The Fall 2018 Anime Preview Guide My Sister, My Writer
How would you rate episode 1 of
My Sister, My Writer ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
Rating: Just Stop
There has to be a bottom, right? Even if just as a theoretical concept, there must be a point where little sister light novel fetish shows become so indulgent, self-referential, and utterly divorced from anything approaching real human experiences that they cease to parse as anything but a mewling flesh blob spewing panty shots and garbled “onii-chans.” Our mild-mannered hero comes home to his little sister who is also his mother who is also the top student in her class who is also utterly emotionally dependent on Big Bro who is also secretly into all of his fetishes who is also in love with him who is also incapable of expressing these things as anything but a limp tsundere denial. He smiles, knowing he has returned to the indulgent fetish convergence which is his Mind Palace, safe from the rigors of engaging with people who possess human emotions or agency, secure in his knowledge that everyone within his world will always act in the ways My Little Sister Loves My Deeply Mediocre Self taught him to expect.
Of course, if that were all it took to reach the bottom, we'd already be there. My Sister, My Writer is already there. A Sister's All You Need was already there. Eromanga Sensei was already there, and so was its fabled predecessor Oreimo. Characters in these shows don't possess humanity in any recognizable sense. They are staple archetypes playing very specific roles, and those roles are all designed to facilitate certain totally inhuman but utterly unquestioned fantasies. Our protagonist's sister Suzuka doesn't really need any introduction - if you're familiar with this genre, you already know that she's highly competent in her public life, acts like a mother at home and takes care of all of her brother's life necessities, but ultimately reveals herself to be into all his fetishes and also emotionally dependent on him. All that's really changed in the time since Oreimo is that now the male protagonist also starts out as an otaku, because at this point, characters in shows like this can no longer communicate in any terms outside of references to common tropes in other otaku media.
I can't really critique the writing in a show like this, because the writing in this genre tends to exist at cross purposes from what would be considered good or bad in a show that wants to create sympathetic, convincing characters or a genuinely engaging narrative. Our protagonist is a vessel designed to carry the feelings of the audience, but offer none of his own, save perhaps an occasional “whoa-a-a!” to remind us this is all very naughty. Our heroine is a Frankensteinian amalgamation of tropes designed to simultaneously represent a mother who takes care of you forever and a tiny bride who's dependent on you utterly. Other characters, particularly female characters, exist to tell our protagonist that it's cool to imagine his sister in sexy poses, or to grab his hand and ram it into their own breasts. The genre is so predictable and so emotionally inert that I'm basically numb to all of this; really, the only thing that genuinely made me grind my teeth was this show's framing of its endless cliches and indulgence as features of professional storytelling that any writer should ever aspire to. Of course, that too is a central feature of what this genre has become - a train of mediocre writers patting each other on the back for writing “I'm horny,” circling in an infinite downward spiral to oblivion.
My Sister, My Writer isn't the sort of anime I can get mad at, because there's absolutely nothing to its first episode. I'm no fan of the “incest/harem light novel adaptation starring a lifeless wax dummy” genre, but this episode is so poorly written and constructed that I've expended too much energy pitying it to feel offended. Yu's only defining characteristic seems to be that he lacks any personality, skills, or charm whatsoever, which would explain his failing aspirations of being an author. The other characters don't fare any better – Suzuka is the epitome of the brother-loving wunderkind that exists only in these particular anime, and the other women who surround Yu seem to only exist to flash their breasts, let Yu fondle their breasts, or otherwise just have breasts.
I'm not being reductive here; Yu's coworker is a twenty-year old with the body of a child whose work uniform apparently consists of a skirt with no backside and a loosely fitting shirt with no bra. This means that whenever she bends over, Yu (and presumably everyone around her) gets a face-full of boobies. Yu's editor later introduces herself by straight up forcing him to fondle her chest, since she's willing to do “anything” to help Yu's writing career. Look, I've become accustomed to the medium's more lascivious tendencies over the years, but if an anime is going to consist entirely of shameless masturbatory nonsense, I would ask that it at the very least try to be engaging.
That's what pushes My Sister, My Writer into the bottom of the barrel for me. The animation is hideous, and the dialogue is nothing but lazy exposition and cliché after cliché. This premiere is only twenty-two minutes long, but I was convinced entire weeks had passed by the time I was done with this thing. Even if you're into the brocon romance stuff, there's absolutely nothing to find in My Sister, My Writer that hasn't been done better by another show. It's the most low-effort, pandering, cynical kind of product you can find, a cheap series that just checks a couple boxes and tosses in some (horribly executed) fan service. It's not only gross, but it's insufferably boring, and I don't believe it's worth wasting any time on.
Obvious otaku conceit aside, the premise of this one – a brother claiming credit for his seemingly-perfect sister's writing so that she can maintain her image and not get in trouble with their father – at least caught my attention, as it promised a comedy of misdirection and misunderstandings. It's not exactly a new idea, as it reminds me of Kyosuke covering for Kirino's ero game interest in Oreimo, but it has worked before and it at least seemed like an effort with potential. However, the result is a disappointment.
