October 2019, Orange Complete Series feature image

Review: Orange Complete Series (Blu-Ray)

Orange Complete Series promises shoujo high school melodrama in the spirit of a classic do-over trope. While the experience that followed certainly adhered to this in part, the real strength behind this anime series lies elsewhere.

Orange Complete Series centres its story around Naho Takamiya, a high schooler living in Matsumoto who receives a letter in the post from herself 10 years into the future. The letter goes to great lengths to warn her of what’s to come and encourage her to live a life in which she’ll have no regrets, and it all starts with the arrival of bishi-bishi Kakeru Naruse who has recently transferred from Tokyo’s concrete jungle. Naho’s letters cryptically emphasise that failing to act now will have huge consequences for herself as well as Kakeru.

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The do-over thing is a reasonably familiar trope, but one that’s well executed in Orange Complete Series’ case. I’ll admit upfront that I’m a big fan of shoujo series’ (and not just the magic girl stuff!), so I was pretty excited to check this out.

As expected we have bishi boys, girly stuff, melodrama, will-they-or-won’t-they, arguments and confrontations, the whole slew. The use of the letters as a tool to drive actions in the episodes and push Naho, who’s normally stubbornly independent but also quite timid, into challenging her behaviour, actions and decisions comes off well. The surrounding mix of characters are a familiar mix of players but do a good job in supporting Naho and Kakeru who are the series’ leads.

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The focus in Orange Complete Series is also really important to take a deeper look at. On the surface it seems to be pushing a shoujo slice of life teen drama kind of angle through a mix of typical interplay between the cast with the series seemingly focused on the use of the letters from the future and Naho’s do-over motif to tell its story. This is supported by the parallel story running ahead that follows the group of friends meeting 10 years into the future to discuss their regrets from their high school years.

But as the show unfolds, it makes some brave steps into pivoting the narrative into one whose focus becomes concerned with Kakeru’s struggle with depression. What’s refreshing is Orange’s ability to juggle the need to keep an engaging shoujo narrative bubbling along while exploring the effects of mental health on young people and those who surround them. There’s a lot to be said for how Orange explores these issues, but covering them off as part of this review wouldn’t do it justice so keep your eyes out for a companion piece later on.

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The result is a fantastic shoujo teen drama with some solid production values. The last time I really enjoyed a show like this was Blue Spring Ride which I still think is a tremendous series, though very different in tone and subject matter compared to Orange. It would be great to see the industry commit to more stories like this one and kudos to Madman for bringing this out locally.

The Blu-Ray release for Orange Complete Series is solid. We have the series spread across 2 discs so the encoding and presentation is great. It’s a bilingual release as well, but as I only watched it in Japanese I can’t comment on how the dub holds up. Extras are pragmatic and include textless ops and eds, the latter of which is a nice touch as there’s a few of them throughout the series. There’s also the Japanese trailers in addition to some other general anime trailers as well.

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Orange Complete Series can make for heavy viewing at times, but there’s plenty there to string you along. Should you be a fan of seinen or shoujo stories though, there’s an awful lot to recommend here. There’s more worth saying about this series too, but to give it the space it needs to breathe we’ll have to return to that later. In the meantime, you should check out Orange Complete Series – it’s a fantastic series that I believe does a great job in delivering some welcomed depth to the teen anime drama paradigm.

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A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.