There is no way my post title is so long. Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai, or OreImo as it is commonly abbreviated, is an interesting twist of the quintessential tsundere anime genre popularized by titles such as Shakugan no Shana and Zero no Tsukaima.
And beyond that, it, like Genshiken, is a testament to the subculture that has sprung up around bishoujo anime and games.
Despite its suspicious title (“There is no way my sister is this cute”), OreImo, at least the anime adaptation, is not about incest. There is certainly some suggestive tension between Kyousuke Kousaka and his tsundere sister Kirino Kousaka that does not usually exist between siblings, but arguably the masterful execution keeps it within tastefully platonic limits.
This can be disappointing if you walk into it hoping for another Koi Kaze, but on some level the setup is oddly appropriate given the personalities of the two main characters and the theme of the story. Nevertheless, the show does contain enough emotionally-charged moments to make the viewer blush excitedly like a giddy school girl.
Kirino Kousaka is a typical teenage girl who hates her brother Kyousuke Kousaka. But one day, Kyousuke accidentally discovers that Kirino is actually a huge closet otaku who has a pile of eroge tall enough to touch the ceiling hidden in her otaku closet and an ironic fetish for little sisters. Kirino, who has thus far kept her double life secret from even her closest friend, is initially horrified but slowly realizes that having someone share her secret may not be such a bad thing. With Kyousuke’s help, Kirino gradually overcomes her self-loathing and decides to be more honest with her passions (perhaps in more than one way). Of course, with Kyousuke around to help her buy 18+ eroge, she also descends farther into oblivion… めでたしめでたし。
As with any anime dealing with otaku, things get really meta. There are many allusions and references to real-life anime and game titles and Kirino’s many dilemmas (usually, which girl to kouryaku first) probably strike a chord with many of the show’s viewers. Every commercial break eyecatch contains a imouto-themed parody of an actual anime or game and every episode has a unique ED song along with a unique illustration provided by a well-known doujin or eroge artist. As with Genshiken, it gives you a very warm and fuzzy feeling inside to know that this perverted little niche has grown to become a substantial subcultural force of its own.
In a way, OreImo is really just Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu, except that Haruhi is Kyon’s little sister and she likes to play pornographic games about little sisters instead of searching for UFOs or aliens. Haruhi herself has some maniac tendencies (e.g. making Mikuru dress up as a bunny girl to provide fan service) that endear her to the audience’s inner selves. Kirino takes that concept one step further by being a full-blown closet otaku. And like Kyon, Kyousuke gets to clean up her mess afterwards behind the scenes.
To be honest, while combining Haruhi and Genshiken does make for an interesting concept as it is, the real draw of OreImo for me is the complicated relationship between Kyousuke and Kirino. There’s a popular saying in Japanese, tomodachi ijou koibito miman 友達以上恋人未満 (more than friends, less than lovers), which on a side note actually has an eroge named after it. You can probably call Kyousuke and Kirino kyoudai ijou koibito miman 兄妹以上恋人未満 (more than siblings, less than lovers).
Even though Kirino fits the typical tsundere heroine archetype that has proliferated throughout the industry over the years as part of its moétification, and even though Kyousuke is more or less an exact replica of Kyon, the fact that they are siblings serves as an insurmountable absolute barrier against potential developments. All tsundere characters have their barriers (e.g. the master-servant relationship seen in Zero no Tsukaima) to prevent the relationship from escalating beyond the status quo until the season finale, but the one between Kirino and Kyousuke is real and indestructible. There isn’t even the usual wriggle room of “siblings unrelated by blood”.
Having not read the novels, I spent most of the 12 episodes wondering how the show intends to give a satisfactory ending to the web that it has weaved. An actual incestuous ending would be, in my opinion, oddly out of place — too straightforward and simple for a story that so carefully dances around the issue. And yet, a tsundere setup without a teredere ending just feels wrong. This sense of dilemma, I feel, is where OreImo truly differentiates itself. Wherein most works of similar genre a happy ending is predictable and welcomed, in OreImo it is uncertain and emotionally complicated.
Indeed, I personally find that OreImo’s “Good Ending” is the non-controversial compromise that is decent but somewhat hollow. Perhaps this is why OreImo will have 4 extra DVD episodes that will form 2 alternate endings to the series. Will I be condemned if I say that I am looking forward to the “True Ending”?
Also looking forward to the OreImo PSP game… >_>