Notice: This review covers both seasons of this anime.
Back in ancient times when I was still young and handsome (5 years ago) I was given to watch my first bunch of obscure anime from the 80’s. Amongst them was Otaku no Video, probably the oldest anime around otaku culture. It was a short and simple tale, half of which was more like a real life news report around the lifestyle of the 80’s so called anime-freaks. It had a rather negative take on them, depicting them as creepy and antisocial, despite being in the other half about such a type of character trying to make his own anime studio. Well, that title never had much follow up and the following otaku culture based titles were also just low budget works with bad screenplay and mostly fan service… Up until Genshiken came up.
Yup, that was the title that not only was high budget but was also given attention to storytelling and character portrayal. It was the anime that for the first time showed otakus as normal people with weird hobbies and despite its usually optimistic view of otaku culture was still a good watch for those who did knew and educational for those who didn’t.
Fast forward a few years and now this anime comes out, to take things to the next level… somewhat.
Ore no Imouto (Oreimo) is definitely rubbing its buttocks on the otakus’ crotch a lot more that Genshiken, which was more subtle and for broader audiences. It is bold and full of stereotypes, aiming for those who already are deep in anime culture. So basically the swift of focus as years went by was Otaku no Video trying to describe otaku culture to non-anime fans, then Genshiken to appeal to both pro and con and now Oreimo to be almost for the fans. That is not enough to make it special or original as there are many other minor titles doing that, way before it did. The main difference here is that Oreimo plays out as a self parody of the genre. It shows in a light way the negative view society has on otakus, while at the same time makes sure to present otakus as excused to continue being weird.
Was it successful? Well, the series is not for everyone, since a rookie who still doesn’t understand the meaning of moe or hasn’t even browsed some hentai CGs will definitely feel lost with the constant terminology and hardcore fascination. So it is better to not be seen if you are not deep into the hobby already. At the same time it is not a show purely for a niche audience, as a big chunk of it is technically a romantic school comedy that the majority of anime fans can easily follow.
Let it be made clear that the story is not realistic or serious. It uses a lot of situations any otaku goes through at some point in his anime life but the way everything unfolds is definitely NOT realistic. All problems are resolved quite easily and people who are enemies of the hobby change their minds too easily and accept something their society loathes as much as the Jews in Nazi Germany. As I said, it is a show that aims at established pros and hardcore fans, so anyone not deep into this shit will most likely feel like it’s propaganda or fake enough to render all conflict in the show as stupid. He will be unable to feel the vibe of the show and in all honesty the truth is it is mostly pandering to otakus than trying to make them self aware of any deviance they may have. If you are not in favor of cosplay, eroge and teen idols, chances are this show will not convince you of otherwise. It is biased towards pro; the negativity some characters show in it is played for laughs and superficial conflict that is resolved quite fast and easily.
Nothing much to look forward to; it’s pretty easy-going. Most episodes can be reshuffled ala Suzumiya Haruhi and you won’t even tell the difference. Some of them don’t even feel like they are strictly following the main theme of the series and could very well stick in any other generic harem out there. Add to that some pretty improbable storylines, such as 14 year old Kirino and many other girls dress sexy and go to photo shootings for money, with which she buys a mountain of ero games and figurines normally only adult males are supposed to own, all with the support of her strict father. Makes as much sense as an invisible pink unicorn dancing on the moon. Add to that OVAs that exist just as alternative realities where the main characters have a different girlfriend just to please all shippers out here. So if you expect a great slice of life story with a powerful ending, you are looking at the wrong place.
The characters are to the most part archetypes, and most of the jokes are basically a parody of them. They are definitely far more fleshed out, unlike the bulk of slice of life and school comedies; so at least they succeed to be memorable. Everything of course begins and ends with the main heroine; so in a way Oreimo is defined by just one person. Kirino is the typical annoying yet lovable loli we have seen a million times throughout the years, being selfish and mean to her brother, and always demanding, always edgy, always tsun and kawai at the same time. If it weren’t for her fear of being rejected for her hobby, the whole show would be just another run-of-the-mill anime you would forget in a week. Thanks to the show’s attempt at self mockery, Kirino feels more than the stereotype. She is somewhat excused to be like that as she considers herself a teen idol who doesn’t like being bossed around by anyone, yet at the same time is always in need of her big brother to help her open up with her hobby. And that is what makes her stand out from the lot of loli tsunderes; she pretends to be self-dependent and all-powerful but by the end of the day she admits that she needs the help of others to truly feel happy.
A mention must be given to an important adaptation decay that took place when Kirino published her own novel and adapted it into anime in just a few months. In the original story in the novels this didn’t happen because the publishers disliked the absurd themes of her book. It took several pages to overcome her disappointed, which helped to bring out her true colours. The anime version made it look like she could do anything she liked and she managed to convince the producers. The result was leaving her as nothing more than a stupid spoiled bitch that has her way no matter what happens. That eventually made her seem obnoxious to everybody who didn’t like the show that much; something that could have been avoided if the story didn’t stray from the novel.
