Am I purposely going on a Yamazaki Kento marathon? Kinda, sorta. But you gotta admit, this boy has been in a crap ton of shoujo movie adaptions, which for some reason I’ve been feelin’ lately. Probably cause it’s been cold here and holiday season has arrived, getting me in the mood for the warm and fuzzies, which the description to Orange actually didn’t really give me at first glance. I almost didn’t watch it but a name popped out at me from the cast list: Ryusei Ryo. The cutie who played Kiryu Daigo in Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger had traded his red vest and shoulder length, wavy black hair for a school uniform and brown, short hair. This, I had to see.
I promise, the plot isn’t going to be entirely about Ryusei Ryo and his adorable personality and face. I’ll actually talk about the movie….hopefully haha.
Cherry blossoms. That’s right, the movie starts itself off with the mother of all shoujo cliches, cherry blossoms. They fall like snow from the branches over our main character, Takamiya Naho’s, head, when suddenly, a gust of wind blows through and a mysterious letter appears out of nowhere in the front pocket of her school bag. She takes it out and sees that it’s written by herself but from 10 years in the future, listing all these events that will happen on each day, starting from the day she opens the envelope. Future Naho is writing to current teenage Naho in order to stop her from making the same mistakes she did, and it all starts by not inviting the new Tokyo transfer student, Naruse Kakeru, out to eat bread with the rest of her friends after school. Not thinking much of it, Naho lets her friend Suwa Hiroto invite him anyways, thinking something along the lines of “what’s the worse that can happen?”
Naho doesn’t open the letter again until she gets curious about what might have happened to Kakeru after he doesn’t show up to school in 10 days. The letter tells her that 1) she will be asked to bat at a softball game that next day, 2) she’s going to regret not batting, and 3) she will fall in love with Kakeru. All on the same day.
Lo and behold, Kakeru appears the next day. Naho seems to be cautious and thinks about what the letter had said all throughout gym period. Even as the events that were described in the letter start coming true again, part of Naho still fights against it but eventually gives in as she overcomes her cowardly side and agrees to bat for the team, ultimately winning the game for them. In the process, she manages to hurt her foot since her gym shoes are the wrong size, but Kakeru comes to her rescue and bandages up her huge blister for her.
They proceed to give each other a pep talk about not suppressing and holding themselves back from the things they really want to do. Through their conversation, Naho ends up doing exactly what her letter says. She falls in love with him.
The scene goes through a bit of a time change as it’s now 10 years in the future. Older Naho turns to see Suwa coming towards her holding a child (her child? I think…) and a bouquet of flowers. She takes the child from him (they married? I think…) as the rest of the gang appears behind them. A pair of high schoolers walk by talking about a test and they go quiet until Suwa breaks the silence and says they should go fulfill the promise they made to Kakeru. The time goes back to 16 year old Naho, now in her room reading the letter. It says that Kakeru is no longer with them….like he died.
The next day at school, Kakeru is about to go buy lunch when the rest of the guys come in and ask him about the soccer club, revealing that Naho told them about it. Instead of getting upset, he playfully knocks Naho on the forehead and calls her by her first name for the first time. If you didn’t know already, that’s a big deal to Japanese people. It shows closeness and familiarity. Kakeru turns to go out and buy his lunch when he’s stopped again and asked about his nonexistent bento. The conversation turns to focus on Naho’s nicely made one, leading to Kakeru jokingly asking her to make him one. She agrees and actually makes one for him but chickens out the next day and doesn’t give it to him until they make a pit stop at a cute gazebo/park thing on the way home. She promises to make him one every day after he tells her that his mom is dead.
The scene cuts back to 10 years in the future and seems to pick up right where it left off. The friends are seen heading towards a house and out comes a cute, little old lady who turns out to be Kakeru’s grandmother. They all sit down and the friends ask her what really happened the day Kakeru died. Was his accident really an accident?
Back in the present day, 16 year old Naho makes a promise to herself that she’ll save Kakeru. She’s about to talk to him when Suwa comes running in saying that Kakeru made it into the soccer team. She’s surprised and wonders if the future has changed considering he had told her before that he made a promise to his mother to not join any clubs. She watches Kakeru play soccer and sees another girl, Ueda Rio, talk to him. The letter appears again, this time saying that Ueda will confess to Kakeru and the two will start dating. We see the confession happen as he’s coming back from getting drinks for the rest of the group and he says he’ll respond to her after break. But he seems unsure of his answer.
