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Review: Oreshura

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Light novel maidens do verbal battle

Oreshura, or Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru, is an elaborate reimagining of a simple idea. Short for "My girlfriend and my childhood friend argue a lot," the shortened name makes marketing and looking up the show on search engines easy, but more importantly it curtly sums up a really messy premise. Let's not beat around the bush: It's a harem anime. If that alone turns you away, I won't think any less of you.

But being the postmodern animals that we are, saying an anime is a harem is like saying air smells like something that you can breathe; it doesn't convey or express the quality (if it's smoky, fresh, or stale) or if you would like more or less of it. More importantly, have you had an Oreshura experience before? How do you compare this harem anime with the countless before it? How does this light novel story with a childhood friend and his girlfriend shed light upon the adolescent condition? Is it worth your time, for those of you who care to discern the dancing angels on the animated pin?

This OP

Oreshura [DVD]
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Licensed by: Aniplex of America
Release Date: December 17, 2013
MSRP: $74.98 ($59.98)

To me, the million-dollar question is "how do we make the harem concept interesting in 2014?" Oreshura gives it a good try. As with all things harem, one's mileage will vary, but Oreshura builds its house on sold ground, starting with a pleasant visual style and sense of atmosphere; this is a thoroughly modern and spiffy-looking show. As far as a romantic comedies go, Oreshura is definitely on the refined side, one of it's strongest distinguishing characteristics.

is so OP

When we think of refinement in the harem comedy genre, it might remind you of the traditional gender roles, or in this case, girly girls. Oreshura doesn't quite have what you'll find in older shows like Ai Yori Aoshi or even Ah! My Goddess, but in both the art direction characterization, the show focuses on the graceful school of refined, pastel-colored maidens. This may seem contrary to the title about someone who argues a lot, but that's part of the one of the show's main themes; the constant source of tension between the traditional and modern views of femininity.

Oreshura begins as the distant-but-beautiful Masuzu transfers into protagonist-teen Eita's high school class, mid-year. Eita's childhood friend Chiwa, who we later learn is suffering from a disabling sports injury that ended her path as a competitive kendo practitioner, learns one day that Masuzu and Eita are going out. However, all is not quite as it seems; neither Eita or Masuzu are interested in romance, and Masuzu is basically blackmailing Eita into doing her bidding in the guise of dating. The charade lasts throughout the entire series, but that isn't important; what does become important is how Eita and Chiwa both mature through Masuzu's intervention.

Probably my 2nd favorite

Chiwa and Eita were very close friends even before Chiwa's injury, and closer still now that Chiwa relies on Eita daily to cook for her, rather than relying on her busy parents. Their relationship takes a step further as we learn early in Oreshura that Eita's parents are separated, each deserting the other for new lovers, ultimately abandoning Eita to the care of his aunt. Eita is old enough to live by himself (with Chiwa's family next door), which is good, because his aunt doesn't quite show up until towards the end of the series. Given all of this, Eita takes up the mantle of the responsible adult in his household, and studies hard to the exclusion of almost everything else.

Masuzu also has major issues with her parents. At the start of the story, she runs away from her rich family in Europe to join her estranged biological mother in Japan, facilitating her transfer to Eita's schol. It's this opportunity that allows Masuzu the freedom to goof around with Eita, and later on with the other girls in Masuzu's "Self-recreation" club for young maidens. In the club, Masuzu basically has a lot of fun at Chiwa and Eita's expense by putting them up for all kinds of weird scenarios that lampoon popular anime and manga archetypes.

Best Masuzu shot

The second half of the series follows a similar, openly passive-aggressive pattern as new girls Himeka  and Ai join Masuzu's club, expanding the harem. Himeka, who has one of the most creative character origins in recent memory, is Eita's lover from their past lives-- or so she thinks (it's complicated.) Fan-favorite Ai-chan, on the other hand, is just a very well-acted tsundere character (voiced by Ai Kayano); her hardcore "dere" routines borderline full-on comedic. Much of the humor in Oreshura comes from characters one-upping each other during arguments. It's the way they make these statements that takes on an edge of absurdity, and it's usually funny in that tongue-in-cheek way.

Aichan daishouri!

Aniplex of America's Oreshura DVD release is competent, simple and to the point. A clear case serves three sub-only discs with clean opening and ending credits, web preview clips (basically longer preview segments), with a reversible cover, inside a slipcase. The only major thing to note (and perhaps separating it from the garden variety anime on DVD) is the liner booklet titled Pachi Lemon which comes with the usual illustrations and show notes describing the premise and the characters. Pachi Lemon also happens to be the fashion rag that Chiwa reads on occasion, and it's great to see that kind of detail reproduced in the physical release. The video and audio come across clearly and cleanly, albeit nothing fancy is going on. While I would have liked a Blu-ray option, Oreshura is not a show that will dazzle you through special effects or powerful animation, despite being stylish from head to toe.

This OP so OP

The opening animation is something special, making it very clear that this show is about the concept of a girlish lover. And this what-you-see-is-what-you-get quality is consistent throughout the show: It's up front about all its pretenses and clichés, but does mix them with a few interesting things. It's about very girly girls being somewhat passive-aggressive about what they want, and about those somewhat-pure, idealized maiden-y confessions. It's also about the kind of fanservice that appeals more emotionally than fleshly.

On the whole, Oreshura is a difficult piece to embrace, outside of those moments that will elicit a good laugh. It's definitely a touch cerebral compared to your average harem show, which may be a turn-off for some fans, but refreshing for others. There are a lot of interesting narrative components and plot comes at a nice clip, but the big picture is not available for the viewers until they're done with the series. (For the record, I've watched it twice now.) Each of the girls gets her day in the sun in the end, so don't expect a very conclusive ending either--although, arguably, Eita does pick somebody. It's a story for people who demand more sophistication in their narratives, but purely as character motifs that come out in word plays, not so much in assumption-shattering twists and deconstructive reversals.

I was like what

I should be fair; the fact that Oreshura touches on the theme of youthful beauty being skin-deep is pretty rare in late-night anime. For those who like subtle character interplay with a good sense of humor (doubly so if you enjoy Jojo's Bizarre Adventure), Oreshura is something worth looking into. I don't know why, but my favorite Oreshura joke has to be when Chiwa, Ai and Masuzu were calling each other by their translated names--Thousand Japan, Love Cloth, and Summer River (Natsukawa). It's the little things that get you laughing when the rest of the show is off doing it's whole harem thing.

Thinking back, I probably had more fun dissecting the show now than going through the process of watching it. It's why one might as well go for a run outside instead.

6.0 – Okay. 6’s are flawed, but still enjoyable. Oreshura attempted to do something interesting but failed to improve on the major problems most people have with titles like these. It'll probably make great rental fodder or bargain grab.

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Oreshura reviewed by Jeff Chuang

6

ALL RIGHT

Slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy it a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.
How we score:  The Japanator reviews guide

 
 
 

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Jeff Chuang
Jeff ChuangAssociate Editor   gamer profile

Yet to be the oldest kid on the block, this East Coast implant writes cryptic things about JP folklore, the industry or dirty moe. Attend cons and lives the "I can buy Aniplex releases" life. ... more + disclosures


 


 


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