Note: This is a repost of a piece that I posted as a DeviantART journal entry on July 12th of 2014, with a few edits made. Yeah, it’s one of my earliest pieces.
TW: Mention of incest.
MAJOR SPOILERS for Oreimo if that wasn’t obvious enough.
Recently I have finished watching the anime series Oreimo, AKA Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai, or “My little Sister Can’t Be This Cute.” I personally found the series to be very surprising in terms of just how much it effected me, and I may even say it s the best anime series I have seen so far (granted I have not seen very much as the only anime I have seen in recent years were Gintama and Hyperdimension Neptunia: The Animation, the rest of the anime I saw was from when I was younger and what I saw on Toonami and other various programs so take that as you will). I will warn anyone who has not seen this series all the way, there will be major spoilers ahead seeing s how this involves an explanation of the ending in detail.
Now there are plenty of moments in this series that i have felt were amazingly well handled, and most fans of the series seem to agree with me. However, the ending is something that I disagree with most people on. A lot of fans of the series have really hated the ending for certain reasons that I will get into. I on the other hand, actually thought the ending may have been what impressed me the most, and the reasoning why is actually for very similar reasons to why it is hated.
Now to express everything about why I felt the ending was as good as I it is, I will need to give a rather in depth explanation as to what the ending itself is and bring a lot of things up. The series is about how the main character Kyousuke and his little sister Kirino’s relationship slowly evolves over the course of the series. This series of events is kickstarted once Kyousuke discovers that Kirino, a student with perfect grades, who is incredibly athletic, is a model, and is basically thought to be perfect in nearly every way has a secret she has been desperate to hide; that secret being that she is a hardcore otaku, and when I say hardcore, I mean the type that has a massive collection of little sister eroge and is basically obsessed. The series, at first, is about helping Kirino adapt to keeping her hobby while still being able to live a normal life. However, the series later starts becoming a much more drama based series that is heavily based on character relations and development. Throughout the whole series, it basically seems like regardless of what happens, Kyousuke and Kirino hate each other despite constantly relying on each other.
The series ending in a 3 part OVA is something that was very polarizing among the fanbase for how it turned out. There are generally a few reasons why this is the case, and I plan to address all of the. The way that the first part of the OVA ends is that, Kyousuke admits to having an incestuous crush on Kirino and breaks down in anguish as he admits it, and Kirino has basically felt the same way. Now out of context, this sounds absolutely ridiculous, but the subtext to this was always there. This was a situation where both of them knew what was happening but did not want to admit it to themselves, for obvious reason. Some may claim that the ending is bad because they went this route, but the problem with claiming this is that it is based entirely off of it being a rather controversial subject matter. I can naturally understand that, but in terms of how it was revealed, there probably was not a better way it could have been handled. One certainly cannot say that the twist came out of nowhere, hell it is debatable if that is even considered a twist. The main reason one would not see it coming is out of the expectation that a writer would take a story in that direction. I will admit, Kyousuke’s confession was uncomfortable to watch,and I can imagine it must have been uncomfortable to write, not just because of the subject matter, but because of the other events that built up to it.
Kyousuke had several woman who have confessed their love to him, almost all of them being major characters that the viewer them self has gone to appreciate and one who Kyousuke had already been dating previously. Kyousuke had to turn each of them down and each scene was made to appear incredibly difficult and hard to watch just due to how depressing it is, especially considering that Kyousuke is doing so to date his sister. However, it is for this reason that I consider this sequence to be as masterfully written as I do. Of course it is not possible to take these scenes well, as no one watching could possibly relate to Kyousuke’s and Kirino’s situation, and the show goes out of its way to show the harsh reality of it. The viewer is not supposed to feel happy during those scenes, as it is likely that it is just as painful of an experience for Kyousuke himself. If that was not enough, there is the scene with Kyousuke’s childhood friend Manami who brutally tries to make them aware of the reality of their situation. That there is no possible way a relationship between them could work. That they will be looked upon with utter disgust, that they will not be able to be together legally, and the idea of how their parents will react once they figure it out. Despite this, Kyousuke still decides to go through with it. Afterwards, Manami changes her tone and get on her knees and confesses to him with tears in her eyes. Kyousuke still refuses in what may be the most depressing scene in the series.
