On the surface, a series like Oreimo may appear to be saturated with silly gimmicks and sexual hijinks with a hint of incest. When you get to know eroge-obsessed Kirino and all those important to her, it morphs into something completely different -- something many of us can relate to: a story about having to hide who you are and what you're passionate about in order to fit in with your peers, in turn losing sight of what makes you you and feeling ashamed you ever dared to assert your own identity.
Of course, it's also got those gimmicks and silliness. But there's more to it than that. The manga series, like the anime, follows the misadventures of Kirino Kosaka, younger sister of 17-year-old Kyosuke Kosaka, your average high school student. Kirino is clearly the favorite of the family, with part-time modeling work, an abundance of popularity at school, and excellent grades. She appears to be the perfect student and a normal 14-year-old with no "nerdy" or "socially unacceptable" hobbies to speak of.
Oreimo Vol. 1
Kyosuke's accidental discovery leads to Kirino finally owning up to her secret hobby -- she's an otaku. Not only does she delight in collecting little sister-themed adult games, she's also a moe fan. She's never been able to bring this up to her parents, so after years of an icy relationship with her brother, she decides to try and include him, with often disastrous results. While Kyosuke does all within his reach to try and please Kirino, going so far as to accompanying her to otaku meet-ups and engage in viewing marathons of her favorite anime, even playing some of her favorite little sister games, Kirino is never satisfied, never letting up on her tsundere nature.
There's a thick air surrounding the siblings that never seemed to dissapate in the anime, and the tension is so thick here you can cut it with a knife: is Kirino into her own big brother or are they only in the beginning stages of improving their strained family ties or is there something more? This subtext is what will either attract readers who have not yet seen the anime or will turn them away completely. The jokes surrounding this very topic are handled well, and you're never made to feel uncomfortable about Kyosuke's brotherly intentions to both help his sister find friends like herself and grow as a person, but the makings are all there, especially in some particularly titillating comments and typical slapstick situations that find Kyosoke splayed out on top of Kirino, or the romantic competition that arises between Kyosuke and a classmate of Kirino's.
If you viewed the anime series before coming over to read the manga, prepare for a complete aesthetic overhaul, both in terms of character designs and the addition of fanservice. There are Kirino panty shots galore, and plenty of scantily-clad little sisters in various illustrations, neither of which ran as rampant in the anime series, so if this is something that makes you uncomfortable, you might do well to stick to the anime adaptation instead, which is both more astute and quicker to the point than the manga has been so far.
While the illustrated adventure does a great job of setting the stage for character development, it's hard to take as seriously as the anime, which is not usually the case for me, I find, when going from one medium to the other. It's a bit sillier and looks a bit rougher than the anime, so if you're coming into the series for the first time and want a taste of what I meant when I said there's more to the series than what you see at first glance, you might do well to watch the relatively short anime first.
If you're ready to expand your Oreimo universe and get into the manga, volume one is a great place to dig in, even though you've just watched these same events unfold, you should find plenty to love here, even if you have to adapt a bit to the softer, more rounded art style. I'm looking forward to seeing how things play out with the very obvious subtext, perhaps a bit further than the anime, so we'll see. In the meantime, give the first volume from Dark Horse a look.
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