The Spring 2017 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Eromanga Sensei ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
So let's get the big issue out of the way first: Is this explicitly an incest series?
Does this first episode show inclinations towards eventually going in that direction?
If this wasn't created by the same person who created Oreimo, and if there wasn't an established market for incest stories within Japan's otaku culture, I'd say no. Both of those being the case, however, I can't deny that the series looks like it's at least going to flirt with that angle. The clearest signs are the way the camera – which is representing Masamune's point of view – ogles Sagiri in a not-tame fashion once he finally gets to talk to her in her room, and you could maybe add in the scene where he's just so overwhelmed by her appearance when they first meet, too. Hence if potential incest is a deal-breaker for you then there's probably little point in you checking out this series.
That being said, we're not talking about something on the level of an OniAi or a Recently, my sister is unusual. I think it is possible (for the moment, anyway) to ignore that angle, as there's actually a story here rather than just an excuse for romcom humor. We have two stepsiblings who were thrown together but have now lost at least one – and possibly both? – of the parents who brought them together, which caused Sagiri to go hikkikimori and has led to Masamune trying to coax her out of it. There's also a suggestion, too, that Masamune might be writing to help support them both and not just as a hobby. That's aiming quite a bit higher than your typical trashy fan service (or incest) fare, and the first episode does a fair job of establishing the current state of the relationship between the two and trying to build on it. Some good non-romantic sibling dynamics and family-building are definitely possible here.
From a more cynical viewpoint, there are some other problems I have with the concept. I don't have as much of an issue with a teenager being a successful light novelist or manga-ka; after all, there are some real-world cases where this or something equivalent has happened, so that isn't entirely wish fulfillment. I do, however, have more of an issue with an underage artist of more erotic artwork. (And yes, I have this same issue with Saekano, too.) The whole scenario with Sagiri being Eromanga also strains credibility quite a bit as your “big coincidences” go. On the other hand, the artistic effort by A-1 pictures is pretty solid and the first episode is structured reasonably well.
I'd actually like to see this concept done without sliding deep into incest territory, so I may watch a bit more to see if the series is just going to flirt with that or tackle it full-bore. My slightly higher score is an acknowledgement that that I think it is capable of overcoming the steep hurdles that it's already set for itself. After all, Oreimo was actually a very good series prior to its atrocious ending.
Eromanga Sensei looks like it might be a serviceable show, but it's definitely not for me. The whole “impossibly cute little sister” thing has never really been my cup of tea, so a series built around that character archetype is a tough sell from the beginning. The connection to Oreimo and all the terrible copycats that it spawned certainly doesn't help. Of course, there are obviously plenty of people out there who like this kind of character, and it looks like this series is poised to do right by that fanbase.
For starters, this is a good-looking show. The character designs look fine, and the animation is pretty solid. Izumi is also mildly interesting as a protagonist, and some of his trials and tribulations as a light novel author are entertaining. I like how he feels compelled to find out what people are saying about him online, even though he's terrified of having his ego crushed. He also has some decent chemistry with his editor and his friend at the bookstore, who both seem to find his mix of complaints and determination amusing. I doubt we'll get a particularly deep look at the life of a light novelist in this series, but we could certainly get an amusing one.
Then we get to Izumi's interactions with Sagiri, and that's where my brain starts to check out. Her shut-in behavior at the beginning of the episode is nothing new for an anime comedy, and the “stomp on the floor for meals” bit feels especially stale. Once Sagiri opens her door and has a real conversation with Izumi, it's clear that she's not so much a character as she is an embodiment of a particular type of idealized anime little sister. She's so neatly tailored to maximize the appeal of this archetype that her very existence feels like a form of fanservice. It's just too pandering for me to take seriously, and I get the impression that this it going to be the main focus of the story going forward.
Ultimately, your reaction to Eromanga Sensei will probably hinge on your reaction to Sagiri. If you like her, you'll probably like this episode as a whole. If not, then I'm not sure there's enough here to merit sticking around for the rest of the season. This series knows what it wants to be, and it's doing a reasonable job of chasing that ambition. I'm just not convinced it's heading in a direction that I want to follow.
In an era plagued by mediocre fantasy high school stories and tepid reverse harems, I suppose it's not a bad thing to occasionally be reminded that things could be much, much worse.
