|My thoughts exactly as I was watching this episode…|
Oreimo, Ep. 5 - "My Little Sister's Best Friend Can't Be This XX"
Picking right up from where the previous episode ended, Ayase, Kirino's best friend, has run into her on her way out of Summerket. The cordial meeting, and Ayase's disposition, soon turn ugly as she begins to put the pieces together of the odd picture of her beloved friend acting shady, with two strangely dressed girls close-by (Saori and Kuroneko, who exit to preserve Kirino's cover) and carrying around a bag bearing the comic market's name. Kirino tries to dodge her, but an increasingly disturbed Ayase's snagging of the bag causes it to tear open and empty its not-so-delectable contents onto the pavement, wet from the pouring rain. One flip through of one of the doujinshi is enough for Ayase to abruptly sever all ties with Kirino.
In the following days, Kirino tries to put up a strong front, but is reeling deep inside. While Ayase has no intention of divulging her secret in public, things are still icy between the two. Having already gotten himself entrenched in her dilemmas enough, Kyousuke tries forcing Kirino to try and make up with her, though she would rather be left alone. Kyousuke, disgusted by her sudden "quitter" attitude, and Kirino, put off by his sudden display of care after the two had been so aloof prior to everything, come to a head after a heated confrontation and venting of emotions. In the end, though, Kirino admits that she still needs her brother's advice.
Kyousuke tries to talk things over with Ayase over the phone, but she is still vehemently opposed to Kirino and her hobby after having seen reports in the media on devious otaku activity. At a park, later, he tries again, this time presenting news material refuting a story she heard, as well as findings contrary to her opinion of otaku being criminals-in-waiting due to the peculiarities of their hobbies. Even though Kyousuke's words and testimony are enough to get Ayase to back off on her stance, she is still quite upset at Kirino's "deception" and wants the "real" Kirino back, not the otaku one foreign to her. Cue the girl of the hour, who has had enough of the whole drama and elects to settle it herself. Kirino clues her in that that side of her is as much a part of her being as the "perfect" model person she is in public, and reassures Ayase, very concerned, that their friendship is as important to her as the hobby she loves.
Affecting these words may be, Ayase still cannot bring herself to accept that part of Kirino and falls all over her, exaperated and unsure of what to do. She doesn't have the answer, either, and naturally, gestures to Kyousuke to bail her out quick. Following through, he shows her one of Kirino's doujinshi, which garners a big slap across the face (and a death threat) from Ayase, confused at his actions. He impassionately declares that it is proof of the love between he and Kirino (who doesn't exactly approve of this tactic chosen, but whose mouth is currently covered by him), as their relationship wouldn't have improved if it wasn't for their collection of forbidden love stories. After screaming at the top of his lungs that he loved his little sister, Kyousuke's act was enough for Ayase to see how things "really were" and made up with Kirino, whisking her away from the apparent brainwashing of her deranged brother. Afterwards, Kyousuke receives a text from Ayase indicating that she was made aware of his ruse and that she patched things up with Kirino (though she promises certain death if he really does do anything perverted to her). In the evening, back at home, Kirino challenges Kyousuke to the fighting game she made him play earlier after getting off the phone with Ayase.
Just when you think Oreimo has been doing so many of the right things, here comes Ep. 5, which very nearly sets everything back. In many respects, it was like a retread of Ep. 3, which, too, featured Kirino facing someone who stumbles upon her big secret, who also happens to have strong feelings against otaku, thanks to the media. One of my biggest peeves of it, which was flirted around with in that episode and others, was the way it portrays its discussion on otaku and the media. I thought I was watching an after-school special or reading someone's essay on the topic (that was probably written by an otaku) than listening to the naturally-flowing dialogue that had been one of Oreimo's highlights. While the points being made by Kyousuke and Ayase are made in a clear manner, it didn't feel like the kind of back-and-forth you would hear between two people. It felt unnatural and too carefully choreographed and worded to take seriously, despite the screenwriter's good intentions, not to mention overly preachy. Many times, I felt like grabbing the episode by the shoulders and shaking it, demanding it to give me my real show back!
On that topic, Ayase channeling her inner "SWF" (or is that "SJF"?) was another lowlight. In the previous episode, she seemed like a perfectly nice, level-headed person, but this, not being my first rodeo, probably had to mean that she was too good to be true and that there was more to her beneath her appearance. What I wasn't expecting, though, was her to be the unhinged psychotic type, acting like she was literally on the verge of laying bodies six under if she found out she was being lied to (and when she threatens with "murder", you really think she'll do it in the blink of an eye…). Not that her having another side is a bad thing, but the way it comes so abruptly and drastically, and with how she acts in the episode made it feel like she given that demeanor for the sake of it and getting its message across. It just didn't sit right and felt off.
Equally puzzling, and more concerning, is the comedy bit where Kyousuke takes Kirino's words from earlier and twists them into a different and more troublesome context as a last resort to get her out of trouble and place the blame onto himself, instead. It seems like a humorous intention to play off of eroge situations, as well as show of his caring to watch out for her, but it was too ridiculous and, well, stupid in Ep. 3 as it was here. What works against it is that it so over-the-top and nonsensical, it ruins the credibility of the show, especially after they just spent the last five or ten minutes doing something thoughtful. You would think that Kyousuke could have come up with something better than going to the extreme end of the spectrum. It's one thing to do comedy, but it's another thing to do comedy for the sake of doing comedy, and in both cases, the bits were too exaggerated to take seriously without questioning it, which might be the show's biggest flaw outside of its penchant for preachyness and stilted tackling of the media side of the otaku debate.
As good as the show has been, Ep. 5 was its most problematic thus far (which is too bad, given how well Kyousuke and Kirino's fight was handled). Oreimo does a lot of things right, but this episode and the 3rd exposes a few serious flaws in its structure. Hopefully, it will avoid these in the future, though I doubt it this will be the last time…
P.S. I was originally going to use this screenshot, but opted for the one atop, instead. Even though I didn't like this episode, I thought this was pretty (unintentionally?) funny…