Home > Episode Reviews, First Impressions, Oreimo > Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai Episode 1 – Sisterly Love

Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai Episode 1 – Sisterly Love

Everybody wants to feel validated in their existence, to be convinced that their life has meaning. People are social animals, so many seek that validation in the form of other people. They want to feel like the things they do, say and like are things that other people whom they respect do, say and like.

People want to be around other people who like the things they like. It’s a major factor for a lot of people in determining who they want to hang around, and be friends with. Common interests are the things that bond us to other people.

But if the things you like fit into fairly tight niches, it’s hard to find those people. You have to try to probe the depths of someone’s interest in the subject (“Oh, you like music? Have you heard of the Arcade Fire? The Antlers? Cults?”) without seeming like a bore when the person invariably fails to flash on the keywords.

It’s even worse if your niche of choice is something that isn’t socially respectable, or downright taboo. Conversations become furtive explorations, coyly seeking some mutually-understood shibboleth without showing your hand as a social outcast, or pervert, or whatever. (“You’re into board games? Have you ever played Settlers of Catan? Dominion? Die Macher?”)

Kyousuke's classes all referring to little sisters is a good gag. The character he's about to scribble out here is 'imouto', which means 'little sister'.

Not knowing anyone who shares your interests—especially if they’re not socially accepted—is pretty miserable. It will make you feel like an outsider, some kind of freak that just can’t fit in. It’s especially miserable (and common) in teenagers, who are just developing their own interests for the first time and don’t always know how to find people who share them.

Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai (“My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute”) is the show of one girl’s struggle to find someone who likes the same things she likes. Kirino Kousaka is a middle school girl with a weird obsession with hobbies that normal people find weird or distasteful. Since this is an anime, that means erotic dating games (exclusively devoted to cute little sisters) and anime. To pay for her obsession, she has embarked on a secret modeling career, unbeknownst to her brother (and presumably her parents, who would wonder where the money is going).

Does anyone else find this maybe a little creepy?

The thing is, Kirino appears outwardly to be your typical middle school girl. She’s fashionable, seems to be a bit of an overachiever, and otherwise seems like a girl that should fit in with everybody else. Her brother, Kyousuke, thinks she hates him, given her standoffish attitude towards him. It’s not until he finds a galge CD hidden in an anime DVD case she dropped that he discovers that she’s actually just afraid that someone will figure out her secret.

Now that her brother knows, Kirino comes to him for advice. What should she do? She knows its not normal, but should she stop? Should she tell her parents, who seem particularly disapproving of otaku in general?

Kyousuke has a dream where his sister is the kind of blandly cute and cheerful girl little sisters in anime usually are. He gets angry at her and calls her an impostor

Kyousuke, to his credit, seems to be fairly accepting of his sister’s habits. He tells her that it’s okay to like what she likes, and agrees to hide it from their parents, since that could lead to trouble.

Now, if you know anything about otaku, you’ve probably got your hand in the air, just waiting to ask a ton of questions. Like, “Aren’t most otaku male, especially ones that would be interested in porn games about little girls?” Or, “don’t otaku tend to be overweight, unattractive social outcasts, not popular girls in high school who also happen to be models?”

And you would be exactly right. Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai is not interested in being an accurate portrayal of otaku or the struggles they face in the pursuit of their socially-unaccepted hobbies. If you want to watch that show, I would recommend Genshiken, which remains the high water mark of anime about otaku.

The whale slippers Kirino wears indoors are the kind of thing real Japanese middle school girls might possibly wear, not just idealized sexual fantasy middle school girls

Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai is part of a growing subgenre of anime that seeks to validate otaku in their otakudom. It’s all about presenting the illusion that being an otaku is okay: that cool people like this stuff, too.

It shouldn’t be hard to figure out why this wouldn’t be a very seductive message for otaku. If you’re constantly being told how weird your hobbies are, and how creepy of a person you are for having them, any suggestion that liking what you like is normal is a welcome relief. And, since anime aimed at otaku tends to feature sexually-fetishized young girls prominently as rule, what better vehicle to deliver that message than a sexually-fetishized young girl?

