When I first heard of Oreimo, I thought to myself, "yet another series that I must keep from watching in front of family and friends because it's borderline super ecchi (sexually suggestive)." [Editor's note: Aniplex licensed the series as Oreimo, a shortened version of the original Japanese: Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai, which translates to, My Little Sister Can't Possibly Be This Cute.] I was surprised to discover that the title was misleading, and the series has deeper themes like: acceptance, understanding, family bonds, and of course love for anime, manga, doujinshi (fan-made comics), and eroge (adult computer games).
Over the ages of my being an otaku, I have never seen an anime take a stand against cultural prejudice and say, "otaku are not what you think they are." This anime does just that, but not in those words – it's more like, "ore no imouto ga konna ni kawaii wake ga nai." Now, keep in mind that not all otaku have little sisters or consider little sisters to be cute, but a lot of us can really get behind this anime because of its humor, strange events, and it lets us laugh at ourselves. Because Oreimo makes fun of otaku culture, having a real understanding of it just makes it easier to laugh at it. So with that, I have to bow and say 'arigatou' to Aniplex for bringing Oreimo to English speaking fans to enjoy.
Oreimo begins with Kyosuke, a plain teenager who just wants to be left alone and live a normal life. That is how his life is going until the day that he bumps into his little sister, Kirino, who he doesn't usually get along with. She drops an anime DVD, and inside is an eroge game. Kyosuke finds the DVD after Kirino leaves and is shocked. Kirino doesn't seem like the stereotypical otaku: she is a good student, a track athlete, and even a part time model. She shows him her massive collection of eroge and anime, and even makes him play one of the games so he can experience the same joy and passion for them that she does. He asks her why she only collects eroge that involve little sisters, to which she replies that little sisters are very cute, and muses that everyone wants to protect them. He asks her if that is the only reason hinting that her interest may extend to their relationship, and she calls him a pervert and says that is a sick idea. Kyosuke never paid much attention to Kirino since she seemed to have her own life, but now he must help keep her secret from their parents and her close friends as well as give her life counseling.
Kyosuke only wants to let Kirino know that he accepts her hobby and she should be open to making friends with the same interests, and then return to his normal life once she's fully embraced her inner otaku. How does he help her make friends who share the same interests as her? Enter Minami, or Ms. Plain as Kirino calls her. Minami is Kyosuke's childhood friend, and she's in love with him but he either doesn't see it or doesn't want to notice it. Minami tells Kyosuke about online communities where Kirino can meet friends with the same interests. After signing up, Kirino gets an invitation from Saori for an IRL (in real life) meet up. Saori is an open otaku, but is more stereotypical than Kirino (think of the main character from Densha Otoko, Train Man, and his friends). In keeping with the show's theme of there being more to a person than is publically seen, she has another side to her that I won't spoil.
At the meet up, Kirino feels out of place but afterwards she is approached by Saori and is invited to another smaller get-together where she meets Kuroneko. Kuroneko is a loner gothic lolita anime fanatic and is interested in the dark arts, or so she claims to be. Saori noticed that both girls were quiet and kind of shy in the meet up, so she wants them to hang out and get to know each other. They begin to argue about whose favorite anime show is better, but soon begin to get along. At this point you would think Kyosuke's task is over, but you would be wrong: Kirino has only just begun to need her brother's help and the siblings' bond grows. Kyosuke also gets to know Saori and Kuroneko and becomes friends with them in the process of asking for their advice. The story progresses from Kyosuke meeting his sister's model friends to protecting her from their father by saying that one of Kirino's eroge games is actually his own. His plain life is slipping away, but he is growing closer to his sister and making more friends.
One of my favorite aspects of Oreimo is that it raises the issue of how people in Japan sees anime and eroge as hobbies associated with criminals that can ruin a teenager's life. This topic is usually only brought up by the anime and eroge industry in panel discussions during conventions. In episode five, Kirino's modeling friend Ayase finds out that she is an otaku and tells her she can't associate with her anymore. Ayase brings up cases in which crimes have been committed and are blamed on eroge. Kirino and company bring up that the majority of crimes are not linked to anime or eroge, and even if they are it's the minds of the individuals that are to blame, not fiction. I have heard this bigoted reasoning first hand from friends in Japan, and I always ask that if this was true, then why is it that horror movies are not blamed for making more serial killers all around the world? They usually respond that horror movies are totally different. Despite the fact that there is no link to support that anime and eroge are connected to crimes, Ayase's reasoning is still valid in Japan. The only real danger anime and eroge present to me is its link between my bank account being low on funds, and many fans but we wouldn't like it any other way.
Basically, Oreimo is a comedy about otaku life with a good plot that doesn't get boring, which is more than I expected it to be. I thought there would be tons of fan service, but I found myself enjoying the parodies and actually laughing at otaku culture, which meant laughing at myself. I liked all the otaku references such as the episodes near the end being named "Good End," and "True Route," which are obvious references to light novels and RPGs. Now that season two of Oreimo has been announced, I will need to purchase more Oreimo stuff to prepare. This Oreimo set comes in three DVD's with all sixteen episodes (twelve TV episodes and four webisodes) of the anime with only Japanese audio and English subtitles. What I found very interesting was that every episode had a different ending song and sequence. The opening song is "irony" which is sung by ClariS which, I must say, is super catchy. In the extras you have the opening and sixteen endings with no text to get in the way. I recommend that you read all the names of the ending songs; there are a few with long, funny names. With that, I say this is a great anime and you should just go see it. (And Kuroneko is awesome.)
What I Loved:
- - Kuroneko. Enough said
- - ClariS singing a catchy opening song.
- - Sixteen different ending songs with different animation sequences.
- - Comedy guaranteed to make you laugh, even at yourself.
- - "Good End," "True Route" episodes feels like an eroge game without the H-scenes.
- - Can’t wait for Season 2!
What I Hated:
- - No English audio.
- - Too short.
- - Never saw Saori’s face without the glasses.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the distributor
Images copyrighted: Aniplex USA