Naho later lends her eraser and pencil to Kakeru during class and he returns it with a note in the case of the eraser that says “Is it really ok for me to date Ueda-senpai?” The letter tells her to read the note so she can express her true emotions and that if she sees it, it’ll probably change the future. She quickly rips a corner from her notebook, writes back a message, and goes to put it in his shoe locker, but when she comes back to the classroom, the rest of her friends pull her over to watch Kakeru talk to Ueda-senpai from the window. As Ueda-senpai leaves, Azusa asks him how it went and he responds by making a circle with his arms.
The friends rejoice…all except for Naho, who looks devastated. She sits in her room after school, holding the juice box he had given to her earlier that day. Back at school, Kakeru opens up his shoe locker and find Naho’s note.
It says “NO”.
Kakeru runs into Naho the next day at school as both of them change into their indoor school shoes. He’s about to ask her about the note when she interrupts and says that she didn’t make him a bento today since it’d be rude to Ueda-senpai now that he’s dating her.
Speak of the devil, right before he could say anything back, Ueda swoops in and takes him away. The camera pans out and we see that Suwa has been watching this whole time.
Naho spends the rest of the day avoiding Kakeru but the letter tells her that she should answer him whenever he calls, and that she should express her emotions with her own voice. Just as she’s about to approach him, Ueda comes waltzing in and takes him away again, leaving Naho feeling (and looking) dejected. At this point, Azusa and Takako have both caught on.
Days go by of Naho watching Ueda and Kakeru do couple things while she avoids him as much as possible. Their interactions have become MAD AWKWARD but Kakeru still makes an effort to talk to her. As he’s leaving the classroom one day, Naho finally musters up the courage and runs out after him, getting knocked down by….guess who???
Ueda Rio is standing above poor Naho, who got shoved to the ground in the collision. But instead of seeing if Ueda is ok, he goes to Naho. Ueda turns a nasty shade of green (jealous much?) and her ugly side is revealed as she blames Naho for bumping into her (girl PLEASE. I beg to differ), but Kakeru defends Naho and gets angry back. As Ueda still tries to put the blame on her, Naho stands up and apologizes, running away again until Suwa catches her and tells her not to…otherwise how else would she be able to talk to Kakeru? He throws in there that Kakeru’s also been wanting to talk to her, which shocks her and sends her on a wild goose chase, trying to find him. When she finally does, this time she calls out to him and they go sit down and talk.
He tells her that he’s been thinking about breaking up with Ueda cause something feels off (NO DUH SHERLOCK) and that he has someone else he’s more interested in. When Naho asks if it’s in a romantic way, he escapes. LOL what a troll.
Not sure if it’s the next day or if more time has passed but now everyone’s in their summer uniforms. The teacher up front is talking about time travel and the complications of it.
He explains the whole concept of a parallel world, basically the result of time travel. If someone were to change something in the past, that creates a whole new existence, or “timeline” if you will (FLASH reference anyone?), for those people, but the future remains the same for those in the original timeline. Meaning, even if Naho were to save Kakeru from dying, the 26 year old version of herself who sent her the letter won’t get a different future.
Kakeru and Naho stay in the classroom long after everyone else has gone and she bravely asks him to watch the fireworks with her at the end of the cultural festival. He says yes and they proceed to have a really good time at the festival with the rest of the group. At one point in the day, Kakeru asks Suwa if it’s ok for him to watch the fireworks with Naho, implying that Suwa probably maybe has a thing for Naho.
The two of them enjoy the rest of the festival together and agree to watch the fireworks from the pool, giggling to themselves which earns them a side eye glare (more like full frontal shade but whatever) from Ueda Rio. As the voice on the intercom announces that the fireworks are about to start, Ueda and two of her lackeys pop out of nowhere with a cart full of boxes. They abuse their power as 3rd years and “ask” Naho to bring it up to another classroom.
But that means she would miss the fireworks.
My gosh…this girl is evil.
Poor Kakeru arrives at the pool but Naho is nowhere in sight. The fireworks start going off with Naho still in the middle of moving the boxes. She panics and drops one while going up the stairs, spilling its contents on the floor. Azusa and Takako come to her rescue (bless their souls) and tell her to go while she still can. Just as Kakeru was about to leave, Naho comes sprinting in and the two of them get to watch the rest of the fireworks together.
WHILE HOLDING HANDS.
Too cute man…too cute.
