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Orange

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Orange by Benjamin, a graphic novel published by TokyoPop

Orange

© XIAO PAN - Benjamin

The Bottom Line

Orange is an angry, alienated teen living in modern day China. Disappointed by her parents, friends and so-called boyfriends, she decides to end it all by throwing herself off a building. But before she can take a step, Orange meets Dashu, a mysterious older man who encourages her to find a reason to live.

This full-color one-shot is one of the first examples of modern manhua, or Chinese comics to arrive on American shores. While its vivid colors and bold, painterly strokes dazzle, Orange is dragged down by its disjointed plot and emotionally disconnected characters. A promising, but ultimately disappointing debut.

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Pros

  • Gorgeous artwork, done with painterly strokes of vivid, hyper-saturated colors
  • An interesting glimpse into the every day lives of middle-class Chinese teens
  • Captures the angst and alienation felt by modern teens in almost every country

Cons

  • Story lacks a coherent plot and delivers an unsatisfying resolution
  • Orange is a spoiled, self-centered brat who offers few reasons for readers to like her
  • Dashu and Orange's relationship seems very perfunctory, with little emotional connection
  • Orange only takes up 2/3rds of the book: the rest is portfolio pics and self-indulgent commentary

Description

  • Original Title: Orange (France)
  • Author & Artist: Benjamin
  • Publishers:
  • ISBN: 978-1427814630
  • Cover Price: $14.99 US / $17.99 CANADA
  • Age Rating: OT – Older Teens, Age 16+ for themes of suicide, casual sex
    More about content ratings.
  • Manga Genres:
  • US Publication Date: February 2008
    France Publication Date: 2006
  • Book Description: 144 pages, full-color illustrations
  • More Manga by Benjamin:
    • Remember

Guide Review - Orange

It can be tough to be a teen. Everything can seem so important, decisions are wrought with drama, and relationships can take you to the height of happiness and the depths of despair. All the while, people are asking you, "Why are you getting bent out of shape over this? It's just…[fill in the blank]." It can feel infuriating, and very lonely at the same time.

This sense of teenage anger and alienation is very much on display in Orange by Benjamin. Orange is a middle-class Chinese teen with a very un-Chinese name living in an unnamed city, but for the problems she faces and the loneliness she feels, Orange could be any teen, anywhere. Orange rages at her parents, her friends and her so-called boyfriends for being shallow and uncaring -- but what she tends to forget in her hormone-fueled angst is that she's equally, if not more shallow and self-centered.

Despite her comfortable, middle-class upbringing, Orange feels deeply unsatisfied with her life -- enough that she wants to commit suicide. But before she can throw herself off a building, Orange meets Dashu, a mysterious older man who cryptically encourages her to find a reason to live.

Orange is one of the few Chinese manhua I've ever read, and it's notable for Benjamin's hypersaturated color palette and his bold, painterly approach to graphic storytelling. He can clearly draw and paint very well -- but can he tell a compelling story? Sadly, in this case, no.

It's interesting that Benjamin contrasts a dark, moody story with extremely bright, sunshine-y colors, but Orange suffers from a disjointed plot and an irritating and self-absorbed protagonist. If he can find a way to bring his storytelling skills up to par with his considerable artistic chops, Benjamin just might be a talent worth watching -- but for now, Orange is just a pretty artbook with nothing much to say.

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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