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"Oreimo" Complete Collection: This Show Shouldn't Be This Good

Once in a while, a show comes along that really connects with you for whatever reason. For me, Oreimo is one of those, even if I haven’t personally experienced everything that occurs in the show.

The plot: Kirino Kousaka, a 14-year old A-student (who’s also a budding track-and-field star and part-time model), and her 17-year old brother, Kyosuke, have a strained relationship. Or more accurately, they barely have a relationship at all. That’s why Kyosuke is understandably surprised when he discovers that Kirino is a closet anime and eroge fan. She literally has a closet full of merchandise. Kirino’s desire to keep this a secret is what fuels the series at first, since Kirino doesn’t want her parents, school friends or her part time modeling job to know her obsession. However, Kyosuke thinks Kirino ought to seek out others her age who share her hobby; she’s shy at first, but soon makes chums with Ruri Goko, a snobby, soft-spoken gothic lolita who prefers to be called Kuroneko; and unofficial leader of the trio, Saori Makishima, an eccentric coke glasses-wearer who randomly speaks in ye olde English. Their friendship also means we get plenty of digs at how anime fans (or fans of anything) often converse with each other; Ruri frequently dismisses one of Kirino’s favorite shows as childish junk food, while praising her own show in an elitist fashion. Sound familiar?

Don’t be scared away by such a seemingly esoteric premise, though. Despite ostensibly being about anime and eroge and indeed venturing into some concepts that the casual or non-fans wouldn’t be as familiar with, Oreimo is accessible to anyone. Part of this is because most of us can relate to having a closet hobby, something we don’t tell very many people about (if any). It could be anime, it could be stamp collecting, it could be Magic the Gathering, whatever the activity, it doesn’t matter; it rings true. That said, a lot of the conflict in Oreimo comes from the fact that Kirino’s hobby is looked down upon in mainstream society, and episode 3 in particular brings up a number of fair points on both sides. Kirino’s addiction isn’t necessarily accepted as normal (especially since she’s not of age to be playing such games), but Kyosuke argues that what’s ultimately important is the friends she made from the hobby, something which his strict, straight-laced father begrudgingly accepts. The point is also made that a hobby doesn’t necessarily define a person’s personality or morality; more fans should take this to heart before casually dismissing all fans of [insert thing they find disgusting, creepy, or immoral] as evil.

Really, the central theme to Oreimo is not eroge, but relationships. Kyosuke, who had been distant from his sister for his whole life until the revelation, grows closer to Kirino and her world; Kirino makes new friends due to her hobby, but has difficulties with long-time friends (such as modeling friend Ayase, who has highly negative preconceived opinions about otaku and almost stops associating with Kirino strictly because of it!); Kirino’s strained relationship with an anime studio who wants to adapt one of her fan stories into a TV series but want to make numerous changes. It’s all well-written and explores the complex feelings of the characters. Without giving it away, the ending is also one of the most heart-warming and satisfying I’ve seen, without being sappy or transparently manipulative. It almost brought me to tears, no joke.

Are there flaws to the show? Perhaps. Kyosuke’s long-time childhood friend (now a girlfriend of sorts), Manami Tamura, doesn’t add a whole lot to the proceedings; in fact, episode 6 is mostly centered around she and Kyosuke spending the night together at her house, and felt like an abrupt detour to the main plot. And I suppose it could be argued that Kirino is of the typical tsundere archetype. But I would argue that short-changes her character; besides, it’s natural for a brother and sister to get on each other’s nerves during the teen years, making their relationship somewhat realistic.

Being a more dialog-driven slice-of-life show which heavily features computer screens, the animation could’ve been bare bones and boring, but AIC does a good job of keeping the characters moving in appropriate moments, and I spotted no off-model moments. Something noteworthy is that the show has a different ending illustration for most every episode. The music by Satoru Kosaki (Haruhi, Kannagi) isn’t anything special, but it fits the show just fine.

The 3-disc DVD set features all twelve episodes and the four OVA episodes, which are more focused on Ruri and Kyosuke (and a new character, Sena Akagi) and their efforts to create a video game in an after-school club. The discs are housed in a single keep case with a swinging middle hinge for two of the three discs. On-disc special features are slim, with only clean openings/endings and Aniplex trailers offered. However, the limited edition set more than makes up for it with its 16 postcards (all which feature a different artist illustration of the main characters), a 24-page color booklet with character and region 2 DVD artwork, and an attractive green-bordered artbox to house it all. The set has good video quality and great subtitles, making it very easy to get into the story.

Oreimo will unfairly be pigeonholed in a pejorative fashion due to its cute character designs, subject matter, and misleading, highly inaccurate “incest” descriptions at various websites (there’s nothing close to incestuous sex in this show). This is a shame, because closed-minded fans would miss out on one of the best-written anime series I’ve seen in quite some time. The characterization is realistic, the emotions work, there’s satisfying internal conflict, and it tackles the attitudes present both in and out of the anime fandom. Oreimo comes recommended.

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