Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Oreimo (Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai)

There are some guilty pleasures that are so guilty that they make other guilty pleasures look as wholesome as the azalea trail maids by comparison. This is especially true of Oriemo (this title is actually an abbreviation for that long ass title you see above; a true English title for this show would be My Little Sister Can't Be This Cute). At first glance it is a seemingly light-hearted comedy about a school kid named Kyosuke and his sister Kirino and their frustrating relationship as siblings. However, it isn't before long that you begin to wonder if maybe Kirino and Kyosuke's problems aren't how they act as brother and sister, but that they are brother and sister.

Allow me to elaborate.

At the beginning of the series Kyosuke accidentally discovers that his estranged sister is a huge otaku and that she has rather large collection of moe anime and "little sister" eroge. Now eroge describes a bunch of animated video games that feature erotic content. Generally explicit scenes of sexual intercourse and whatnot. Little sister eroge are games that feature "relationships" between brother and sister with the game player assuming the role of brother and the conquest of the game being the sister.

Now imagine your little sister with a little sister eroge in her possession. Awkward, right? Bizarrely enough, it's that dynamic that really sells or drowns the anime for you.

Don't get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing sexually explicit about this anime. There's no incest. But there are moments where you will find yourself thinking, "Please don't end in incest, please don't end in incest," and you keep watching because you just don't know how everything will turn out. It's that flirting with the edge of taboo that makes things interesting.

However, this really isn't a show you would want the whole world knowing that you watch because... well, a show that even hints that a brother and sister might get into a relationship together is not of those things you would typically want to share. Unless, like me, you either don't care or don't worry about the perceptions of those around you.

In fact, that last statement largely describes the intent of the first season of the anime. Kirino is a popular girl who happens to be a model and she doesn't want her "model" friends to know how much of an otaku she is, but she desperately wants someone in her life to appreciate the same things she does so she can talk to them about it. This is where Kyosuke initially enters the picture. Kirino practically forces the little sister eroge on him and demands that he tell her what he really thought about the games. This, if you can put aside the very icky thought of bonding through games that feature intercourse between brother and sister, serves as common ground setting for both Kyosuke and Kirino. However, Kyosuke does this because he is a good sibling. Before long he tries to get Kirino to get her own otaku friends apart from her model friends so that he doesn't have to be subjected to so much little sister eroge. One she makes these otaku friends, Kirino tries as hard as she can to keep the two groups from ever seeing each other because she is mortified as to just what her model friends will think about her.

But is Kyosuke himself enjoying being drawn into the otaku world as well as the world of eroge? More importantly, is he really doing all of this because he is just trying to be a good sibling or is there something else?

Hmmm... indeed.

The second season becomes almost harem-esque with all of the female characters pursuing Kyosuke, but Kirino seems to be standing in the way. Is she doing so because she is just trying to be her usual bitchy self or is it because she wants Kyosuke to herself?

Again... indeed.

I don't want to say it is all that tough to say because the little sister eroge is a big hint, but Oreimo spends most of its running time tap-dancing a fine line and it really keeps it up until the end when that moment you've either been dreading or waiting for finally rears its head. The issue that has been staring us in the face the entire time finally gets confronted for better or worse.

The first season was comprised of twelve initial episodes, but there were four additional OVA's that offered an alternate ending to the first season. These OVA's also serve as a branch to the second season. The second season itself is thirteen episodes followed by three OVA's that wrap up the series entirely. Without the OVA's the series doesn't really get resolved so I don't understand why they were OVA's at all and couldn't be broadcasted along with the television series. The change in media really irks me. Oh, well.

I'm not quite sure what I think of this show. The first season was better while the second season found itself falling into some of the same tropes as a lot of previous shows. All in all, the subject matter was handled pretty well, but I am still not sure how I feel about giving an approval rating to show that portrayed such subject matter in such an offhand way.

But I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy this series. It was ridiculously funny at times and it practically had to be in order to pull off the story. When Kyosuke's dad found out that he played those games with Kirino I about died laughing.

So I guess I would have to give my approval to this series and call it a "must recommend." I just... umm, yeah, I just feel kind of weird about doing so.

Chances are you'll feel the same way as I do if you watch the show. So come on and join the "I really liked that anime, but damn that was weird and kind of uncomfortable to watch" club already! You won't regret it. Mostly.

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