About OreImo 8. This episode, like all the others, is average at best in terms of entertainment value. Unfortunately it seems to have gotten quite a bit more flak from the aniblogosphere than the other episodes because nothing that happens is realistic. But you know, I’m actually surprised at how effective OreImo is as a commentary on the current state of the otaku industry (for lack of a better term). In fact, if you consider OreImo as more of a commentary than a romantic comedy, episode 6 is the odd one out. That’s the only episode as of yet that hasn’t dealt with some aspect of Otakudom. And to be honest, that’s the episode that I actually enjoyed the least. Crazy grandparents are interesting and all, but the focus from the show from episode 1 has been the Otaku obsession of Kirino, not some random romantic subtext between Kyousuke and Manami.
By reading OreImo primarily as a commentary, I think it puts episode 8 in a different light. Sure it’s completely implausible for a middle school girl to get a Light Novel published. Sure it’s completely implausible for that said Light Novel to get an anime adaptation, even if it’s just supposed to fill in a recently opened time gap. But let’s set aside the idea that OreImo operates on realism, because it doesn’t. It’s hard to imagine many of the situations in OreImo actually taking place. In fact, those crazy grandparents that I mentioned earlier have as much of a chance as existing as the possibility of Kirino getting a light novel published. Realism isn’t OreImo’s strong suit, nor will it ever be.
So let’s dive into episode 8 putting aside our realism goggles, even though I know that it’s really hard for some of us to take those off. Let’s start with the premise of episode 8. Who the hell in their right mind would publish a story of a strange post apocalyptic world in which some girls who are sisters magically live and one of whom gets trapped under a pile of rubble, allowing the main character to save her and thus… etc etc. Let’s face it, no one wants to read such a strange, random, and weird premise.
At the same time, who the hell wants to read a story about a weird school where people are apparently divided, for whatever reason, by grades into classes with varying facilities and people. And then somehow a smart person gets into a stupid class, and decides to lead a revolution against the rest of the school by fighting with their miniature-based avatars that they can summo-
Let’s face it. A lot of anime stories have strange premises. Actually, a lot of successful anime stories have strange premises. Kirino’s story is no exception. In fact, it’s probably the strangeness that lead to its success in the first place. But the scariest thing about this entire affair is just how easily and quickly Kirino was able to write the story and get it noticed by a publisher. What does that really say? It says that people lap up the craziest and strangest things.
Just as an aside that I find interesting is that small comment about Kirino becoming famous because they heard of this “mysterious middle school writer”. There’s no actual need for the scriptwriters to include such a small line, especially if we’re talking about a show that’s apparently lacking in commentary of the anime industry, but that small line says a lot. Although that editor lady (or whatever she does) immediately attempts to correct herself, the idea is out there. Maybe the craze generated by Kirino’s story isn’t completely because of the appeal of Kirino’s story?
There’s something to be said about the association of Kirino’s story with the sensation of the “mysterious middle school writer”. These kinds of phenomenon die off extraordinarily quickly in the modern world. In the US, there was an incident of the “Balloon boy” incident a while back, where basically people thought that a small boy had lifted off in a hot air balloon by accident. This story captured the media attention for a week. A freaking week. But you know, Kirino’s situation isn’t really that different. Perhaps the success of her story is just like the Balloon boy incident. A meteoric rise and fall to and from fame.
Anyway, the entire plotline of the mystery of the success of Kirino’s story actually gets dropped until essentially the very end of the episode, when Kuroneko accuses that nameless adapter of changing the storyline in order to attain success himself.
Kuroneko has spent literally hours upon hours of research and writing to try and get one of her works noticed by a publisher. She’s poured so much effort into this, but Kirino gets her publication deal so quickly that it’s shameful for her. Now what does that say about the audience of the anime industry? It says that there is no “good” writing in Otakudom. People want to see an explosion get described by “BOOM!” rather than the intricate details of the effects of the explosion. The Otaku industry is a very sensual industry. It’s not a literary industry at all. Kuroneko doesn’t seem to understand that. She’s a niche within a niche within a niche.