Even if it was a decent adaptation, the justification and motivation of the characters is still loose and hardly realistic. Although as an autonomous personality Kirino plays out just fine, all others around her seem to deal with their issues around her way too easily. Her brother for example, Kyousuke, keeps trying to help her in ways that feel degrading in the least. He keeps taking the blame for all her mistakes, goes to places he shouldn’t just because she said so and even plays eroge even though he doesn’t like them. As reward, most of the times he gets hit by girls or get accused for things his sister is the culprit. He is not exactly the usual indecisive lead of harems as he is serious and smart enough, plus he has his personal harem of hot cosplay otaku girls. But then again he keeps tolerating all the torment and mockery of others without justifying it somehow. Despite his attempts at romance though the show always fools around with him being in love with his sister in ways that are NOT just platonic. In fact the main bait of the series is how he and his sister may end up in an incestuous relationship; something which of course is implied most of the times just so the series can maintain its status quo and keep all the shippers happy. Other than that, yes, Oreimo is taking the done-to-death route of the date-sim formula. Despite trying to be a parody it still follows it to the letter.
Other characters include Manami, his schoolmate female friend, who keeps giving him constant signs of affection and everybody around them tell him to make the first step but he rejects all signs and just browses at porn sites. Does that make any sense? She is not ugly or anything; hell she is the epitome of the traditional perfect Japanese wife, following the archetype to the fullest. She doesn’t even mind all the creepy stuff that happen around him and his sister. She even caught him watching megane porn and she just went along with it. So why is he such a ding-dong with her? Again not excused and there just for laughs. Plus, she is hardly part of the otaku themes of the show; she and her entire family could easily be removed along with the scenes they are in. They are practically filler. And let’s not forget Kuroneko, the goth loli tsundere which plays out as a rival of Kirino as well as flavoring Kyosuke’s harem.
Then we have Kirino’s parents and friends, who as I said despise otakus yet in less than 20 minutes she and her brother manage to convince them of otherwise. The funny thing is that the only otakus with personality in this show are all girls (pandering to otakus, remember?). Males are just cardboards in Comiket and female otakus exist to flavor other aspects of the fandom with different tastes and views than Kirino’s. Some of the funniest scenes are about Kirino and Kuroneko arguing about what counts as quality anime.
Quite good for this type of show and one of studio AIC’s best works (which means nothing since it is a very bad studio to begin with). You can see the attention they gave to minor details such as anime shows and doujinshi made by different drawing styles, depicting the basics of what is going on in anime conventions and anime production studios, all accompanied with self parody and even self reference to the show itself. As expected, the girls are all drawn moe, with rather simplistic facial variety and occasional sexy poses to work as fan service. Plus, girls in this show blush. ALL THE TIME. Yes, it is supposed to cater the fans and it works.
Voice acting is quite good, although I felt some dialogues weren’t emotional enough in correspondence with what is going on in the video. The BGM is likable, although I really hated how they just threw a tune playing in the background and had the characters just talk for 15 minutes. Literally, the sudden mood swings were not pointed out by the BGM to make the jokes better, thus a great deal of humor was lost right there. The music score is also likable enough, with the end credits and panels being different on each episode. That shit really works in making me stare even the end sequence.
In all, Oreimo is a good show IF you are a hardcore fan already and IF you don’t expect realism in a show that is supposed to be about everyday otakus. The humor is ok, although far-fetched most of the times and the characters likable, without being exceptional on their own. I won’t call this a masterpiece because it ain’t. I prefer the more subtle way Genshiken went for and since I am not a fan or eroge or cosplay, I am also part of those who found this show biased and propaganda for creepy NEETs. Something like “Yeah, society hates you but look how this cute girl deals with it in a pseudo-realistic way. So cheer up and keep piling those eroges. And don’t mind how she is in reality a fat smelly male otaku just like you.” Hm, dangerous thought but if you figure out it is not supposed to be seen seriously, it will feel better.
And let’s be honest here. In reality, Kirino is nothing but the stereotypical, fat, smelly male nerd otaku, still living in his parent’s basement, disguised as a cute little girl. It is self-mockery and a cheap way of identifying with a cute thing, when in reality it’s themselves. The characters are likable and colorful but their motivations in a show that is supposed to be about the “real” otaku culture are off by miles. Don’t get too deep and it will be safe and funny to watch it.
… but don’t watch it with your underage little sister. Just to be on the safe side.
Welcome to the NHK
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 7/10
General Artwork 2/2 (basic but well-presented)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (basic but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)
SOUND SECTION: 6/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 2/4 (mediocre and even used badly in BGM)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 3/10
Premise 1/2 (simple)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 1/2 (seems deep but plays out very light)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 0/2 (cheesy and open)
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
Presence 2/2 (cute / bold)
Personality 2/2 (well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 0/2 (nothing that matters)
VALUE SECTION: 3/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too little plot / content)
Memorability 2/4 (a bit more memorable than your run of the mill school comedy but still far from a great one)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 3/10
Art 0/1 (looks ok, nothing special)
Sound 0/2 (sounds meh)
Story 1/3 (there but too loose)
Characters 2/4 (they are ok; nothing great though)