Naturally this is unsatisfying for most, but I need to really give the writers credit for taking this direction. Normally in a work of fiction where someone tries to portray an otherwise negatively known thing in a positive light, it is overly optimistic in how it handles it and it tries to gloss over the difficulties of such things. There is no way that an optimistic stance could possibly be realistic when it comes to a subject like brother sister incest, and if the writers actually felt differently about this subject than most do then it must have been incredibly hard for them to write. It would have been much easier to make it so that the feelings were brotherly/sisterly love and not incestuous and it would have admittedly been more satisfying If Kyousuke went with one of the others that confessed to him. But the reason why it would have been more satisfying is because that is the type of direction we recognize and understand; that we can relate to. The reason we would see it as a bad decision is that none of us would be able to see the idea of a brother sister relationship as something that is acceptable. Kyousuke and Kirino are both ones that are made to understand the same thing but have their own personal feelings conflict with society’s feeling about their relationship. In is meant to showcase how something like this would work realistically; Very few people would approve.
Then there is the one final way the series handles their relationship; the two of them decide to have a real relationship for the last few months until graduation, and then they go back to being regular siblings. Now the reasons why this part gets so much hate is because A: romantic feelings cannot just go away, and B: it renders them confessing to each other pointless when one considers everything Kyousuke went through beforehand. What I have to say in response to this is that, as I stated before, a relationship between blood related siblings is illegal and would not be able to work. As for the argument as to whether or not their short time together was worth it, I would just like to make one reminder. Had neither of them confessed to each other, they would have never known how either of them really felt and would have gone the rest of their lives wondering. Being able to be with each other for a short time allows them to clear their conscience as well as live a normal life afterwards. Kirino herself admitted to Kyousuke that she would have confessed to him if he did not to her, and when she thought he was going to tell him that there was someone else he loved, it caused her to run away and break down because she would never be able to figure it out. Chances are, if Kyousuke held back his actual feelings and instead went with one of the others, then it would have deeply hurt Kirino and they would hate each other again. Ultimately the ending of them being in a relationship for a few months allows them to know each others true feelings yet still allows them to live a normal life, and it does end on things essentially returning to how they were in the first couple of episodes with the exception that they have gotten their true feelings off their chest.
While it is arguable whether it is a really happy ending for everyone, the most satisfying is not always the best. Really the remaining events are left up to the reader’s interpretation (unless there is a sequel). There is nothing that says Kuroneko wouldn’t take Kyousuke back. Hell she flat out said that she would accept him if he wanted to have sex with kirino and one of her true goals was to make sure that he and Kirino were happy. Despite the rejection scenes being depressing, just about everyone involved still has the same relationship with Kyousuke that they did before with the exception of Manami (and she kind of deserved what she got IMO, considering that she was revealed to be the one responsible for Kyousuke and Kirino growing apart in the first place and that she throws the first punch. After taking actions like that it is hard for me to feel sympathy for her). Hell there is nothing to even imply that the relationship between Kyousuke and Kirino is over once the two end up graduating and moving away from their parents. There is enough to be left open to interpretation and what you are told is that until then, things are basically back to normal.
I will admit that at first I did feel a similar way about the ending, but I ended up liking it the more I thought about it. That was mainly because I tend to think really heavily before I decide whether or not a certain scene makes sense, and in this case, I felt the ending worked and was not poorly written. I think that there was a lot that was put into those last three episodes and they were probably what left the biggest impact the series had on me. Ultimately I can understand why one would be unsatisfied if they preferred that it happened a different way, as it is only natural for you to want to see things go well for a cast you really cared for. However, I personally think there is more to storytelling then simply having the most desirable ending. I personally only have a problem if the ending comes across as forced and leaves more questions then answers, and Oreimo’s ending did not do that to me.
I do seriously think Oreimo is an amazing anime. Not in this ironic “anime is trash and so am I” kind of way either. It is more apparent that this series’s hatedom is made up of people who don’t realize that unpleasant subject matter can be used for artistic purposes. An example of a truly trashy Imouto anime would be KissXSis, and that can be used as a comparison. Oreimo is a deconstruction of the imouto (little sister) genre, it isn’t a straight up portrayal. I got some enjoyment out of KissXSis because brother sister incest only registers as disgusting to me if it’s my own siblings and I’m just kind of “whatever” with everything else thus it’s easier to distract me with softcore porn; in addition to having some moments that were legitimately funny. However, the series was otherwise rather shallow writing wise and was mostly just fetish fuel.
Oreimo could easily be passed off as a slice of life series if it were not for the title and those last three episodes. Even with all of the subtext most would not assume they would actually confirm the incestuous relationship at the end. KissXSis was a series that was practically driven on its insanity and lack of morals, just look at this exchange.
