Show: Oreimo, or Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai (My Little Sister Can’t be this Cute)
Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life
Studio: AIC Build
Director: Hiroyuki Kanbe
Episodes: 12 (+ 4 bonus) (Season 1)
I first noticed Oreimo because it was one of the animes on the Facebook poll for our Spring Semester shows. When I asked one of the club officers about it, he told me it was supposed to be a “lolicon” anime that hints at romantic relations between a brother and his sister, and that someone put it up for vote as a joke. Intrigued (and a little bit scared, honestly) I put on my “skepticals” and decided to give Oreimo a try.
The story is centered on Kyosuke and Kirino Kousaka who are presented as terrible siblings who can never seem to get along. Kirino is in middle school and is an A-student, star athlete, and successful model while Kyosuke is portrayed as just a regular high schooler with no special talents. It appears that Kirino’s brother is a reasonable guy, albeit pretty jealous of the attention earned by his sister’s accomplishments, but Kirino herself is incredibly short tempered and violent. There is, however, one flaw to Kirino’s perfect record: and that is her immense hoard of eroge anime, manga, and video games (wham), which all feature moe-style little girls and sister x brother themes (double wham). Kirino knows that if anyone were to find out about her hobbies, she would lose all of her credibility and closest friends, but she can’t hide all of it forever either: it’s a part of her she cannot simply give up. When her brother accidentally discovers her secret hobbies, he is incredibly shocked, as anyone would be. But instead of spurning her or even just ignoring it, he decides to help her. Kyosuke works to reconcile her hobbies with her life, going far out of his way to help his sister find new otaku friends, give her life counseling, accompany her to anime conventions, play her games with her, and even defend her hobbies in front of her other non-otaku friends. The amazing thing is that Kyosuke really has no association with anime at all and pretty negative relations with Kirino already: the fact that he goes so far to help his sister is a strong point in the series that I appreciate a lot. Much of the humor in the series comes from the disparities in opinions between the anime-cultured and the anime-ignorant worlds. For example, in one episode, Kirino’s father finds out about her entire collection and is intent on throwing it out, for fear that it has been tainting her thinking and performance. But Kyosuke saves the day by lying to his dad and claiming it as his own instead of Kirino’s, earning him the title “worthless son” for the rest of the show.
So of course, the things you always end up noticing (hence the title) are the subtle hints of “romance” between Kyosuke and his sister. But what I love about Oreimo is how lightheartedly they handle this topic: it is not necessarily intended to appeal to “lolis” (which is a really silly name, if you think about it), and is instead used as a medium for conveying some of the the show’s true messages, like how we should be more open-minded about and responsive to the opinions and concerns of others. This is incredibly relevant today in so many aspects of life, but there are two prominent examples that I am familiar with.
One concerns the rise of the My Little Pony fandom, which, despite being a children’s show, is comprised hugely of older men. Everyone feels passionate about their fandoms, of course, and it hurts to see someone bashing, shunning, or feeling discomfort towards another person’s interests, especially if it’s done in a biased manner. In Oreimo, there is a really powerful scene in which Ayase, one of Kirino’s lifelong friends, discovers her secret and cannot come to terms with her “indecent” hobbies, claiming that she saw a news report that confirmed that playing a certain video game called “SisCalypse”, in which little sisters are supposed to fight using superpowers, drove a man to molest a child. Kyosuke himself tracks down the evidence to show that this news claim was biased and completely false, logically disproving Ayase’s arguments. It shows how opinions that go against cultural norms or our beliefs, or even those make us uncomfortable for reasons we are unaware of, are not always wrong and may be dear to somebody, and for that reason we should try to be open-minded and watch what we say about them. And yet contradictorily, it’s nearly impossible not to yield to the social pressure of labeling such shows and their viewers as uncouth and weird (as I used to do with My Little Pony and my friends who watched it just several months ago). And it is tricky, I’ll admit, to judge what media is acceptable. For example, by today’s standards, video games with intense violence are accepted by most people—and yet there arises the controversy of the possible link between abnormal aggressive behaviors and violent video games: although violent games are “accepted” as normal (i.e. there won’t be nationwide riots when they show advertisements for the next Call of Duty) we aren’t certain that they are the most beneficial for us, in the long term. How, then, do we judge if an anime like Oreimo is acceptable? I think Oreimo does a really good job of bringing light to this question, as explained previously.
