Kana HanazawaAyana TaketatsuSatomi SatouSaori Hayami
Oreimo: Season 1
Also known as: Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai, Season 1
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2010
Director: Hiroyuki Kanbe
Original creator: Tsukasa Fushimi
Actor: Ayana Taketatsu, Yuichi Nakamura, Akeno Watanabe, Fumihiko Tachiki, Hitomi Nabatame, Kana Hanazawa, Saori Hayami, Satomi Satou, Yukari Tamura
Keywords: Oreimo, anime, incest
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 TV + 4 OVA episodes
Url: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=11512
Website category: Anime early 10s
Review date: 13 May 2016
ore no imouto ga
It's sold in the West under the name Oreimo. That's the title of my DVDs. That's not wrong. Its Japanese fans call it that too, being short for "Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai". However a full English translation would be "There's No Way My Little Sister Can Be This Cute" and it's heading for incest. Oh, and the lead characters' ages at this stage are 17 (the brother, Kyousuke) and 14 (the sister, Kirino).
You can see why the English-language DVDs just call themselves "Oreimo". It's more anonymous. We've got this thing in the West about paedophile incest. It's a bit of a no-no.
The question is thus exactly how bad this show is. Is it: (a) actually good, like Koi Kaze, and you wouldn't be ashamed to be caught watching it, (b) brown paper bag time, (c) something that should get you led away by the cops?
Caveat: I haven't yet seen Season 2. I'll start that soon. Season 1, though, was a laugh. It's not offensive! Kyousuke and Kirino are still just brother and sister at this stage and indeed you'd be expecting them to find romance with other people. (Kyousuke has a sort-of girlfriend with whom he's been friends for years, while the evidence so far tentatively suggests that Kirino's a lesbian.)
It's also often very funny. I liked the supporting cast and the show's examination of otaku-dom, including its negative reputation. Anime doesn't always admit to that. It's a good show. It's more lightweight and comedic than Koi Kaze, obviously, but it's saying interesting things and I thoroughly enjoyed these sixteen episodes.
My main problem with the show so far, in fact, is the way that it seems built to validate the otaku lifestyle and certain more extreme tastes. Kirino is a massive closet otaku who loves: (a) a children's anime series called Stardust Witch Meruru, and (b) adult video games about having sex with your little sister. If she were male, she'd be creepy. However she's pretty, clever, great at sports, a professional model and basically a fantasy figure whose story function is to defend socially unacceptable interests. "Look!" the story's saying. "Hot girls can like all those things too! You're not alone! It's okay to be a pervert!" However in fairness, this is the whole point of the story and there's quite an interesting debate going on, including the hobby's negative reputation and Kirino's substantial character flaws. The outside world might think she's Little Miss Perfect, but she's also obnoxious, dishonest with herself and occasionally kind of disturbing.
She's one of three tsundere in the cast and not even the only one with incest subtext. She's an irritable, loud tsundere who's rude and abusive to Kyousuke and seems to be using her bad personality as a shield. There's something underneath. We don't know the details yet, but I actually became quite fond of her. Not all viewers will like her, but personally I see quite a lot of warmth underneath. I also admire the way she's so clear-minded and unapologetic about what she likes, despite knowing that the rest of the world (and even her best friend) would be horrified by her tastes.
(It's curious that no one ever wonders if she might be a lesbian, incidentally, despite being so aroused by computer game sex scenes with girls that she'll go and have a shower first. She also seems a bit turned on by Kuroneko's maid outfit in ep.11, although obviously you could write a book about her relationship with Kyousuke.)
Friends are a massive theme in this season. When it begins, Kirino has no one with whom she can talk about what matters to her. She has friends at school, but they don't know. No one does. She takes the plunge by telling Kyousuke and he helps her meet Saori and Kuroneko, who are raving otaku fangirls who are just as weird as Kirino and don't judge her. (Well, effectively. Kuroneko does judge her, actually, but that's because Kuroneko is a super-judgemental freak who's negative about everything except her beloved anime. She judges everyone. She and Kirino fight like cats and dogs, but they might die if they didn't have each other.)
As for Kyousuke, he's likeable and funny. He finds Kirino irritating, but he can't help but try to help out her and her friends. They so obviously need it. He's also the centre of much of the comedy, being a normal-ish person in a series that's willing to make jokes out of disgusting innuendo and scary subtext. Some of those are gut-punchers. I laughed a lot.
I liked the other cast members too. Kyousuke's childhood friend, Manami Tamura, is lovely and has a funny, offbeat family. Kuroneko and Saori are as lonely underneath as Kirino and it's sweet (in a sometimes caustic way) to see them coming together. Then there's Ayase, who's a normal girl and simply can't accept Kirino's tastes... but she's doing her best.
There's a quirk with the episode numbering. The TV series goes from 1-12, then the OVAs go "12 TRUE ROUTE", 13, 14, 15. The broadcast ep.12 has an anime happy ending. The OVA ep.12 is a more faithful adaptation of the original light novel storyline, being the same until the halfway point. I preferred the OVA version. Eps.13-14 are Kuroneko-focused and really rather good, after which I think ep.15 is the only one that might make you wonder about Kyousuke. Until then, we hadn't really seen any significant indication that his feelings might be more than just brotherly. Siblings are close by default. They march into each other's bedrooms, disrespect each other's privacy and shout at each other.
The anime industry episode was strong, I thought. Ouch.
Important point: Saori's assumed surname of "Vageena" is not an anatomical reference, but a well-known Gundam character. Saori's a Gundam fangirl. The full name with correct canonical spelling is "Quattro Bajeena", although admittedly Kyousuke makes the same mistake. Also, Kirino's collection is full of real R-18 titles (some of which I've even watched in anime form, e.g. School Days) and thinly disguised versions of real near-hentai (e.g. KissXsis).
I liked this a lot. It's light, funny and entertaining, but at the same time genuinely edgy. That goes without saying. It's making jokes about this subject matter. It's also interesting in its exploration of its themes (although it's always clear what side it's supporting), while I respect how far it's prepared to push Kirino's hobbies. She'll buy body pillows and a coprophilia video game, although she claims she didn't realise what the latter was about. "Do you eat poo?"
The show's very popular in Japan. The original light novels have been best-sellers. It's less mainstream in the West, thanks to its audience-alienating premise, but so far I'd still recommend it. I haven't yet watched Season 2, though.