It's nearly impossible to be an anime fan and avoid lolicon, as the medium as a whole is obsessed with youth sexuality. Though I've seen Kyou no Go no Ni and Kanamemo, I felt it was high time to try out the lurid and colorful world of more directly pandering shows, and so fired up Chokotto Sister. While I did not find a dark and twisted new fetish, I was beguiled by the adorable girl, her tantalizing, blank notebook, and her gaggle of entertaining friends--that is, when I wasn't hoping that Ayano would die in a fire.
Chokotto Sister opens with only-child and college student, Haruma, receiving a magical Christmas present: the sister he wished for when he was a young boy. Of course, this is no baby, because that would be silly. What male college student wants a baby? Instead, Santa--in this case a chick on a bike--drops off a pubescent girl wearing only a nightie and declares her to be his new relative. From here, the anime launches into some isolated slice-of-life sections that remain among the strongest parts of the show. When she goes shopping or stops to play with a group of feisty Kindergarten students, Choko's relative innocence and boundless energy make the series feel like a kindred spirit to Ichigo Mashimaro or Kyou no Go no Ni (though not as clever). And, when paired with the excellent musical score, these episodes make for relaxing, lighthearted watching.
However, not all of the show all is frivolous and sexy adventures. The anime crams three significant arcs into its 26 episode run with varying degrees of success. Of the three, the portion concerning the "Neko-nyan Dance" fits best with the series' tone and makes excellent use of Makoto--who suffers from criminal under-representation. In contrast, the final set of episodes surrounding the school festival goes from lighthearted to morose so quickly that viewers should brace themselves for inevitable whiplash. Without giving anything away, this closing segment cleverly leverages a previous episode to deliver maximum emotional impact before hand-waving everything back to normal for the feel-good conclusion. The longest story, however, does its best to strangle the series. While it does wrap up with an effective pulling of the viewer's heartstrings, the first main arc--dealing with Haruma's unrequited love for Ayano--drains the life from the show, as neither character can hold the viewers attention for long in absence of Choko. All in all, the uneven storytelling does add variety to the show, but feels clumsy, almost canceling the effect.
Up close, Choco and the gang move fluidly, which when combined with a vibrant color palette and over-the-top expressions goes toward mitigating the standard-looking character designs. At a distance, however, the actors distort a little and the attention to detail vanishes. Against the static backdrops, the weaker wide-angle shots appear to be of jarringly lower-quality when compared to the fully-animated "Neko-nyan Dance" or the fanservice-y bathing scenes.
Viewers' milage will vary on the vocal performances. Choko, Chitose, and Yurika all sound much as you'd expect: Choko is made of adorable naivete; Chitose's voice is that of a proper lady who gets overwhelmed by too much activity or perversion; and Rie Kugimiya lends her trademark tsundere verve to her charge, Yuri-pyon. Makoto, however, provides an interesting opportunity for her seiyuu, Rika Morinaga. In the mold of many a drunken sage, Makoto's range of behavior from extremely dirty to almost motherly makes her character both interesting and a fertile ground for vocal subtlety, and her lusty performance steals a good number of scenes.
Unlike the idiosyncratic vocals, Chokotto Sister's soundtrack sticks out as one of the better accompaniments for a slice-of-life anime. Looking past its mindless lyrics and painful Engrish, the series' OP starts each installment off on an upbeat and adventurous note, but won't likely make it into many fans' playlists. The "Neko-nyan Dance", on the other hand has a great beat with which viewers can dance along (steps provided in the anime), and, in an interesting direction choice becomes the focus of more than a few episodes in the second half of the show. Of course, this means that viewers could find themselves tired of the song by the time the final credits roll, but its inclusion in the world of the narrative adds dimension to the anime. Moreso than the OP and the ED, however, the incidental music provides perfect compliment to the show's content. Although not terribly varied, the adorable themes accentuate the action whether comical, laid-back, action-packed, or dramatic.
Without a doubt, Choko makes or breaks this anime for its viewers. Her optimism, naivete, implied sex drive, and fragility form a potent cocktail that instantly ensnares any imouto-loving lolicon. In addition, her willingness to have new experiences and her need to have everything explained to her provides plenty of justification for the crazy situations in which she finds herself. Her energy and enthusiasm help move the series along, even during its weakest portions, but if you find her penchant for nudity or her excessive ignorance off-putting, drop the show like a bad habit. Across from her, Haruma is every bit a sober older brother (takes one to know one). Though more than a little dense at times, his devotion to Choko and inherent kindness help him complement his boisterous younger sister perfectly--at least when he's not pining after the log-pretending-to-be-a-character called Ayano. His mild annoyance and gentle scoldings give him a realism that pays of in spades during the series' more emotional moments while also being perfectly recognizable to anyone who is or has had a sibling.
But a few bad apples can spoil the barrel. Ayano's listless and vapid presence dominates the first half of the anime, and her lack of personality makes Haruma's affection for her infuriating and perplexing. Paired with the abusive and stony-faced Kazuya, most of the characters involved with this love triangle inspire rage and confusion instead of sympathy. If the show didn't make such a big deal of the whole affair, the florist could likely be forgiven, but as the young college student believes her to be worthy of infatuation, her shortcomings move beyond irksome and into irritating.
While the slower moments of this series and the over-saturation of the "Neko-nyan Dance" hold the series back, the terminal cuteness and touching moments between Haruma and Choko stick out more in the viewer's mind. For anyone who likes slice-of-life and doesn't mind the occasional naked loli (it's all in good fun), this series is worth a look. If, however, you secretly (or openly) wish you had an imouto all your own, Chokotto Sister is the next best thing to one of those creepy H-games.
When Haruma Kawagoe was a boy his mother had a miscarriage; and to make up for it, Haruma asked Santa for a little sister at Christmas. Now, years later, Haruma is a college student living away from home. His slumber is disturbed one night by the faint sound of… Santa on a flying motorcycle?! She has come to deliver a present that has taken many years to make: a little sister of his own, a little girl he names Choco. The two of them begin to live together but Choco has a lot to learn, and all of her life skills must come from what her brother tells her and her instruction manual. Choco's life is her brother, but as time goes by she gradually learns to become her own person.
These days I load up on comedy, slice-of-life, and horror shows, but I'll watch almost anything that sports a good voice cast, an interesting story, or looks particularly pretty. I tend to relate anime I review to other shows I've seen, because that's just how my mind works. Whether my warped view on a particular show totally misses the mark or you believe I've hit the nail on the head, I'd love to hear from you and welcome feedback and intelligent discussion of just how wrong I might be.