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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why Oreimo Season 2 Is Amazing:

The Cart Driver is a good resource for anime fans, as it presents season previews and charts that go back years saying what series aired when and what they were all about.  But their opinions about anime are so monstrously wrong that reading their day-to-day posts is ill-advised for stomach acid reasons.

This is the website which spent all of last year dissing Sword Art Online, one of the greatest anime series of all time.  This in the face of it being a mega hit that swept the world, introduced some of the most recognizable characters in anime history that appear in basically every background ad to every anime website, and became one of the best selling light novel series and anime series of all time.  Refusing to acknowledge the vote of the fans and the tide of history, they stood athwart it all shouting 'no!'

Now they are doing the same thing to another great series, Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai.  Oreimo is another series that is beloved the world over, with huge light novel and anime sales, and tons of references by other series back to it in a complimentary manner.  Even so, despite all of its successes, it's receiving nothing but derision from people who apparently cannot fathom why the show is so good.  For their sake, and the entire West's, I guess I just have to step in and explain it to them line by line:

I've never read the Oreimo light novels.  So I'm as in the dark as to what eventually happens in this series as anyone else.  In fact, the Oreimo light novel series is slated to end around the same time as the anime, so nobody in the whole world except the author currently knows how the story will end.  Therefore, judgmentally jumping to conclusions is stupid and absurd.  Critics who assume the story will eventually end in incest are completely jumping the gun and inserting their own sex-crazed, dirty, gutter minds into an actually pure canvas that they alone have defiled.  There hasn't been a single indication, anywhere in the story, that the two want to commit incest together.  It's all just the crazed imaginations of the onlookers, reading into things of their own accord.  Honestly, I don't think there will ever be anything sexual between Kirino and her older brother, Kyosuke.  If there is, though, it's not for bigots to judge right off the bat based on outdated taboos that are meaningless and stupid in the modern age.

There is no real basis for being opposed to incest.  In many cultures, incest was a given and brothers and sisters regularly married each other.  For instance, the Pharaohs of Egypt.  Culturally, it's just a random belief that was slapped on at some arbitrary point and never viewed objectively from there on.  There are two biological reasons why incest is rare and frowned upon, which do actually deserve a response.  But I cannot think of any ethical or moral argument that can possibly be made against incest in this age of free love concerning every single other group.

The two biological arguments against incest are as follows:  Closely related individuals carry many negative mutations which, if held singly, as recessive genes, do no harm.  However, if the two were to mix their genes together and form a baby, it's much more likely that these negative mutations will make for a double recessive pair (just like blond hair does) and end up expressing itself in the offspring.  Since life is sloppy, every single person on Earth has a host of these negative mutation recessive genes, and therefore every single prospective inbreeding couple will do lasting harm to their children.  The only way to make sure that your personalized negative genetic traits don't show up in the next generation is to mate with someone genetically distant from you, whose personal genetic flaws won't overlap with your own.

However, this argument falls flat since we've banned the use of eugenics in every other field.  Why are we so concerned with the genetic health of incestuous couples' children when we aren't concerned with preventing genetic flaws in any other prospective couple?  We even allow retarded children, downs syndrome children, and other known flawed children to be born into the world.  And if we were really concerned with preventing genetically unhealthy children from being born, we would ban low IQ people from reproducing entirely long before we went after incestuous couples.  Paradoxically, we are complaining about, say, two 130 IQ siblings reproducing and having an inbreeding depressed child with 100 IQ, instead of what you'd expect from their child, maybe 115 IQ (due to regression to the mean the child's IQ almost always goes down anyway.)  However, we have no laws against retards with 70 IQ mating with other 70 IQ retards and having 80 IQ children.  (Due to regression to the mean the children's IQ will normally be above their parents' in this case.)  So this is just bullshit masking as science but really is still arguing from a 'this is a taboo ewwwww' viewpoint.

I'm actually fine with enforcing eugenics and demanding that children receive as good a set of genes as humanly possible every generation.  Even with this rule in force, though, it doesn't follow that incest should be banned.  In fact, when it comes to breeding prize plants, horses, or dogs, inbreeding is regularly used, between brothers and sisters especially, to select for good traits.  If you have a championship breed with championship genes, introducing any outside interference is the last thing you want.  You just want to keep preserving the great genes found uniquely within this family and try to improve them even further.  What's true of animals is true of humans as well.  It's just as likely that inbreeding would lead to uniquely good traits as uniquely bad ones.  There are positive genetic mutations as well as negative ones, and these too would be more likely to be shared between close relatives.  With full knowledge of the human genome, it would be easy to inseminate a huge number of eggs outside of the womb, screen all of the potential babies for 'inbreeding defects' and 'inbreeding bonuses,' and choose only the eggs with no defects and lots of bonuses.  In fact, incest may be the fastest way to superhumans of all breeding programs.  A eugenics program armed with just a few additional genetic tools (like genetic screening and gene mapping), has no reason to fear incest at all.

