When I first started watching Oreimo, the abbreviation of an anime by the name of: Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai (translates as: My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute) it only took the first 3 episodes for me to fall in the love with the concept. The warped and intriguing idea of having a teenage girl interested in playing ‘eroges’; erotic visual novel games, set the stage for a really deep and touching concept that I believed would set this comedy anime apart from the rest. The story follows a brother and sister who don’t get along together well until one day the older brother discovers his sister’s bizarre secret, but chooses to accept it and support her through it. From the beginning you easily see right through his sister’s attitude; Kirino Kosaka has the typical tsundere younger sister attitude of pretending to not like her brother but deep down she relies on him and wants him to pay attention to her. You can already tell that her character is one that may seem distant to her brother but she wants nothing more but for her brother to share in her hobby and understand her, and within the first 3 episodes we see this develop as her brother, Kyosuke Kosaka, puts himself through social hell to defend her.
The concept truly blew me away; it’s something that modern teenagers deal with everyday in all parts of life, including internet culture, which is having hobbies or interests that don’t adhere to the status quo. It’s something most people can relate to, where our lifestyles are ones which we are proud of and enjoy but either can’t talk to anyone about or can’t defend from those who dislike it or look down on it. This concept was presented well throughout Oreimo, with Kyosuke helping his sister by participating in her hobby and helping her find friends who share the same interest. In the first 3 episodes alone I was left with a huge smile on my face, greatly satisfied by an anime that embraced a bizarre idea to tell a heartwarming story of social acceptance and unusual hobbies. Alas, even the funniest animes and deepest concepts can easily be derailed by other elements of the anime, and I’m sad to say that Oreimo was nearly ruined for me by the very character this concept was about: Kirino.
The tsundere sister attitude is nothing new to me and when done in moderation it can serve as worthwhile comic relief. It tends to annoy me when overdone and usually the sister character has an absurd hatred for her brother even though the brother does nothing but look out for her. Sadly, such is the case with Oreimo. Except in this anime there’s no harem anime cliches or slapstick comedy special effects and animation; the violence and punishment inflicted on Kyosuke by his sister is visceral and raw. To make matters worse the expected feedback of seeing the sister character finally warm up to her brother, acknowledging his help and realizing that he looks out for her, is something that’s severely drawn out to the point where even I was at wits end by episode 11. Kirino was uncompromisingly mean and bitter towards her brother, no matter how much he stood up for her, supported her and helped her, and as the series progressed it only became more shocking that she would act this way. One could take this impossible attitude and non-cartoony violence as a satire or exaggeration of most harem animes involving the sister type, by flipping the table on its head and showing how uncomfortable the unfair violence inflicted on the main character is. Be that is it may, it reached illogical lengths when his sister would still hit him and ignore him even after a touching moment in the previous scenario. Luckily episode 11 provides some much needed closure when a surprise party was put together in Kyosuke’s honor, as a chance for his sister to thank him for everything he’d done. It was a truly beautiful moment that fulfilled everything I was looking for in the anime, and I felt Kyosuke’s tears of happiness as my own. For this exact reason, it’s my firm belief that anyone who watches this show should watch up to this episode and just stop. For if you continue then you may just come out of the series with a bad taste in your mouth.
The 12th and final episode of Oreimo is pretty funny and continues to explore the themes of bizarre hobbies that the series started off with, but it introduces an unexpected plot twist and creates a circumstance so horribly cliche that it’s something you need to see for yourself to determine whether you liked it or not. In this episode, Kirino provides Kyosuke with a beating so bad it can be seen as the apex of all her violence in the show. Kyosuke actually ends up bleeding because of this, as is seen by bloody tissues in a later scene. After this I just couldn’t bring myself to feel bad for Kirino, because at this point all the conceptual depth of the anime was lost in this overexaggerated tsundere sister’s rotten attidue. There’s even an episode where Kirino is playing a game where the virtual girl character acts nothing but ‘tsun’ (cold and hostile) and doesn’t act the ‘dere’ part out (loving and appreciative), much to Kirino’s dismay. It can be seen as some grand irony that the character who acts like this most is despairing at seeing her virtual girls treat her the same way, which is perhaps the point of the episode. In fact, the idea behind the title ‘My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute’ is that of a younger sister who acts in a hostile manner no matter what and never once shows a cute side, which I understood from the beginning of course, but I never expected the character to never develop at all. Which brings me to the final issue I had with this anime; it ended up being good again without her in the picture.
