What They Say:
As the only daughter of a famous adventurer, Hinata Ema has had a pretty lonely life. But when her father remarries, she leaves the newlyweds alone and moves in to a huge building with her 13 cute new stepbrothers—each of which has a very unique personality. Oh, and her over-protective talking pet squirrel is there too. Is love in the air for Hinata?
Set in 2.0 Stereo in Japanese and a 5.1 release in English (no subtitle track you can select separately), the tracks had no real issues in terms of standard quality or regarding delays to lip flaps or transition to subtitles. The track itself is very standard music wise, with a very good Japanese dub which I didn’t need to adjust well, as for the 5.1 dub again, no adjustments required and the sounds come with great energy (the opening monologues can clash with some of the later scenes but the difference is welcome here) – combine this with the few intense moments the atmosphere it creates works well with no issues in timing with the subtitles in Japanese.
Set on a standard 16:9 – 1.78:1 ratio/PAL remaster over 2 discs which is the standard for most UK releases, video wise, colours were fine and flashy (most times colourful, but during some of the more dramatic scenes it cuts with darkness, the lighting effect with the animation in the giant apartment was very good), and no issues in terms of video to audio in fullscreen format, no problems video wise with subtitles synching, no video freezing or any slack animation when pausing the show and the colours do come out very vividly and look rather good on a Blu-Ray set up – no problems found so overall very strong. The animation, in general, is pretty standard but it is very flowing, nothing repeated, and with it being heavy emphasis on the pretty boy genre it is at least bright and in your face.
There was no packing for this test release.
On each of the discs, the menu is very similar – lots of clips from the show with a catchy tune in the background– like most Blu-Rays it has popup menus during the show (bar extras) – on the main menu, the choices are on the bottom half of Play All, Episodes, Set-Up and Extras on both discs. Very simple but eye-catching, some good extra little things in pop-up and audio, almost instant like most Blu-Ray releases, it is very well-rounded.
There are a few extras – we have the clean opening and closing (for both the series and the OVAs), the US Trailer and trailers for Hetalia: The Beautiful World, Kamisama Kiss, Inori Kon Kon, Noragami, One Piece, Ouran Host Club and Ping Pong: The Animation.
There is also a commentary for episode 12 involving Josh Grelle (Azusa), Ian Sinclair (Kaname) and Micah Solusod (Tsubaki) – they talk about what it is like being on the other side of a harem show (usual shows they work out as a male protagonist with female leads) yet the acting isn’t focused on fanservice and panicked reactions, but more sauve and such. They talk about the different genre and audience it favours and the fact it was based on an otome game (hence why it ends like it does) and the fact they don’t work on these shows that much (they mention Fruits Basket and Ouran Host the only shows similar in nature though quite different in a lot of respects) – it is an intelligent commentary with kudos to many of the other actors involved throughout considering the big cast in a short series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Brothers Conflict is one of those strange little series that I had heard in passing via some of my friends who had played or knew about the game on the PSP/Vita and was based on a Japanese light novel series – aired originally in 2013, the fact the subtitle for this is ‘BroCon’ gave me interesting flashbacks to a series which was similar but had 13 girls and 1 guy…which we’ll get into a bit later.
Unlike said series, it is made clear that the guys to the female lead is not blood related to the gentlemen she is going to be around – whose ages range between 10 and 31 (and yes, in the game all of them are romance options) – so with this in mind, does it makes this reverse harem series something more like an Ouran Host Club scenario or does it still have a bit of stigma behind it?
The story begins that the lead female, Ema, has to move in to a new place with 13 new stepbrothers due to her father becoming engaged to their mother. Throughout the series you get to meet them all as some live away from the home, some are at work, etc – going through with them as follows in order of age, we have Masaomi, the dad of the group and a doctor (who is afraid of blood), Ukyo, a lawyer who is a good cook, Kaname, a monk who is a tad perverted, Hikaru, a writer who cross dresses and is responsible for most of the snarky comments and comedy in the show, Tsubaki – one of the triplets who is a voice actor along with his twin Azusa, the third one Natsume however lives away from the home and works at a videogame company (which the games he produces Ema loves), Louis, a quiet part-Japanese beautician, then we have the students with Subaru at university who is a basketball ace, Iori, a third year with a skill for botany, Yusuke, a second year and the same age as Ema who clashes between nice guy and ruffian, Fuuto, a first year and a singer/idol, and the youngest Wataru who is still in elementary school.
And in 13 episodes, you can probably guess it is hard for all of them to get screen time but the long and short of it is that by the end of the series, they all have some interest in Ema – whether platonic, fatherly or romantic.
The series, for the most part, is basically one long interaction between Ema and her new stepsiblings, which as mentioned above, change depending – this feels very quick in some of the guys immediately falling for her, which can cause a few slightly creepy overtones – episode 2 has the first stepsibling (Subaru) kiss her, and yet her own concern, naivety and more focus that they should be a family, she sees a lot of the affection as accidental. Of course, some are more kinder than others – Futo, the idol for example, despite being one of the few younger stepsiblings, is quite forward and more unnervingly creepy towards Ema in more than one instance (two occasions even imply he may have tried to sexually assault her…)
The other problem is that with a short series like this, some characters are going to get more screentime than others. Not helped by Ema’s deus ex machina squirrel sidekick Juli (a talking animal in terms of the setting, a realistic series, not so much the concept of 13 brothers though…) basically warning her off all the creepy boys and no-one else understanding him, the ones that seem to get the most attention are Yusuke (being in the same class and seemingly knowing her when she was younger), Subaru (the sports star who has a history with Natsume), Natsume (Ema likes his games so the two interact a bit) and to a lesser extent, Azusa and Tsubaki. Basically all the characters closest to her age perhaps to make it feel a little less awkward/creepy with a 31 and a 10 year old as options in the game.