Night turns into day but I’m not too sure how much time has actually passed since the school festival. We see Naho walking in a yukata to go meet Kakeru. Once she arrives, they find out that none of the others could make it to the summer festival (I think that’s what it is) and it was just going to be the two of them.
LOL. I see what they did there.
Regardless of the “unfortunate” missing group members, the two of them still have a ton of fun all the way until nighttime. As a group of singing children pass by them, Kakeru sees a mother and her son across the bridge they’re standing on. He spaces out and replaces the mother with his mom and the son with himself, losing himself in his memories until Naho calls him back. It suddenly starts raining, stranding the two of them at the temple they were visiting. Naho brings up the topic of his mother and Kakeru starts to talk about something that happened on the day of the entrance ceremony, the first day he met Naho. His mother’s physical health wasn’t too great and neither was her mental health. It impacted Kakeru as well and they would get into fights for no reason.
That day when he met everyone for the first time and they all went to eat bread together, his mom had texted him asking where he was and in annoyance, Kakeru texts her not to interfere with his life. After that, he never got a response. His mother has committed suicide via overdosing on pills in her car by a lake.
The regret he feels overcomes him and he leaves Naho by herself while he goes off to cry by himself in the rain. Naho returns home, saddened and more confused than before. She turns to the letter for some answers and it tells her that Kakeru probably regrets not being about to save his mother and that if she can save him from this regret, she can save him from the accident that kills him.
We’re back to 10 years in the future and Kakeru’s grandmother is pulling out what looks like a letter from a box. She hands it to the group and Hagita reads aloud Kakeru’s suicide letter. Future Naho had also written in her own letter to her past self, telling her about what had actually happened to him. By this point, Naho’s pretty stressed.
Back in the present day, Kakeru goes into his mother’s old room after taking a bath. He begins to remember the argument they had the night before she took her own life. Then the next day, Naho is still worried over what she had discovered the other day when she gets a call from Suwa. He drops by her house to tell her that Kakeru hasn’t been coming to any soccer club practices and wonders if she knows anything. At this moment, she tries to tell him about the letter when he pulls out his own letter from his future self.
The mission is pretty much the same: erase the regrets and help save Kakeru.
Starting with his upcoming birthday.
Everyone’s basically harassing him about what he wants for his birthday and the mood is finally feeling light. When the day arrives, Suwa takes him into the classroom and everyone is waiting there with a surprise and gifts. Suwa has a moment where he realizes that it’s better for Naho and Kakeru to be happy together than for him to not properly cheer on and look after his two friends. Even if he does like Naho. He gives Kakeru a bouquet of flowers then leaves the classroom, followed by everyone else (who all make crap excuses lol) except for Naho who has no idea what’s going on.
Kakeru gives it to her and finally confesses while everyone’s watching by the door. 10 years into the future, the group is laying down those same presents at Kakeru’s memorial table. Suwa puts down a bouquet of flowers but then hands it to Naho, telling her the truth about Kakeru’s feelings.
The scene changes and it’s October 1. Everyone has their 100 meter dash times recorded to see who would be chosen to compete in the school’s athletic festival relay. Kakeru’s was the fastest and he’s chosen as the anchor. However, Naho and Suwa find out from one of the future letters that Kakeru ends up falling during the race because of a twisted ankle. The letter asks them to try to make him quit the relay team because he’s going to end up blaming himself for the loss. But try as they might, Suwa and Naho can’t get him to quit. As they try to talk about the current situation, the other three friends, Hagita, Azusa, and Takako, come over and start to question them about why they’re talking in secret about trying to get Kakeru to quit the race. Suwa and Naho decide to tell everyone about the letters. The other three talk about it on their way home, with Hagita initially saying he doesn’t believe in getting a letter from the future, but he does believe in Naho and Suwa.
Back in the class room on the next day, the teacher is asking the class who else would participate in the 100 meter dash with Kakeru. The class starts talking amongst themselves until Suwa stands up and volunteers. Followed by Naho. Then Takako. Then Azusa. Then, to everyone’s surprise, Hagita.
