Kyousuke Kousaka is an average high schooler with an above-average little sister. Popular Kirino is perfect in every way, a star student with supermodel good looks. Because of their differences, the siblings have grown apart and Kyousuke can’t even remember the last time he had a conversation with his sister—but everything changes when he finds an anime DVD underneath a cabinet in their home.
Kyousuke and Kirino’s parents disapprove of anime, so no one in their family watches it. Kyousuke’s confusion is intensified when he opens the box and discovers that the inner disc does not match the juvenile cover image; instead, it is an X-rated “Little Sister” anime. When he figures out the DVD belongs to Kirino, Kyousuke is in for more than he bargained for. Perfect Kirino has been keeping her love of anime, video games, and her Little Sister fetish a secret for years. When she discovers that Kyousuke won’t make fun of her or rat her out to their parents, she opens up to him. She even gives him homework—specifically, Little Sister games to play—in hopes that he will share her enthusiasm. As the story progresses, Kyousuke supports Kirino in her hobby by introducing her to other anime fans and protects her secret from friends and family.
There are two ways to interpret the first two volumes of Oreimo. In one sense, the story is a comedy about a young fan of video games and anime who feels ostracized because of her passion. Her older brother becomes her confidant and advisor. Despite Kirino’s frequent episodes of bratty behavior, her brother looks out for her and their once-broken sibling bond begins to heal. Moreover, Kirino begins to make meaningful friendships with others who share her hobby. When the reader meets Kirino’s “normal” friends, one hopes that she might eventually open up to them about her hobby, only to be met with understanding. This version of Oreimo tells a story about being different yet still finding love and acceptance, emphasizing the discovery that no matter how weird you may feel you are, there are others out there with whom you can connect.
The second interpretation of Oreimo is not as pretty as the first. You see, Kirino is not a fan of just any anime and video games: she’s into Little Sister erotic anime and X-rated video games, a form of pornography that involves little girls who fall in love with their older brothers. With this in mind, the story is no longer about a girl with a hobby that her friends and family don’t understand. Instead, it’s about a fourteen-year-old who is desperately trying to hide a porn addiction from those who are closest to her. In this light, Kyousuke’s attempts to help, advise, and encourage Kirino are misguided, enabling her continued involvement with an activity that is detrimental to her. The leader of her new friends fulfills the role of a drug dealer as she pulls Kirino deeper into her addiction.
I’m sure that most readers will interpret the manga as I first described it, and for them, the Little Sister subplot will serve only to create humorously awkward situations between Kirino and Kyousuke. From the few episodes of the anime that I’ve seen, the porn aspect of Kirino’s hobby is not identified as the reason she watches and plays the X-rated material. Even in in the manga, Kirino claims that “just because something might be an ero game, that doesn’t mean it’s just all 100% those types of scenes… It just means that there are certain things you can do because the game is rated 18+.” However, if this is the creator’s way of saying that Kirino isn’t in it for the porn or that the porn isn’t really an issue, it’s not convincing.
Oreimo contains a large amount of fanservice, mostly underwear shots of fourteen-year-old Kirino and the young girls in her erotic games. In a few scenes in the first volume, fanservice is so prevalent that it distracts the reader from the story. Kirino is placed in a number of pseudo-sexual positions that are meant to unsettle her brother as it looks like she’s making advances on him. The series also includes frequent swearing, and snippets of Kirino’s games incorporate suggestive text. Librarians need to be aware that this manga contains very mature themes that are not appropriate for teens or tweens and may offend some adults.
Aside from the fanservice, the artwork in Oreimo is good, but there are times when the artist clearly struggles with proportions and human anatomy. For instance, in the front illustration of chapter two in Volume Two, Kirino’s right hand is humongous in proportion to the rest of her. In the same picture, her right leg looks as though it’s been disconnected from her body. The manga contains frequent mistakes of this nature, which surprised me as I expected more attention to artistic detail.
Oreimo is a popular story, so librarians may find that some of their teen patrons are familiar with it or even request it. However, given its mature content and issues concerning underage girls, librarians would do better to purchase this only for collections serving liberal adult populations.