Tuesday, November 16, 2010

:anime: First Impression:: Oreimo Ep. 2

<--To Oreimo, Ep. 1 | To Oreimo, Ep. 3-->

Originally, I was going to post episodes 2-6 together as a bulk review, but after watching the second episode, I thought it would be better to cover each separately (though I may still do that in the future)…

Oreimo, Ep. 2 - "My Little Sister Can't Bring Me To An IRL Meet"

Kirino continues her strong-armed induction of Kyousuke into her eroge hobby, though he's still not completely willing. As such, he suggests that she finds some friends that she can talk in-depth with about her hobbies.  She feels apprehensive about this, given how negatively society (and especially middle-school girls) view otaku, and doesn't want to risk being associated with or exposed as one at school. On advice from Manami, Kyousuke introduces her to a social networking service that can she use to meet with other people who are into the same things she likes.  After registering, she quickly gets an invite from the head of an "otaku girl" group she requested. who is holding a "tea party" the following week, though Kyousuke seems more enthused for Kirino over the occasion than Kirino is.

The big day comes and the two find themselves in the otaku mecca of Akihabara. Being her first time doing something like this, Kirino is anxious and doesn't know what kind of girls she'll meet there. Not wanting to be left alone, she wants Kyousuke to be there with her. But since it's girls-only, he elects to go ahead of them and take a seat nearby inside of the cafe they are meeting in. He experiences his own level of discomfort with its maid theme as he is waited on by a like-dressed girl. Perturbed, he leaves the formal maid addressing to the waitress (who calls him, "Onii-chan", or "big brother", of all things), as the group, along with Kirino, enters. One of them--tall, carrying a backpack, wearing thick glasses, and not-so-refined in fashion sense--sticks out like a sore otaku thumb and happens to be the girl, "Saori", who is leader of the group, which elicits a glare from Kirino towards Kyousuke's way.

The mixer does not go over too well for her, who has difficulty mingling with the others and feels out-of-place in her savvy outfit, compared to the "normal" girls. After it ends, Kyousuke tries to commend her for trying (and, of course, gets brushed off) and suggests they walk around Akihabara. As they exit the cafe, Saori approaches them about an after-party for those that didn't speak at the function.  Joining them at a not-McDonald's is "Kuroneko", a petite lolita-Goth with an icier personality than Kirino.  Both criticize Saori for her unfitting name (including her Gundam-inspired "Bajiina" surname) and stereotypical look, though she seemed to take it like a badge of honor.

Kuroneko, who started the critiquing, turns her attention/claws onto Kirino and her fancy garb, which leads her to reciprocate by questioning her own cosplay-esque outfit. This escalates into a vitriolic war of words between the two over the merits of the shows they diametrically oppose and love in typical fanboy (girl?) fervor, which Kyousuke fails at quelling. Saori, though, reassures him that the two are really getting along, with their show of passion and enthusiasm over their favorites. After a shopping around a bit (and debating some more), the day comes to an end, although Kirino tries to hide her enjoyment from her brother.

Back at home, Kyousuke finally finishes the eroge Kirino put upon him and returns it to her.  He gives it a favorable review, but Kirino interrogates him over what the best part was (and isn't entirely satisfied that he liked just one part). He quickly changes the subject to how she thought the meeting went. Kirino circuitously admits that she plans on keeping in touch with the group and talking with them, and when he surmises that she made friends, she replies with slam of the door.

After a solid first episode, Oreimo continued its roll with its follow-up. It showed that its strong premiere wasn't a one-time thing, as the episode was did quite well chronicling Kirino's attempt at interacting with other fans like her. One of Oreimo's clear strengths early on is in how natural it portrays everything, from its characters and their personalities, to the situations they are in and how they react them. With the kind of material supplied by the plot, it is wide open to hackneyed attempts at character development, clich├ęd situational comedy, and caricatures, yet its handlers have carefully and cautiously sidestepped those pitfalls. Kirino may have the puzzling hobby at the focal point and character tropes are still followed, but they are presented with a more realistic touch from a personality standpoint and characters interact in such a way that you can believe that an actual person would talk and act that same way, or if they have a reflective or revealing moment, it doesn't feel out-of-character. It is not an easy feat to pull off and most series fail, but Oreimo somehow manages to do it right, giving it a fresh and distinct feel.

The best moment of the episode, which highlights this, comes in the middle, when Kirino is sitting at the table amongst the girls with no one to talk to. What makes the scene so effective and powerful is how it got across her nervousness and embarrassment without words, just letting the scene speak for itself. Her sitting in discomfort, the look on Kyousuke's face watching her, and the ketchup-scribbled message on his omelet reading "I Luv My Big Brother"--no inner thoughts, no BGM, no sledgehammer subtlety. Everything about it hit right across the board and did not go against her being, in spite her usually brusque demeanor.

On another note, there was one particularly interesting moment that came after the siblings came back home from dinner. Neither of parent knew they were out together and assumed Kirino was out with a friend. The mother teased her about whether boys were calling out to them, since they tend to stand out, which Kirino wearing distinct clothes was fine at work (as she's a model), wearing them all of the time would make people think that she's a "shallow woman". Kirino abruptly finished dinner and left, and given her concerns over her fancy clothes at the meeting and her own self-image as an otaku in public, I imagine this issue will be a central one for her and the show as it continues on (which could also be seen with the other girls in the episode, such as "plain girl", Saori, and Kuroneko).

Good solid elements and entertaining new characters aside, I was a little bothered by some inkling of jealousy from Kirino when she said she didn't like the way Kyousuke was "fawning" over his childhood friend Manami (or "plain girl", as she calls her). Greeted by a lengthy pause, but with little foretelling, it's not completely clear whether there was something behind Kirino's comments, but I hope it's not an indication of something unsavory over the horizon. Although in its second episode, Oreimo seems like a smarter show than that, so maybe there is something beyond any such hints.

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