Depression is an issue that often gets swept under the rug in most anime. While there are certainly characters who get depressed in other series, you know how the drill works. They get sad and mopey for a while until they have some big revelation about their life, pull themselves together, and come back into the story as a stronger person than they were before. Orange is different, though: it actually shows how, just because someone finds some purpose, makes it through another day, or gets the girl, their problems aren’t actually over yet. You may be fine one day, only to slink further down into despair the next.
So, we thought here at Honey’s Anime we might list off some of the saddest characters found in Orange. While not all of these characters are necessarily depressed, they have some element of tragedy in their lives that has been affected by the depression that surrounds them. Though the size of the cast is not exactly big (several of the characters on this list do not even have official names), the implications for the presence and stories of these characters and how they are affected by depression is huge. Just be wary: this article is assuming you’ve seen Orange, so there will be SPOILERS.
10. Chino Takako
There’s not really a lot that seems wrong with Takako’s life. She’s got a tight-knit group of friends that she’d do anything for. She frequently stands up for Naho, even when she’s getting bullied by people older than either of them. There’s nothing in the series that really suggests her life went that poorly, outside of some regret that she couldn’t do more to save Kakeru. Her future self doesn’t seem to be too poorly off either. So then why is she on this list?
Consider this: it’s mentioned in the series that the clique she formed with her friends, one that was so close that she’d even threaten to punch out someone who was bullying Naho and risk suspension, slowly drifts apart. Takako is a girl who so desperately wants to keep and defend what she has that, in the end, Kakeru’s suicide ends up splitting her off from the people she holds dear. Maybe she was able to work through it, but saving Kakeru means to save the main support group she has in life.
9. Ueda Rio
Ueda is the closest the series gets to a villain character, which does make her somewhat difficult to be sympathetic towards. For example when Kakeru breaks up with her, she ends up taking out most of her aggression on our hero, Naho. She’s clearly jealous that Naho gets to have what she can’t. After all, she was voted “Miss Azalea”! She’s the prettiest girl in school! By her logic, she’s more than justified in twisting Naho’s arm a little bit and especially in swiping that annoying hair pin she’s always clinging to.
But, well, that’s what you should keep in mind about Ueda. She’s something of a victim here herself. She used to live in Tokyo, the big city, like Kakeru did. Kakeru is perhaps the only person in the school who could even begin to understand her sudden frustrations with being sent out to the boonies just because her parents had to move. Maybe she handles her heartbreak poorly, but at the very least, no one seems to get her, and it continues to eat at her more and more until she begins to snap.
8. Murasaka Azusa
Azusa’s a pretty bubbly girl, to be honest. She has loads of fun picking on Hagita, pushing Naho to buy short-shorts and getting a rise out of her embarrassment, and playing matchmaker for her friends. It doesn’t seem like there is much that gets Azusa down. Maybe she doesn’t do terribly well in school, but she does enough to get by. Much like Takako, she doesn’t really come off as someone who’s in desperate need of help.
Well, she does have two major issues in her life. First, her dream is to be a gold digger as an adult, as revealed in the time capsule the group digs up towards the beginning of the series. In spite of how she presents herself, Azusa is a girl who does not have a lot of confidence in herself or her ability to do much for anyone. This reflects in her second major issue, which is that she never really does get Hagita out of his shell. The two clearly have feelings for one another, but Azusa apparently doesn’t think enough of herself to really do more than just tease him and drive him further away from her. As far as we’re aware, the two never really make that effort for the relationship that we’re rooting for.
7. Hagita Saku
The goofball of the group, Hagita doesn’t seem to have many cares in the world. He’s not particularly athletic, and even gets last place in the “Mr. Azalea” contest at his high school, with only Azusa giving him the singular vote. However, even he seems to be aware of his strange position, and even gets annoyed with Azusa for voting for him in the pageant, wanting to make a joke out of it and getting more frustrated with her spoiling his gag. While he laughs about it, this actually reflects some very low self-esteem.
Hagita ends up as something of a foil to Kakeru. While the latter wants to bottle up his problems but is forced into coming clean about his issues to Suwa and Naho, Hagita reflects the attitude of mental wellness issues that Kakeru is afraid of dealing with. Hagita treats his own problems as something to be laughed at, and just continues to build more and more insecurity about himself and his standing. Azusa flirts openly with him, and even outright states she likes him at one point, but he can’t see anything she says about him as more than just a joke. He pushes away a healthy relationship simply because he can’t see himself as anything but the clown.
6. Naho and Suwa’s child
The baby does not really get a lot of development in the series, being, well, a baby. It does normal baby things, like grab at things they shouldn’t, cry when said things are taken away from them, and sleep in their parents’ arms. Heck, the baby doesn’t even get a gender mentioned in the series, with everyone referring to it as “the child” or “the baby”. We don’t really know a lot about their parents’ love life barring how Suwa and Naho got together on New Year’s Day.
That’s not why their child is on this list, however. It can’t even comprehend that, just perhaps, its parents silently wish that it had never been born. Of course, not really, as Naho and Suwa do genuinely seem to love and care for one another and their new bundle of joy. However, Suwa realizes that his family perhaps wouldn’t exist if not due to the death of his best friend, Kakeru, and is even willing to sacrifice the chance for his child to be born in another world just to make right by his own regrets. There’s a quiet tragedy knowing that, had Kakeru survived, Naho and Suwa’s child may have never lived in the first place.
