As much as I try to avoid generalizations, I have to admit that my childhood gave me a chance to spot several differences in the way boys and girls mistreat each other. While boys tend to go for physical assaults, girls seem to place most of their faith in psychological warfare of a quite unnerving kind; rumors, verbal abuse and trash talking to be a bit more precise. With this in mind, watching Oniisama e might sound like a pointless exercise of masochism since large portions of its storyline are comprised of this kind of behavior, but rest assured, there are lots of qualities to it as well. On with the review!
When young and innocent Nanako is chosen to join an elitist sorority where only those of beauty or wealth are permitted, it causes social chaos in a school where your appearance is a virtue far greater than anything else. As this unleashes a turmoil of repulsive bullying that escalates in intensity you might want to check again to make sure that this is actually shoujo; which I assure you, it is. However, not of the usual kind where beautiful boys fall for bland girls, but rather some mysteriously altered version that includes themes like homosexuality, incest, drug abuse and lots of other far more serious topics that might even make this show a chore to watch.
Why would anyone watch this then? I'd point at the characters as the main source of appeal but that isn't to say that the storyline itself is devoid of qualities. As far as overplayed melodrama goes, Oniisama e is as good as it gets and unless you detest the concept of exaggerating certain aspects of school life or emotions you'll find yourself intrigued. Despite being occasionally predictable and repetitive, this is a show with enough twists and shocking revelations to keep you entertained.
As animation it leaves a lot to be desired but as art it's incredibly satisfying with an abnormal amount of still frames that together create a panorama of hideous emotions. Character designs are excellent and although the show features plenty of unimpressive visual techniques, the artwork as a whole is pleasant enough to draw you in which is a virtue few shows of the same age can savor.
Equipped with a terrific soundtrack and voice acting that ranges from decent to spectacular, you'd think Oniisama E deserved a higher score for its sound section. However, after only a few episodes or so you'll discover that almost the entire soundtrack is based around certain over-used melodies that come and go frequently enough to become obnoxious. The opening theme is a mysteriously mesmerizing song that sets the mood perfectly, but not even the numerous qualities here can save the fact that nobody wants to listen to a repetitive soundtrack.
This anime should be called 'Psycho Bitches' to avoid false advertising. I firmly believe that the numerous psychological flaws the characters in this anime have inspired Revolutionary Girl Utena more than the ones in Evangelion ever did.
However, whilst Utena managed to perfect the art of subtle characterization, Oniisama e is somewhat obvious in what it wants to portray. We know that Mariko hates men because we're told so over and over and we know why Miya-sama acts the way she does because we heard Nanako explain her emotions over and over again. While this turns into a thorn as far as writing goes, the characters are still overwhelmingly interesting and everything from their true intentions to their pasts are things you'll want to explore. At certain points in the storyline, watching the show turns into an addiction due to your almost frightening desires to learn more. Some of the relationships we get to see are painfully predictable; some characters are both pretentious and exaggerating in general but watching innocent Nanako discover severely disturbing things about the people she encounter never ceases to be interesting.
Don't worry; I'm not stealing the overall score from the only other review on this site. In fact, I can't think of any rating more appropriate than this one. The melodrama found in this show plays out like a double-edged sword with both pros and cons; the characterization may be somewhat obvious in nature but still fascinating and the entire tale of disturbing proportions is told through manga-esque artwork that's absolutely gorgeous. Do yourself a favor and watch this!