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ONIMAI: I'm Now Your Sister!
Episode 4

by Kim Morrissy,

How would you rate episode 4 of
ONIMAI: I'm Now Your Sister! ?
Community score: 4.3

Before I get to the meat of this episode, I have to say: The pop culture homages in this series are a constant delight. Previous episodes gave us actual Guilty Gear -Strive- footage and a Star Wars x Titanic hybrid. This episode treats us to footage from the iconic 1984 sumo game Shusse Ozumo and an extended Precure parody. It's not the first time an anime has gone out of its way to animate a fake magical girl show, but it feels extra fitting here, considering the director's background as an animator on Precure. Not only are the action and transformation sequences well-animated and choreographed in their own right, they even got the acclaimed action animator Yutaka Nakamura to draw the end card illustration with the parody characters! Onimai consistently goes all-out on even the smallest details.

As for the story this time, it once again depicts Mahiro humorously grappling with his fluctuating identity across three vignettes. The first showcases Mahiro's growing distance from his hikikomori lifestyle, as he discovers that he is no longer satisfied with lolling around the house all day and scarfing down an entire box of pizza for lunch. This was my favorite of the segments because Mahiro's bad habits are so relatable. Which adults among us did not fall into degenerate ways the first time they started living outside their parents' thumb? Mahiro's muted realization that he's lost his appetite before he has finished his fast food takeout is also a realistic portrayal of what it's like to grow past an unsustainable lifestyle. Unlike most anime portrayals of hikikomori, which lean fully into cartoon exaggeration and/or black comedy, the jokes here are rooted in observational humor.

The other two segments, which focus on Mahiro's awkward friendship with Kaede's younger sister Momiji, bring the gender-bender themes back into focus. For all its earnestness, this series can be clumsy in its portrayals of gender identity and sexuality, and that was prominently on display here. For example, the second segment is all about the classic gender bait-and-switch: Mahiro initially assumes Momiji is a boy and starts wondering whether he's attracted to boys. He is relieved when he finds out Momiji is a girl after all. Even putting aside the homophobic implications of this trope, what stands out is how predictable it is. The character designs here don't even try to give Momiji androgynous features to make the reveal even mildly surprising to the audience, so the story is just left going through the motions. Fortunately, Mahiro's flustered expressions make for great entertainment regardless, and it was cute watching Momiji walk Mahiro through grocery shopping.

The third segment is cursed, but also the most interesting on a characterization level. The implication is that as a tomboy, Momiji finds herself gravitating to Mahiro as a friend she can relate to. At the same time, she possesses both masculine and feminine-coded traits, and although she has her gripes with skirts, she doesn't go as far as hating them. For Mahiro, who currently occupies a fuzzy space on the gender spectrum, Momiji makes the ideal foil—a person who represents the multifarious dimensions of gender identity that can exist even within cisgender people.

That's all very profound and all, but sometimes subtle characterization serves as a great setup to a punchline, and this was one of those moments. It's laugh-out-loud funny when Mahiro's mountain of porn cascades out of his closet because it undercuts everything that came before in sitcom-esque fashion. Even as he agrees to box away his eroge, Mahiro can't quite let go of his previous attachments. The episode ends with an involuntary boob-grabbing scene and awkward sexual tension. As it turns out, you can make even the most groan-worthy ecchi tropes funny if you've got a good sense of comedic timing. Onimai continues to excel at everything it wants to be.


ONIMAI: I'm Now Your Sister! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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