First Impressions: OreImo
Fall 2010 is a particularly strong season. A lot of studios are putting their best foot forward and producing shows of suprisingly high quality. However, the show that surprised me the most in its quality was Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai, OreImo for short. To put it simply, OreImo is the most honest look at otaku since Genshiken. It also handles the incest theme with a remarkable amount of tact, which is rare in today’s anime market (I’m looking at you KissXSis). This well handled story combined with it’s high animation quality and solid voice acting make it my favorite show of the season, and probably one of the top 5 for the year.
Anime about otaku are nothing new. One of the earliest ones I can recall is Otaku no Video in 1991. In more recent years, there has been Genshiken, Lucky Star, and Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu in 2004, 2007, and 2008 respectively. However, what makes the first two titles different is the realism in the characters. As much as I enjoyed Lucky Star, I realize that I will never meet anyone like Konata. There will never be anyone who is as shameless as she is, and even if there was, she wouldn’t have any friends since nobody would be able to identify with her. Similarly, Nogizaka Haruka is also a wish fulfillment character. She is an otaku, but carries none of the negative personality traits associated with the group including obsessive behavior or questionable hygiene. On the other hand, the characters in Otaku no Video, and especially Genshiken are a more realistic, and sympathetic look at otaku. They are passionate about their hobby, but no more so than any other group is about their interests. They realize that because of their interests, they are outcasts in society, and while they are all somewhat frustrated by this, they have come to terms with this thanks to their friends. Two episodes in, and OreImo has demonstrated this same understanding.
The titular little sister, Kirino, is a passionate otaku, but realizes that she must keep it a secret due to the social stigma. In addition, she is a trendy, pretty middle school girl. She is somewhat unrealistically blessed with the best of both worlds, but it makes her inner conflict more understandable. Her older brother, Kyousuke, is unremarkable, but understanding, and serves more as a foil to her than anything else. One part I really enjoyed is how the incest themes are handled in this series. While Kirino plays incest ero games where little sisters are in love with their older brothers, she feels no such tenderness for her older brother. Kyousuke is similar in that he was used to keeping his sister at a distance and the first episode made it very clear that the two lived separate lives. Kirino has an obviously hard time keeping her hobby a secret, and as someone from both sides of the social spectrum, has a hard time fitting in with otaku girls.
The one scene that really sold me in the first episode was when Kirino came out of the closet (somewhat literally) about her hobby and goes on a rant about it. Her passion felt very genuine, but what made the scene more believable was her inability to see that Kyousuke really didn’t care about the specifics of what she was talking about. I’m many of us have unintentionally subjected our loved ones to a similar rant. This was reinforced in the second episode when Kirino and Kuroneko start arguing about their favorite anime. This one in particular struck very close to home for me since I have argued about and bashed other’s favorite anime to no end. It may seem trivial from a third person perspective, but the fact that they take it so seriously makes it all the more believable.
The production value for this show is very high, with some very fluid animation, and a nice color palette. There is a nice attention to detail, especially with Kirino’s clothes and nail polish, which changed multiple times in the same episode, to emphasize how much of a trendy girl she is.
In conclusion, OreImo is the update that the otaku genre sorely needed. While much of Genshiken still holds up to this day, there have been enough changes to the subculture since then that recent anime have failed to capture. It may not have all the clever references that Lucky Star did, but the otaku theme is handled with more sincerity. While the incest themes are probably going to become more important as the series progresses, for now, it is handled slowly, and will hopefully be paced in such a way as to not force it on the viewers. The way this is handled will make or break the series, but as of now, I am very hopeful.
Besides OreImo, this season has been pretty strong. I especially love the vulgarity of Panty & Stocking, and the self awareness of Star Driver. More on those at a later date. Otherwise, grad school has kept me busy. Look forward to more posts in the future!