A Sister's All You Need
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Sister's All You Need ?
A Sister's All You Need has always been self-indulgent, for better or worse. The earlier parts of the series generally made this approach work, as they opted to paint a fairly unflattering picture of the light novel author life. Sure, it was gross watching Itsuki's incest fetishes and Nayuta's aggressive advances tumble forth with no restraint, but that also made the series somewhat refreshing compared to so many other light novel anime that tried to dress their self-gratification up with some degree of pretense. However, as the show has continued and slowly run out of interesting things to say about the industry itself, its indulgences have turned more toward trying to convince us to sympathize with the people it has spent its runtime making largely unlikable. This finale continues to coast down that same shallow incline to something that barely resembles an ending.
The first half is dedicated to showing us the final phase of Itsuki's ‘origin story’, where we see him befriended by Ayane Mitahora, the daughter of his housekeeper, after his mother dies. They bonded over Itsuki loaning her light novels, and he eventually developed feelings for her only to get rejected. The way Itsuki's puppy-love fixation and subsequent failure plays out is another example of the teen-boy perspective on romance this series has always taken up. In any other context, Ayane's rejection of Itsuki would probably cast her as the sympathetic party, as her prior off-screen rejection by the boy she liked is basically interrupted by Itsuki asking her to settle for him instead, and decimating their friendship when she says no.
That assumed sympathy might just be the point the series is trying to make too, as Itsuki laments after Ayane little-brother-zones him that her entire scenario turns into the ‘protagonist’ compared to him, providing the origins of the complex he explained at the end of the previous episode. The problem is that we're still being asked to feel bad for Itsuki even though bare identification with his shallow insecurities is the only sympathetic thing about his actions. Maybe a lot of us have been in Itsuki's shoes when we were younger, but I would hope that the net realization from being in this position would be personal growth and reflection, rather than idolizing a scenario where getting rejected for being a selfish jerk would just make you into an even bigger selfish jerk.
My point is that by the time this flashback has turned Itsuki's complex over a rejection into his motivation for becoming an author, I certainly understood his attitude and worldview, but it hadn't made him any more sympathetic. Maybe A Sister's All You Need isn't interested in making him sympathetic, but given the show's earlier capacity to elicit some emotional response toward its cast, I was hoping for something more than this by the end.
That isn't actually the end, but what we get to fill out the rest of this episode is hardly anything to write home about. You guessed it, the series opts to go out the same way it came in (and went in and out again, week after week): a board game scene! This time around, it's a Game of Life-style light-novel-author simulator, an excuse for the series to get even more meta than usual. It's extremely apparent that the series is coasting to the finish on this one, as we get hardly any jokes or characterization, mostly just rote dice-rolling and rule explanation. The series must have a lot of confidence in how entertaining it finds these scenes, and I honestly have to wonder how they read in the original novel form.
By the end of the game, as the characters' ‘happiness points’ all dip into the negatives, the show seems to be presenting the metaphorical lesson that being a Light Novel author generally makes you miserable, but you keep doing it anyway. Compared to other inside baseball moments the series has indulged, this one feels almost like a limp attempt at a nod to the viewers who felt frustrated by this series, which just rounds back to that question I asked at the beginning of the series: Is it any better that this series is unpleasant just because it admits to being unpleasant now and again?
While it's probably an artifact of the amount of material available for adaptation, the way the episode just kind of tapers off doesn't do it any favors. Our last impression of Itsuki is a desperate rationalization of his toxic worldview, with a total lack of follow-through on various subplots like the Nayuta's romantic designs, Itsuki's family situation, or whatever the hell is going on with Chihiro, leaving me with a strong "what was the point?" feeling. There is an attempt to have some growth for Miyako of all people, as she indicates that she might want to become an editor. It's a fitting goal for her, and given that she was always the audience viewpoint character, I'm left thinking that (contrary to Itsuki's wishes), the story might have been better had she been the main character instead.
A Sister's All You Need definitely had some high points, proving that it could be fun in its own gross way now and again. However, a lack of growth or tantalizing material by the end has resulted in an empty experience, seemingly disinterested in its own strengths for this final stretch. Even the previously outrageous perverted humor has given way to self-indulgence that feels more like a pity-party. Unfortunately for A Sister's All You Need, I still don't feel sorry for it.
A Sister's All You Need is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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