They were worse, back in the Dark Years. When the original Oreimo was a reigning hit, we'd often be blessed with productions riffing on the “I want to have sex with my little sister” craze. That fever has died down in the larger community, but apparently Oreimo's own author has never lost his passion. And so today we receive Eromanga Sensei, a show which is… basically just Oreimo, all over again.
Like Oreimo, Eromanga Sensei's production values are actually quite solid. There's a fair amount of fluid animation here, the character designs are attractive, and the direction is perfectly competent. In terms of the anime production's execution, there's not much to complain about.
Unfortunately, also like Oreimo, all of that aesthetic strength is being aimed at precisely one core goal: presenting softcore erotica for little sister enthusiasts. If you're not here for long, leering shots of the show's extremely young-looking little sister, there's very little else to be here for. The relationship between little sis Sagiri and teen author Izumi is so directly predicated on creating semi-romantic, tsun-tsun exchanges that pretty much nothing outside of the show's fetish appeal really lands.
There are gestures towards how the two of them attempted to deal with their parents' absence, but those moments are framed in such a generally skeevy visual and conversational context that it's impossible to invest in them. Major elements of this show even feel like a further distillation of the “I want a romantic object who needs me to take care of her and will never leave me” appeal of little sisters, like how Sagiri never leaves her room and relies on Izumi to feed her. Eromanga Sensei is smut first, everything else distant second.
As someone with two actual little sisters, there's basically nothing for me in this show, meaning this premiere was mostly just very dull. And even in a general context, this style of constant background fanservice, as opposed to either more direct or meaningfully sensual material, rubs me the wrong way. Solid visuals aside, your reaction to Eromanga Sensei will likely come down entirely to your interest in its capacity as fetish fuel - and for me, that is a solid Nope. Away with you, Eromanga Sensei.
I remember back in 2010, when Oreimo first came out, it got an unexpected pass from many viewers who were otherwise quite harsh on the current moe/incest trends overtaking the medium. There were a couple understandable reasons for this; it was an unusually good-looking production in both art design and animation, and it at least had a sense of referential humor to it that many of its contemporaries lacked. But the argument I never understood was the occasional insistence that the show was self-aware or commentative about otaku fetishes in some way that would gradually betray expectations—the argument that it was somehow "in on the joke" of its premise because the sister was just as much of an otaku as the viewers; they were unwittingly fetishizing themselves.
After trying and failing to get past the first three episodes under the assumption that the show was supposed to be "subversive," I fell back on Occam's Razor, now positive that Oreimo was just a very specific type of metafictional fetish that we hadn't seen before, but no more and no less than a fantasy that would be followed through as faithfully as any other moe incest tripe. It wasn't anathema to me that some otaku would fetishize themselves as a cute girl, a fetish we now know is extremely common.
Flash forward to 2017, we now have Eromanga Sensei by the same author, and it's cathartic to see that fandom seems to have wizened to this pseudo "subversive" hogwash. As otaku become more and more interested in faux-verisimilitude, we get a ton of fanservice fantasies that pretend to be some other kind of story on the surface, even dipping their toes into narrative or character complexity early on before backpedaling into total wish fulfillment in ways that can muddy the waters of what's self-insert-porn and what isn't for any given audience. So it's both refreshing and galling that Eromanga Sensei hearkens back to a simpler time when imouto-fetishes were just imouto-fetishes, supposedly capable of driving an entire show for 12 or more episodes.
Just like Oreimo, this is a nice-looking production on the surface, just like Oreimo, it plays at dramatic twists and self-referential humor to give itself a little more personality, but just like Oreimo, it's just an excuse to indulge an underage incest fetish in the most transparent way possible. The "twist" is that this little sister has a far more stereotypical personality than Kirino did, stammering "b-baka!" and somehow not noticing she left her livestream running before immediately undressing. So like Oreimo, but worse.
I didn't give this episode a number rating because it's such purestrain otaku syrup that any recommendation just comes down to a binary of "does this fetish appeal to you or not?" If not, then don't bother, because nothing about the contrived story or impossible fantasy "love interest" (ew) holds up to any conventional scrutiny. It's too creepy to work as a romance. It's too stupid to work as a drama. It's too lame to work as a comedy. It's the exact kind of thing people think of when they make fun of otaku for a reason. So all I can say is "ugh."
