Monday, 28 May 2012

An analogy- or abomination? Both?


(Oh, and a talk involving cartoon child porn)

Sometimes it's difficult to know how to respond to particular sub-genres of anime. I understand that some things exist, but I wouldn't want any part in watching them. I can certainly enjoy shows like Cowboy Bebop and Durarara!!, which both have interesting characters and like to throw in twists and turns, bending genres and telling a good story.

I can enjoy shows like Lucky Star and Ouran High School Host Club, which keep things good-natured, where love and friendship win out in the end (or not much happens at all, in the case of Lucky Star). The problem I face is when shows try to sexualise these teenage characters.

Lucky Star certainly has a following that enjoys the sexualisation of the characters (not present in the show itself)- just look at all the plastic figures you can buy of these characters in revealing outfits. I understand that it's a part of the culture (which I think is dangerous- just my opinion) but I know I don't have to accept it to enjoy the IP itself.

I certainly steer clear of shows where the sexualisation is the main feature. Shows like Star Driver I feel fall on the less desirable side of the line, but I can enjoy it for its camp, and even-handed approach- it was silly and funny, and almost respectful. Almost. There's a lot that can be forgiven when the main character's catch-cry is "Galactic Pretty-Boy~!"

I'm a huge fan of camp.

Camp is colourful, fun, friendly and joyful. It's self-deprecating, self-aware and joyful. It's Batman: The Brave and The Bold. It's lovely.

But there's this large, dark part of anime that many people are willing to accept as part of the culture, with which I have great difficulty. It's the wrong kind of "moe". It sexualises youth (teens and pre-teens) and it's a backbone to a lot of anime. It's frightening.

Then, along comes a show like OreImo (or Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai or My Little Sister Can't Be This Cute).

Firstly- it's not about what you're thinking... in a way. The main character never has romantic feelings for his sister, or even sees her as particularly "cute". It's a sort of play on words, because the theme of incest is present- but if they weren't going for the word play, I think a more accurate title would be: No Way Could My Little Sister Be This Nice (to Me)! It's a show about enjoying erotic "little sister" fiction in its various forms, where the characters (one assumes) are adorable, whereas the main character's sister is anything but cute (in the way she acts towards him).

The show stays fairly palatable by instead focusing on the obsession with "moe" anime and games that sexualise young characters (and not the games/anime in question)- all from a girl's perspective. From a young age she found the idea of "loving" little sisters an endearing one, and it's supposed that she stumbled upon this before it held the same significance it has for an older person- that is to say, she fell in love with the ultra-"cute" portrayal of little girls, before it was understood to be obviously creepy.

The main character accidentally discovers his (seemingly perfect) sister's "hobby" of playing erotic games (eroge) and she is forced to confide in him, and requests his assistance to help hide her collection from family and friends. She understands her taste for what is essentially "little sister porn" is odd and fears the response from her family and the popular, pretty friends she has. Incidentally, her friends all work as child models- a further look at the objectification, sexual or otherwise, of young girls, in the context of Japan's idol culture. And at almost no point does she reflect on how uncomfortable it must be for her older brother to discuss the issue- as she has a complete separation from the concept of being a little sister- she fantasises (and writes novels) about being a saviour to the little sisters.

Now it's important to note that there is no child pornography in the show. Or fanservice (that is: titillating imagery). Or real explanation of the mechanisms or in-depth look at the themes of the anime, manga and videogames which she is involved with. It runs very much as a study of the passion people can have for this disturbing area of "entertainment".

And to the uninitiated it seems like an analogy for paedophilia, and how paedophiles are ostracised. But I say "uninitiated" for a reason. In the same way the show separates a violent criminal from someone who enjoys violent games, or someone who likes homoerotic fan fiction from a homosexual, it tries to state clearly that someone can be interested in "young girl" cartoon porn and not be a sex pest. I agree with this to the extent that it can't be true that they are all would-be fellons- but I also believe it can't be healthy, but I'm getting off topic... 

...What the show is trying to say is: fanaticism isn't a disease. Being an otaku (geeky enthusiast) isn't a disorder. The show is self-aware in its acknowledgement that people are largely no longer afraid of nerd culture (D&D, videogames, comics, figures, anime) in the same way they once were. It states this through a lampshade hanging late in the piece.

It wants to tell us that being nerdy is all right, but it doesn't get to the heart of the meaty issue at hand and why people are worried: fantasy child porn.

By having the enthusiasts as female (largely) and removing almost all sexual identity from the male lead, they skirt the issue almost entirely.

One question you're probably asking is this: Why would TSC be interested in this show? Let's find out. (And get your mind out of the gutter. Briefly.)

The anime is based on a light novel series popular with young people in Japan, not read by sleazy types in trench coats, but in the same manner people would read Harry Potter (or perhaps The Saddle Club?). Light novels don't have the popularity here that they do in Japan.

As I mentioned earlier, I often take issue with the seedy side of anime and anime culture, and I wanted to find out what a mainstream take on this issue looked like. After reading the wiki page, and deciding it was safe, I watched the show. I have to say I'm glad I did.

As I've stated before, I often feel I've been somewhat desensitised to many of the stranger tropes of anime, and I'd be very keen for this show to be reviewed by people of various backgrounds:

 - Someone who hasn't watched any anime before (Lorraine perhaps?)
 - Another follower of Jesus with some prior exposure to anime (Ames?)
 - Someone who dislikes anime for some of the reasons I've mentioned
 - Someone who loves anime (who isn't me)

If anyone wants to risk it, I can assure you that it's mostly PG. It's not exploitative (from memory). I've thoroughly enjoyed Lorraine's Fifty Shades of Grey dissections, and I think it would be enlightening to get an outsider's perspective on this particular show.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for commenting.


P.S. I apologise if I've handled this poorly, or been insensitive, or short-sighted. Please feel free to enlighten me.

P.P.S. I must reiterate, OreImo is essentially a sweet story about a brother who cares for his demanding sister- and not much more. It's merely the odd choice of hobby (and constant references to erotic games) that makes it different from any other cute anime (think Lovely Complex).


  1. I've had three people comment in real life about this post, but none will comment here.

    I guess it's a tricky one. Or perhaps not?

  2. Just got around to reading this one and I'd actually be very interested in watching and commenting. I obviously know precious little about anime, but I'm fond of dissecting different works, as you well know.

    It's funny that you mentioned my FSoG recaps because on a more serious side, that this book is so popular scares me. I joke about it on the website, yes, but honestly I don't think I could or that I should read any further here. It was a little too much and, of course, terrible.

    But, anyways, the point is that I'd like to do this!


    1. Awesome! Yes, it worries me too. Without having read the books, I worry that they subliminally reinforce dangerous gender identities and roles, while seeming to do the opposite. But I haven't read them, and I'm too squeamish... I'm grateful you did it for me :)

      The Educational Support staff member that looks after some students in my classes read all three and said your analysis was much better than the books.

      As a savvy tech person, I'm sure you'll be able to locate the episodes, but holler if you need any help finding them :). Can't wait :).

  3. Sorry for the belated reply!

    Though on holidays now, I've already got a tonne of things on my to-do list so presently I doubt I'm going to get around to it.

    However, just from a surface observation and I hope you won't get offended by this, I think there's so much good quality entertainment out there already, so if you are having to question whether or not it is an abomination, it's probably is... if that makes sense.

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