Feb 6, 2014

Anime Review: Ore no Imōto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai.

OreImo 2 title/logoThus continues the tale of our violent model-by-day otaku-by-night heroine and her frustrated and confused brother. Kirino has returned from America ready to get back into her semi-secret hobby. What’s that? You don’t remember her actually leaving for America? Season two here picks up after the “True Route” extra four episodes, which weren’t televised (and thus sadly aren’t on Crunchyroll), the first of which is a replacement for the last televised episode.  Just like the first season, there’s more hijinks, incest overtones, nerdy anime fandom, with a dash of S&M and Lolita. So, basically, more of the same, which could be a good or bad thing depending on how well you liked the first season.

Top-down view of Kirino in a victory stance, arms raised and head up, in her room with figurine boxes all over the floor

I’ve delayed writing a review on this one for months now and it is mostly because I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Way back in the stone ages of 2011 I wrote a short review on the first season that I expanded a year later into something more like what I typically do now. I was fairly positive in it, citing the likable lead brother, the very pleasing animation quality, and its playfulness with otaku culture and lighthearted themes of identity and acceptance. So when season two finally wrapped up (I’ve really got to stop watching things as they are airing; I hate waiting a week between episodes) I revisited that old review. It was then that I realized most of what I originally liked didn’t make it into the much anticipated follow-up.

Ore no Imōto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai. (note the period there, it's part of the title and the sole bit distinguishing it from the first season) is by no means bad. It retains the same good quality animation and sound work, with all of the great voice actors reprising their roles. ClariS returns as well singing another catchy song courtesy the guy from livetune. It even switched animation studios but you can’t really even tell because the quality is still there. If anything it is a well-produced show with sporadic moments of fun, cuteness, and laughs.

Close-up of Ruri as she bashfully looks to the side, blushing

But for all the good things there’s too much that it stumbles through or outright fails at. Most of them have to do directly with the plot and characters, so I’m afraid I must reveal a few of the episode premises though it shouldn’t be anything too spoiler-y. That’s kind of a problem as well: there’s really nothing much to spoil here, precisely because not much progress is made.

We get a baker’s dozen episodes but they waffle between expanding on backstories or engaging in mostly filler fripperies. The backstories for the most part are not bad, as they helpfully expand on side characters, but the issue is they’re “nice-to-haves”. In a season that is sorely lacking in character progression it’s a bit irksome to have so much of its limited time devoted to exploring side characters. I’m struggling with it though, because again they aren’t badly done. Saori in particular is much improved as a sympathetic character as a result. But, even so, it’s all just “nice to have” stuff.

Face shot of Kirino happily talking on her cellphoneThe primary story arc takes a backseat and that’s a real shame. Finding out whether Kyosuke and Kuroneko will get together fo’ reals was the initial motivator but the series (well, Kuroneko herself) instead decides that resolving the long-standing rivalry between the primary siblings is more important. I’m actually okay with this turn as it probably is, realistically, the elephant in the room that must be dealt with if Kyosuke (or Kirino even) is to have any kind of serious relationship in the future. It really is a problem endemic to their current attitudes and personalities. Closet skeletons if you will.

But while there is some time devoted to all that, a lot of it is sucked up by mostly filler stuff. We get the arrival (and subsequent departure in the same episode) of a girl Kirino met in America who looks and acts like a mixture of Chika from Ai Yori Aoshi and Kaolla from Love Hina. Then there’s some random dude met at one of the many anime cons who Kyosuke immediately assumes must be Kirino’s new boyfriend. Then there’s a minor plot involving another Meruru concert that seems to exist solely to give Kanako and Bridget a reason to return as cosplayers. Then there’s a two-episode tangent with Kyosuke living alone in an apartment that seems to be just an excuse so the writers can have the half-dozen or so girls show up at random times in a controlled fashion without needing to find contrived ways to get him and a girl (or girls) alone together as they would normally at his home. None of these ever amount to much more than mildly amusing diversions that interrupt the primary narrative, which ends up dangling in a painfully obvious manner.

And then it ends with another backstory episode, this time on the siblings, and that’s it. No real resolution of anything and we’re left to wonder what the hell the point of all that was. A lot of the otaku charm is missing, we get far less of the eroge fun, and even the ol’ comedy muscles seem to have atrophied a bit in the time between seasons.

Front shot of Kyosuke looking typically irkedBut worst of all is the deterioration of Kyosuke as a character and the increasing harem-ness of it all. As someone who I applauded in the first season as being respectable and level-headed even if occasionally a bit obnoxious (but realistically so for a teenage boy in his predicament), here he seems to descend slowly into wickedness. It’s by no means a plummeting descent like in School Days but it is troubling all the same. He seems even more obsessive about his sister now, in that unsettling possessive boyfriend way and less the protective brother way like before. He’s also increasingly lecherous, being less and less averse to the weird eroge stuff as well as delighting in teasing the girls (especially poor Ayase who I also can’t figure out if she secretly likes it or not). Speaking of the many girls, they are increasingly falling for him left and right to the point of ridiculousness — I’m guessing it’s just that none of them ever meet or hang out with other guys, like ever. And I probably don’t have to reiterate that Kirino is still a complete bitch who despite being cute at times is still mostly an unlikable character. This is somewhat explained in the final backstory episode about their childhood but still doesn’t excuse how incorrigible she is.

It’s definitely not all bad. Just mostly a letdown. An unsatisfying continuation to a series that is known to be better. The episodic nature, the lack of much meaningful character progression, and the generally unsavory direction it has taken the protagonist make for a disappointing sequel. Like the first season, a set of bonus episodes were released that finish things up (why they couldn’t just air these is beyond me), but having read the episode summaries I’m not sure if I’ll ever get around to watching them given the disheartening incest route ending it describes. (Look guys, this is fun, fan-pandering comedy not Koi Kaze, so you’re not gonna be able to pull it off.)

Ending card to OreImo 2 episode 6, with Kyosuke and Kuroneko coupled

As of this writing, you can watch both seasons of Ore no Imōto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai for free on Crunchyroll.

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