That disappointment starts with the technical merits. The character designs are possibly the season's most unexceptional to date, and the animation isn't any better, with the artistry often struggling to stay on-model. The series makes it plain early on that it's going to be a fanservice show, with some camera angles existing solely to jam in panty shots, an abundance of camera attention on chests (multiple female characters are introduced first by their chest and then by their face), and multiple look-down-the-shirt scenes that required censoring, in addition to the protagonist pretty much being forced to fondle a busty female editor, who wants him to use the experience as reference material. The fanservice isn't a problem on its own, but it's so roughly applied here that it gives the impression that the staff had no confidence in any aspect of the series other than fanservice to carry it. Director Hiroyuki Furukawa has more smoothly handled ecchi content in previous titles (My First Girlfriend is a Gal, Hybrid x Heart Magias Academy Ataraxia), so I have to wonder what went wrong with this production.
But where the series lost me most was with the “little sister secretly in love with the brother” angle. I figured this was coming because the way she scolded him in early scenes was too pleasant, and the episode's final scene leaves not a shadow of a doubt when Suzuka outright admits it in gushing fashion. While I'm not a fan of the little sister stuff in general, this execution of the concept feels like it just isn't trying at all. Seeing the seemingly-perfect little sister go gaga over her nondescript brother is such a blatant play that even if the series provides some justification for the attraction later, I can't see it being enough.
In other words, just about everything this first episode does has been done much better by other titles in the genre. This might play fine to fans of the genre, but I can't see it having any appeal beyond devotees.
This episode comes surprisingly close to being mildly interesting. There are occasional moments early on where My Sister, My Writer flirts with the idea of satirizing or providing commentary on its own genre, and this premiere might have felt worthwhile if it had carried on in that direction. After all, the realm of little sister anime is practically begging to be parodied by a series with even a halfway decent sense of humor. Unfortunately, the longer this episode goes on, the more it seems as though this show is doomed to be a weak copycat of similar, better-produced titles.
The basic premise of siblings working together to sell a little sister novel is potentially amusing, and the initial interactions between Yu and Suzuka play into that potential a bit. At first, neither one of them appears to be obnoxiously enamored with the other, which is arguably what you'd need for a good satire. An ordinary brother and sister with a completely non-romantic relationship trying to write a sibling love comedy because “that's what sells these days” could, in theory, be pretty darn funny. Unfortunately, as this episode wears on, it becomes clear that Suzuka is harboring a weapons-grade crush on Yu, which shifts their relationship back towards the usual formula. Instead of a parody, we just get a recycled version of what's already been done.
Then there's the supporting cast, which consists mainly of stock female characters who seem to exist primarily for the purpose of ramping up the fanservice level. Yu's bookstore coworker comes the closest to playing an active role in the story, but as Yu himself points out, she's essentially just a walking embodiment of the “20-something who looks like a kid” archetype. By the time we get to the award ceremony, the series has dropped all pretense; Yu's new editor and illustrator show up just long enough to impose their boobs on him before disappearing into the narrative ether.
On the off chance you're willing to sit through weak writing in the name of fanservice, you'll quickly be let down by this episode's weak production values. There's little originality to be found in the character designs, and the animation ranges from unimpressive to nonexistent. Whether you're a fan of little sister shows, a non-fan looking for a clever genre satire, or you're just searching for a reliable source of fanservice, My Sister, My Writer is not off to a good start. Despite those vague hints of potential, there's nothing in this premiere that offers a compelling reason to keep watching.
My Sister, My Writer's first episode is one that I began actively disliking more the longer it went on. At first I thought that it might be a critique of the light novel industry – when protagonist Yu's manuscript is rejected with the simultaneous comments that it was “too cliché” and that he should “add a little sister character,” I really took that to be tongue-in-cheek, because honestly, while there are many clichés in light novels these days, the little sister feels like one of the least avoidable. Sadly this is not My Little Sister Can Read Kanji (which is such a parody), although to be honest, it lost me when Reika, Yu's new editor, shoved her breast into his hand and told him that he could grope her boobs in the name of research any time. Coincidentally, this is also when new female characters began to be introduced breasts-first.
These issues aside, it more feels like this episode is setting out to do something interesting with an over-burdened genre and then decides that's too much trouble. Having not read the original light novels, I can't say if that's true of the source material or if this is how the series means to go on, but for a debut episode, it's something less than impressive. Having Yu not have a crush on his little sister and her not have one on him would have felt much more novel, especially if she wrote the book in response to what sells rather than in a bid to get the world's approval for the made-up relationship she has with Yu. Instead it feels as if the story is trying to fool the viewer, although looking back it doesn't actually make a very concerted effort on that front, given that the episode opens with a shout-out to Sister Princess.
Visually there isn't much going on either. Character designs are very basic without a lot of interesting detail, and animation is rather limited; the longest scene in the episode features Yu and Suzuka sitting and talking without any real movement. The most movement is in Ahegao's self-propelled breasts; otherwise walking is stiff and dynamic action, like Yu falling, is shown in stills. Suzuka's bunny hoodie is adorable, and the usual variety of female figures is available, including a 20-year-old loli co-worker, but the art is censored, with nipples bearing a “secret” sticker, which at least isn't a light bar.
Even if little sister stories are a genre you enjoy, this doesn't feel like a very good one. It hesitates to do something too different with the genre and the art alone can't carry it. Maybe it'll go back to trying to be about the genre, but if it keeps playing it safe, this isn't looking terribly hopeful.
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