Saori OnishiIbuki KidoAmi KoshimizuYui Ishikawa
Eromanga-Sensei
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2017
Director: Ryohei Takeshita
Writer: Tatsuya Takahashi
Original creator: Tsukasa Fushimi
Actor: Akane Fujita, Ami Koshimizu, Ayana Taketatsu, Gakuto Kajiwara, Hitomi Nabatame, Ibuki Kido, Kana Hanazawa, Mikako Komatsu, Minami Takahashi, Nana Hayama, Nobunaga Shimazaki, Saori Onishi, Tomori Kusunoki, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, Yui Ishikawa, Yuichi Nakamura, Yuka Iguchi
Keywords: anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=18142
Website category: Anime 2017
Review date: 7 August 2018
eromanga sensei
This is going to be a two-part review. The spoiler-free first half will talk about this charming, beautifully animated show. (Warning: it's also a bit controversial.) The second half will analyse it, which will obviously be a bit less spoiler-friendly although I don't expect to say anything that won't become obvious pretty quickly to anyone who's started watching it.
SPOILER-FREE DISCUSSION
It's about a twelve-year-old hikikomori called Sagiri and her fifteen-year-old step-brother Masamune. He's a professional light novel author and she's a professional light novel illustrator called Eromanga-sensei. She illustrates his novels, but neither of them has realised this. They've never met each other professionally. They just send off their work to their editor, who then gets it into print.
What's more, though, Masamune literally hasn't met Sagiri for a year even though they're living in the same house and he's the one who cooks for her. She never leaves her bedroom. She doesn't talk to him, although she'll communicate by thumping on the floor. They lost their parents a year ago, although technically Masamune has it harder than Sagiri. She's only had two parents die. He's had three: his father, mother and stepmother. Thus, unsurprisingly, they're both a bit damaged. Sagiri's cooped herself up in her room and has severe shyness issues. Meanwhile Masamune lets Sagiri go on living like this and supports her worrying lifestyle, to the extent of trying to protect her from her classmates at school if they try to get her to stop playing hooky. It's just the two of them in the house, although theoretically there's also a never-seen aunt who's given her blessing to this lifestyle only on condition that Masamune keeps making enough of a steady income from his writing.
It's a lovely show. Almost everyone in the cast is a writer, artist or bookseller and the show's examining with a lot of self-deprecating humour what it's like to live in that world. I liked everyone. Elf Yamada is a flamboyant egomaniac and scene-stealer and I should think it's impossible not to love her. Possibly also an exhibitionist. Her professional attitudes are particularly funny, e.g. the scene where she crawls away without a peep after having been trumped in an "I sell more books than you" superiority gloat. Megumi (Sagiri's classmate) is bright, bouncy and brutal in how she'll cheerfully tell you what she thinks of your book. Muramasa Senju's more restrained than those two, but still very relatable.
The show's a romantic comedy, albeit one that's still at the "light and gentle" stage and isn't going to be going anywhere fast. Look at their ages. Hopefully it'll be years before any of that lot take anything to the next stage. (Yamada's doing her best, though.) You could call this a harem anime and technically I suppose you wouldn't be wrong, but personally I'd say that here the genre's being done right. The cast are funny and well written, I found their relationships convincing and the show certainly never turned into unhealthy nerd fantasy. (There's a ton of wish-fulfilment here, admittedly, e.g. all these professional school-age novelists. However I also thought the show always kept its emotional integrity.) In one respect, incidentally, the show's better than most harem shows because it has a natural reason why the hero never takes advantage of anyone (they're too young!) and because its cast are often refreshingly honest and straightforward about matters of the heart. If A confesses to B but he's unfortunately in love with C, then he'll explain the situation immediately and gently, without hurting anyone or taking the plot into painful realms of Comedy Misunderstanding. This isn't one of those shows that's driven by miscommunication.
(Well, mostly. It could be argued that there's a genre-driven moment in ep.7. I wanted to know why Masamune wasn't asking about those dreams that were supposedly being obstructed or crushed, but I'll admit that he's angry. Besides, the key question did get asked only ten minutes later.)
The show's beautifully animated. Personally I don't often notice animation quality. I don't really care about it most of the time, i.e. in action scenes. However even I noticed the standout character animation in ep.8 in particular, e.g. the beautiful animated acting in the Muramasa-Sagiri scene. Oh, and the theme music is great too, as is Sagiri's little dance during the title sequence.