In contrast, Kyousuke and Kirino’s father is very strict and harsh, almost abusive even. Additionally, they have the cop out “step sister” excuse in KissXsis to say that “oh it’s okay they aren’t technically blood related” that doesn’t actually stop most people from being disgusted. Oreimo does not do that shit though, and it lets you know that, yes, Kyousuke and Kirino ARE blood related (except for an alleged offhand line that implies otherwise in a Japan only visual novel adaptation, but I can’t even verify this). Despite both being about brother sister incest and being viewed as tremendously creepy by normies (okay, MAYBE a bit more than just “normies”), Oreimo is INTENDED to be creepy!
The whole point of Oreimo is that it humanizes something that most people would otherwise find disgusting. Meanwhile, most writers are having a tough time writing humanizing portrayal of gay and trans people. Yes, one could just say that it’s because Tsukasa Fushimi is a disgusting pervert who wants to fuck his sister (if he has one), but we can be more mature than that right?
*sigh* okay then, I’m going to use the “death of the author” card. The whole point of the series does not need to be applied to just those who want to bang their sisters, but to ANYONE who is different or abnormal. Anyone can mock someone they don’t know for their abnormality, but when you get to know them as people it’s not so easy. Oh what’s that, you actually grew to care about Kyousuke and Kirino and want to see them happy? Well then maybe you should be a bit less judgemental in real life. You all make your jokes about Alabama, but what if it’s someone you know? Or what if it’s your child?
What causes me to hold a lot of admiration for this series is that it makes you ask yourself the questions that you are too afraid to ask. What conclusion you come up with is on you. It is similar to that of Shoujo Tsubaki in that it SUPPOSED to make you uncomfortable, and most people don’t like that so they blame the creator. When Kyousuke yells out his confession in the finale of the series, he does so with a tinge of self hatred.
While the original piece was just meant to be about the ending, I would like to further expand on why I think this is an unironically amazing series since I don’t know when else I will get the chance. One thing that I find unbearably cringeworthy is the large amount of hate that Kirino has gathered as a character for being bitchy. I liked Kirino as a character, and this is coming from someone who normally DETESTS the tsundere archetype for their glorification of abusive behavior (both physical and emotional) and emotional dysfunctionality.
People are hardwired to dislike those who mistreat and talk down to others. Feminists have expressed a prolific dislike of when young boys harass and bully young girls and are written off as “boys being boys.” The “tsundere” archetype is that trope in reverse; the one that says that if a woman treats a man like crap then it just means they like him. And yes, there are some people who are sexually aroused by being humiliated and degraded by the ones they love; they’re called cucks.
What is even more grating about these characters is that their attitudes almost always seem so artificial and forced. Word of note, if your tsundere character is ever saying “don’t think I’m doing this because I like you or anything… b…baka!” unironically, you’ve probably created a shit character. The few examples of tsundere characters that I like are ones where they have more personality other than being a bipolar nutcase who physically abuses her one true love because she totally loves her.
I found Kirino’s excessive bitchiness to be somewhat grating, but if you think she is the pinnacle of tsundere bitchiness then I can only assume you haven’t actually seen much anime. With kirino however, I’m able to overlook said bitchiness because A: there would be no conflict otherwise and B: because I find the rest of her character strongly endearing. Hell I find it rather annoying that the incest aspect overshadows the rest of the series given that Kirino’s attempts to make friends with other otakus as well as her own fascination for all of that weeb stuff was interesting to see play out. I have met people like her IRL, but I have not when I first saw this series and I am sure most people have not either.
It is quite intriguing to see how Kirino has such a strong fascination with these various imouto eroge supposedly as a result of the moe factor yet also expresses occasional signs of sexual arousal at them. It is very odd to say the least and some may even find it a bit creepy, but that just makes her a much more interesting character overall. Hell most of the cast is fundamentally flawed in a lot of ways; they have to be for an incest plot to work in the slightest, and seeing Kirino and Kyousuke cope with these things is what made this series so interesting to me. That and the fact that there is genuine emotion behind it and the sheer amount of effort put into presentation (The damn thing has a different ending theme for each episode. I can only imagine how much that cost).
Well after four years, I have finally revisited the topic of what I have considered my favorite anime for a while. I have reconsidered things and I truthfully don’t know what my favorite anime is because I surprisingly have not been fixated on it as much as I have with games. But regardless, it is always frustrating when legitimate artistic merit gets overlooked and brushed off due to the subject matter. The best works of art are often ones that challenge the status quo and make people rethink their own views.
On the outside, Oreimo looks like a pretty typical otaku pandering anime and for all I know that could have been what it was intended as. Despite this, it works a surprisingly solid postmodern romance story that pushes the boundaries of what is and is not acceptable while also making people wonder why they feel that way? I have no idea what Tsukasa Fushimi intended with this series and to be quite frank, I don’t want to know. The point is that this series is a lot stronger than most will assume.
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