Recap: Having made up his mind and already turned down Ayase, Kyousuke must now confront the other girls – including the one he truly loves.
Jel’s Thoughts: As much as I’ve been dreading the final three episodes of Oreimo, actually watching the finale still felt like an event. Not so much in the “I can’t wait to see what happens!” kind of way, but more of a “showdown with the final boss” kind of feeling. And in that regard Oreimo certainly did not disappoint, delivering nearly 90 minutes of poorly written, shockingly self indulgent developments that stop just short of making any bold, audacious statement I could have at least respected.
The first of the last episodes wastes no time in shutting out the rest of the girls, and it’s almost sad to see how they’ve been demoted to a point on a checklist. We’ve already experienced the pain of the Kuroneko break it up, so that was just going through the motions. I honestly found Kanako’s confession/rejection harder to watch simply because it was so painfully unnecessary. I also cringed at Saori’s last meaningful moments being wasted on her sister’s imouto complex. I did feel a tinge of emotion in saying goodbye to the Game Club, but that was just me missing how much I enjoyed Oreimo when it was at its best.
The bulk of the finale is spent on Kyousuke and Kirino sorting out how to be a couple despite being brother and sister. This was flat out painful to watch as it is SUPER CREEPY and arguably the most unsettling thing I’ve watched in my time blogging anime. Even the Kousakas themselves acknowledge this, but eventually they just embrace it. Had this been the series’ way of taking a darker turn I’d be all for it, but instead you’re meant to think it’s cute and sweet and romantic. I just don’t understand how anyone could feel that way given the circumstances.
Assuming you survive to the last episode, the only scene worth seeing is the final showdown with Manami. She says everything that needs to be said and I think most people would agree with her point of view. I would actually have a measure of respect for Oreimo if they had painted Manami as the voice of reason, stuck to their guns, and highlighted the fact that the Kousaka siblings’ selfish actions just do not work in real life. Instead, she is made out to be the villain as Kyousuke spouts some stupid shonen hero speech about not playing by the rules.
To some extent they do eventually acknowledge Manami is right, even to the point of setting a time limit to their relationship before somehow returning to “normal” siblings. Everyone agrees to remain their friends to some extent and we’re left to believe life carries on as usual. Really all that does though is leave us stuck in some kind of pointless middle ground. There’s no message or purpose to any of it. Rather than going out in a fiery ball of flames as the train crashes into the station, they slam the brakes and softly, impotently tap the next train car. How disappointing.
Zigg’s Thoughts: What a truly hateful, utterly soul crushing climax. What a way to demonstrate how devoid of humour, warmth or genuine empathy your story is. What a way to turn your characters into hollow shells and hateful avatars. What a way to go out.
I tend to use hyperbole an awful lot in my writing, so allow me to be clear and frank when I say this – this is one of the very worst things I’ve ever seen in the realm of anime. It fails on multiple levels – it’s poorly written, badly paced, morally dubious and insanely plotted. It makes almost no sense and tears down basically all of the work done to build these characters into people you might sort of like.
I think perhaps what’s most distressing about the whole affair is the extent to which the characters and the audience are expected to be complicit in the arrangement. Barely anyone reacts as you’d expect, instead they seem delighted that the Kousakas have entered into this weird creepy relationship. Poor Kuroneko gets brutally dumped, then shows up to matchmake the pair and ends up reduced to stupid imaginary feuds with Kirino once more, as if two seasons worth of character development had never happened. Oh and don’t take shots at shows far, far better than you, you just make yourself look petty.
Manami meanwhile is pretty much broken in two for the leering benefit of the audience. She seems to be the only character living in anything approximating the real world and her impassioned speech asking Kyousuke to love her is a decent tear jerker, one which is immediately trampled over. Kyousuke’s bullshit speech about how he’ll dare to be different and declaring ‘Incest for the win!’ is totally galling. In fact throughout these episodes he comes off as the king of assholes, ditching his ex-girlfriend and destroying a lifelong friendship, emotionally wrecking two girls who love him unconditionally because he can’t keep it in his pants for his sister.
Then there’s the ending, which as Jel has pointed out, is a ridiculous compromise that leaves nobody happy. Why would two people, ostensibly in love, pretty much agree first thing to a time-limited relationship? Can you switch your emotions on and off like a machine now? Because I’m pretty sure you can’t just ‘stop’ loving someone just like that, and go back to the way things were. That’s just not how things work. Was it worth sacrificing relationships with Kuroneko and Manami for a dubious three month fling? Apparently so! If they’d gone all in with the incest angle I’d at least given them credit for sheer bloody-mindedness, but this wishy-washy copout is utterly dire.
Enough. Enough words, enough time spent out of my life. These final episodes should put paid to any rumours of Oreimo being a clever parody or genre deconstruction. They reveal it for what it is, a creepy, warped otaku hymn stuffed with tired stereotypes and blatant wish fulfillment fantasy. Bury it in seven graves and let it rot. And let’s all move on for good.
Jel: It would not have taken much for the second season of Oreimo to be a success. Give us a few more silly otaku events to attend, build on the relationship with Kuroneko established in the really great OVAs, and sprinkle in a little drama as the Kousakas are forced to acknowledge that they are now both siblings and friends. Maybe that would not have been the most exciting path to take, but it would have been an enjoyable, natural progression of the things that made Oreimo fun to watch.
The first few episodes of season 2 seemed to indicate that’s where the plot was headed, but it is most definitely not Oreimo’s final destination. Instead, we get to watch as the author sadly tries to appeal to each and every fan, giving each girl an opportunity to throw themselves at Kyousuke regardless of their established personality or relationship with him. I’m quite capable of enjoying harem comedies so it’s not even the idea of half a dozen girls magically being attracted to some loser. It’s the fact that Oreimo really wasn’t like that until the author decided to flip a switch and make it that way, which just comes off as poor planning, bad writing, or both.
All of this culminates of course in Kyousuke and Kirino realizing their romantic feelings for each other, a line that I never, ever thought this series would cross so openly. I would be fine with Oreimo bringing up incest if they had something to say about it but, as I just pointed out in my thoughts on the finale, I don’t think it does. They unlock a taboo subject and then they don’t have the courage to really say if they should or should not be together. Nothing is accomplished. Much like the creative masturbation Kuroneko so famously talks about in the first set of OVA episodes, it just feels like the author indulging his own ideas or fantasies (or those of his target audience) with no sense of purpose or meaning. If you have enjoyed your time with Oreimo I’m happy for you, but I just don’t understand how anyone could find that satisfying.
I’d love to throw up my hands and say Oreimo is terrible and never have to think about it again, but really I’m kind of sad this is how things turned out. For most of the series I found it to be a charming spin on the anime sibling relationship and the otaku-centric humor usually stayed far enough on the side of parody to stay amusing. For a brief period we even had an successful romance and it really looked like the story was trending up. Even after pulling the rug out from under everything and blowing up the plot, I would have still considered it a net positive if there was some kind of point to it all. Instead of being disgusted or repulsed however, I’m just disappointed at the lost potential.