Aug 24, 2016

Anime Review: Kono Naka ni Hitori, Imouto ga Iru!

NakaImo title/logoDo you like your harem shows with some semblance of a plot? Well step right up and take a gander at our next contestant! It’s got the gaggle of assorted flavors girls who all have the exact same body except for breast size, height, and hair style. There’s the tomboy one, the kind flustered one, the prissy rich one, the ditzy one, the one with a weird business (lolicon cafe)… wait, I feel like that last one is just obvious comic relief. But anyway, this time our required-milquetoast-lead boy is rich! And his dad suddenly dies! And he’s gonna need to take over the company soon but wait! There’s the possibility his dad had an illegitimate daughter at some point! Scandalous! He needs to figure out who it could be before he starts dating for a company wife because it’ll be a disaster if he accidentally kisses his sister! It’s edge of your pantsu pseudo-incest — your favorite!

The main five girls all standing together in bride attire

Kono Naka ni Hitori, Imouto ga Iru! (My Sister is Among Them!), or just NakaImo for short, is another light novel adaptation riding several years too late on the coattails of the better (and still mostly dumb) series OreImo, of which I’ve covered the first and second seasons in the past. My opinion on OreImo in the years since has tempered, to say the least. I still enjoyed it, but I find its very existence to be much more frustrating now. I suppose it’s not really its fault, either. You see, as dumb as OreImo is in retrospect, it was kind of pioneering at the time. And it worked hard to be a high quality production (at least, season one did) with a lot to like, even if the basic premise was facepalming and the eventual resolution was offensive. It had excellent music, really well put together visuals most of the time, it tried hard to come up with original shows and doujins and eroges to parody in-universe that were believable. In its wake, however, were a slew of me-too shows attempting to cash in on its seemingly newfound proven formula. And we’re all worse off for it, really.

But this is not supposed to be a retrospective review… you’re here for the scoop on NakaImo, right?

Look, I’m not gonna waste your time: NakaImo is just alright. It’s not particularly bad nor is it memorable. It’s merely okay.

If there’s one thing NakaImo does well, it is having an actual plot that sort of makes sense, both to engage the viewer across the season’s story arc as well as to act as the half-excuse for why all these girls end up getting involved. I must commend it for that because sadly most harems dispense with such unnecessary details for the most part. They are content to merely set the story in school and proceed straight to having girls fall left and right over the MC for little more than an extreme teenager’s wish fulfillment fantasy. There’s rarely ever a reason for their crushes beyond typical things like the MC was nice to them once, if it even bothers with that.

Main character Shogo running away from some of the main girls chasing him

So our star boy this time is Mikadono Shogo, the heir to some fictional Mikadono Group that’s well to do. His dad, the company president, dies but before the company will let him take over he must graduate high school and get married. Okay, so far acceptable. Explains why he’s looking for women and so on. Sure. This is complicated by the fact that he learns he may have a long-lost sister and his desire to secure familial ties during his sudden loss starts him on a search to find her, if she even does exist. This gets him tangled up in several girls who all end up having some connection to his past that he’s forgotten because he got a head scar. I guess? Okay… sure. Fine. Let’s roll with that.

It’s kind of a paper thin plot but… it is a plot. And that’s saying something for the harem genre! Kudos I guess. The mystery element of which girl is his sister keeps the pace of the show feeling good because it can drop hints here and there and wrinkle things constantly. It’s a good motivator to keep watching even if you only initial arrived because you saw the tags “ecchi harem romance”.

Oh, right. I guess it’s time I acknowledged that little bit. Yes, it’s not just a harem, it’s an ecchi harem. How is this different compared to typical harems which tend to already feature plenty of fanservice? I’m not sure… I guess this one has a few more panty shots and finds ways to get its girls naked more often. It’s still all mostly steam cloud censored or smooth barbie doll bodies but, still… okay. Sure. Ecchi.

Inevitably there’s a lot of pretty convenient coincidences with the various girls who mostly all are in his class or at least go to his school and how they end up being related to him (or at least knowing him as a child). It starts to stretch the believability a little much but overall it does a decent enough job of giving the entire series a “point”. Still, there’s little chance you’ll be able to figure it out due to the show pulling stuff out of its ass all the time to resolve each suspect until the end, whereupon the show practically gives you the answer three episodes before the actual finale reveal. The drama it does attempt is at least not terrible, or at least doesn’t feel too out of place, but…

Well, let’s just be honest. This is still just a dumb harem show. The animation is adequate at best, with the girls’ designs being better than the overall scene direction, but it’s hardly a standout visually. Music is off the shelf. Dialogue is rarely all that funny or interesting beyond serviceable to the plot. Voice acting isn’t noteworthy. And the fanservice? It’s… dare I say tame? I mean, sure, it starts to approach Kiss x Sis levels of absurd fanservice bullshit but… it doesn’t have the balls or the cleverness to follow through like KxS, and as a result comes off feeling much more cringe-silly than titillating.

Honestly, there’s really nothing admirable about NakaImo and only things slightly trashy at best. The camera is lecherous for no reason than for the viewer’s enjoyment (which is typical of this genre) but the show will frequently just have the girls act stupidly overly sexual for no reason and completely out of character. It feels like a 14 year-old was at the helm sometimes, or at least a bunch of adult Japanese men writing what they think a 14 year-old boy would want these girls to say or do. For every time it did something cute or nice it’s like it would panic their target audience might abandon ship if there hadn’t been some tits lately and so it would double down on the despicable.

I know I’ve railed on shows in the past for their blatant pandering but… man. I’m doing it again I guess. And yet… I get it. In this case it’s not really a fault or a failure. NakaImo pretty much accomplishes everything it sets out to do and it does so fairly well enough. It’s clear the original author and the adaptation’s creators wanted to make an ecchi harem romance. And they did. It’s got all the trappings typical of the genre as well as a cohesive little self-contained 1-cour story arc to keep the train moving along. Pretty much everything I’ve been complaining about is stuff fans of this corner of anime would call a feature not a bug. Sure, you could say it could have done with better animation quality, but that’s true of most shows anyway.

Maybe what this really comes down to is that I’ve grown out of this type of show… but I don’t think so. Because as much as I can say it feels like a juvenile show aimed at teenage boys (and I’m very confident it is), I don’t think me being over 30 means I now hate this stuff. I still gave it a 3/5… (after a ton of hemming and hawing, but still). That’s because for all my bitching thus far, it’s probably slightly above average still for a harem. It has some kind of plot, some kind of drama payoff at the end, some okay girl designs. It’s not terribly made. It’s just… barely above average. And I’ll probably continue to watch this kind of stuff. But I’m getting off track. I’ll save that rant for another day.

If you’re already a harem fan, give NakaImo a try. It does do some things more right than most harems, even if it is still filled to the brim with the usual harem bullshit. Like I said at the beginning: it’s alright.

As of this writing, you can watch NakaImo for free on Crunchyroll.

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