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orange is a slice-of-life high school drama with a time travel twist. One day, ordinary but shy high school girl Naho receives a letter–a letter from herself ten years in the future. Through its many pages, the letter details the upcoming months of Naho’s life and all the regrets Future Naho wishes to correct–especially those that lead to the untimely death of her high school crush Kakeru. The thing is, when you think about it, this situation is far darker than it seems on the surface.

The majority of the series deals with Naho and the struggles in her life that stem from her knowledge of the future. However, each episode sets aside a small bit of time to show a day in the life of Future Naho, the writer of the letter.

From what we see of the future and its static nature, it’s safe to assume we are dealing with the Dragon Ball Z style of time travel–where you actually connect to the past of a parallel universe instead of your own (thus avoiding any number of pesky paradoxes). Therefore, the letter doesn’t affect Future Naho’s own past–but it does radically affect the life of her alternate universe past self.

But here’s the thing. While she may have regrets, Future Naho actually has a pretty darn good life: She has a stable income, is happily married to one of her high school friends, Hiroto, and even has a baby with him.

While Future Naho’s letter to Past Naho may have been for the best of intentions, her meddling with the timeline all but assures that Past Naho’s life will be dramatically different from the one Future Naho remembers. Live or die, her altered relationship with Kakeru will almost certainly mean she will not end up with Hiroto–and thus never have a child with him.

By writing the letter, Future Naho has not only robbed her younger self of a happy marriage, but also negates her own child’s very existence. And what makes this especially reprehensible is that Past Naho has no choice in the matter. She has no idea what she’s losing by her actions: She thinks all she is doing is saving a friend’s life. Future Naho has basically thrown her past self under the bus to alleviate her own guilt for Kakeru’s death.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Past Naho may end up with a happy ending of her own by the time the final credits roll. But Future Naho has no way of knowing this. She has decided to throw away her past self’s guaranteed happiness (and, again, the life of her child) in a wild gamble for something better. That guilt-driven action is pretty selfish–and also really damn dark.

orange can be viewed for free and with English subtitles in the US at Crunchyroll.

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