Just be warned that the show also contains potentially controversial elements. Not everyone's been willing to embrace this series, especially in the West. Quite a few reviews have been... guarded, shall we say.
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It's the latest show by the creators of Oreimo, the incest romantic comedy! What's more, they're similar. Both shows are based about an incestuous romance between a long-suffering teenage boy (Masamune/Kyosuke) and his younger sister (Sagiri/Kirino) who's secretly in love with him. Both sisters have problem personalities that make them hard to live with, while also being interested in erotic material that most people would see as alarmingly inappropriate. (Kirino liked playing adult computer games where you seduce your little sister, while Sagiri loves drawing dirty pictures and is extremely interested in seeing other girls in near-pornographic situations. Despite their brother complexes, both characters invite questions about their sexuality. Sagiri even uses the masculine pronoun "ore" when she's Eromanga-sensei.)
Both shows also have strong roots in otaku culture. You can see why people were wary of this from the moment they heard about it. The thing about Oreimo is that it genuinely was an excellent show, so there were people who watched it despite the subject matter and then got upset by the ending.
That said, though, there are significant differences between the two shows.
1. They're not blood related, so technically it's not incest. Hurrah! One positive effect of this, incidentally, is that people can be more open and honest. (Well, except for Sagiri. She can't even bring herself to be seen by other people, after all.)
2. Ages have dropped disturbingly. Sagiri is twelve. Her sexier, more mature rivals... are fourteen. Oh dear. The show also isn't afraid to have sexy shots of these girls. Yow ouch yeesh. Theoretically the show is doing nothing wrong because no one lays a finger on anyone else, but I still think it introduces problems. A fifteen-year-old declaring his love for a twelve-year-old is problematic, to say the least. Similarly, surely it undercuts the sentiments on display? They're children. They don't have a clue about anything. Hell, even thirty-year-olds will believe all kinds of rubbish with their love lives. If a twelve-year-old thinks she's in love with someone... well, when she was young, my sister believed (a) that she'd date one of "New Kids on the Block", and (b) that this was desirable.
Personally I think the show survives this. It's delicate and sufficiently hands-off that the show's one genuinely problematic area (Sagiri-Masamune) stays safely in "maybe, possibly, perhaps one day", as a layer underneath some genuinely charming scenes of step-siblings supporting each other. It's sweet. Had the show put a foot wrong, though, the results could have been unwatchable. (There will be people out there who think it is anyway, having failed to clear the age hurdle.)
3. People's personalities. The character dynamics are very different, even before you get into the examination of professional creators, i.e. light novel authors and illustrators. Kirino was a grumpy, hard-nosed little harridan who treated Kyosuke like dirt. She was a comedy monster, basically. You knew where you stood with Kirino. She behaved badly and didn't care. Sagiri, on the other hand, is shy, damaged and much closer to moe stereotypes, despite her dirty-minded tendencies. She's also so tiny that I'm wondering if she's eating properly, even bearing in mind the age gap.
Then, in addition, Sagiri and Masamune are the survivors of tragedy, whereas Kirino and Kyosuke had a normal family background. The show's capable of startling you with reminders of that, just when you'd settled into enjoying it as a comfortable comedy. (I also have a problem with Sagiri's mother letting her become a hikikomori at age seven. Masamune's situation is more nuanced, but with a seven-year-old you just send them to school. End of story. If necessary, you pick them up and carry them. It's tougher for a single mother, yes, but even so that's something that shouldn't be negotiable.)
4. There's also an argument to be made that the show rushes into things. It doesn't start from scratch. Masamune has to coax Sagiri out of her hikikomori shell, but I'm pretty sure their feelings for each other come ready-formed from ep.1. Masamune's little speech about his "beautiful little sister" in ep.2 freaked me out a bit. It felt so out of the blue that it was almost creepy. In contrast, Oreimo took 32 episodes to work its way up from "open vicious hostility", so from that point of view this show's dubious romance is taking its characters on a shorter journey. That's not a flaw as such, but it is a difference.
Oh, and I loved the cameo.
I really liked this show. I thought it was charming. However I also really liked Oreimo, if you want to do some taste calibration. If you think this show sounds appalling, then maybe you'll be appalled. Divisive? Unsavoury? I couldn't argue. If you think it sounds like trash, then you might well agree with yourself and in addition find many like-minded folk on the internet who agree with you. It is, also, very much a certain kind of (worrying) fantasy. Personally, though, I engaged strongly with both this show's characters and its exploration of novel-creators. I thought it was delightful.