Oreimo, or “Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai”, is a modern anime comedy that discusses otaku culture, siscon fetishes, and other Japanese social taboos in a fun, fresh way.
Now before you dismiss this as another moe paradise debacle fueled by one-dimensional characters, blatant product placement, and studio controlled plot adaptations of the original source material, let’s take a look at what Oreimo really represents.
It’s a show that doesn’t mind being a little self-deprecating, a little self-referential, and a little bold. Given its situation, I think the director, animators, and writers did a fantastic job at creating something that appeals to all anime fans in a very personal way. It’s even somewhat meta.
I’ll attempt to analysis season 1 and 2 of Oreimo throughout this post and explain why this represents a significant development for the anime industry. I’ll also delve into a full blown plot discussion with spoilers galore, so those of you who haven’t seen the anime, beware. So sit back, relax, and enjoy my review of one of the most talked about animes of 2010 and 2013.
Let’s start with the basics. One look at the title, “My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute”, and you’re probably thinking what I’m thinking.
That’s right. You know what this is. And you know, that I know, that you know what this is. It’s every anime fans’ dark little secret. But I know. We all know the truth. You’ve seen Kissxsis.
So I want you to take that little voice in your head that tells you Oreimo is just like Kissxsis and throw it out the window. Do it right now. That’s right. Do it.
Oreimo is not like Kissxsis. Really it’s not. There’s no similarity between the two. It’s got a different tone, different type of romance, different comedic value, and completely different plots. Oreimo is not about the siscon genre. Sure, it’s got the basic elements for it. But it represents something a little more intuitive than that.
Nowhere is that “something” more prevalent than how the otaku subculture itself is portrayed throughout the series. Interest in anime, eroge, visual novels, and manga are shown in a positive light, as normal hobby where people can find like-minded friends just like any other, instead of the “weirdo” identity so often attributed to it by the mainstream media. At the same time though, you see this anime also addressing the more socially questionable aspects of the subculture for what it is. Mainstream prejudice of the otaku subculture is never far from the narrative, and its more dedicated enthusiasts display habits which are plainly embarrassing to an outside observer. Actually, the overall attractive character design of Kirino (not to mention she is a girl as well) is an inspired choice, in that the true oddities of stereotypical otaku behavior become all the more visible through an unlikely “pretty model” teenager exhibiting this behavior in such an enthusiastic fashion.
The main plot revolves Kyousuke, a young guy with nothing particularly interesting about him, learning to bond to his sister Kirino, who basically hates his guts. For most of their teenage lives they’ve managed to avoid themselves completely, until one day Kyousuke discovers a little secret about Kirino.
After casually bumping into her in the hall of their home, Kyousuke finds out that Kirino is actually hiding a little sister themed eroge inside her magical girl anime DVD case. Although he later does confront Kirino about it, he concludes that there’s nothing really wrong with her hobby and offers to give her advice whenever she needs it. That night, Kirino shows Kyousuke her secret stash of erotic games and anime, explaining that she genuinely loves little sister eroge, though she does not explain how she adopted such a strange hobby.
Kyousuke promises to keep her secret, and even agrees to play an eroge and give his opinion on the whole thing. With some help from his childhood friend Manami, Kyousuke suggests to Kirino that she join an otaku club. She manages to attend a get together at a maid café in Akihabara, only to get into a heated argument with Kuroneko (her polar opposite) about their favorite anime. After spending the day shopping around Akihabara with Kuroneko and fellow otaku enthusiast Saori, they decide to keep sharing messages while Kyousuke finishes the game Kirino asked him to complete.
Later, Kirino’s father also discovers here hobby and becomes angry at her. After seeing Kirino so distraught and showing no desire to give up such an important part of her life, Kyousuke stands up to their father for her. Though he allows Kirino to keep her hobby, he still shows concern for the inappropriate adult themed eroge Kirino had been seen with, so Kyousuke takes the blame for that instead. Kirino later thanks Kyousuke, who is taken aback by how cute she really can be.
At this point we’re reminded of what this story is really about. If the little sister themed eroge and constant blushing isn’t enough of a clue, I’ll go ahead and spell it out for you. Kyousuke and Kirino like each other much more than siblings. They might not fully know it yet. But it becomes quite evident as the show progresses.
Let me some up the rest of the first and second season for you briefly. I’m partly tired of going over the same thing and partly feel like there are some things you should just experience firsthand. Kyousuke continues to help Kirino through a series of “life counseling” sessions, which typically translates into him trying to make Kirino happy. At one point Kirino goes away to America, to which both characters must finally come to terms with the idea that they really do need one another. It’s really quite sweet for the most part in season 1. Not a real romance thing just more along the lines of family and friendships.
Then we’re hit with season 2. The real bulk of it all is the majority of other girl characters falling in love, confessing their love, and ultimately being rejected by Kyousuke. He even goes so far as to date Kuroneko at one point, and both Kyousuke and Kirino are forced to come to terms with their real feelings for one another. They confess to each other and they share a kiss, but ultimately it’s all a short lived dream. They realize this kind of thing isn’t ready to be socially accepted by their family and friends so they decide to end it and that’s it.
Why do I end the ploy describing it so plainly? Well because I think that the show goes well above the simple love harem sister complex they’re trying to push. It’s all about exploring your inner most secrets and learning to accept yourself for who you really are. Characters throughout the show display this very thing in very different ways, but it all comes down to the same concept. If there is something about you, be it a hobby or affection towards another, it will always eat at you until you come out and say it.
Sure there’s quite a bit of self awareness going on with the whole “you’re in an anime” trope being readily explored, but what I really love is that the anime is made for fans, without technically being a fan service anime. It’s made for people who have decided to embrace a hobby that others find weird, uncool, and lame. It explores the process one would go through meld their coexisting worlds of otaku and regular life together, and forces us as viewers to remember why we love what we love. It was gutsy, it worked for what is was, and it was surprisingly refreshing to watch. Give it a try sometime.