Orange is a seven-volume manga series that focuses on the lives of a group of friends reuniting 10 years after graduation from their rural high school. The friends have all gone on to have fulfilling lives, but all share the same missing element: Kakeru. Kakeru never made it to graduation. He was struck by a truck one day while biking and killed. The friends later realize that it was suicide. Naho, Suwa, Chino, Hagita, and Azusa despite being close to Kakeru missed all the warning signs that he was in a spiraling depression. The regret they feel at his passing is only compounded by the frustration that they might have been able to do something and didn’t.
The story in Orange, though it has some fantastical elements, does an excellent job of depicting depression, suicide, and the effects it has on everyone it touches. We wholeheartedly think this manga and its cleaver approach to discussing such a sensitive and important topic should be in every classroom, and here are 13 reasons why.
- 6,200--let that sink in--6,200 young adults between the age of 15-24 died in 2017 intentionally by their own hand according to the Centers for Disease Control. The numbers, though incomplete, have only risen in the past few years.
- Psychiatric disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse aren’t just adult diseases and we see evidence of this in Kakeru.
- Kakeru’s deck is stacked against him considering his mother’s struggle with depression. The fact is that families are complicated; a family history of depression or suicide only increases the chance.
- The loss of a parent due to death or divorce is another risk factor. Kakeru’s parents aren’t together and his mother’s suicide leaves him wracked with guilt.
- The world isn’t always kind; physical and sexual abuse happens and is often hidden.
- Kids can be cruel to each other. We find in the soccer club at his old school, Kakeru was bullied by his seniors. The social isolation that can be caused by or attract bullying is a huge risk factor related to suicide.
- Kakeru leaves a note. A person considering suicide or who has a death wish (not caring if they live or die and wandering down the road of risky behavior) typically leaves a note.
- Talking about killing yourself is a warning sign that should be taken seriously. Kakeru confesses that he considers killing himself every day in the wake of his mother’s death. Kakeru even says . . ."People often say, "A lot of people would be sad if you died!". But you don't know that for sure unless you die. "Even if the going is tough now, hang in there and it'll get better." Easy for you to say. Hanging in there... living... is the toughest thing there is!"
- Kakeru believes his feelings are a burden to others. He feels he needs to put on a façade and many people suffering from depression do just that. Those suffering from depression are often experts in hiding it and putting on a happy face.
- A suicide attempt isn’t a cry for attention it is a cry for help. Kakeru tried to commit suicide once by trying to hang himself, but he survived.
~What Naho, Suwa, Chino, Hagita, Azusa, and Rio did made a difference- they showed Kakeru he was accepted, supported, and loved. ~
The 11th reason is the focus the series has on Identification and intervention when it comes to mental health. We witness his friends begin to watch his behavior and wonder if something is wrong. We see them wrestle with the decision of whether to confront him or keep quiet. Suwa and Naho eventually confront him and that is a turning point in Kakeru’s awareness of his own mental state.
We have a 12th reason by the way Kakeru is motivated to keep pushing forward by his friends. The friends from the alternate timeline who hadn’t been warned of Kakeru’s fragile nature never celebrated Kakeru's 18th birthday so they made a promise to celebrate it next year. He had killed himself before they got the chance. Kakeru has friends and people who care for him. A solid network of friends and family is a big factor in reducing the risk of depression devolving into suicidal tendencies. He isn’t attacked or isolated for being depressed. He is included by the people around him. His friends don’t cop-out of the hard part- engagement and support- and just go the easy way of “giving him space.” Kakeru’s friends instead double down their effort to “save” Kakeru. We even hear them tell him during field day "Don't lose! Remember the deal! We'll always be together! Even ten years from now... we'll be waiting for you!"
The final and thirteenth reason is we get to see both routes, the "what if’s" of Kakeru's decision. In the alternative future, Naho, Suwa, Chino, Hagita, Azusa and Rio make a promise to Kakeru to go and watch the cherry blossoms on Mount Kobo. They were going to watch the sunset, with the orange-tinted sky. We believe that is why the story is called "Orange".
We see the emotional scars he left on his friends when he succeeds in killing himself. We see that you can walk back from the edge and it's hard, but with the support, it can be done.
We even get a completely different perspective on the events an anime movie titled Orange: Future came out in 2016. The film followed the events from Suwa’s viewpoint and in this writer’s opinion Suwa may be the best and most conflicted person in the whole story. The film will not just retell the story from Suwa’s point of view but has a whole new story that takes place after the manga and anime series ends.
You could call the cases of teen suicide an epidemic. We at Honey’s Anime are NOT professional health care workers or counselors. We are however human, even if we are otaku. We have ears and hearts and are ready to listen. We also know when we are in over our heads and need to have you talk to an expert. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free number, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), provides 24/7 confidential support for people in distress, as well as prevention and crisis resources. We otaku also want to help take care of our own. Anime For Humanity is a non-profit charity dedicated to using anime, cosplay, and video games as a medium to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health. Anime For Humanity attends conventions all over the nation to meet people face-to-face, start conversations that spark change, and hand out resources to anyone looking for support and community.
We are going to circle back to that initial U.S. number: 6,200. The number in Japan for the same demographic is 599. We want this manga in the classroom because it makes the topic more approachable to teens and preteens. We know one of the keys to coping with depression is to identify it, not only in ourselves but in others. We need not only teens to come forward and ask for help but we also need their friends to recognize the signs of crisis and ask for the help of a trusted adult. We need this manga in the classroom to help reduce the stigma associated with mental health, especially in young men who are more likely to succeed when they choose to kill themselves. We need this manga in the classroom to start a conversation about mental health. We need this manga in the classroom to help save lives.