Kirino succeeds because she panders to your average Otaku. It’s no coincidence that the primary point of contention between the writer of the anime adaptation and Kirino is the gender of the main character. Kirino can’t describe exactly why that’s so important, but it’s just important to the text. While that may seem like a cop out for some, a reason to dismiss Kirino’s work, it actually highlights exactly what the literary writers don’t understand. Things in the Otaku industry don’t need to make sense in order to be successful. In fact, changing the gender of the main character so that it’s “relatable” ruins the entire thing. Yuri incest is not yuri incest if you make one sister a brother. Yuri incest isn’t supposed to be “relatable”. It’s supposed to be fanservice and exciting at its core (no, I don’t mean erotically exciting, even though it is for many, but I mean exciting as in it’s just so wrong by societal standards that people get a thrill out of seeing it).
I personally believe that this is commentary on the status of the modern Otaku fandom. Gone is any sort of appreciation for actual literary elements in writing. Gone is the appreciation for actually interesting stories with depth. Gone (or pretty much gone) is the subset of fans who love seeing things other than “cute girls doing cute things”. Interestingly, the show doesn’t take a definitive stance as to whether this is a good or a bad thing, but I believe that the show is already taking a subtle stance in favor of Kuroneko. Kirino is being villainized in the past few episodes, and I don’t think that anyone now thinks of her as anything other than a selfish bitch. On the other hand, we got a lot of Kuroneko in this episode. And I’d even argue that it’s not Kyousuke getting on the ground to beg that causes the anime staff to reconsider. It’s Kuroneko’s persuasion, speaking from one literary aficionado to another. The only thing Kyousuke does by getting on the ground is putting a shocked expression on the anime writer’s face. It’s Kuroneko’s words that makes him assume the thinking position and consider keeping the anime as it is. Kuroneko is the one who ultimately wins. We’re supposed to care more about Kuroneko’s point of view, and sympathize with her more. I mean by the end of the episode, we get that one shot of sad Kuroneko
and arrogant Kirino.
I think there’s also another, separate commentary being made in this episode, and that’s against the staff of anime adaptations. Some anime directors have already spoken out against this apparently misrepresentation of the inner workings of the industry. Ok, yes, the anime staffers were presented as being rather combative, but there’s something else here that I’m surprised the anime directors didn’t criticize in their tweets. Not once in the entire episode did the anime director voice his own opinion. The only one doing the talking was the writer, primarily, and then some minor input by the other two guys. What’s up with that? We define anime series by their directors. We always exclaim: “Oh that’s a Satoshi Kon work!” “You can clearly see Yuasa’s influence here.” Hell, “Shinboism” is pretty much how people describe SHAFT shows and their usually unique visual presentation. But here, the director is the most passive person on the entire table. Where the hell is his creative spirit? Is this perhaps a criticism that all anime directors of fanservice shows don’t give a damn about the work? Are they just in it to make money? Unfortunately in this line of criticism, Ore Imo doesn’t give any clear resolution.
Ore Imo is a piece of commentary on an industry that, in many regards, has gotten complacent. It’s not a great piece of commentary by any means though. In fact, it dilutes a lot of its message with random Kirino angst moments and such. That being said, it is walking a very fine line between commentary and fanservice. It’s trying really hard to capture the best of both worlds, but I feel that this goal is basically impossible. It’s kind of like the relationship between Kirino and Kuroneko. The two different sides can play nice at times, but it’s only because the commentary and the fanservice flair up in equal amounts and in equal intensities. At their core though, they’re two completely different things that are hard to reconcile into one cohesive product. That’s not to say it’s impossible, but OreImo’s failing is that it provides great commentary and great fanservice, while not really merging the two together. Instead, it’s just kind of smashing them both together, hoping that some things will stick. That’s just not the right way to go about this.
In the end, OreImo comes off as a really haphazard and confusing show because of these two conflicting elements that they put in. Episode 8, I think, serves as one clear example of this problem. Basically the entire episode is about the tension between the anime producers and Kirino. That’s 95% of it. And then at the very end, while the credits are rolling, they give us a scene that establishes Kirino’s bitchiness once more. Come on guys, that’s not the right way to do this. I was really close to criticizing the small bit about Kuroneko not having a brother, but I somehow get the feeling that OreImo has something to say about how Kuroneko actually became an otaku, and that it’s connected to that issue… And I’ll be REALLY interested to see that episode if it happens.
Oh, and a quick apology for not being consistent… umm… at all… with my posting. School is really taking its toll on me, but I’ll try to actually work something more consistent out. I’ll probably end up writing shorter posts in the future or something…. maybe :3