While the series does mainly follow Kyosuke and the ‘bond’ that was presumably going to develop between him and his sister, it also involves the friends they made; fellow ‘otakus’ who have equally bizarre but understandable interests (but much more mild, since they only like anime in general): Saori and Kuroneko. These two characters are explored briefly, with a few episodes that give insight into their personal lives, showing that they’re normal people like anyone else and have hobbies which they’re proud of. This all adds to the heartwarming aspect of the anime, showing how it’s unfair to think of people as ‘weird’ or ‘outcasts’ when they are just people who enjoy different things. It’s a theme presented well by when Kirino had a falling out with her best friend but made up by explaining that she appreciated her friendship with her but her hobbies are also a part of her. Just as these themes were drying out towards the end of the anime, the 4 special episodes (which included the alternate episode 12) provided some much needed re-invigoration of the concept, and this was done without Kirino in the picture.
The episodes focused mainly on the character Kuroneko, a girl whose real name was Ruri, as she joined Kyosuke’s school and struggled to fit in at first. It then goes on to show how Kyosuke and Ruri join a club, which allows Ruri to understand the importance of relying on others without much help needed from Kyosuke (since he usually tries to be the problem solver, as he did with his sister). During these episodes the themes of social acceptance, weird hobbies and friendship are re-explored, themes which reminded me why I enjoyed the series in the first place. Yet it disturbed me to come to the realization that I was enjoying this because Kirino was out of the picture. Ruri was a very interesting character, who can be seen as a true tsundere since she acts cold and aloof on the surface but gets very cute and intimate when she’s alone with Kysouke. She also ends up being the only character to truly develop properly as she learns to rely on others, also showing a romantic interest in Kyosuke in the final episode. It hit me at that point that what I was hoping for in the anime was just that; a developed character that appreciates Kyosuke for how he helped them and a reiteration of the concept, something which Ruri fulfilled excellently and Kirino failed to do (except for in episode 11).
So while the anime ends with Kirino coming back into the picture after Kysouke finally reveales his dependence on her, I was at least left with closure once again and was willing to ignore the deeper implied plotlines. The show is now entering a second season, but after I realized that Kirino’s attitude was irreparable and it threatened to ruin the anime and its great concept I am not willing to pursue this anime any further. I was truly looking for great things in this anime as it started out with such a great strength of ideals and morals, but I was let down by the unfair treatment of the main character Kyosuke and exasperated by the unyielding rotten attitude of Kirino. Don’t get me wrong though, I did love this anime from start to finish and it honestly made me laugh and smile more than some comedy animes I’ve watched in the past. I definitely recommend this anime for anyone looking for a great exploration of the concept of hobbies but I warn you that Kirino’s character (as well as other female characters in this anime…) might honestly ruin this anime for you, and I have more patience than some.
However the lasting effect that I was left with from this anime was that even the most beautiful of concepts can be let down by either the characters or anime cliches. I’ve seen so many other animes where this exact thing happened; the first half of the series was deep, excellent and touching whilst the second half of the anime fell to overdone cliches and unfairness, such as the case with the second season of Baka and Test or the second half of Kaichou wa Maid-sama, in my opinion anyway. Now, I’m not a person who lives off of nostalgia glasses and I don’t believe that only older animes were good or deep, as there’s several current animes that left great impressions on me, or ongoing anime that I’m really enjoying animes such as Date A Live and Attack on Titan. I’m just slightly disappointed that Oreimo played out as it did, but I’m glad I decided to watch it for at least attempting to convey a very well thought out concept and provide genuine comedy with cliche in mind.