What They Say:
Kyousuke brings Kirino home from America where she attended a special track and field camp. Surrounded by her friends, Kirino gradually gets her life back to normal. In stark contrast to her friends is Kyousuke, who is unhappy with Kirino’s attitude towards him. She has been ignoring him since she came home, as if their relationship had gone back to how it had been a year earlier. But then Kirino does something for Kyousuke…
The audio presentation for this series is in its original Japanese language in stereo encoded at 192kbps. The show is one that does a whole lot of dialogue driven material but it has some fun wacky moments that takes advantage of the forward soundstage with some fun directionality, but by and large it’s a fairly straightforward mix that does the job right in creating a good slice of life feel. The music from the opening and closing sequences is often the biggest standout pieces, but some of the incidental music in the show works very well as does some of the bigger, more dramatic moments. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing at the end of 2013, the transfer for this 13 episode TV series and 3 episode OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The release spreads over four discs with four episodes per disc. The show has a very good look to it with animation by A-1 Pictures and the transfer captures it pretty well. The bit rate tends to be in the middle of the road for the TV series but shoots up a bit more on the OVA release, though you won’t notice too much of a difference during normal playback. Colors are bright and vibrant, detail holds up well and background noise is minimal to generally non-existent for most of it. Certain backgrounds bring in a little more than some others but nothing that’s distracting.
The limited edition release of this series is similar to the first one in that it’s pretty packed, though it’s packed inside a thin slipcover type case rather than a chipboard box. The front of the box has a good image of Kirino and Kuroneko together with a faux Hollywood approach that has the series title in the background. It’s got a lot of good colors to it that gives it a good bit of pop and vibrancy which certainly makes it stand out. It’s also cute how the other lead in the show, Kyousuke, is shunted off to the corner as pretty much a pack mule for the series. The back of the box goes for a light green color that has a ziptone visual of Kirino there which is cute but doesn’t add too much. We get a solid breakdown of what the disc includes with all the extras and pack-in items as well as a clean breakdown of the staff and cast for the series.
Within the box we get the two clear DVD cases that uses the original Japanese artwork for the original eight releases and they all look great. It’s easy to reverse everything and you can change it all up well enough. There’s not a huge amount of detail to them like you might expect for a cover, but what’s presented here definitely looks good with the white backgrounds that lets the characters stand out in a very big way, especially with the way the combinations come up. Also inside the box is a fantastic full color booklet that’s chock full of character design pieces, a look at Otakon when show visited and a lot of great art gallery pieces that are strong on appeal for fans. There’s also a wonderful page given over to messages from the Japanese side that talk about their experiences at Otakon with American fans that’s really nicely done.
The box also includes a good poster inclusion that was used for the OVA premiere at Otakon, sans the Otakon text, and an incredibly thick, varied and beautiful series of postcards from the show. That’s nearly worth the price of admission alone.
The menu design for Oreimo is fairly cute and nicely consistent across all three discs with only some mild changes. The main layout has a polka dot and striped background to it where each volume uses different soft colors to differentiate it while the foreground has a different grouping of characters and outfits as well. With some upbeat music to it, it has a good bit of energy and bounce as well. The navigation strip along the bottom is simple with some lined spacing where you have the selections in tabs and it’s quick to load and very easy to navigate. Submenus load quickly and are problem free and due to it being a monolingual release, language presets are a non-issue.
This release contains a slew of extras to it that will definitely please the fans of the show. The standards are here of course in the clean opening sequence and endings, but it’s worth noting that there are sixteen ending sequences that they do here. We get the web previews for all the episodes, the SD previews which run quite a bit of time overall and the short movies with the SD characters. This covers a lot of time across all four volumes and offers a lot of fun with the characters in the SD form as they banter with each other and go for silly gags and other usual schticks. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t, but for the fan who wants as much Oreimo as they can get, Aniplex has delivered here.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first season of Oreimo certainly caused a bit of uproar with fans who were either totally into the concept and the fun of it or totally turned off by it. And both sides made their cases online, regularly. The first season did a lot of heavy lifting in a way as it introduced the cast, the connections that they have and of course the whole eroge aspect which leads to the kinds of friction that exists between our leads. They didn’t go as far as one might think, but they also kept it mostly within the realm of how most of these shows go. But the thing they did that was kind of welcome was that they didn’t go for the obvious out in having it revealed that they’re not really related or secretly second or third cousins. They didn’t make it so that it could, on some less squicky level, make it acceptable. So that was a big plus. This season? They stick to that but they eventually go all in with the relationship, though that’s at least kept to the OVAs.
This season picks up about three months or so after the end of the first season, which saw Kirino heading off to America for some education time in order to give everyone a little breathing room. With her back so soon, things didn’t go well on some level and there’s some natural awkwardness to all of it, made more so by Kirino who flatly refuses to even acknowledge her brother for a bit. He’s just unsure of what’s going on with her, but she admittedly has some social pressure in coming back like this, dealing with friends and settling back into life. Kyousuke, for his part, does much the same he did in the first season in that he’s a rather decent guy and decent brother who is simply coping with the kind of weirdness that comes out of his little sister. What helps to break the tension between them though is that she tricks him into going to Akihabara with him as she has three months of games, specials and releases to catch up on in a big way. It’s amusing, even if predictable. And so the second season moves forward.
