by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Community score: 3.4
From the long summer days of the early episodes, we've moved fully into fall at this point. The passage of Azusa's birthday and beginning of the athletic festival offered plenty more opportunities for our insecure heroes to awkwardly fidget next to each other, along with more questions of what “saving Kakeru” really means. The group is almost all on the same page now, but that doesn't make handling adolescent romance any easier.
I appreciated that last week's reveal of the whole group receiving letters allowed the focus to expand this episode. This had already happened to some degree in prior episodes, as Suwa's active presence moved the narrative forward, but adding the other three non-Kakeru friends to the team meant we actually got to spend at least part of this episode in Azusa's head. And Azusa's head was, unsurprisingly, a bit more colorful of than her more somber friends.
I mentioned in last week's review how I was disappointed that the show's visual experimentation had largely dried up. This week marked a nice minor return to form, as Azusa's plan to push Naho and Kakeru together was represented through a series of childish drawings. Azusa is simultaneously more childlike in affectation and more mature in perspective than Naho; she's goofy, but she also has a much stronger and more confident grasp on her own identity. It's nice to see that Orange's cast is strong enough that any one member can carry a focus sequence.
I also really liked the scene later on, when Azusa's meddling led to Naho and Kakeru sharing an intimate moment out in the rain. Orange's character art has always been pretty stiff, but there were some lovely single shots in this sequence, and the direction was good at conveying their closeness through angled perspective shots and extreme closeups. Art direction aside, I also appreciated how this sequence illustrated the difference in perspectives between the two.
It's obvious that Naho and Kakeru like each other, but their feelings and the larger context of those feelings are quite different. While Kakeru is smitten with Naho, he's also very cautious about pursuing her, because his harsh life has led him to not trust in stability. While he likes her and probably has the natural confidence to pursue her otherwise, he also has strict personal guidelines about what level of commitment might make him uncomfortable. By contrast, Naho actively does want to pursue a relationship with Kakeru, but she's far more shy about expressing herself. So their relationship is a slow and awkward negotiation, with Kakeru often taking the ultimate steps forward in spite of being less committed to an eventual romantic relationship.
This episode's final treat came in the festival segment, as Kakeru's feelings about his mother ultimately drained the color from everything but his red hair band. It was a nice expression of isolation that was unfortunately somewhat undercut by the scene's relentlessly off-model characters. It's something I've come to expect in a general sense, but it seemed like the festival's larger crowd scenes were a tipping point for the production, where even characters that were actively talking would frequently have terribly drawn faces. Orange is definitely struggling to cross that finish line.
But that was really just one more expression of preexisting problems. Overall, this was a fine episode of Orange that expanded the cast's participation in a natural way while still offering strong moments of emotional negotiation between Naho and Kakeru. The show's production may be actively collapsing, but the story will hopefully carry us through.
Orange is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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