trigger Warnings: there are discussions (but no depiction) of depression and suicide in this series. 


About the Book:
Orange by Ichigo Takano
Buy it on: Barnes & Noble, Amazon (US)Amazon Kindle & Comixology, Book Depository
Genre: Graphic Novel, Manga, Shoujo, Fantasy, Slice of Life

"On the day that Naho begins 11th grade, she receives a letter from herself ten years in the future. At first, she writes it off as a prank, but as the letter's predictions come true one by one, Naho realizes that the letter might be the real deal. Her future self tells Naho that a new transfer student, a boy named Kakeru, will soon join her class. The letter begs Naho to watch over him, saying that only Naho can save Kakeru from a terrible future. Who is this mystery boy, and can Naho save him from his destiny?"






Story:

Here's the thing about Orange, it uses Japanese manga tropes and archetypes as a foundation to tell its story without being restrained by them. Naho is shy, timid, and constantly second guesses herself. However, she's proactive and doesn't let herself get pushed around. Kakeru is observant, quiet, and also unsure of himself, but he displays a vulnerability that is hard to find in most love interests in Japanese manga.

The rest of the cast also starts off as common character archetypes; we have the cheerful jock, the serious glasses-wearing classmate, the energetic female best friend, and the cool and mature female friend, but they all become something more. It's these characters and their relationships with each other that really shine and it's so satisfying to them grow and mature throughout the series. 
"The orange was sweet yet sour. The taste of sorrow."
As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, it's refreshing to see characters who go through similar experiences be handled with such nuance and understanding. One of my favorite scenes in the entire series involves two of the characters asking their best friend if they'd ever thought about suicide. It was such a raw and painful scene yet so wonderfully written. It's a great example of how to perfectly craft an emotionally intense scene.

The fantasy aspect of the series, although very minimal, added the right amount of drama without detracting from the main storyline or overshadow the characters. I greatly enjoyed the parallels between the teenaged cast and their adult selves.

Art:

I've always been fond of Takano's style. It's a bit stylized, but not overly so. The eyes aren't comically huge, the lips are defined, and the characters' proportions are lifelike. The backgrounds are also quite detailed and are based on actual locations from the author's home city of Matsumoto, Japan. All of these elements work together to make the story feel more personable and real.


Who Should Read This:

Those who love contemporary character-driven stories with a touch of fantasy should definitely pick up Orange! The way it handles intense topics like depression and suicide and makes it accessible to a younger audience really made this series as one of my favorite graphic novels of all time. I seriously can't recommend this series enough!


Have a happy Saturday!

3 comments

  1. This sounds really great!

    I've never been able to get into manga, but am starting to think that maybe I'm just picking up the wrong things. Would really like to give this a try!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! It really is a good starting point!

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