Home > Episode Reviews, Oreimo > Ore no Imouto Episodes 7 and 8 – Affliction of Affection

Ore no Imouto Episodes 7 and 8 – Affliction of Affection

Every so often in these posts, I’ve commented that Oreimo is going to get worse. I’ve been referring to these episodes, which are unquestionably the low point of the series. However, these are also the episodes in which I began to have a modicum of respect for the show.

Kirino's novel seems to have more emoticons than actual words

These episodes center on Kirino’s adventures in novel writing, which begins when she writes something to compete with Kuroneko’s alternate ending doujinshi of her favorite anime. What she comes up with sounds like bad self-insert fiction with a writing style similar to what a teenage girl might type in a text message. It also features a gothic Lolita character like Kuroneko getting raped and dying in the end. (To be fair, Kuroneko’s book features a character resembling Kirino as the main character’s sex slave).

That’s vaguely disturbing, but her second book attracts interest from a light novel publisher. And her third one gets published, and is such a hit that it gets turned into an anime. In fact, the whole of episode 8 is Kyousuke, Kuroneko and Saori fighting with the creative team for her anime, trying to get them to accept Kirino’s whimsical and naïve guidelines for adapting her work.

The grizzled veterans of the anime industry are sadly underused here. What a great opportunity to make interesting characters the easiest way possible: by using your own life experiences

It’s a great opportunity for subtle gags, like Kirino asking for them to change the opening and closing videos every episode (which Oreimo actually does), and to bring in a bunch of manga artists and illustrators to do character designs (which the show did for its in-universe anime and games). It’s also a good introduction to the brutally pragmatic and business-oriented world of anime adaptation.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: most anime is made on a shoestring budget and, as a result, costs must be cut as much as possible, and anything that isn’t tightly designed to appeal to the whims of the target audience is often left on the cutting room floor.

It’s not a very interesting episode, though, since it’s mostly people talking around a conference room table, and it ends with one of the show’s trademark impassioned and supplicating speeches from Kyousuke, as he makes terrible arguments to defend his sister.

Well, in this case it’s not even his sister, but her right not to have her work fundamentally altered to make it adaptable. That makes it even more aggravating, and make the lengths Kyousuke is willing to go even less sensible.

Yeah, those earrings in a heart-shaped box aren't a romantic gift at all

The previous episode is far more interesting. After Kirino figures out that Kyousuke has been using her laptop to look at porn, she cajoles him into going shopping with her downtown. It’s all under the guise of research for her latest novel, but Kirino is really after is a date with her brother.

It’s Christmas time, so she twists his arm into buying her some jewelry. Now, this might not seem like an indication of romance at all. In the West, giving Christmas presents to family and close friends is a pretty normal tradition. In fact, I just went Christmas shopping for my family prior to writing this post.

Japan takes a different view of Christmas, though. Christmas in Japan is more like Valentine’s Day in the U.S.: it’s a commercial holiday, with most of the decorating and festivities put on by corporations trying to get people to buy things.

See? Christmas episode. It's not a part of the rest of the episode, so I think it's purely to give a romantic context to their date

It’s also primarily a romantic holiday. Unless you have small children, generally the only people you give Christmas presents to is your significant other. Christmas Eve is the prime time for couples to exchange presents, then go out and have a nice evening. So when Kirino asks her brother to take her downtown and buy her a present, it has an entirely different, subtly romantic meaning.

The strange romantic tension between the two siblings is one of Oreimo’s darkest secrets. Kirino’s interest in dating games featuring little sisters has been present from the start, but as time goes on, you slowly start to realize that her interest isn’t merely academic. From here to the end, it will be pretty obvious that Kirino sees her brother like the protagonist in one of her dating games, and herself as the target.

Kuroneko's novel comes with its own 200-page encyclopedia of non-canon material

I mean, when Kirino tries to get her brother to buy her a present, then talks about how meaningful gifts are when they come from the person you love, then blushes and clarifies the point by saying she’s talking about her novel, it’s pretty explicit. The show will be even less subtle about Kirino’s feelings for her brother in the future.

Kyousuke denies is even more vehemently than Kirino and, to be fair, he seems genuinely creeped out by the increasing connections between his sister and an honest to goodness girlfriend. But considering the strained relationship he had with her prior to the show, my best explanation for his sudden desire to be her doormat is some kind of weird attraction and devotion to her.

One of my favorite things about this show is how blatantly clear it is that Kirino's favorite show, Stardust Witch Meruru, is a magical girl show aimed primarily at perverted otaku

The biggest problem with the show’s storytelling, and one I’ve pointed out numerous times, is that it just doesn’t make sense for Kyousuke to repeatedly make such extreme sacrifices for a sister that doesn’t return his affection or even get along with him. The show even points it out. One of my favorite moments in these two episodes comes when Kyousuke, Kuroneko and Saori are on a train, without Kirino. Kuroneko turns to Kyousuke and asks him, “Why do you do so much for your sister, even making a fool of yourself?”

Kyousuke doesn’t have a good answer: all he says is, “Because I’m her brother.” That may be true, but it’s not enough of an explanation. Most people wouldn’t go to such ridiculous lengths for their siblings, especially ones that, prior to learning of their secret otaku nature, they rarely spoke to.

Kuroneko has become my new favorite character. As the show's resident snarker and pointer of plot holes, she does for Kirino's favorite shows what I do to real anime. Here's her reaction to the naked transformation sequence pictured above

So far, I’ve put this down to bad writing. It’s certainly common enough in anime, even in a show as lovingly produced as this one. In fact, it’s particularly common in those shows focused on selling its characters’ appeals more than the story.

But if the show is raising the question, it knows it’s an issue. Either “Because I’m her brother” is a clumsy attempt to hand-wave the issue or it’s a denial, revealing another, hidden motive. I think that other motive is a latent, unacknowledged attraction to his little sister.

This shot, for an anime-themed cafe where the girls meet, has an entire separately animated show playing in the background. That doesn't reuse any animation. And neither of the scenes which take place here are short, either

It makes his behavior more reasonable. I’ve certainly done plenty of unwise, potentially embarrassing things because I’ve been attracted to a girl. More to the point, it’s a universally accepted explanation for doing things that are slightly crazy.

And most of what Kyousuke has done on his sister’s behalf has been fairly crazy. Convincing your father that you, not your sister, is the closet pervert is not normal behavior. Neither is humiliating yourself before professionals trying to get them to accept your sister’s poor artistic choices.

I'd like to apologize for this post's title. I've run out of incest-related puns, which is disturbing

I’m not entirely sold on the idea, myself. I think it’s far more likely that Oreimo is simply smart enough to acknowledge the issue but not well-written enough to come up with more than a lackluster explanation. But if you want to believe that this show has a coherent narrative, I can’t see how you can avoid concluding that Kyousuke bears at least some romantic affection for his sister.

You can watch the episodes here.

  1. Bumsoo Kim
    January 25, 2011 at 12:54 am

    I think that Kyousuke’s ambiguousness didn’t result from a bad writing at all. He is just in denial and it leaves to the audience to guess his reason for doing so (although he doesn’t know it himself). I think it makes this anime (and light novels) interesting by making us wanting to know the answer.

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