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Monday, 15 August 2016

Orange E7.

Episode 7.

For those keeping track of where we are in the manga compared to the anime, this episode takes us to the end of chapter ten of twenty-two. Clearly, at some point, parts of the manga are going to have to be skipped if it's to get the entire story done with in the remaining six episodes, but it's making fairly good progress. Good enough that I doubt there will be a second cour.

Which is great for me, because honestly, these reviews are getting a little tiresome for me. It's not that I don't enjoy the show, it's just that there's a not a lot of variety between episodes.

(It's been surprisingly difficult to keep track of where we are in the manga story without spoiling myself, but I've managed so far.)

In this week's episode, having learned of each other's letters, Suwa and Naho conspire together to celebrate Kakeru's birthday. But in the weeks afterwards, a visit to Tokyo looms, and both their letters inform them that the day afterwards, Kakeru will attempt suicide. Deciding that they must avert this at any cost, Suwa attempts to convince Kakeru to open up about his feelings. Meanwhile, after Kakeru confesses that he loves Naho, Naho must decide whether to reciprocate.

I feel like this is an expression a lot of people make at Hagita.

This episode does give us a slightly new angle, in that we're following Suwa and his letter a lot more than we're following Naho. Interestingly, the episode also frames this slightly difficult: While we usually see Naho reading an instruction and then struggling to fulfill it, with Suwa we tend to see him fulfilling the instruction, and then find out what the letter said that prompted him to do what he did.

This episode also rather starkly showed one of the bigger problems with this series, which is that Naho doesn't have much of a personality. She's well-meaning and shy, but that's pretty much it - and while she's not the only character who's flat in that way (Hagita is basically just 'a deadpan goofball,' while Ueda is just an unremitting villain), the fact that she's a viewpoint character just makes it inexcusable, and when we get a chance to step into the shoes of someone who has a bit more personality, it really shows up just how flat Naho is.

This has the knock-on effect that I don't really buy Naho and Kakeru as a couple. If anything, I buy Suwa and Kakeru as more of a couple - they're the ones with all the moments of physical affection, with the shared interests, and they have enough scenes together in which they express interest in and concern for each other that they feel more involved in each other's lives than Naho is in either of theirs.

Presented without commentary.

Which is a shame, really, because clearly there are some pretty interesting characters. Kakeru, Suwa, Azu, and Chino are all pretty interesting to watch, and that's even taking into account that Azu and Chino tend to get paired together as a double act and aren't exactly major characters.

Speaking of Chino, she gets a great moment in today's episode, where she intimidates Ueda into backing off. I kind of hope this is the last we see of Ueda - as mentioned in the last review, while her vaudeville villain antics are somewhat hilarious for how much they clash with the tone of the rest of the show, they are getting a little tiresome.

Kakeru also gets a great - if rather less triumphant and rather more quiet - moment in today's episode, courtesy of him daydreaming by a window. I'm consistently impressed with how Seiichiro Yamashita handles Kakeru's quieter, more tortured moments - he did a really good job last week, during the post-date scene, and he arguably does an even better job this week, playing Kakeru quietly considering whether to jump out of a window. His inflections on 'just kidding' are pitch perfect, and managed to immediately put me in Naho's shoes as someone concerned for his safety.

(In fairness, Kana Hanazawa also does a great job in that conversation - and we know from her other projects that she's not lacking in acting chops - but the material she's given to work with certainly isn't as good, which really is a shame.

Makoto Furukawa also does a pretty good job in this scene, and in general I've been pretty impressed with his range. While I've heard Hanazawa in things before, Furukawa and Yamashita are both pretty new to me.)

The animation in this scene is also great.

So, I did enjoy this episode. Since the future sections seem to be hinting at everyone being in on the sending-letters-back plan, I am genuinely starting to wonder if Azu, Chino, and Hagita have all received letters as well. It'd certainly explain why Azu and Chino are pushing so hard for Naho to get together with Kakeru, although Hagita doesn't seem to have done much of anything. If they did get letters, we'll probably find out within a couple of episodes, so I don't expect this to be a mystery that lasts especially long.

There's been a definite raising of stakes now too, so we are very clearly in the latter part of the story. I'll be interested to see where things go from there.

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