Sister Princess RePure
"This is a story of 12 little sisters who adore their big brother." So, just like in the previous season (see the THEM reviews of Sister Princess)- but boy, have a lot of OTHER things changed!
As I've said before, I don't ENCOURAGE anyone to recall Sister Princess, but it was about a pleasant (and completely unremarkable) lad named Wataru who suddenly meets the 12 sisters he's completely forgotten he had, on a place called Promised Island (which was originally supposed to be a not-yet-opened amusement park, a detail that became just as utterly forgotten as Wataru's knowledge of the existence of the sisters in the first place.) All 12 sisters (who represent various archetypes) were worshipfully devoted to Wataru, and some of them would clearly have gone as far as jumping his bones. Promised Island featured a giant statue at its summit that was so racist even nine out of ten White Supremacists would have been embarrassed by it. Also on hand were Jeeves, a butler who appeared- poorly disguised- in many roles; a loudmouthed self-appointed "friend" (and perpetual loser) named Yamada; and finally a girl named Mami, originally sent in as a spy, who ended up posing as our hero's 13th sister. (The one thing I DID find amusing in First Season was Mami's Email application, which opened with a video of a bear breaking down a door, slugging another bear inside the room, and then marching out.)
THIS season, for a time, only seems to have the sisters themselves, and their adoration for Big Bro, in common with First Season. Jeeves, Yamada, and Mami as characters are gone. (Characters that certainly LOOK like Yamada and Mami show up for a few seconds each, but with no sign of recognition by the rest of the cast, so it looks like the show's just giving us a knowing wink here. And the NAME Jeeves is invoked, but not applied to the correct person at all.)
RePure,for its first 11 episodes, de-emphasizes "group" stories in favor of each "sister's" individual encounters/backstory with Big Bro. The episodes have an interesting structure: the first 15 minutes will be spent on one girl's story (or backstory) with Big Bro, to show exactly why they adore him, apparently; the second eight-to-nine minutes does the same, but usually with a different sister. For convenience in this review I'll call these A and B segments, so, for example, 2B would refer to the second (shorter) story in Episode 2.
The girls' stories are filled out with dream and fantasy sequences that often give it an "art film" feel, along with particular insert songs for each girl. Several of the songs are surprisingly sweet, in particular the ones for Mamoru (the athletic girl) in 2B, Haruka (the girl steeped in Japanese culture, though the show curiously gives her origin as Germany) in 9B, and the one for Marie (the "sickly girl" stereotype, complete with dog) in 10B.
Marie, by the way, is now usually seen in a sanatorium, which brings up the difference between the seasons in living arrangements. Wataru now lives by himself (which is just as well), though the girls occasionally visit (or he visits them), including over-nighters. I guess whatever disease Marie was supposed to have had got worse, but later she seems to have a remission, because she joins all the others in the last couple of episodes (a pretty unwelcome development, for reasons I'll get to later.) And Aria- Aria, a whimpering, profoundly addled child with almost no vocabulary and (as this season makes clear) only the most tenuous grip on reality at best- Aria, the sister that I most would have wished to sacrifice to whatever nether demons Promised Island had (I'm sure there were many)- Aria now lives in a mansion!
Of course, we don't seem to be in Kansas (excuse me, Promised Island) anymore at all. The character of the place they live seems to literally depend on which way you look: if you look out to sea it looks like a small city (complete with skyscrapers); if you look in the OTHER direction, it looks like a traditional European village.
The artwork is 100% better this time, though curiously Wataru doesn't even LOOK like Wataru in several of the girls' reminiscences. Perhaps they were viewing him through the lens of their feelings. But inconsistencies in some of the other characters' depictions suggest that different teams of artists worked on different segments; for example, RinRin (the inventor), another girl I found pretty annoying the first time around, is rendered surprisingly beautifully in Ep. 6B. The variations in artistic style and theme in some of the segments sometimes give the show the feeling of an anthology.
There are a few good moments (or at least interesting ones) in this season. I mentioned 2B for its song, but that particular segment is also, well, less "bro-connish" than some of the others, mainly because Mamoru is less interested in Big Brother romantically than she is in his being someone who can play sports and games with her, and who's OK with her not being "traditionally feminine"; I noticed she uses "boku", the masculine personal pronoun, for herself. Curiously, from Mamoru's memory of her past with Big Brother it seems like he was still around her into his teenage years, which certainly doesn't jibe with Wataru's complete amnesia about the girls in First Season. (Yes, this "season" pretty much re-thinks most of the original show, but there are plenty of inconsistencies within this season itself.)
In fairness, even when the show does go full-on bro-con, it occasionally comes up with some new wrinkles. Chikage (the mystic) seeks to make Bro hers by re-enacting an ancient scenario; while another girl may actually be finally coming to her senses about the realities of brother-sister relationships, which is certainly a refreshing change for THIS show (and for HER in particular.)
But as with most magic, it doesn't last. As we move away from the personal stories in the first 11 episodes, and the show starts allowing groups of the girls to dominate the story, it seems that some Critical Mass of girls forms that precipitates all the silliness and stupidity of the First Season, and we end up even reprising a storyline from First Season.
I was faced with a dilemma rating this: should I leave it with the first season's Two Stars as a warning that no matter how pretty and stylish you make a Bro-Con series, it's still EXACTLY that; or should I give it some credit for those extensive improvements? In the end I decided to go another star, BUT WITH THIS CAUTION: Yes, they didn't just put lipstick on this pig, they went and gave it an Extreme Makeover. But there's STILL a pig in there. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Well, there's ALWAYS a subtext of incestuous desire in the show- with Chikage being maybe the worst offender THIS time- but the show's never really explicit. (There's another scene, where Kaho (one of the youngest ones of the bunch) is going to spend the night at Big Brother's place, and the other girls are trying to help her find sleepwear that "Big Brother would like". Yes, it's pajamas, but it's STILL unsettling, somehow.) We'll say Mature Situations, and hold out for PG-13. (As far as I can tell, Crunchyroll doesn't venture a rating on this one.) Rightstuf also suggests 13+.
Version(s) Viewed: Crunchyroll video stream
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Sister Princess RePure © 2002 Zexcs
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