Oreimo Series 1 Collection (Cert 18)
3 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 404 minutes approx.
The Japanese have certain peccadilloes which we here in the West aren’t quite able to fully appreciate, and many of these tend to manifest themselves in anime and manga, presumably because it is easier to get away with it in cartoon form. This however doesn’t make any more palatable for the more sensitive audiences and when a show “goes there” it makes for uncomfortable viewing.
Such a dramatic preface is required for a show like Oreimo as on more than one occasion it threatens to “go there” and even when it doesn’t, the seeds for if/when it does are already deeply planted. For starters Oreimo is a contraction of the full original title Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai which literally translates to My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute.
Yup. I know what you are thinking but the show deliberately messes with the preconceived notions the title evokes. The male protagonist is 17 year-old Kyosuke Kosaka who his barely got along with his bratty 14 year-old sister Kirino, a star athlete and successful junior model. One day Kyosuke finds an anime DVD in the hallway of his house and wonders who it belongs to. Opening the box he finds an adult erotic video game (eroge for short) inside which he later discovers belongs to Kirino.
That night Kirino wakes Kyosuke and tells him she has a secret to share with only him in her bedroom. She admits the game is hers then reveals that she is a hardcore otaku with a secret stash of moe based anime DVDs and eroge games, mostly based on the younger sister theme. Impressed by Kirino confiding in him, Kyosuke steps up as the older brother and vows to help Kirino keep her secret and offer her “counselling” when she is need.
I don’t know if reading that summary assuages your fears or exacerbates them but it is clear that creator Tsukasa Fushimi, upon whose light novel series this is based, was gleefully lulling us into a false sense of insecurity with such a provocative title which then delivers something comparably tame to our worst thoughts. Having said that Fushimi continues to dangle the occasional forbidden carrot in front us, no doubt with a clear sadistic smile on his face.
We find ourselves in awkward position viewing this show, partially due to the implied – or should that be inferred – siscon theme and partially because Fushimi has subverted many of the genres conventions, by having the sister be the eroge fan with the potential complex and the brother being the innocent one. Thus we have a show that is perverse in both sense of the word.
Despite what the title and the fetish games might suggest, the story at its heart is one of a brother and sister finally reconnecting after years in a relationship wilderness, with Kyosuke finally glad to be treated as big brother and taking his responsibilities seriously. When he learns that Kirino keeps her anime fandom quiet because her friends aren’t interested, Kyosuke encourages little sis to join an anime group on the internet who meet up in real life to make new friends, watching in the background just in case.
From this meet-up two new faces join the story – lanky, outgoing, thick glasses wearing uber-geek Saori Makishima and the acid tongued Lolita Kuroneko aka Ruri Gokō, the latter a regular sparring partner for Kirino. They form a quartet – Ryosuke gets roped in – who argue over anime but over due course become close, while the two non-siblings have secret sides to their lives too.
Where the show excels is in the barbed exchanges between Kuroneko and Kirino over each other’s tastes yet they end up supporting each other in times of crisis, usually with Saori as peacemaker and Ryosuke caught in the middle. To offer Ryosuke some respite he seeks comfort from long time family friend Manami Tamura, the regressive bespectacled plain Jane who dotes on Ryosuke and would clearly make the most suitable girlfriend for him.
So we have a fairly innocent harem situation, although the central frisson is between the two siblings – complete with the accidental falling over/boob grab scenario, one of the moments when the line is sadly crossed. But what spoils the dynamic is that Kirino is utterly dislikeable; she is selfish, arrogant, petulant, spoilt, ungrateful, rude and repellent. Ryosuke even recognises this yet he continues to act as her slave, taking the fall for her when necessary and going above and beyond to make her happy.
I won’t spoil how it ends because there are in fact two different ending supplied here – one called the “right” ending and the other the “true” ending – the former being rather subjective, natch. These are followed by three OVAs to introduce the next stage in the relationship developments.
Here comes the frustrating bit – despite the unsavoury premise and heavy focus on the younger sister complex, Oreimo is a rather good show. The comedy is great when the otaku group get together and the way their fandom is integrated into the situations are just too uncomfortable not to raise a laugh. The art and animation is fine for what it is while the anime/eroge references and representations are authentic enough to earn a nod of recognition from hardcore fans.
There is also the central message about sibling relationships to take into account which has its share of, admittedly rare, sentimental moments when Ryosuke’s noble and often sacrificial actions engender a sense of pride for the lad; it’s just a shame Kirino is such a bitch towards him.
If you can get past the implications of the title and the various moments when it strays within spitting distance of the moral and taste barrier, Oreimo is a fun, meta show with an intangible appeal factor that just about holds steady against the foreboding presence of its inherent salacious connotations.
Japanese 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Disc 3 Only:
Japanese Cover Art Gallery
Special Next Episode Previews
On Air Ending Collection
Stardust Witch Meruru Special opening
Rating – *** ½
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