Preface: I didn't watch Oreimo so I don't have a horse in that race. However, by simply existing on the internet when the anime wrapped, I know about its incredibly divisive ending. Creator Tsukasa Fushimi seems to be mining that same material again with Eromanga Sensei. The recently orphaned step-siblings, astute and empathetic Masamune and shy, hikkikomori Sagiri haven't seen each other in a year because the latter doesn't leave her room. The premise is ripe for sibling bonding, working through one another's grief, and the hardship of living with someone suffering from extreme social anxiety. Of course, the building a family angle is just window dressing as the camera regularly reaffirms that Sagiri's primary purpose is to titillate the audience and, but extension Masamune.
The two characters don't get shared screen time until the midway through the episode when Masamune reveals to Sagiri that the two have been inadvertently working together on a light novel. She lets him into her room which, surprise, is actually not a dark lair of filth and trash bags. The two begin sharing their memories of their parents and the origins of their respective hobbies. It would be a touching moment, a breakthrough for two people who have lived separately in the same house together for a year, but in the midst of it we get focusing shots of of Sagiri's shifting thighs, the small motions of her mouth as she bites her lip, and other leering moments that undermine the sentimental mood. I get it. Eromanga Sensei wants to be cute and heartfelt but also remind the viewers that Sagiri's innocence is sexy and there's always an underlying chance the Masamune will shack up with his step-sister.
By and far, Eromanga Sensei is a good looking show and that's where most of my score comes into play. The character designs and background art are very attractive. So while I'm far from interested from the insincere narrative the tone the narrative is trying to sell me, it's at least packaged nicely.
I can't say confidently if this show is too much of a retread for fans of Oreimo to enjoy. It shares a lot of similarities, at least superficially. Kirino was also a geek for eroge, but was otherwise a functioning member of society. The show certainly seems interested in heading into the same territory as far as not-so-pure familial love. It's anyone's guess as to whether the show will pull the trigger on it or not. I'm positive that Eromanga Sensei has a specific audience. The incest angle had its heyday about five or so years ago but its tapered off. If you're one of those fans then this'll scratch that itch for you.
Eromanga-sensei needs to make up its mind – is this a heartwarming show about siblings reconnecting after their parents' deaths? Is it a forbidden love story between two probably-not-blood-related siblings? Or is it a full-on comedy about a cute girl who draws erotic art for her brother's light novels? Right now it's trying to be all of those things, and the result is a disconnected blur of an episode that feels at war with itself.
The basic premise – that the siblings are working together without knowing it – could really be taken in any of the three directions. Even though it isn't said, Masamune's reference to a tragic accident a year ago, which resulted in Sagiri becoming a hikikomori, almost definitely killed both parents, and from the introduction scene at the beginning of the episode it seems very likely that the two are children from their parents' previous marriages, making them stepsiblings. This could set up both the family route and the romance one, and there are definite hints at both throughout the episode. At times they conflict with each other simply because Masamune seems more invested in the former while Sagiri seems to have a crush on her brother, but at other times it looks like it goes the other way. This makes the siblings' relationship feel murkier than it needs to, and simply for the sake of being confusing. The fanservice also falls into this category, with some of it being from Masamune's viewpoint and others, like Sagiri taking a photo of her butt to use as a reference, just feeling thrown in because why not.
The background music isn't helping. Like the story, it goes from barely noticeable mood music to frenetic wackiness in the blink of an eye. The “silly” music is much more grating, possibly because it feels like it's working overtime to tell us that the scene is funny, regardless of whether it is or not. While it doesn't feel misplaced, it also feels as if it were written for a different show and proves to be more a distraction than anything else. That's a problem overall, actually – there's a sense of distraction in many of the efforts to make us understand what's going on and how we're supposed to feel about it. In some cases this is the characters themselves sounding too hammy, but in other's it's supposedly “clever” background details, like text bubbles from a computer screen popping out so that we can read them.
Despite all of this, Eromanga-sensei isn't completely devoid of promise. The entrance of one of Sagiri's friends at the end of the episode is setting the story up to move beyond the siblings, and there are some genuinely interesting hints that Masamune is more anxious than he's letting on, from the look on his face at a book signing to the fact that he's manically planning two series ahead. Both siblings clearly have some issues to work through, and if the series can settle on how that's going to happen, this could surprise me. I may give it a second episode to see what happens next, but not much beyond that – Eromanga-sensei needs to pick a mood and stick with it if it's going to develop any of its potential.
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