On the day of the athletics festival, Kakeru tells everyone his mom is working today. Naho obviously knows it’s a lie. She spots him by the water faucets rinsing his foot and goes over to him when they’re both recruited by a teacher to help carry over a huge foam landing pad (I think that’s what it is). Kakeru looks visibly out of it and as Naho asks him, he dodges the question and suggest that they put the pad down for a while cause it was getting really heavy. As they’re about to set it down, the rest of the friends come over and grab the other sides. Suwa reveals that Kakeru is injured and Azusa tells him that everyone’s been talking about how he doesn’t really look too well. After seeing how much the other guys want to help him with his problems and care about him, Kakeru finally spills the beans. He confesses that he feels like he can’t be happy if his mom might be depressed while watching over him. Azusa and Takako object and says that his mom would rather see him smile and be happy than be sad and depressed all the time. He goes off to get his ankle treated after Suwa tells him that it’s ok to let other people help him carry his problems. He reassures Kakeru that he’s not a burden to the rest of the group at all.
The 100 meter relay is starting with the overall score tied between the red team and the blue team. As the race starts, Suwa runs first and hands it off to Takako, telling her to give Kakeru a message. He yells something but the audio cuts off so we have no clue what it is until the end after the message passes through everyone. Naho yells it out to Kakeru as she passes the baton to him (I’ll let you guys watch it and find out what it is hehe), and he carries the team to victory.
After the festival is done, Naho and Kakeru are walking together when she spots a cut on his arm. After she bandages it up, Kakeru leans in suddenly and kisses her on the cheek (OH MY GOSH IT WAS SO SMOOTH). He says that was his reward and runs off, leaving Naho standing there in shock.
Everything’s happy again as it’s now Christmas time and the friends are talking about activities to do together. On December 21st, the letter tells Naho that she’ll get into a fight with Kakeru and won’t be able to apologize for it since he suddenly died. The present day Naho is determined not to get into an argument with him as she approaches him at school after he hangs up a call and is looking pretty downcast. She asks him what’s wrong and he tells her that his grandmother’s health is declining and is scared of being alone if she passes away. Naho, thinking back to how the letter says his grandmother is still alive after 10 years, tell him that everything will be ok. Kakeru gets angry and yells at her to not decide if something was going to be okay that easily. He instantly regrets raising his voice and walks off after saying a quiet sorry.
On December 25th, Naho and Kakeru see each other at the shoe lockers like they do every morning. They exchange good mornings and he states that it’s cold today. She agrees with him. And according to the letter, that’s the last time they will talk.
Later that day, the group is going off to biology. Suwa calls to Kakeru, who’s staring out the window, but Kakeru tells them to go on ahead. Naho is hesitant but starts to turn her back.
The scene changes back to 10 years in the future and the friends are leaving Kakeru’s grandma’s house. As they walk down the road heading back into town, they stop as some of them begin to cry.
Naho doesn’t shed any tears until she gets back home and starts going through her diary and we learn that the letter that high school Naho got is actually pages from it. She reads through it and begins to fall to the ground weeping until Suwa comes in and begins to comfort her, asking if she wants to write a letter to their high school selves.
The scene changes back to present day. Naho and Kakeru pass each other as he’s on his way out and he says “bye bye”. Scared and frantic that that was literally going to be bye bye, Naho runs after him and literally demands that they talk right now. They go outside and she apologizes for that day. He says that he should be the one apologizing and tells her that it made him remember that day his mom died. He tries to cut the talk short and turns to leave when Naho runs to him and tells him that she loves him. Kakeru lets her know that he’s scared of hurting her if he stays by her side and that he’s afraid of her hating him. She reassures him with a hug, saying that she’ll never hate him and that he can unload everything onto her.
Kakeru finally tells her that he’s lost a reason to live and that when he’s alone, he ends up throwing away everyone including Naho. He confesses that he hates himself because of it and that he really wants to be strong and happy. She comforts him and tells him that he can be happy and the two of them stand there hugging while the other friends look at them from afar, smiling.
10 years in the future, Naho and Suwa go to bury what looks like a time capsule and the letters. Naho is certain that the letters will reach their past selves and save Kakeru. Back in present day, it’s December 31st. The day that Kakeru will commit suicide. Naho and Suwa are in the exact place their future selves buried the letters as she reads over the letter again. Suwa gets a text from Kakeru, saying that he’ll meet everyone at the shrine tonight, and he shows it to Naho. Both of them feel a bit better.
The scene changes and we see Kakeru going into his mom’s room. Everything is covered in an orange glow (oh ho is this the climax perhaps?) as he looks like he’s cleaning up the floor, until he uncovers his mother’s phone. The last message she read pops up on the screen when he goes to unlock it (the entrance ceremony text form Kakeru) and he reads it again before going to the menu. He sees that there’s a note for him and he goes to open it.
It’s a video from his mother.
