OniAi is based on a simple premise that quickly gets old. The deceptively cute Akiko is driven by a single passion in her young adult life: to enjoy a physical relationship with her older brother Akito. When Akito transfers to his little sister’s school and the two move in together, she takes their new living arrangement as an opportunity to fulfill her desires. Budding novelist Akito is wise to his sister’s act, however, and he rebuffs her advances no matter how inviting or egregious they get. To make ends meet, Akito rents the other rooms of the house to three high school girls, who immediately develop romantic and sometimes perverted intentions towards our hapless hero. Like any other harem comedy, the story focuses on the machinations of the female cast as they try to woo Akito, despite his intentions to remain neutral and keep his attention on maintaining the household—now full of eager girls.
Of all the harem comedies on the market, OniAi reminds me most of Tenchi Muyo because of the personalities the girls bring to the table. Whereas Tenchi Muyo kept the series interesting by virtue of the cast’s alien origins, OniAi is a one-trick pony and there’s nothing memorable about the series besides its rampant sexiness. Each episode is framed by Akiko’s attempts to seduce her brother while managing the competition of the other girls vying for his love. Akito does his best to put up with their behavior and be diplomatic about his intentions, but none of the ladies get the hint. While most other characters would try to use romantic sensibilities or charm to entice a would-be partner, these girls skip all of that nonsense. Thus, Akito finds himself in contrived situations in which the other characters all but tear off their clothes and throw themselves at him.
OniAi is supposed to be funny, but the laughs are too few. It manages to earn a few chuckles when Akito refuses the girls’ advances, but that’s only because the soundtrack often uses record scratches or the effect of the audio winding down—as in classic Warner Brothers cartoons—to amplify their rejections. Other than that, there really isn’t much to laugh about. Clearly Akiko’s constant misfires are meant to be humorous, but she grows thoroughly obnoxious due to her inability to take “no” for an answer. By the third episode, I was so tired of the gag that I couldn’t stand the thought of sitting through nine more episodes of the same joke. In contrast, Anastasia, one of the roommates, is kind of endearing. The stoic of the group, Anastasia delivers her lines in a quiet monotone, her half-closed eyes giving the impression of complete detachment from the world. However, she’s as big a fan of sexual innuendo as the other girls, and hearing her make insinuations in her quiet voice is somewhat amusing.
Anastasia alone isn’t enough to save OniAi, however. It’s not a very interesting show and its episodes quickly give way to obligatory group bath scenes, swimsuit modeling, and body comparisons. The harem comedy genre is crowded enough, and with very little substance to keep itself afloat, OniAi is easily swept away by the presence of better and more entertaining shows.
Note: this review is based on an edition of the series that has gone out of print. For those interested in purchasing the series, it has been re-released under the S.A.V.E. label, given below.
OniAi: Complete Series – S.A.V.E.
directed by Keiichiro Kawaguchi
300 minutes, Number of Discs: 2, Blu-ray
Company Age Rating: 17+
Related to: OniAi by Kuro Rokusho