5. Takamiya Naho
Naho is a frustratingly passive girl. She’s so obsessed with maintaining the status quo and not inconveniencing anyone that she even refuses to tell anyone what she wants to drink from the vending machine. Even when she knows what will happen in the future, she struggles to take any meaningful action to avoid it, whether it’s telling Kakeru to his face she doesn’t want him to date Ueda or making sure he doesn’t hang out with them on the day of the opening ceremony.
What’s so pitiable about Naho is the realization that, just because we may know the future, it doesn’t mean we as people are capable of doing what we want to. Naho so desperately wants to save Kakeru from his pain and grief, but she feels bound by her own personality to take the actions necessary to do so. Even when she finally is able to outright confess her love to him, she can’t even be sure it’ll do anything to curb his suicidal impulses. She constantly has to fight her own uncertainty, despite being quite comfortable as she is.
4. Suwa Hiroto
Suwa is just about the ultimate bro. Despite that, he knows that he has a real shot with Naho, he gives that all up for his best friend, Kakeru, not wanting to get in the way of anything that could affect his mental health. He even goes as far as refusing to tell Naho about the timeline where the two of them get together, knowing even that could risk both Naho and Kakeru to feel guilty about how Suwa’s sacrificing his future for the two of them.
Like many of the other characters, there’s a silent suffering to Suwa. You can always see just that momentarily twinge of self-doubt whenever Kakeru comes to talk to him about what he should do with Naho. And yet, he pushes it down, knowing what’s in store for Kakeru if he even tries to make a single move on her. He understands that his own happiness has to be at the expense of Kakeru, and Suwa simply won’t allow himself to live like that.
3. Naruse Kakeru’s Mother
Throughout Orange, we are led to believe that Kakeru’s mother was emotionally unstable, and that was all there was to it. Just that, one day, in a fit, she decided to kill herself because Kakeru decided to be selfish for once in his life and not escort her to the hospital. She wouldn’t consult with him on any matter, whether it was why they were moving, or why she didn’t want Kakeru to join anymore clubs. All she manages to do with her death is force Kakeru into feeling even more responsible for her.
Mother Naruse represents the core conflict of the series. As we discover later on, she did have perfectly valid reasons for her actions. Her husband was abusive and she needed to get Kakeru away from that without scaring him. Kakeru suffered through bullying issues in his school clubs so she wanted to keep him away from that life. She was a mother who was determined to do everything she could for her son, and felt so guilty about everything she put him through that she felt like leaving this world was, while misguided, the best thing she could do for her son. She’s someone who so desperately wants to do right by everyone that she undervalues the importance of her own life.
2. Naruse Kakeru’s Grandmother
We don’t know much about Kakeru’s grandmother. All we know is that she lives in Matsumoto, and she currently takes care of Kakeru on her lonesome. We get one or two other tidbits, like that she’s starting to get up in her years and ends up getting sent to the hospital due to a cold on Christmas Eve. Truth be told, outside of telling the main cast the truth about Kakeru’s death and becoming a source of conflict for Kakeru, she’s not a terribly important character.
Yet, throughout the course of this series, she has to live through the suicide of her grandson and live with the burden that there was nothing she could do to stop him. Heck, her catching ill was what caused the rift between Kakeru and his friends, and it’s not like that’s her fault to begin with. And, even though we don’t know for sure what side of the family she is on, she either raised a son who would go on to be abusive to his own family, or she had to live through the tragic suicide of her own daughter as well. She is a slave to the force of nature, and, unlike any of the other characters in the series, there’s nothing she can do to fight that.
1. Naruse Kakeru
So upon initial impression, you might think Kakeru is a pretty easy going guy without a whole lot on his plate. He’s a bit distant from everyone and seems not to want to get into details about his life, but at the same time, he does seem to want to help out his friends. He’s one of the only people who can get Naho to break out of her shell and actually express herself for once in her life. Suwa depends on him during soccer matches, as he’s one of the only people who can actually receive his passes. And, heck, he’s one of the only people who’ll genuinely laugh at Hagita’s dumb jokes. You might forget about it while watching, but Kakeru becomes something of the heart for the group.
That’s why every single aspect of his personal life hits you like a punch to the gut. Maybe with how unstable his mother was, she was destined to kill herself regardless, but there’s no arguing that he did serve as something of a trigger for her death when she did. And, hey, while he loves the soccer club, he’s got some apprehensions about getting too attached to it, considering his prior bullying issues at his past school due to his raw talent.
Kakeru is just the kind of guy who wants so desperately to be needed, but also feels like his presence is going to hurt people more. Both he and Naho love each other deeply, yet he knows in his heart that he’s on the same self-destructive path as his mother and doesn’t want to get Naho wrapped up in that. He can only find some small comfort in his group of friends, but he won’t speak up about his own problems, as he fears that it’ll only ruin the balance. Last time he tried talking about his problems with his friends from the city, he only got laughed at. And that’s what’s truly sad: Kakeru truly does want help, but every step of the way he’s shot down and only pushed deeper into depression.
Maybe Orange didn’t set the world on fire, but hopefully, if you are suffering from mental health issues, the series at least gave you some direction with how to approach the matter. Orange shows us that, try as we might, it’s okay to be selfish sometimes and ask for a little help from people we care about, even if we’re afraid of the answer.
But, of course, this is still a list! If you have some suggestions about the ordering or reasoning, please, comment below! We hope to hear from you!