I’ve recently watched an anime called Orange (well, I say recently, but really, I watched it about a month ago) and I don’t think I’ve ever related to a character more than Nanase Kakeru, the main character, or the character everyone is trying to ‘save’.
Warning: Spoilers ahead
To give a bit of backstory, Orange is an anime (and manga) about a girl named Naho, who receives a letter from her future self. In this letter, her future self outlines everything she regrets and how she wants her current self to fix it, and one of her biggest regrets was not being able to save Kakeru.
It is later revealed that her group of friends – Takako, Azusa, Hagita and Suwa – also received similar letters as that of Naho from their respective future selves, all with a similar message: to save their best friend, Kakeru, who killed himself because of the immense sense of loss, grief and regret that’s gnawing him, and that he cannot escape.
I think this, along with Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April) and 3-gatsu no Lion (March Comes in Like a Lion), is one of the most real depictions of depression in media.
The feeling of depression, of how someone suffering from it hides depression, and from how the people around them react to someone asking for help, are all accurate depictions that I can relate to and/or have experienced personally.
Kakeru does a great job of hiding how he feels. His mother commits suicide and he is shouldering all the blame because he skipped out on accompanying his mother to the hospital to hang out with Naho and friends. He falls into depression and feels like his life is worthless, and that he is worthless, and yet, he smiles in front of his friends, as if he’s the happiest person in the world.
He thinks about how much he wants to die, and how he might be better off dead, thinking that no one could possibly care for him, how life is like a war that he can’t possibly win. He thinks about how much he hates himself, how he can’t forgive himself for the things he’s done, how he can’t stand himself. He puts on a mask in front of the people he cares about, because he’s afraid of hurting them, but behind closed doors, when his mask is off, the thoughts come haunting him to no end.
He tries to reach out to his friends, but they laugh him off, saying that he’s joking, and he laughs along with them, trying to push it aside when really, it hurt like a stab to the heart. And eventually, the pain and suffering gets too much to handle that he went in front of an oncoming truck and killed himself.
Honestly speaking, I cried a lot when watching this anime, not just because the animation and the story is beautiful, but, once again, I relate to Kakeru more than I’d like to admit.
I know how it feels to think that I’m worthless, to hate myself so much that I can’t stand to even open my eyes, but yet brush off any questions that people may have about my wellbeing, afraid to reach out for help. I know how it feels when the pain gets too much that it feels like it’s literally suffocating you because, no matter how hard you search, you can’t find the light, you can’t find a reason to love yourself and a reason to live life.
I know how it feels like to be laughed at, to tremble at the thought of voicing out, to keep all the pain to myself because I don’t want my friends to lose their smiles.
And just like in the anime, when the future is altered because of the letters, when Naho and friends give Kakeru their all and support him through the storm, when Kakeru tries to kill himself again but couldn’t because of all the times he’s shared, because of all the memories he’s built with his friends, I feel that no matter how hard life gets, I can somehow plough my way through it.
Just like Kakeru, and all the smiles and laughs he’s had with Naho and friends, all the memories they’ve shared, all the burdens they’ve helped carried, and how they never laugh at him, how they are a shoulder for him to cry on, how they are a pillar for him to lean on, how they’ve given him a reason to hang on to that small sliver of hope, I am blessed to have a small group of people that I can call home.
I was alone for so long, and I’ve only really started opening up to the people I trust around the middle of last year, and they’ve been nothing but open about it. They never laugh, and they listen. And even if they don’t know how it feels to hate yourself day after day, they stand up for me. They comfort me, and show me, little by little, what it means to be alive, whether they are conscious of it or not.
So thank you (I hope you don’t mind me putting down your initials here), to my friends to mean the world to me: CL, JL, JT, MC. Even if we don’t talk everyday, I know you are always there for me. You are my pillar, the reason I try to find a reason to climb out of this darkness.
And even if we laugh at stupid things, make the dumbest jokes, be ridiculously sarcastic, I know that you are someone I can always count on to listen to me, to help me, whether you do it consciously or not.
I’m actually crying as I write this. I don’t say this often enough, but I love you all so much.
I know this is supposed to be about the anime Orange, and I suppose it kinda is, but I hope you’ll understand where I’m coming from, and how I relate to it.
And, to end it on a lighter note, you should go ahead and watch it, or read the manga. It’s not very long: only about 12 episodes or 20+ chapters. But it tells a very eye opening, inspiring story.
I hope that no one knows how it feels to be in Kakeru’s shoes because no one deserves it, but if you do, no matter how unlikely, remember that there are people who will pull you up when you it.
Don’t be afraid to speak up. This is something that you can break free from, and you can start living life in colour, and maybe, find a reason to be alive.
You can do it. I’m rooting for you.