Kine-Sis: Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai

Back when I wrote my initial thoughts on Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai (My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute), I felt unsure of just how the show would turn out. While definitely an otaku-pandering show, it seemed to be capable of much more, and so I refrained from posting about it again until I finished the series right and proper. Now that the series is over I feel I can lay down a firmer opinion.

So, did Oreimo live up to its potential? And would it indeed have been better off if it wasn’t so focused on the “little sister” thing?

The answer to the first question is “not quite.”

Whenever I was asked what I thought of Oreimo as it was airing, I could only summarize my opinion by saying that for every good thing the show did, it also did something bad, and this didn’t really change too much as I kept watching. That doesn’t mean that the show didn’t improve some over time, but that every improvement was met by an equal and opposite reaction. Originally, the reason the show caught my attention was that underneath all of the basic little sister stuff, it seemed to address a deeper issue that concerns the otaku that are inevitably its own fanbase, that of self-confidence and self-image in otaku. It’s one of the themes that made me love Genshiken so much, so perhaps I was somewhat biased in seeing that, but little sister Kirino and the show at large brings forth the question, “Can I show my otaku self to others?”

In one episode, Kirino tries to make friends with fellow anime fans she’s met on the internet, but her initial attempt is stymied by the fact that her stylish clothes and lack of interest in bishounen and pairings creates an incompatibility with those with whom she was trying to speak. “We’re otaku, but we have nothing in common.” In another episode, Kirino has to face her best friend Ayase discovering Kirino’s obsession with little sisters and the pressure of having someone close to you, someone who genuinely wants the best for you, try to help but come across as attacking the very core of your being with very hurtful words. Her dad also discovers her collection, and will have no part of it. I know these problems. I’ve felt them myself and I’ve seen others struggle with them, and when Oreimo is on, it can really hit home for the anxious geek, at least in bringing those sore spots into the light.

Unfortunately, the resolution left something to be desired fairly often. While Kirino’s plight with making otaku friends turns out well with her eventually befriending Kuroneko and Saori Bajeena and showing that incompatible anime tastes doesn’t mean you can’t be friends, the solutions for the non-otaku finding out about her hobby essentially came out to going around them. In both the case of Ayase and her father, the problem was resolved by older brother Kyousuke purposely taking the blame for everything. This was noble of him and all, but the issue is that the problem itself is not confronted. I worried about this for a while, wondering what would come of it, if anything. In a later episode you see Ayase trying (and failing) to understand Kirino’s obsession and overcome some of her own prejudices so it didn’t completely disappear, but overall moments like those made the show feel like while it could bring the big guns to the party, it couldn’t actually fire them.

I know I might get criticized for expecting too much, and that I should have just treated it as an otaku-pandering fanservice anime, but it was not I who brought up the aforementioned otaku problems, but the show itself. If it had ignored those points or not have presented them as well as it did, I wouldn’t be basing on my opinion on that aspect, but it did. At its best, the show seemed genuinely heartfelt. Seeing Kuroneko “out of character” and just interacting with her younger siblings showed a very human side of her. It provided a contrast with the title of the show nicely, Kuroneko herself being the older sister and not in the “onee-san” character type kind of way, which complements Kirino’s own status as a not-quite “imouto character-type” little sister. At its depths however, Oreimo was like a show that talked realistically about cancer and the financial burden it can cause on the family around a cancer victim, only to magic the cancer away at the end or fall back on the same old stereotypes and tropes.

I don’t really regret watching Oreimo, as I feel that even though it didn’t do as much as it could have, it still accomplished something, and I can only hope that the otaku that could be helped by its message, however distorted, can benefit from it even a little. If it can do that, then I might just recommend it. As for the second question of whether the “little sister” aspect helped or hurt the show, I think it would have been a little better off if the show encouraged us more to see her as a girl first and a little sister second.

I also thought it could be pretty funny.

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9 thoughts on “Kine-Sis: Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai

  1. I took a step further and interpreted that the “wishing cancer away” was not some kind of writing-by-committee response to a spiraling-out-of-control story. It was a meaningful criticism, or OreImo’s own answer, to the issues addressed within the story.

    I think having Kyousuke taking the blame in the case of the Dad not happy with Kirino’s hobbies was one of these things, and we got it right from the beginning. It kind of set my expectations for the rest of the show.

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  2. Here’s a thought though: is it possible that avoidance and non-confrontation is the norm for Japanese (and in a broader sense, the rest of East Asia) when it comes to dealing with problems? Here in the West, we’re more readily apt to grab the bull by the horns (sometimes overdoing it), but as far as I know, Japan hasn’t adopted this level of straightforwardness in their approach to solving personal and societal issues.

    (I sorta pulled this from the first episode of One Outs, so I don’t think my argument is totally baseless)

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    • I agree with this. To go back to the first big bullet Kyousuke took for Kirino, with their dad…

      I really can’t imagine this anime taking any route other than having the parent’s disapproval be reaffirmed, if tempered, in some way. In the end we got basically, more deception. So it became more of a “well, we all agree this is not a good thing, but we can’t have this stop here” sort of implicit understanding.

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  3. It was interesting that the show seemed to pull up really hitting at issues that were pretty well brought up initially. But when they did hit on some things (Kuroneko being a big sister contrasting with Kirino as a full on kimo-ota, or on the process of creating an anime from the source material), it struck some chords. The problem was that far too often these answers didn’t match the questions asked in the first place.

    And I really felt for Kyousuke how he kept taking things on the chin and slights from his sister just to help things out for her. Dude was definitely being a big bro. :P

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  4. I had the same thoughts that you did regarding the show, in that I also thought that there was some commentary on current otaku issues beneath the comedy and other things. However in the end, there was little synthesis between really anything to bring the show back home. It walked a very fine line between commentary and comedy/fanservice, and I really don’t think it succeeded there. But was the problem the “incest” thing? I would say yes in a roundabout sort of way. It’s really easy to end up diluting your message when you have anything else trying to take the spotlight away. I think OreImo would have suffered the same problems even if it chose to focus on anything else other than the incest thing. I just can’t envision the direction making it work.

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  5. I liked the show, but was also more frustrated by it than any in a while. Liked Kirino, whatever. Loved the other characters, wanted much more…didn’t get it. Maybe the future eps or a phantom season 2 will fix it, but it was just not fun so far.

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  6. Well said SDS. I think in addition to what you said, my biggest problem with the way it turned out was basically that Kirino got away with treating her brother like shit all through the series only to just throw an apology out there at the last minute as if that just fixes everything. And then he accepted it! That sort of pissed me off. Basically I was put off by his kow-towing to her whims all the time. At the beginning when he was doing something noble by saving her from unwarranted bigotry, I applauded it. But then when he got literally no appreciation for this selfless act, I started to get more and more angry at both Kirino for treating him that way, and Kyousuke for not only taking it but continuing to help her despite all of this abuse and lack of gratitude.

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  7. A lot of people here clearly don’t understand the brother character. They don’t understand him, and they just want to rage at Kirino without allowing themselves to even consider Kyousuke’s mindset.

    I thought it was a great show and I’m really excited to see the bonus episodes take the show to a level that wasn’t allowed due to time constraints.

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  8. I always take an anime as a show (and art) first and as a message-bringer second.
    I see your points and I think you’re right, but if you look it as a show, you see a very well put together history of brothers bonding, and, as you very well pointed out, the stigma of the otaku and the way people around the person deal with it.
    Maybe you saw how well they delivered the whole otaku stigma thing and forgot that it wasn’t the focus of the history but a part of it.
    It’s always present but isn’t there as the goal to beat but as a burden to carry and deal with. At least that’s my perspective.

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