What I am about to write is a head-on collision with moral 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. Anime in a lot of ways made for the perfect pairing. I picked up this hobby of mine when I was 11 or so, and 15 years later it’s still a medium I thoroughly enjoy. So being someone who has for years experienced many different series spanning a ton of genres, there are a handful series that I can reminisce on. One series, in particular, has a permanent 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. A taboo love story that took every trope and cop-out and said no, we are going to stay true. 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.
Oreimo quickly became a slapstick gimmick of wincest, and honestly, the 3 episode OVA for Oreimo 2, is pretty much just that. But I think ignoring 26 episodes leading up to that moment does this series as a whole a massive disservice. Writing off a wonderful tale the embodies what it means to embrace otaku culture.
The series 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? Hard-line 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 be into such things is 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, a rating of r18 is clearly stamped on it. 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 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 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 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 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 does 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 closing OVAs for season 2.
This is the third time I have seen Oreimo from start to finish, and it’s 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. 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.
But even with all the praise, all the adoration I have for this series and how much it saddens me to see most feedback about it. There is still an elephant in the room that has to be addressed.
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. So how do I put this?
One thing that I think Oreimo did wonderfully 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 dumpster 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) also does a pretty good job of shaping the relationship letting it make sense in the story. Oreimo is set up and plays out in a way that made me 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 was the only one to call them out for the loathsome thing they were doing, but that allowed them to yet again, clearly say, I don’t care. Even as she confesses to Kyouskue, telling them they will never be accepted, even threating to tell their father, he turns her down, saying that he will only ever care for Kirino.
Look, I know I am going to get a lot of crap for this. But I truthfully think the flak this series gets is unjustified, there are many moments within the series that 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 the judgment on just how good this show really is.
This series changed how I see storying telling in a lot of ways. It took this trope idea, expatiate it in near pacing perfection to create one of the most roller coaster romances to date. I know to a lot of people Oreimo will always just be a meme, but to me, it is a truly inspiring piece.
Thanks for the read!