The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 147 | Oreimo, Vol. 1 trade paperback review

Leaving Proof 147 | Oreimo, Vol. 1 trade paperback review
Published on Friday, September 7, 2012 by
If you’re familiar at all with Tsukasa Fushimi’s Oreimo, you know this review will touch upon a certain cultural taboo. And if you’ve never heard of it? Well, let us tell you all about it in our review of the Oreimo, Vol. 1 trade paperback.

Key Review Points


  • Genuinely effective “cringe comedy”.
  • Challenges stereotypes about otaku and otaku culture.
  • Charming character designs should especially be appealing to moe fans.


  • Gratuitous fanservice and occasional situations suggestive of incest themes could be a deal-breaker for some readers.

Publication Details

  • Publisher: Dark Horse Manga (a division of Dark Horse Comics)
  • Publication Date: September 2012
  • Story by: Tsukasa Fushimi
  • Art by: Sakura Ikeda
  • Character designs by: Hiro Kanzaki
  • Based on the Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai (My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute) light novel series by: Tsukasa Fushimi
  • Translation by: Michael Gombos
  • Translation lettering and touch-up: Susan Daigle-Leach
  • Format: 200 page black-and-white trade paperback, oriented in right-to-left reading format. Collects serialized material that originally appeared in 2009 in Dengeki G’s Magazine, published in Japan by ASCII Media Works.
  • List Price: $10.99 (digital review copy provided free-of-charge by the publisher)
  • Availability: On sale now

Page Previews* (Click on images to view in larger size)

*this book is oriented in right-to-left reading format to maintain the artwork’s visual orientation as originally drawn and published in Japan.




Full Review

I hope you guys will forgive my laziness in letting the back-cover copy provide the gist of Oreimo, the manga adaptation of Tsukasa Fushimi’s Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai (My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute) light novel series:

High school student Kyousuke doesn’t get along with his cranky, dismissive, and secretive 14-year-old little sister Kirino, but he suddenly finds himself forced to protect Kirino’s secrets—she’s not only a gorgeous fashion model, a track star, and an accomplished student, but she’s also obsessed with naughty video games and little kids’ fantasy anime! How can Kirino maintain her complicated lifestyle—and how can Kyousuke maintain his sanity? And might the two of them, somehow, just maybe, ever become friends?

What the copy above doesn’t address is the elephant in the room when it comes to Oreimo: There is a vague, thematic undercurrent of brother-sister romantic attraction in the material. We’ll address that concern later, but first, let’s discuss a very important perceptual and behavioral concept that is central to Oreimo. That concept is what’s called moe (pronounced as “mo-e“), a Japanese word that translates into English as “to sprout” or alternatively, “to bloom”. The detailed etymology and evolution of the moe concept are beyond the scope of this review, suffice it to say that in contemporary anime and manga, moe is often equated with a loose association of visual design and behavioral features that make a character kawaii (Japanese for “adorable” or “cute”).

Moe isn’t just specific to character design in Japanese comics and cartoons, though. A lot of classic and contemporary Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros. Animation character designs have what can be described as moe appeal. The cute facial features—a big head, disproportionately large eyes, a button nose, fine eyebrows—associated with infants have been demonstrated to trigger positive regard and even care/protective behavior in people across different cultural and ethnic backgrounds in a number of behavioral studies, leading many scientists to posit an evolutionary and adaptive basis for why we are drawn to “cuteness” in humans, animals, and even plants and inanimate objects. Animators like Walt Disney and Chuck Jones, just like the revered mangaka Osamu Tezuka (the “godfather of manga“), had an intuitive understanding of this phenomenon, and this understanding informed the aesthetic that eventually came to define their creative output and the design trends their works continue to inspire.

For a number of reasons, cuteness (kawaisa) has a particularly strong cultural resonance in Japan, where moe is commonly objectified in popular media. The occasional quasi-romantic tension between Oreimo‘s 17-year-old protagonist Kyousuke Kosaka and his 14-year-old-sister Kirino isn’t so much about the taboo attraction between siblings than it is about treading the boundary between moe objectification and moe fetishization. Kyousuke’s relationship with his classmate and putative romantic interest in the book, the overwhelmingly cute Manami Tamura, is an extension of that same juxtaposition. In the case of Kyousuke and Kirino, their awkward interactions aren’t so much creepy as they are embarrassing, as it is made clear early on in the book that both siblings, at least on a conscious level, are operating under the Westermarck effect.

Oreimo is about more than gratuitous fanservice and “cringe comedy,” though. Hiro Kanzaki’s character designs as interpreted by artist Sakura Ikeda are quite charming, and should especially be appealing to moe fans. The story concerns itself with the universal themes of adolescent awkwardness and sibling rivalry. The book also offers counterexamples to the popular otaku stereotypes. The attractive and popular Kirino, for example, a scholastic and athletic overachiever, is actually a closet geek who longs to find people with whom she can share her interests in anime and eroge. The goofy-looking Saori Bajeena may appear to be an overly boisterous, Gundam-obsessed, “genki girl” but she actually turns out to be quite well-adjusted socially and hints are dropped that there might be more to her than meets the eye.

The uneasiness some of the situations portrayed in the book can generate might be too much to overcome for certain readers, but those who can get past it will find a subtly thoughtful, frequently funny, and well-illustrated work.

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