In it, she explains all the choices she’s made with Kakeru and the reasons behind them, saying that she’s always wanted to convey her feelings to him but she was never able to. This is what she regrets the most.
She tells him that she’s sorry and she prays from the bottom of her heart for him to be happy. The video ends and Kakeru begins to cry into his mom’s sheets.
At the shrine, everyone is waiting for Kakeru to come. Suwa nervously calls him but there’s no answer. We see that Kakeru is actually riding along the road on his bike, much like in the scene we saw before of his accident. The friends are frantic, rushing over to his house to see if he’s there. His grandma says he had left right after taking a bath and everyone separates to go look for him.
It’s madness. Literally.
Everyone’s running around trying desperately to look for him.
Kakeru is riding at full speed down the road. He starts to remember all the good times he’s had and all the happy moments in his life since his mom died. His mom wants him to be happy, and with his friends, that’s exactly how he is.
The truck that’s suppose to kill him turns the corner and as it approaches, we see the internal conflict flash across his face. At the last second, Kakeru brakes and turns the bike to the side, flying off of it, but rolls out of the way of the truck just in time.
The friends all rush to him and help him to sit up. Kakeru explains that he was going to go say sorry to his mom. He was thinking about killing himself. But then he didn’t want to lose all the memories he’s made with the rest of the group. He wants to make more memories. As the group sits around him on the road, they all tell him that they love him and the movie ends with high school Naho thanking future Naho for helping them save Kakeru.
Holy moly that was the longest synopsis so far.
But this movie is so packed with details that I’m kinda worried that it doesn’t do the actual movie justice.
Regardless, this movie was definitely an emotion roller coaster, and out of the 3 other Yamazaki Kento movies I’ve seen so far, this one is by far my favorite.
Disclaimer again, I have not read the manga so don’t hold that against me. I’m coming from a first timer watcher’s point of view in terms of everything so go easy on me haha.
Well for starters, this was one of the first shoujo movie I’ve seen where the plot wasn’t rushed! Honestly, the time hops were a bit to keep up with and you really had to pay attention at the date Naho was saying in reference to the letter, but other than that, the story played out very nicely. Everything was set at a good pace and I wasn’t confused at all with anything. Even the future parts were inserted well and definitely added more depth to the whole emotional development of the movie. It also helped to add onto the character development, which we got to see a lot of and which also happens to be my favorite aspect overall.
Naho slowly breaking out of her shy, quiet, complacent shell, and Kakeru finally opening up and willing to receive help from his friends as well as learning how to love life once again. Suwa becoming more than just a background jock character but rather one of the most important parts in Naho’s development and Kakeru’s breakthrough. Even Azusa, Takako, and Hagita, all characters that were made to seem less prominent in the movie, were developed nicely and each got their own moment of character change.
The most jarring contrast of this shoujo movie was that while it did have a romance line running through it, the emphasis was not placed on the relationship between Kakeru and Naho, but rather it was placed on the friendship that saved his life. It was so refreshing to watch and made the ending so much cuter, and even though Kakeru was still technically dead in the old future timeline, the older Naho and Suwa also had their regrets erased with the creation of the new timeline.
The one bone I HAVE TO pick with this movie is the fact that Tsuchiya Tao’s (the actress who played Naho) voice for like 75% of the movie never changed from this soft, raspy, high pitched tone that bugged me for some reason. Like girl….DO YOU HAVE AN EDIT BUTTON ON YOUR VOICE?
The other 25% was better. She actually changed volumes and had more life in it but that was really only when things got serious (like in an argument or during the last scene where they were all scrambling to find Kakeru). Her physical acting was ok. I mean, not great since her facial expression also didn’t change too too much, but they were ok in the sense that it fit with the feel of the movie and the character.
It was literally just her voice acting.
That aside, the rest of the cast was FIRE. I’m talking an amazing group of people who had great on screen chemistry. Yamazaki Kento proved, once again, his incredible acting skills and his role versatility. It was so interesting watching this movie after Wolf Girl and Black Prince since his characters were literally opposites. They could not have picked a better person to play Kakeru. And of course, Ryusei Ryo was adorable as Suwa and met every single expectation I had set for him and his acting before the movie even began. His ability to go from happy go luck, to serious, to crying hysterically was all showcased and done so perfectly.
Overall, this movie is a definite win in my book. With a cute OST and a great cast, this is one shoujo movie that didn’t leave me confused at the end, wanting more of something, but it fulfilled everything that had popped up along the way.