The thing is, this is subtle for anime

Kirino is tailor-made for the role. She has a detailed, cute character design, wears fashionable, lovingly-drawn (and cute) clothes, and is a particularly well-drawn example of the tsundere, the outwardly-cold, inwardly-warm female so beloved of otaku. Also, did I mention that she pays for her otaku booty with a secret modeling career?

Not only is she about as cute and stylish as a middle school girl can be, she’s also a total otaku. She’s slavishly devoted to the collectivist impulses that mark otaku (and that others prey on), to the point that her brother finds it kind of off-putting. It’s not just that she likes the stuff, her tendency towards unsolicited opinionating via jargon-filled word dumps marks her a true fan.

The otaku's shrine of collectibles is a sort of tradition. Kirino's is in a hidden closet, because she is a closet otaku

But the thing is, despite being clearly designed to appeal to otaku with little sister fetishes, she’s a surprisingly complex character.

There’s a great line from Genshiken that games (and shows, books, etc.) fetishizing the little sister are the products of the fantasies of people who don’t actually have a little sister. This show is the exception to that rule. I would believe that whoever is writing Kirino has a little sister, because she is a pretty good stab at the bratty version of that.

Most anime characters designed to be desirable to otaku are unrealistically idealized, with no flaws unless they serve to further the appeal, and about as well-rounded as a cardboard cutout. This is especially true of little sisters, who have been almost universally perfect, bubbly balls of unbridled adorableness for at least as long as I’ve been watching anime.

The show's attention to detail in its otaku products is impressive. This R1 (North America) DVD could easily be on the shelf of your local Best Buy

Kirino is a little deeper of a character than that. Maybe it’s only to add to her appeal for those otaku seeking an authentic little sister experience, or maybe it’s a result of the angst about her fandom that drives the series, but that inner turmoil gives her character a bit of an edge to it.

Like her target audience, she seems like a lonely person who finds comfort solely in her obsessive devotion to her hobbies, but knows that that same devotion also makes it difficult to find someone to share them, or relate to her. That alone makes her more complex than the vast majority of characters we’ve written about here.

The irrational intensity with which she pursues her obsession is also not portrayed in a flattering light. Kyousuke, as the normal guy, is pretty seriously freaked out by her collectivist impulses. It occasionally seems like the show is trying to be a critique of the otaku lifestyle, but then you realize that the main character, for all her turmoil, is pretty obviously pandering to the otaku audience.

The show contrasts Kirino's love of little sisters in dating games and actual love of actual little sisters in ways some might find off-putting

I don’t want to make it sound like Kirino is some life-like, well-realized character (she’s not), or that she isn’t unrealistically idealized and sexualized in a creepy but all too familiar way (she totally is), but her inner conflicts make for a relatively entertaining first episode. If that stays the focus throughout the series and gets explored in depth, this could be an interesting show.

Somehow I doubt it will, though. Character studies, even of people intentionally written to resemble both the writer and the audience, are a lot of work, and potentially not a source of the comedic antics and fan service that show like this typically rely on. Maybe I’m getting cynical, but I’ve seen too many shows that focus on making their female lead as sexually appealing as possible to have any hope that this might turn out differently.

The bumper for the commercial break is a DVD cover and DVD. I hope it's the actual DVD cover and disc for the show's DVD release

I guess the main thing I’ve gotten from is that these shows are becoming increasingly sophisticated and talented at appealing to and manipulating the narrow interests of their fans. Is that a good thing? Well, I for one wish that studios would spend more effort trying to craft an entertaining story and less time focusing on otaku boners. I would love to be proven wrong, and have Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai be the kind of serious, unflinching portrayal of otaku that made Genshiken and Welcome to the NHK! some of the best the medium has to offer. But if I had to guess, I’d say this will end up being more of the same kind of self-referential comedy that floods the airwaves every season. And if Kyousuke starts to become attracted to his middle school-aged sister, it’s over. Flat out. Done.

You can watch the episode here.

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