Reviewby Theron Martin,
Sub.DVD - Complete Collection [Limited Edition]
In the wake of convincing Kirino to come back home from the U.S. (as seen in the OVAs for the first season), things start to settle back to normal for Kyosuke, including helping the still-irascible Kirino renew her otaku hobbies and and continuing his activities with the Game Research Club. However, things don't stay simple and peaceful for long. Getting to see Saori's true face opens up her backstory, Kanako continues to pop up, Kirino's roommate from America shows up for a visit, and Ruri reveals that she has enough of a romantic interest in Kyosuke herself to pursue the matter. While Manami remains steadfast, Ayase begins to act even more oddly, as she occasionally invites Kyosuke over for advice but insists on handcuffing him during such visits. Kyosuke also gets thrown in a tizzy when he first has to pose as Kirino's boyfriend to discourage a troublesome modeling exec and later has to confront the unwelcome possibility that Kirino may have a real boyfriend. Kirino, for her part, also seems unsettled by all of the female attention Kyosuke is getting. Despite their quibbles, past events have brought Kyosuke and Kirino closer together. But just how close, exactly??
Note: This review discusses one major late-series spoiler in detail, beginning with the fourth paragraph.
Aniplex of America's release of Oreimo 2 includes all 13 broadcast episodes plus the set of three round-out OVAs originally released a bit more than five weeks after the broadcast ended. As a result, viewers can get the complete story all in one purchase. While this is something that Western fans normally yearn for, in this case they might have been better off without it.
But let's backpedal first and consider what the series does right. And it does, indeed, do a lot right. While Kirino is still her usual irritatingly mercurial self, the series has otherwise assembled a wonderful cast of recurring characters and pads that group out even further with some sharp additions. Saori, who was always a more minor background character in the first series, shines when given the feature treatment in one episode which not only reveals her true appearance (the first series suggested that she was quite a looker when not in her otaku get-up, and that proves correct) but also her backstory, which includes how she came to be an otaku. Fan-favorite Ruri/Kuroneko takes a while to once again become the focus of attention but the wait is well worth it; seeing her in her conventional summer dress is nearly as much of a treat as getting to watch how she acts at home around her two younger sisters (the older of which is in particular a great cast addition) or the adorable awkwardness of both her romantic overture to Kyosuke and ensuing dates with him. Ayase's ever-colorful interactions with Kyosuke also continue, and Kanako gets an expanded role as she gets in on the action as well – and my, the way she dresses when not portraying Meruru is a sight to see, too! Sena still livens things up in the Game Club, including being involved in a surprising twist in the last episode, and newcomer Koki Mikagami is a suiting male addition, while Manami is the stabilizing influence (for the most part) amidst all of the craziness. We also do get to finally see how the relationship between Kirino and Kyosuke developed to the point where it was at the start of the series, although the anime apparently leaves out a key side story from the source novels which partially explains Kyosuke's major personality change around middle school age.
Tthe collection of girls assembled around Kyosuke does, indeed, give the series a harem vibe, which was only vaguely suggested in the first series but becomes far more prominent and specific in this one; in fact, at one point or another, all of the teenage girls except Sena express some degree of direct romantic interest in Kyosuke and harem-like fights (as well as an actual fistfight) erupt over him on more than one occasion. Since reveling in otakudom has always been a major theme of the franchise, Kirino and Kyosuke are not blind to this, either, as both comment, in a very self-aware sense, that he'll never be as lucky in love again as he is now. Unlike in most harem series, though, the conclusion is not left vague. Kyosuke does make a choice, and does systematically go around and turn down all of the other interested girls. While the writing tries to be coy about who he will ultimately end up with, the result should surprise no one; the series is not named what it is for nothing, after all.
And that's where things get awkward. The franchise has always teased that something unhealthy might be developing between Kyosuke and Kirino, with its regular jokes about Kyosuke being a “siscon” (short for “sister complex”) and implications that Kirino's fascination with “little sister”-type ero games has a deeper meaning, but prior to the late stages of this series it has always been careful to keep the building connection between the two at a non-romantic level. As this regular series closes out and pushes into the OVA episodes, though, it gives up any pretense of that. Or does it? Even once the two officially become a couple, the impression lingers that they might be just immaturely play-acting their way through the motions of being in a romance rather than actually being romantic, as both freely acknowledge that what they're doing is not right and there is little indication of physical attraction. Given the fascination of both with ero games, such a notion is hardly a stretch, and perhaps suggestive that the original author was trying to make a subtle point: yeah, while this kind of incest might be fine for those into that kind of thing to enjoy in a manga or game, trying to apply anything from those sources into real life is both improper and unfeasible.
