Dori SakuradaKento YamazakiErina ManoHirona Yamazaki
Orange (2015 live-action film)
Medium: film
Year: 2015
Director: Kojiro Hashimoto
Original creator: Ichigo Takano
Writer: Arisa Kaneko
Actor: Tao Tsuchiya, Kento Yamazaki, Ryo Ryusei, Hirona Yamazaki, Dori Sakurada, Erina Mano, Shingo Tsurumi, Yoko Moriguchi, Reiko Kusamura
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 139 minutes
Website category: Japanese
Review date: 4 March 2018
That was a bit of a slog, to be honest. I don't mind the running time. It helped the film do a reasonable job of covering the anime/manga story without too much compression. I was also pleasantly surprised by the tone, since I'd been half-expecting a 139-minute film about potential suicide to be more of a downer. That's not the case. This isn't a gruelling wrist-opener at all.
No, what really dragged down the film was Tao Tsuchiya, who's playing the lead character, Naho. She's beautiful, but she can't act. Never once did she project any hint of inner life, or indeed mental activity. Watch her eyes in love confession or "ask out on a date" scenes, for example. There's nothing there. The character's supposed to be a hesitant shrinking violet, but what's on-screen is a mannequin with a lovely smile. Why, Japanese entertainment industry, why do you cast non-actors like this? Why?
I should backtrack slightly, though. She's good enough to appear, superficially, to be doing her job. Most movie-goers will find her watchable. She fulfils the entry-level criteria of "being plausible as a human being", thus rising above much of what gets broadcast on Japanese TV.
The supporting cast is much better than her, though. My heart bled for the co-lead, Kento Yamazaki, who I though was great in One Week Friends, incidentally. He's giving a proper performance as Kakeru, even when he's acting into a void (aka. Tsuchiya). He's still charming when he smiles, but for this role he's adding darker and more haunted emotions underneath too. The film's one genuinely strong scene is near the end, with just Yamazaki and Yoko Moriguchi. Of the others... well, Hirona Yamazaki is the other young actor here who's obviously good, although unfortunately she has nothing to do. Dori Sakurada is stuck with a one-dimensional cliche of a role, but he made me laugh anyway. (Also, in fairness, the cast includes some strong older actors, even if they get very little screen time.)
On the downside, Kurumi Shimizu doesn't bring the required energy to play Azusa Murasaka, but then again she's just as much of a spear-carrier as H. Yamazaki and Sakurada. Collectively, the six friends and protagonists are... okay. They didn't convey the warmth and explosive sense of life I got from the anime, but they're good enough not to break the film.
The storyline's the same as the anime. Naho gets a letter from herself, ten years in the future, making some predictions that immediately come true. A boy called Kakeru is going to transfer into their class. Naho has some instructions for her younger self, even though they'll often be challenging for a wallflower who's short in confidence. She and her friends must befriend Kakeru. Pull him out of his shell. Make sure no one has any regrets. Oh, and try to make sure Kakeru doesn't kill himself.
That's a good story, but I wouldn't recommend this version of it unless you can't take manga or anime. I was having to take breaks. It also has a badly presented scene where Naho looks like an idiot for not just walking on once those three bullies have gone away. (So they've left a trolley. So what?) Gay readings are still available for Suwa-Kakeru, filling in the third side of the triangle, but that doesn't help. Nothing can. You can't fill a drama hole as big as "Tsuchiya in the lead role". Watch the anime instead, for a more complete telling of the story.