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On February 12, 2021, I wrote an article on the subject of hair color in Japanese anime (cartoons) and manga (comics), and specifically about the hair color of Iroha Isshiki, a major character in the second half of the Japanese lite novel series, “My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected.” I first met her in the anime adaptation of the lite novels, “My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU!” There, her hair was depicted as being brown. I did not assume when watching that her hair was naturally brown. However, the novels made clear that Iroha Isshiki’s hair was naturally brown, unlike Yui Yuigahama, another main character whose chestnut brown hair is implied to be the product of hair dying. Today’s post is not about Iroha or Yui, but Kaori Orimoto, another character in the series. Her hair color, it turns out, is blacker than expected.

Yukino Yukinoshita, Hachiman Hikigaya, and Kaori Oriomoto, as pictured in episode 12 of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO! (Oregairu)
From left to right: Yukino Yukinoshita, Hachiman Hikigaya, and Kaori Orimoto. How many black-hared characters do you see in this picture? This is a trick question, but I answered it above. Thus, it is more of a test to see whether you are paying attention. I took this screenshot from episode 12 of the second season of the anime on Crunchyroll.

Who is Kaori Orimoto?

To start, when I am referring to both the My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected novel and the My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU anime, I will use “Oregairu,” the shortened Japanese name for the novel that refers to both.

This post is not about the content of the Oregairu novels and anime, both of which I recommend, so there is little reason to say much on the subject of Kaori Orimoto the character. She is a relatively minor character in the grand scheme of the series. Orimoto makes her first appearance in the middle of the series. She attended the same junior high school as the main character, Hachiman Hikigaya, but attends a different high school. Like all people and things from Hachiman’s junior high school that he actually remembers, her appearance brings back memories of past social trauma.

With that very brief introduction aside – let us move on to the matter with which we are concerned today – Kaori Orimoto’s hair color.

Setting the Stage for Orimoto Hair Color Conundrums

In my article on hair color in anime and manga generally, I noted that I generally assume that unnatural or unusual hair colors in anime and manga with real world settings (as opposed to fantasy or science fiction) are indicative of artistic license, unless otherwise expressly noted. Oregairu has as real a real world setting as any novel or anime series can have without explicitly purporting to depict true events. It is set in a fictional but realistic high school in Chiba prefecture. The characters are all ordinary students with ordinary problems – not a mech or elf in sight.

Oregairu itself makes reference to characters dying their hair. As I noted in my first article on the subject, Hachiman speaks with some disfavor about trendy girls in his school dying their hair, and at other times makes clear that they push the limits of the school’s on-paper dress code. It was that context, I thought, that made his noting the naturally brown hair of Iroha Isshiki noteworthy – that and the real-world story I had discussed in an earlier article about a Japanese schoolgirl being harassed by her teachers on account of her naturally brown hair.

Kaori Oriomoto as pictured in volume 9 of My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected
Orimoto as depicted on page 23 of volume 9 of the novels

So, what color is Kaori Orimoto’s hair, exactly?

Kaori Orimoto’s Hair is Blacker than Expected

Iroha Isshiki is not only a major character in the second half of Oregairu, but also my favorite character for the second half of the show. Yet, as I noted, I never thought too deeply about the subject of her hair color. If thought anything about her hair color, I suppose I thought that it was dyed.

If I thought none-too-deeply about Iroha’s hair color, I thought even less about Orimoto’s hair color. I first watched the season of the anime wherein Orimoto made her appearance in 2015, but I am only now reading the underlying novels. Thus, I reached Orimoto’s debut novel shortly after writing the article about hair color in anime and manga and Iroha’s hair color specifically. Now, being almost as hyper-conscious about hair color in Oregairu as the protagonist, Hachiman Hikigaya, my attention was arrested Hachiman’s internal musings about Orimoto’s hair:

She wore the uniform of Kaihin High School in a slightly casual manner, while her hands combed through her wavy, artfully messy black hair.

Hachiman Hikigaya describing Kaori Orimoto in volume 9 of My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong, As I Expected

“Artfully messy” is a very good line. But while the artful messiness of Orimoto’s hair may have been what Hachiman was focused on, I was more focused on his noting her “black hair.” Now, I had not seen Orimoto on screen since she made some very minor appearances in the final season of the show, which aired in summer 2019, but I was fairly sure that she was depicted with brown hair. I decided to double-check to confirm my recollection.

Kaori Orimoto talking to Hachiman Hikigaya in episode 6 of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO! (Oregairu)
Kaori Orimoto, right, talking to Hachiman Hikigaya, left. I took this screenshot from episode six of the second season of the anime series.

Indeed, that is Kaori Orimoto depicted with brown hair. But the novel, upon which the anime is based, states that she has black hair.

The Scales Have Fallen From My Eyes

Because the Oregairu novels offer a decisive account of the hair color of many of the characters, we can say for certain that the anime adaptation reflects the whole spectrum of anime hair color explanations we considered in the previous article.

Yui Yuigahama’s hair is noted to be the product of hair dying. Iroha Isshiki’s brown hair is apparently all natural. Kaori Orimoto’s brown hair is apparently not brown at all, but actually black. Thus, Studio Feel, which is behind both seasons of the anime wherein Kaori appeared, took artistic license to depict her as having brown hair instead of black. This is a peculiar choice in light of the fact that her uniform being different from most of the cast already distinguishes her appearance.

There are other characters in the anime whose hair colors are likely the product of artistic license. Saika Totsuka, a sweet and feminine-looking boy in the tennis club, probably is not dying his hair silver. The same can be said of Yoshiteru Zaimokuza, an overweight, socially-inept otaku who runs around pretending that he has super powers. Conversely, the popular and frivolous Kakeru Tobe, who Hachiman describes in volume 10 as having brown hair, likely dyes his hair like Yui.

Iroha Isshiki speaking in episode 4 of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO! (Oregairu)
From left to right (front): Kakeru Tobe, Hayato Hayama, Orimoto’s friend, and Orimoto. They are being addressed by the heroine of the previous article, Iroha Isshiki, while Hachiman looks on. From episode 4 of the second season of the anime on Crunchyroll.

I am not quite sure what to make of Saki Kawasaki’s blue hair, which Hachiman described as “blueish-black” in volume 6.5 novels, but I have some degree of confidence that her preschool aged sister, who is depicted as having blue hair in the anime, is not dying her hair.

Orimoto cuts through the uncertainty – there is Hachiman’s clear statement that her hair is black in the novel, and the depiction of her hair as brown in the anime.

Colorful Kaori Orimoto Hair Color Conclusions

The truth of Orimoto’s hair proves clearly and beyond doubt that the anime does, in some cases, exercise artistic license with regard to hair color. This leaves us in an ambiguous situation regarding other characters depicted as having likely unnatural hair colors such as black or red. Where does the natural and dyed hair end and the artistic license begin? In some cases, we may never know the answer. That is all well and good – I will venture that the stories and character relationships are far more notable and significant than the characters’ hair colors. But I could not help but add an update to the otherwise critically important issue after Orimoto proved to be an example of the artistic license method to anime hair depictions.

Aside – while capturing the main screenshot of Orimoto herself, I noticed that a very minor character had green hair. Because his name is not even mentioned, we can set him aside. This is already becoming too complicated.

In the end, I can say without question that Kaori Orimoto’s Hair Was Blacker Than I Expected.