But is that really what the original writer and anime adapters were going for? If so then the degree to which Kirino and Kyosuke are willing to (possibly irreparably) damage some long-established relationships to pursue their little fantasy, and the way they force others who know about it to tiptoe around the matter, is nauseating to watch. If not, though, then the conclusion of the series is a monumental cop-out, one which could have forced otaku to face up to the indelicate flirtations with incest that have been creeping out of ero games and into more mainstream otaku content over the past few years but instead opts to be just another piece of the picture. Either way is a blow to what is otherwise a remarkably well-written and sharp-witted series.
The series has other entertainment merits, too. It is at times quite funny, especially in the way it plays on the most ridiculous aspects of otakudom (such as decorated vehicles and bikes) and its most entertaining character interactions (such as Ruri's sisters' comments upon first meeting Kyosuke, about how they just assumed that their big sister's boyfriend wasn't actually real). It shows in the obvious and not-so-obvious allusions to games and other anime series, including Dragonball Z, Sword Art Online (more are in the Extras), Da Capo III, and more indirectly Love, Chunibyou, and Other Delusions, Accel World, and the Nintendo DS game Love Plus, amongst possibly others. (A couple of background characters seemed to be in specific costumes at certain points but I could not place them.) Particularly sharp-eyed viewers might catch a few other hidden details, such as a store sign referencing Studio Pierrot – odd, since they didn't work on this project at all. What viewers will not find here is more than the barest traces of overt prurient fan service; for as much as the series indulges in otakudom, it is remarkably clean visually.
The visual strengths of the series remain the same as for the first one: the wealth of intricate detail in its background shots, especially in crowded otaku-oriented dens, and the overall quality of the background art in general. Clothing designs, especially for Ruri, also stand out. Character design is less special but widely-varied enough that so many of the girls having similarly-structured faces does not cause any problems. Quality control is sometimes an issue, although only a minor one. Animation is not particularly robust but generally good enough to not be a distraction, with the emphasis placed on the fantasy combat scenes which occasionally pop up when two characters are ready to throw down.
Aside from the openers and closer, the musical score mostly repeats the core themes used in the first series, especially in comedic moments. Once again they do a good job of setting light-hearted tones for the comedy, while more dramatic scenes get softer but capable support as well. The same unremarkable song, “reunion” by ClariS (who also sang the first series' opener and the Madoka Magica opener), is used for every episode with a core set of visuals that are tweaked each time to align with current or recent events, hence resulting in each episode's opener technically being a little different. The closer for each episode is entirely different, with most being character-themed pieces sung by the appropriate seiyuu. None of them stick out, either, although the visuals can sometimes be interesting.
As with the first series' release, this one has no English dub and is available on DVD only. Also like with the first series, Aniplex has loaded it up with Extras, which helps compensate for a base price that is still quite high for content of this length. On-disk additions include a full boat of all the various versions of the openers and closers, Web previews for each episode, and all of the omake that came on the original Japanese release. These are short pieces that run 3-6 minutes and feature various main and side characters in a style of animation reminiscent of bobble-headed dolls. They typically discuss events in a meta sense, so you might have, for instance, Kanako and her older sister talking about an associated game release. They are spread evenly across the four disks in the set, with content roughly corresponding to the episodes on the same dish. Each of the two DVD cases has a reversible cover and they come in an artbox, though it only has artwork on one side and does not seem as sturdy as ones commonly-used by, say, Funimation. The box also includes a mini-poster featuring Kirino and Ruri, a set of 16 postcards featuring series-related illustrations by an array of artists, and a booklet crammed with all manner of concept art pictures for every episode (complete with translated notes!), addition bonus illustrations, a brief Otakon 2013 report about the worldwide debut of the series, and personal messages from the anime's director and the author and editor of the original novels.
Ultimate how much Oreimo 2 can be appreciated depends at least partially on the squick factor for a given viewer, as at the very least the series inelegantly flirts with direct, unqualified incest. It does not do it in any particularly sensitive or analytical way, either; this is a work merely riding (or helping to form, depending on how one looks at it) the trend of siscon content in otakudom in recent years. Even if such content is not found objectionable, though, the way the last couple of episodes are handled leaves a lot to be desired in a pure storytelling sense. This show could have been special, but it trips up badly enough on its landing to stumble in the end.
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B
+ Great cast of well-used characters, often sharply-written, sometimes very funny, loads of Extras.
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