This won’t be a massively in-depth review or analysis. Oreimo doesn’t need that, it’s an anime to be taken at face value. Beyond the obvious, there’s little lurking beneath the surface to bring into the light.
At the very core, Oreimo is a story about the relationship between brother and sister – Kyousuke, and Kirino, whom develop a strong relationship after Kirino divulges her secretive otaku ways, and obsession with Eroge (erotic video games). Running throughout it, are droves of comedy, touching moments, cringing moments, moments when I hate the characters, and moments when that hate is turned into affection.
A few years ago, when Oreimo first aired, it received a lot of attention. No doubt, because of the controversial nature of the story itself; the premise of a brother and sister falling in love, the potential of an incestuous relationship. But… that’s not truly what Oreimo is. It is about the love between siblings, about the love that does admittedly extend a little further out than what could be considered normal. Yet, it is not explicitly incestuous. If it were, I might be writing this in a different tone, or I might not be writing it at all. After all, only the things I’m passionate about will end up here – no matter which side of the spectrum they dwell on. Though, don’t think I’m going to be reviewing Hentai any time soon…
Oreimo is a harem, it just is. There can be no denying that. Kyousuke becomes surrounded by at least half a dozen girls, which all – in varying ways and degrees – fall for him. Yet, it isn’t just a harem. There are true reasons for – most – of the feelings and desires of the characters.
Without a doubt, the characters are well-developed, and they continue to develop and change throughout the show. Building bridges, and in some cases, tearing them down again. The relationships between them aren’t normal ‘harem-trope’ types. They bounce around, going from bad, to good, and back again. This is what draws me into anime like Oreimo, the conflict and the resolutions between the characters, the subtleties that exist in between the lines. And don’t get me wrong, Oreimo doesn’t get close to some others in this regard, but it does it well, and for a light-hearted, comedy-drama – that’s something to praise, and one of Oreimo’s biggest achievements.
Undeniably, the comedy is of note too. There were many times when I found myself laughing out at the rather uncomfortable moments Kyousuke and Kirino often find themselves in. It’s awkward and cringy in all the right comedic ways – well, it is if you aren’t overly offended by moving drawings on a screen. Most of the laughs centre on Kirino’s obsession with Eroge, and the relationship that ensues from revealing it to her brother. After all, this is the driving force behind the story.
As with most Slice of Life animes, there is no story of note. You will feel familiar with the high-school setting – though, it is not as prevalent as some others. You will feel familiar with the themes often conveyed, and the way in which the narrative is visually told. These are not drawbacks. Instead, I think in Oreimo’s case, it gives us a sense of what we are watching, leaving room to focus on the less-than-common themes that snake throughout the narrative
Another, well, is Saori… is she amazing… or is that just me?
Where It Slips
Oreimo is not without its problems: The biggest… Season 2.
I’ve read so many reviews hating S2. Now, though I don’t hate S2, it could have been so much better.
Something happened after the first few episodes, after Kyousuke moved out, it felt like things were driven off the rails. I understand the dynamic had to change, I understand that Kirino and Kyousuke couldn’t eternally have carried on the way they were. So, other characters were brought deeper into the mix, to fill the holes. I actually did enjoy the few episodes with Kyousuke and Kuroneko – both at the end of S1, and when they ‘got together’ in S2. Though, I didn’t fully understand the motivation behind the break up, and labeling it as a ‘joke.’ What for? But, maybe I simply overlooked something that would have made it clear. Nonetheless, Kuroneko’s character development was handled well, the way she opened up, and the way she revealed her love. I applaud that aspect.
My favourite character, Saori, disappeared in S2 – for the most part – showing her face here and there – though, nothing of note came from it. In my opinion, she is among the most diverse of the characters, with her multiple ‘personalities,’ and the way in which she is the bonding element for the whole group. Yet, she never seems to develop into anything more. As if at some point, the writers forgot about her and decided not to give her a shot in ‘Kyousuke’s Harem’. Though, I will say, I did enjoy the episode showing Saori’s backstory, how she was influenced, and the slightly rocky place she developed from. Because, if there’s anything I do praise about Oreimo, it’s the characters. Sure, they fit exactly into those all-too-well-recognised tropes: Kirino’s an exemplary Tsundere, Ayase the innocent Moe, and Kuroneko the quiet Dandere. Kyousuke… well, mostly he’s just boring, therefore I’m uncertain as to where to categorise him. And there’s always Saori, the helpful girl, the cement, yet always outside of the major action and drama. Though, these archetypes do not make a bad impression upon Oreimo, because it’s ordinary in that respect. You go into it with a certain amount of understanding on who to expect, but not necessarily what to expect.
Without a doubt, S2 let’s the show down, revealing parts that aren’t all that complete – where the narrative seemed to have been led down the wrong road.
The Ending and Surrounding Controversy
There’s been a lot of controversy regarding the ending of Oreimo. According to numerous claims, the author of the original series of light novels Tsukasa Fushimi wasn’t permitted to write the ending he’d originally envisioned; that being one of an irrefutable incestuous relationship between Kyousuke and Kirino, rather than the ambiguous ending we are offered. He said this on the matter:
In the main story [as contrasted with the PSP game], I couldn’t write an ending where Kirino’s affection is truly and entirely rewarded. Various circumstances prevented me from plainly writing that sort of ending. Nonetheless, I realized that she cared deeply for [Kyousuke], and so I felt I had to do something for her.
Thus, we got the ‘until we graduate ending.’
What do I think of that? Well, I’m not a big supporter of censorship in any situation, nonetheless corporate censorship on artistic/literature material. I don’t agree with that in any sense, no matter the content in question. Though, I do understand why the publishers might have deemed it necessary to intervene with his vision, on grounds of their public image. Maybe S2 would have fared better if this hadn’t been the case. And yet, the ending, it wasn’t awful… it was just not up to expectation.
If you’re new to anime, I would recommend something a little… softer as your gateway into this world. If you’re not, go right ahead. S2 could be better, but it’s not bad enough for me to denounce Oreimo as a whole, because I honestly think the first season is wonderful. Especially if you are in need of something light and ‘uplifting’ to watch. If you’re looking for an anime that tackles themes that are present in Oreimo in a serious way, Oreimo probably isn’t for you. Because, ultimately, its backbone is constructed of somewhat clichéd and familiar comedy, albeit handled in a very reputable way. It is the character relationships and conflicts that stand out. If you like character-driven narratives, Oreimo is for you.
What did you think of Oreimo, the ending, and the characters?
I love to hear feedback – constructive criticism is encouraged!