Kirino Kousaka is a popular, cute girl with a big secret - she's an anime/manga fanatic who likes to plays games which predominately feature little sister characters in them. When her older brother Kyousoke (whom she's barely spoken to in years) finds one of her magical girl anime DVDs lying around the house, Kirino pleads for him to not to reveal her hobby. He reluctantly agrees not to tell anyone, unaware that it would suck him into Kirino's world.
Before it became imitated a dozen times over, Oreimo didn't actually sound too bad a concept a show. Hey, at least it was admitting that being an anime fan isn't embraced and accepted by all like a lot of shows of this type try to tell you. And it's certainly far more real and fleshed out a concept at least than Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu was, at the very least. (And it looks quite a deal better, too!) But that's about all that Oreimo has going for it.
I'll admit it; for the first four episodes of Oreimo, I liked Kirino okay. After episode 5, though, it feels like a different set of writers took over. Kirino suddenly becomes a lot more hostile towards everyone, and alos more selfish, more mean-spirited (such as telling Kyousoke to get hit by a truck later on), and much, much creepier with her hobby. And don't think there's anything that really balances this out; Kirino eats up most of the series' run time. There is no absolutely no avoiding her selfish, haughty, jackass ways. It really hurts the series when the main lead comes off as a Mary Sue, perfect in everything and has everyone (including her own family) bend to her every want and need, and able to act like a jerk to everyone with no consequences. (And what little suffering she does entail is solved by Kyousoke.)
And in case you're wondering, "well surely she gets better later on", the answer is "not really". Not only does Kirino degrade (and even attack, in the case of her brother) the people who help her out the most, but she's surprisingly hypocritical about it. When it comes time for, say, Kyousoke to talk to her or ask for a favor, she tells him to back off, and how he "owes" her for not talking to her all these years. (A plot point that is touched upon in the novel, but not in the anime proper.) Needless to say, one of my favorite moments in the entire series is when Kirino plays a game with a character who acts exactly like she does, her getting infuriated by the game character's behavior. In case you think Kirino's modeling friends Ayase (anime/manga-hater) and Kanako (general bitch) help balance her out, you'd be wrong. They're pretty lousy too, Ayase especially.
On the flip-side, we're going to talk about things I actually liked about Oreimo. While Kirino is an abusive, unfunny creep, her older brother is actually quite amusing. Kyousoke is actually a very funny, if not devious, character as long as Kirino isn't on-screen. One of my favorite parts of Oreimo was watching him interact with his cute classmate Manami, whom he jokingly refers to as a grandmother due to the way she talks to him - and he the same way back. Manami's family, which consists of her weird grandparents and gullible little brother, are a great reprieve from Kirino's antics, though it feels like they belong to a totally different series. They're also underutilized, sadly.
Another thing I like about Kyousoke is his whole take on the anime/manga/game fandom. He acts like a lot of people not into the hobby do; he finds it strange and disturbing. He also sees the games Kirino play as just that - games. While he does warm up to Kirino's hobby and even tricks one of her friends to enter a cosplay contest to win a figurine, Kyousoke never truly becomes an otaku himself, even when he's forced to wait outside until midnight for a copy of a new game for Kirino, where he bumps into another guy his age with a sister also obsessed with adult eroge games. (I guess it really is a small world after all.) It's certainly a lot funnier than watching Kirino getting a shower to mentally prepare herself for a bath scene in one of her games, or her squealing in delight over winning the heart of some digital jailbait.
Anyway, a couple of episodes into the series, Kirino joins a social gathering of sorts of other girls talk about anime and manga. At first she doesn't fit in, but eventually finds herself hanging out with two of the girls in the club: Kuroneko, a short girl with a sharp tongue older than her, and Saori, a tall, cheerful girl with thick glasses. Kuroneko is basically the Jerry to Kirino's Tom, and the two argue constantly over their views of anime. Kuroneko likes fantasy/action series, while Kirino likes magical girl stuff. Kuroneko can be a pain too, but she's generally more pleasant a character, and does have her moments, such as a humorous slideshow presentation in episode 11. Saori is treated far worse - her background is barely mentioned at all outside of one scene in an episode. I think she actually spends more time on the series taking to Kyousoke on the phone than she does physically appear on-screen, where she sounds quite a deal different.
On a happier note, the art in Oreimo is actually quite good: colorful, glossy, and animated nicely. Quite a shame they wasted it on this show, though. The soundtrack, meanwhile, is sprinkled with peppy, instantly forgetful music and themes.
It's a bit ironic that my biggest beef with Oreimo is the exact opposite of the one I have with Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu. In that review I commented that very little of the actual series was about Haruka's hobby, but more so Yuuto and his harem of girls. Oreimo is the flip side; it spends too much on Kirino and her hobby, and not enough to let its characters (even her) actually grow. It doesn't help that Kirino is immensely unlikable, damaging any saving graces this show has. If they toned her behavior down, or at least made her act more like her more reasonable novel counterpart, this series would have been a lot better off.
Since I watched it for free, I guess I could say that Oreimo is worth a (very) cautionary watch through crunchyroll. It is quite flawed, but it does have its moments, and Kyousoke is a pretty neat character, as are some of the supporting cast. Too bad they all have to follow behind the shadow of a lead who makes Haruhi Suzumiya look as sweet and kind as Belldandy.
A few likable characters are all that save this series from the gutter trash. Maybe add a star if you can tolerate Kirino, which would make you a far more forgiving person than I could ever hope to be. — Tim Jones
Recommended Audience: Considering that one of the main themes of the series is that a 14 year old girl plays adult video games, I can safely say this is not a show for kids. There's also a decent amount of sexual innuendo and fan service as well. Parental discretion advised.
Version(s) Viewed: ANN.tv stream, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Oreimo © 2010 Tsuaksa Fushimi / ASCII Media / OIP
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