Spoilers past marked point. (Live edit note I realized I’m doubling down on the incest posts, this wasn’t on purpose I promise)
What I am about to write is a head-on collision with ethics that has been a long time coming. I’ve always had an affinity for words, putting pen to paper to tell stories or describe things I find interesting. As anyone here should know, anime is a major factor in my life. I picked up this hobby of mine when I was 11 or so, and 15 some odd years later it is still a medium I thoroughly enjoy. So being someone who has for years experienced many different series spanning a ton of genres, there are few series that I can reminisce on. One series, in particular, has a permeant endearing place within my heart. A comedy romance, with heavy elements of a harem, a slice of life, and coming of age. A series that told you what it was going to do right in the title, did it, but still caught the anime world of fire when it happened. A taboo love story that took every trope and cop-out and said no, we are going to stay true to the story. I am of course talking about Fushimi, Tsukasa infamous Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai (My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute), or Oreimo for short.
So if anyone has read my 3×3, top 5 tsundere, or my Age In Anime post then you will know that I fangirl a particular waifu from this series pretty hard. In short, it is without a doubt in my top 5 of all time. But with that being said I am going to try to take off the rose-tinted glasses for this review, looking at this series more critically, and discussing what it has not only done to the medium but the community surrounding it. Oreimo in short quickly becomes a slapstick gimmick of wincest, and honestly, the 3 episode OVA for Oreimo 2, is pretty much just that. But I think ignoring 26 some odd episodes leading up to that moment does this series as a whole a massive disservice.
Oreimo follows 16 years old, king of the simple quiet life, Kousaka, Kyousuke. A snarky, lazy loaf who just wants to live out the rest of his high school days in peace. However, this is easier said than done because of Kyouskue’s little sister, the bright and gifted Kousaka, Kirino. Kirino is popular, attractive, athletic, and virtually everything Kyousuke is not. Over the years a major gap had developed between them, Kirino usually just ignoring if not being straight-up hostile to her older brother. Honestly they fight and bicker like most siblings, but one-day Kyousuke finds something peculiar in the house, an anime DVD. It is quickly addressed no one in the Kousaka household would have such a thing, Kirino is way too popular to be into that, the father? Hardline traditionalist, their mom? She’s quirky but hardly enough to be into anime. Really out of the whole family the one that would be most likely to like such things would be Kyouskue himself.
Pondering where the item came from Kyousuke sits on his bed looking at the cover. However, after opening it he becomes even more perplexed. This disc within the case doesn’t match what is on the case, also, it is very clear that the disc within the case has a very clear rating on it, r18. Deciding to set a trap at dinner he is determined to discover who within the household owns the eroge, an adult-themed visual novel. Mentioning the anime series that is on the case, he looks at his family to see which one reacts, as expected, his parents play it off but looking over at his sister he is taken back as she seems hastily to finish her dinner before leaving the table. Confronting her later that night he plays it off as no big deal, you like what you like and there is nothing wrong with that. Using this opening Kirino decides this is a path for the two to rebuild their relationship as siblings, immersing her brother in otaku culture ultimately converting him while making friends and becoming closer along the way.
What Oreimo ultimately is to me, is a tale about a closet otaku forced to keep her hobbies on the down-low. Relying on her brother to help her out along the way as more and more people discover it, and harshly reject it. Kirino is in the popular circles, she is a model, she is everything that seemingly otaku culture would reject. The show looks at how being an otaku in the mid-2000s can ultimately be lonely, how the societal skew that it’s for degenerates, or how her playing R18 games can only do harm than good. Season one dives into this surprisingly well, packing one episode full of what I think most series would do in three. It does this so well that I actually thought it had three seasons, not two, just by the sheer amount of things Kirino gets into. Only two episodes come to mind that added little to nothing. Episode 9 is just Kirino nerding over a new eroge she bought for 23 minutes and the final for season 1 episode, 12.
