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ONIMAI: I'm Now Your Sister!
Episodes 1-3

by Kim Morrissy,

How would you rate episode 1 of
ONIMAI: I'm Now Your Sister! ?
Community score: 3.9

How would you rate episode 2 of
ONIMAI: I'm Now Your Sister! ?
Community score: 4.2

How would you rate episode 3 of
ONIMAI: I'm Now Your Sister! ?
Community score: 4.2

Okay, guys, hear me out: Onimai is the best anime of the season.

Sure, the content is not for everyone, but there's nothing else this season that comes even close to this show's level of visual direction and 2D animation craft. The story involves the stereotypical NEET otaku guy literally becoming the little sister, which is a genuinely novel spin on two very rote character tropes. And there is also heart to it: the siblings quickly adjust to their new dynamic, mending the rift that was slowly growing between them.

The first three episodes are remarkably consistent in their storytelling approach. Mahiro struggles to adjust to a certain aspect of female gender presentation, like clothes shopping or housework, but gives it a sincere shot. After some mild shenanigans, his sister or one of her friends helps him out, and he appreciates them in a new way. At no point does he demand Mihari return his male body, even after experiencing trials like period pain or long lines at the public toilets. Although Mahiro consistently uses male pronouns to refer to himself, there's an implication that he feels better about himself thanks to the gender swap, which can make aspects of the story relatable from a transgender or genderfluid perspective.

The open-endedness in the characterization works in the story's favor overall, although it may strike other viewers as frustrating. Depending on how you interpret it, the narrative could come across as gender essentialist or even transphobic; that it begins with a non-consensual transition does it no favors in this regard. But there's also an element of wish fulfillment in being able to transition instantaneously and in having the answer to your existential problems fall into your lap before you've even figured it all out. It is significant that the story only begins after the transition, and we never get a direct look at Mahiro's previous appearance. Regardless of how you interpret his gender identity, who he was matters far less than who he is trying to be in the present. At its core, this is a story about how big personal changes aren't inherently scary, which I think is a relatable theme for anyone.

The elephant in the room here is, of course, the fanservice. While the anime's overall aesthetic is innocently cute—with a soft color pallet, round character designs, and bouncy movements—there are skeevy elements mixed in. Mahiro has a morbid fascination with his early pubescent female body in the first episode, which is reflected in how the camera lingers on him from a distance as he stares at his body parts. The framing is extra voyeuristic in this case as if you're watching the events unfold through a secret camera. The subsequent episodes have a more conventional direction, but they also have their fair share of sexualized nudity. And even if you do not see the characters in a state of undress, the anime still has a peculiar fascination with showing them going to the toilet, all animated on ones or twos in excruciating detail.

If you've got a strong stomach for fanservice about (fictional) minors—a big "if," I know—this is a genuinely rewarding show with its heart in the right place. Even when using their powers for questionable artistic decisions, the animators' technical prowess shines throughout. Whether it's Mahiro pretending to be a cat girl while Mihari coos over him or Mihari's friend Kaede carefully cooking a lunch, every single character movement is rendered in loving detail. This is such an animation-heavy show, in fact, that the main animators are even credited in the opening sequence instead of relegated to the middle of the end credits. I've been a fan of director Shingo Fujii ever since he made a name for himself as a Precure action animator. His directorial debut has not disappointed me so far. This is a must-watch show for any animation fan.


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

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