Having watched this during simulcast, revisiting it now a year later is certainly interesting and I do find myself with largely the same opinions of it all. This season works through a good bit of material and it does provide for a solid ending overall. What we get here is a show that plays a lot with how people – not just teenagers – interact with each other. Taking out the brother/sister aspect for a bit, there is the whole angle as to whether one of them will really admit how they feel about each other and deal with it. That’s the “subtext” throughout the show for the most part with the main series. We know Kirino loves her brother, but just how far does it extend and does she really want the whole package. How much of it is just wrapped up in her head, aided and abetted by the games she plays, and how much of it is just confused feelings involving a young woman who isn’t sure how to grow up. We get that with some of the flashbacks to when they were younger and Kyousuke was growing up and away from her in some ways, which she really struggled with because she saw him pulling away. You can see that becoming more of who she is and wanting to find ways to hold onto him and going in this kind of awkward direction.
Kyousuke in a way feels like he’s harder to figure out with what’s going on. He’s been plain before about not wanting any of it in a real romantic way and was uncertain about the games, even if he was drawn into the taboo aspect of it and enjoyed it while not wanting to act on it in real life. But Kyousuke’s life is one that has a number of women that are interested in him and actively engage him in that way, which he pulls back from for the most part, especially in the first season. When he gets rejected by Kirino in some form early on here, he basically cuts that part out of his life for a bit and opts to date Kuroneko since she has been pursuing him for a bit. That actually becomes my favorite part of the season because they do date, even if she has a bad-end agenda to it, and there’s a lot of good stuff about their interactions together.
Kuroneko certainly made me like her throughout the first season and their time here cements that all the more, even if she does things in her own particular way. There’s an awkwardness and cuteness about them as it goes on and I really enjoyed it. We also get some decent time with Saori, mostly through flashback, that shows how she’s really bonded to him and the others through her own story, though at least there it’s not a romantic love but rather a platonic love. That helps to cement the friendships though from a different perspective and at least explains away her outfits and design. The Ayase angle is one that does work well, having the girl who hates him that could grow to love him is a standard concept, and she manages a really decent episode when Kirino chooses her to watch over him when he moves out temporarily to focus on his studies. They end up in a kind of relationship that’s fun to watch. Sadly, Manami really gets the short end of the stick in this season even if she does have a sort of claim on him that goes back a ways and has a deeper meaning with the issues involving Kirino. Her time is mostly in the OVA and she ends up being the voice of reality and reason, which doesn’t serve her well but makes her quite symapthetic.
So, yes, Team Kuroneko.
The TV series ends with things pretty much up in the air for the most part, which puts the onus of closing it all out on the OVAs. Which makes sense because even as a late night show, doing three episodes where two siblings get into a relationship, work through parts of it together and end up going through a wedding ceremony just wouldn’t fly well. While they provide an obvious out for it, the two of them engage in a rather large role play experiment of sorts here where they commit to each other, get the support of everyone else after really working through their issues and feelings, and just go the distance. In a way, you can see Kyousuke using it as a form of helping her through it so she can grow out of it and it being a part of his good, kind and accommodating older brother archetype. But it’s indulging her too much, especially when they out is revealed later on, and it just feels so superficial and fake that you dislike both of them for it. In fact, I found myself disliking Kyousuke more for it because he gave up the chances at several really good relationships that would have been healthy for him – and for Kirino as well because it would have forced her to give up the fantasy. The OVAs do what’s needed and I’m glad that they didn’t cheat a way out, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.
While I’m not in the hugely enthusiastic camp when it comes to the whole sibling-love subgenre that has been poking around the last few years, I can at least by amused by them since the majority of them cheat along the way with the concept. Oreimo doesn’t cheat and it doesn’t dodge things in the end and I have to admire them for going the distance that they did while still showing some restraint. This season provided us a look at a lot of what could have been for Kyousuke when it comes to the other women in his life and that left me feeling a bit sad that he missed out on a lot of good high school age experiences for what he did get, which could have some really awkward moments later in life. What we do get is real resolution in this area for the now and an open slate going forward, so the show does grow and change across both seasons and we’re not left in the same spot at the end as we were at the start, something a lot of series really can’t say. I’m of mixed feelings about this season as more worked than didn’t work but the stuff that didn’t hinders what did. Aniplex USA has put together a great release here overall though with what’s included, a weakness or two aside, as the pack-in extras are fantastic and the on-disc extras hit some great sweet spots.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening, 16 Textless Endings, Preview Videos by SD Characters, Special Short Movies by SD Characters, “Gal-ge” (Style Short Movies), Web Version Previews
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: August 5th, 2014
Running Time: 400 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.