Oreimo season one ends on what is referred to as a ‘good ending’ or ‘good arc’. Simply it usually doesn’t follow the source material and closes out the season typically for good. This would be fine if it didn’t have a second season. If someone watched all of season 1, skipped the OVAs, and went straight into season 2 they would have no idea what is happening. That is because episode 12 never happens in the book, and there is a 4 episode OVA that follows the first season that is cannon and that is where Oreimo 2 picks up.
The series also shifts gears pretty heavily in season 2 compared to 1. Where 1 was a pretty interesting take at otaku culture, and two siblings rebuilding their relationship. Season 2 kicks in the romance element, relationships bloom between the group of friends. To me this was really well done because of the number of ups and down a relationship would go through. What Oreimo can do in one episode would take 4-5 for any other generic harem. This is a bit of a double edge sword, as some girls who seemed well outside the choice suddenly confess, some even in the OVAs for season 2.
This is the third time I have seen Oreimo from start to finish, and it is every bit charming as I remembered. It’s funny, snarky, interesting, and just a fun watch. Ruri, Ayase, and Kirino could all be best girls in their own respects, each one filling a needed role that every good harem romance has, then doing it fantastically. Ayase surprisingly gets a lot of development later on mostly due to the attention from Kyouskue. She is a bit of a non-factor through most of the series but halfway through season 2 to gets a fair amount of screen time, and In general, I like her.
I would personally give this series a 9 overall, which is INSANELY high, but even still critically I feel the series is no less than an 8. In the end, I don’t think I was able to shed these rose-tinted glasses. And I guess I should address the elephant in the room below.
So before you readers start thinking “oh no is this guy about to defend incest?” the answer is yes, but in the sense of storytelling, Oreimo is a work of fiction and we cannot allow ourselves to forget that. My personal feeling on those types of relationships in the real world is a non-factor, I adamantly stand by the judgment what two consenting adults do is none of my concern as long as it’s not at the harm of others. So how do I put this?
One thing that I think Oreimo did extremely well is building Kirino and Kyouskue as a couple, not so much as siblings. What slowly starts off as a seemingly normal relationship becomes more and more complicated as that line gets blurred every episode, but I never once thought it felt, off. Eromanga Sensei, another, interesting work by Fushimi, is cringy. Granted on purpose but the whole time all the characters exist to push the off-the-wall garbage can of a narrative. The same goes with shows like OniAi, there is this extremely clingy imouto in a world that seemingly doesn’t care about her, even more so her big brother. Oddly enough Domestic Girlfriend (manga haven’t seen the anime) does a pretty good job as well of shaping the relationship that allows it to breathe and make sense in the story. Oreimo is set up and plays out in a way I was fine with Kirino agreeing to Kyouskue’s confession, and what followed I thought was actually cute and adorable. Two degenerate siblings against the world, knowing they are disgusting and will never be accepted but not caring. They claim who they want to be with and stand by it in the face of friends and foes alike, and I loved every second of it.
Add the atmosphere of Kirino challenging her lifelong foe and childhood friend of Kyouskue, Manami turning into a literal fistfight just added to the weight of the situation. Personally, I highly dislike Manami but this scene did a lot for the series overall, she seemed to be the only one to call them out for the disgusting thing they were doing, but it allowed them to yet again, clearly say I don’t care. Even as she confesses to Kyouskue, telling them they will never be accepted by the world he turns her down, saying that he will only ever care for Kirino.
Look, I know I am going to get a lot of shit for this, or maybe not, my blog isn’t that big. But I really think the flak this series gets is unjustified, I truly think many moments within the series are heartfelt, charming, and just damn feel good. I get the venom that comes with harems, I know how stans are, heck I am one. Go Nino, Go Chitoge, Go Ruka, and Go Kirino, sometimes we have to just cut the losses Ruri stans, I see you, I respect you, I feel your pain, but don’t like that cloud your judgment.
This series changed how I see storying telling in a lot of ways, it took something and did it really fucking well. I know to a lot of people Oreimo will always just be a meme, but to me, it is a series that is a truly inspiring piece.
I want to discuss this, rather in comments or in private. For those who have seen this series and now see it from my point of view, does it make sense or am I just full of shit and no longer worth living? Be honest, I can take it.
Thanks for the read!