So conflicts do occur for a sense of drama, whether it is Tsubaki and Azusa auditioning for an anime and that Azusa got the lead for the character Tsubaki wanted to play, Natsume talking games with Ema whilst Subaru getting angry due to their closeness and his previous adulation for Natsume when he played sports, Ema becoming more and more supportive with Subaru wanting to play basketball as a pro, with several moments when the guys can get a bit too close to Ema, with a number of the guys kissing her. It does feel that there is little conflict ironically with the brothers’ feelings for Ema and fighting her for it (there is a little) but the conflict is more with their emotions as stepsiblings for her. That said, the pacing is quite obviously rushed with this…
They do attempt other drama, like when Tsubaki collapses, and the character of Louis managing to understand Juli and the fact he is adopted, Masaomi being the dad of the group but also struggling with it, but the pacing of it comes out of nowhere and simply because of the amount of characters, the stories do get shuffled in the mix. This also (and this does showcase my age and how long I’ve been doing this) screams VERY eerily to an early 2000 series called ‘Sister Princess’ with 13 girls and 1 guy instead. The major difference is that in Brothers Conflicts’ defence, it is very clear that Ema is not even blood related to the guys (in fact, one of the few story points I did enjoy was about Ema’s dad, her new stepmom, and the fact he is in fact not even her real father yet loved her after her real parents died) whilst in Sister Princess it is left very unsure. (The game doesn’t help with both not-blood and blood relation options) However, Sister Princess had 26 episodes and at least gave decent enough character development to all the girls that they were easy to remember. Brothers Conflict struggles with this constantly – I would have liked to learn more about Louis and his struggles and how he gets through everything, the hints of Ukyo and Iori having previous relationships that went bad (for very different reasons) and the history of Natsume’s reasons for changing careers from sports to games, but the series doesn’t give enough time for that and feels very shallow. Yet there is enough time to showcase Fuuto being very creepy towards Ema…
Ema herself is also problematic as her naivety goes onto absurd levels. The show almost lampshades this with the intro to every episode with the guys seemingly ready to go head over heels for her and she says ‘of course we love each other – we’re family’ Considering so many of the guys do kiss her at some point, she really doesn’t seem to clock it that the squirrel thing was right. It kind of makes her less interesting because of this and falls into the dreaded Mary Sue archetype of being adored by everyone for no real reason.
So outside of reverse harem tropes, and fans of the game, is there anything to really recommend from this show?
Whilst the plot is wafer-thin, the characters whilst unique aren’t given enough screen time to make some of them noticeable (you’d think the youngest would be memorable but Wataru barely gets any screen time, Iori doesn’t either which considering his past in the game is surprising) there are some choice moments. For example, I LOVE the character of Hikaru. He is easily the most interesting and fun character of the show and steals the scene everytime he enters – being a cross-dressing novelist who clearly sees what is going with his brothers and his uncanny wit makes him instantly memorable – he reveals that he has a chart showing affection for each of the guys – hence why the series is called Brothers Conflict – the sharp tongue to both Ema and his brothers combined with managing to get in the way when something happens (in one of the OVAs, he practically teleports to interrupt Futo trying to have his way with Ema in an elevator) combined with devilish good looks when he isn’t crossplaying – he tends to manipulate the actions of his brothers almost for his own amusement, the troll of the group if you were, yet still clearly cares for his family – he only enters for part of the show as he does live away, but when he does, his scenes always are fun to watch.
The other thing I like about the series is that there is no actual ending – it feels like the game where you have to try and pick which route you are going to take – and whilst no hint of a sequel, it does leave that hint that you can just go with who you prefer which can certainly put it into the guilty pleasure territory. That said, there are still the squick things of some of the age gaps and the more uncomfortable scenes, not to mention some of the more interesting characters (Hikaru, Ukyo and Masaomi with only Natsume of the ones that do have decent airtime really develop a good sense of personality outside of wanting to bed Ema) don’t really get the airtime because of the lengths makes them wasted characters.
In short, reverse harem series are rare, but considering Fruits Basket and Ouran Host are two of the most well known and beloved series, they can be done right. This one sadly, for the most part, doesn’t.
Brothers Conflict is Sister Princess 15 years later – and whilst SP didn’t get a UK release, BC does because it makes clear that they aren’t blood related. That doesn’t really help when pretty much in 11 of the 12 episodes Ema is pretty much kissed by one of them every episode and there are still plenty of uncomfortable scenes in other ways. The lack of development due to the length and the few interesting characters getting a bit of the shaft in terms of airtime (especially Hikaru) make this overall a different, but in the end, forgettable series.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Commentaries, Textless Songs
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Anime Limited via Funimation
Release Date: March 6th, 2017
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.