2013: The Anime Year in Review

Looking back this was a fairly average year in anime. There was a lot of crap of course but there were also a fair number of shows that were well-made and entertaining.

Outstanding Anime of 2013

Rescued ratShin Sekai Yori (started Fall 2012) (Crunchyroll) is a solid adaptation of a serious science fiction story. It is far more sophisticated than what usually passes for sci-fi on television. This may be too dark for some tastes and is definitely not suitable for young children. Older viewers may find it very rewarding.
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Makoto, Ai and the OreImo Ending

Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai (Crunchyroll) has finally wrapped up with a series of OVAs. The consensus is clear, at least among English-speaking viewers: The Second Worst Harem Ending Ever.
Double Punch
Not everyone agrees. Peter Payne praises the series’s “solid grounding in contemporary Japanese subculture” and applauds the Kuroneko breakup scene, saying that emotional anime scenes “deeply affect fans in ways that mainstream Hollywood could never do.”

Most fans, I think, prefer climactic scenes in which the hero does NOT make a girl cry by acting like a total jackass.

Still I suspect that the ending got a more positive reaction from Japanese fans because the hero’s actions reflect one of the most fundamental Japanese values: makoto. This is commonly translated as “sincerity” but there is much more too it than that. It also implies “integrity” and “unconditional loyalty.” The makoto element in anime is sometimes thrilling but it also can be offputting to non-Japanese viewers.
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OreImo Ends

After watching the last episode of Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai I wonder if I was too harsh in some of my earlier posts. The show is funny and clever and well-drawn.

It is rare for the Japanese broadcast standards board to investigate an anime series in response to viewer complaints, but in this case they ruled that it contains nothing inappropriate for its late-night time slot. They were surely correct to do so. Aside from the fact that it shows under-age teenagers playing adult-only video games (something that surely couldn’t happen in real life) the show contains nothing that is provably indecent or inappropriate. Some potentially disturbing things are suggested but nothing is spelled out.

(“Incest? What incest? There’s nothing going on here but perfectly normal sibling rivalry. And he just tripped and fell that time–a totally innocent accident!”)

But there is still reason to worry. What we have seen is the “good end.” The DVD version will apparently contain 4 alternate endings, quite likely “bad ends.” These could be very bad indeed. The producers have dropped hints that Ayase may carry out her threat to kill Kyousuke, or that he might end up in a romantic relationship with his father.

The worst possible ending would be for Kyousuke and Kirino to end up together. Not only is she his sister, but she is a really horrible person who abuses him and drives him crazy. Surely a “Kirino ending” would represent a fate worse than death.

Ore no Imouto–Anime Follow Up

Since my original post Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai (My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute) has proved to be less clever and original than I had hoped. For one thing they have pretty much ruled out my original idea that Kirino might be an unconscious lesbian. Instead they are going with the sleazier notion that she has unacknowledged feelings for her older brother, which she expresses by abusing him.

Generally incest-themed manga or anime goes something like this: a brother and sister fall in love, but it turns out that they are not blood-related, so it’s probably OK. Or there’s a harem-type setup, where the brother is pursued by multiple cute sisters, all about the same age, but never manages to choose one of them. (Plausibility is not the strong point of these stories.)

What’s different about this story is that the sister isn’t cute. She’s an atrocious little monster, more yandere than tsundere. It’s not clear whether Kyousuke reciprocates her feelings. He seems mostly horrified, but with one exception he seems unable to refuse her anything she asks. (The one exception was when she asked him to run out into traffic so that she could experience what it feels like to lose someone close to you.)

Though disturbing, this show can still be extremely funny when it takes aim at the absurdities of otaku culture. (The reason that Kirino wanted Kyousuke to play in traffic was that she was researching her new novel about a handsome young venture capitalist in a post-apocalyptic world populated entirely by cute little sisters. She has already found a publisher for her first effort, a novel about an astronaut who lands on a planet inhabited by little sisters.)

But the humor is uneven. When it isn’t focusing on otaku excesses the story seems much less funny and its implausibility becomes painfully obvious.

Ore no Imouto–First Impressions

When I first heard about Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai (My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute) I winced. It sounded like one of those sleazy ecchi incest-themed animes like Kiss x Sis.

The actual show doesn’t seem like that at all. In fact it’s rather sweet, though with some disturbing elements.

Kyousuke Kousaka (Yuichi Nakamura) is a mediocre high school student. He has a 14-year-old sister named Kirino (Ayana Taketatsu) who everybody thinks is perfect. She’s smart and pretty and successful at everything she tries, but he knows that she is really a brat.

Then he discovers her shameful secret: she is an otaku, obsessed with ultra-cute anime and “little sister” eroge. (The former doesn’t seem too surprising, but why would she be interested in the latter? It doesn’t sound like she’s a “bro-con.” From the way she talks about the games it really sounds like she’s a lesbian and doesn’t know it.)

Feeling lonely and desperate, Kirino turns to Kyousuke for help. She is afraid that she will be ostracized if her friends find out about her hobby, but she’s too obsessed to give it up. Reluctantly Kyousuke agrees and tries to help her find friends her own age with similar interests.
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