This bridges into the next real-life example that I’m familiar with, and that is the book by Jesse Bering titled Perv: the Sexual Deviant in All of Us. Yes, the title and cover clearly explains the book: it’s about coming to terms with deviant sexual desires and being aware of some of the strangest erotica out there. Note that the author makes some pretty extreme statements! One of the his main arguments is that if a sexual practice—no matter how strange or outlandish—does not cause harm to another being, it shouldn’t really be a problem. He makes a clear distinction between pedophiles and child molesters, noting how the one person causes real harm while the other simply has a deviant desire and shouldn’t be shunned by society. He also illustrates the extensiveness of deviant sexual desires and sexual fantasies among everyday people (things like sadism and masochism actually comprise a pretty significant minority) and the public’s lack of knowledge of how significant the role of pornographic material is in society. For example, he shows how, in some cases, the accepted use of pornography can actually cause a decrease in sexual offenses by the public, contrary to popular belief. This plays out in Oreimo through Kirino’s attitude towards others: by the later episodes, we can tell that deep down, she cares for the safety of others and never really desires to harm people—even her brother, whom she regularly abuses. Without her hobby and her collection of eroge as an outlet, she would certainly not be the same person she is now: it’s a part of her and defines who she is. Moreover, it doesn’t harm others and actually offers a chance to make new friends and to get know her brother better, even if it is weird and pretty deviant from the norm.
The first anime/manga I ever really got into was Naruto. But before I began to actually pay attention to it, I remember complaining to my sister (who was watching it at the time) about all anime being full of violence, overly sexualized girls, and over-emotional people, and that all anime was pretty stupid and weird. I’m pretty sure a lot of us have encountered something like this in our lives: that feeling of anxiety and uneasiness that accompanies the breaking of an unspoken norm, whether it be in regard to religion, sexual orientation, or preferences in books and TV shows. I think we have to stay open-minded—at least a little bit—about anything and anyone. In fact, I appreciate when shows like Oreimo make me feel uncomfortable and a little weird, because it helps me to understand my own opinions (sometimes prejudiced) and views of the world and convinces me to try and change them to make them more helpful and less hurtful to others. There are plenty of anime and video games out there that I wouldn’t care to involve myself with, but I have to try not to judge people who watch those animes or play those games, simply by the fact that they do so. In fact, realizing that the people you know (like your sister, in the case of Oreimo) have such hobbies can do more good than harm. Also, it’s okay to have weird hobbies and be a deviant in your opinions and desires; and if you’re lucky enough to have a friend or sibling that truly cares about you, they’ll adjust their own opinions about the world rather than force you to conform to theirs.
Although it’s quite clearly toned down and completely PG-13, Oreimo might be a little too weird for some people. I was familiar with its ideas because I’ve read a few books on such topics (like Lolita by Nabokov and Perv) and have had friends that were in to My Little Pony, but it does require a bit of background knowledge of fandom culture and what things like anime and “moe” mean in a cultural sense. It also has an interesting way of referencing otaku culture and its stereotypes—creating imaginary animes and video games and having characters cosplay and attend conventions, for example—which might go over the casual anime viewers’ heads (some of it sure did go over mine!).
On Tumblr, there are so many posts bashing this anime (for obvious reasons), which is a little sad, because I can tell it tries so hard to change those social stigmas surrounding “lolis” and the media they enjoy. In addition, it really only relies on the brother x sister idea for comedy and a little plot development. Oreimo is really about understanding people and their true desires—about coming to terms with your friends, your family, the world, and yourself. I highly recommend it!
Max Dunevitz is a UF student who enjoys meaningful and insightful anime and video games that challenge the status quo. His hobbies include programming, the arts, music composition, mathematics, and community service.