Finding an eroge squirreled away in an anime DVD box befuddles Kyōsuke Kosaka. As far as he knows, it doesn’t gel with anyone in his household. But though she’s avoided suspicion for some time, when faced with the offending article, his little sister Kirino can’t conceal her embarrassment. Since he’s already caught the gist of her hobby, she figures she may as well unload her love of little sisters, and moe in general, onto her brother so she can at least have one person to share it with, if only by pestering him.
So begins a new relationship between the two, who up until now have ignored each others’ existence as much as possible. While Kirino plies him with games to play as though they are homework tasks, she asks him for advice on how she can be an otaku and keep up appearances for her school friends and modelling career. Kyōsuke reluctantly gives in to the eroge, but despite being convinced that he hates his sister, he gives her warm and reliable support in making friends she can confide in. And as her confidence builds, he also gains a more subtle, yet just as perceptible self-assurance.
The blossoming love between the siblings, the composed and sturdy kind that comes with growing up, is only spoilt by a few misjudged moments of ecchi and some heavy-handed suggestive humour. Though there is some snort-worthy comedy, it’s wearing thin some time before the final episode, and as a rom-com of sorts Oreimo doesn’t break any new ground. Instead, it stands out as a series of animated advice columns on the obstacles we can face as otaku; from how we can integrate it into our everyday lives and meeting new people without shame, to fighting for our visions of the creations we contribute to the anime community. When Kirino gets her second novel accepted for the anime treatment, you can imagine writer Tsukasa Fushimi and illustrator Hiro Kanzaki facing down a board of apathetic developers, arguing the Oreimo light novels’ case in much the same way that leaves her exhausted.
Holding a mirror to that old anime standard which rings true to the real world, however, Kirino’s friends and fellow otaku – which include her brother more as the series goes on – always have her back. It does get tiring only seeing these characters in relation to her abrasive tendencies though, which makes it a relief when she steps out of the spotlight for the True Route mini-arc, after the first ‘ending’ in the thirteenth episode. Here, Kyōsuke and Kirino’s friends are given space to develop through their independent lives and actions, their separate commitments and loneliness. But just as we’re beginning to relate to them as individuals, the series comes to a rushed resolution, and heartwarming as it is, if a step too far over the syrupy line, Kirino proves not to have grown out of being domineering, stubborn, prickly… well, let’s just say being a little sister, and leave it at that.