Even if incest were dysgenic, already a dubious claim, there are tons of further work-arounds to this problem.  Incest could be legal, and only their offspring could be banned.  There's this thing called 'birth control' that was invented around the 1950's that works just fine, or abortions if that doesn't work out.  Why stop love?  What does love have to do with it?  Adoptions could be a fine work-around to their lack of offspring and everyone could live happily ever after.  In an age where gay parents are allowed to adopt children, why would incestuous couples be rejected?  On what basis?  Is the incestuous lifestyle worse than the gay lifestyle?  If so, how?  What statistics support this claim?

The second biological complaint one can make against incest is the westermark effect.  It's been found that families that are raised since birth together simply aren't sexually attracted to each other, in humans and in the animal kingdom.  This may be evolution's way of avoiding inbreeding depression, but I actually think it serves an additional purpose.  Families are the core evolutionary strategy of mankind.  We have found that the family support network is the most likely way for a child to survive, become a productive member of society, and reproduce.  Paradoxically, injecting incest into this equation makes the gene-line's chances of success lower than before.  It's like putting all your eggs into one basket.  If the sexual relationship doesn't work out and you break up, that would mean losing your family over it too.  Since family members are extremely precious, evolution has found that messy romances are just too fragile and too destructive to play around, like an elephant in a china shop, in the midst of this essential bond network.  Now consider the opposite side of the coin -- if you have a relationship with someone outside the family and you succeed, you now have three, yes, THREE support networks favoring you at once.  Your partner in love, your original family, and your new family that is your partner's family.  With these four powers combined, like a Voltron galactic warrior, you're easily set for life in the foundation of a new family that can have new children.

But if you stick to an incestuous relationship, even if it works out, you're no better off than before.  Your family, including the love of your life, would have already supported you had you gone for some other girl.  Likewise, the sister or brother you are involving in your incestuous relationship already would have had your, and your family's support for their romance.  So look at this graph!

You, X, incest version, get 1 support network, your family.
You, X, non-incest version, get 3 support networks, your family, your spouse, and your spouse's family.

Your sister/brother, y, incest version, gets 1 support network, his/her family.
Your sister/brother, y, non-incest version, gets 3 support networks.  Her family, her spouse, and her spouse's family.

The grand evolutionary total for incest love = 1 support network.
The grand evolutionary total for non-incest love = 6 support networks.

Economically and emotionally, six is always better off than one.  Thus, the westermark effect.

But this general logic can't be extended to every individual case.  There are exceptions to every rule.  Some of these exceptions are A) when despite it all, the incestuous couple can't help but love each other more than anyone else.  In this case, they aren't foregoing a better relationship for a worse one, their choice is between a worse relationship or no relationship at all.  At this point, the logic simply breaks down.  Another exception is B) No one else loves them.  In this case, again they have no choice in the matter and would be strictly better off as an incestuous couple.  A third exception is C)  They're so rich and powerful they don't need any help anyway.  In fact, having to share your wealth and power with outsiders would only dilute your gene-lines economic strength.  In this case worrying about support networks is a waste of time.  This, by the way, is the reason nobility was far more likely to engage in incest than commoners.  A fourth exception would be D) their relationship is so good together that it would be a waste to trade in for anything or anyone else.  This is somewhat different from A, because it goes from an involuntary need to a voluntary choice, but if two people really are happy together, what's the point in ripping them apart?  While Yosuga no Sora was the story of incest in case A, hypothetically, if Kirino and Kyosuke really do end up together, it would be on the basis of case D.

So if case D does justify Kirino x Kyosuke, we would have to look for evidence that the two will never break up and will live happily ever after if only they stayed together.  Have the two overcome any hardships that might ordinarily break couples apart?  Yes, they have.  Around six years of estrangement where they barely talked to each other, how's that for an obstacle?  Or how about the three months they were apart while she was living in a foreign country when they never exchanged so much as a phone call or text?  Despite all this, their love for each other prevailed.  Why wouldn't it continue to prevail in the future?  And how many other relationships, non-incestuous relationships, can say the same?  How about this test -- do they have fun together, not as an exception, but as a rule?  The answer is again yes.  They enjoy the company of the same friends, they enjoy the same hobbies, their conversations are quick and full of vitality, never running out of things to say, and they both rely on each other emotionally.  The people quickest to make them smile or cry are each other -- no one else comes close.  Do their feelings show through in everything they do?  Yes, yes, and yes.  That's as obvious as a noon summer day.  Are they truly in love or is it just lust?  Well, considering their entire relationship so far hasn't had even an iota of sex to it, I think we can safely say that their foundation is stronger than just a hormone rush that disappears as soon as it's fulfilled.

The argument for Kirino x Kyosuke living happily ever after is extremely strong.  I wouldn't demand it as a necessity or anything, I think both of them could find fine partners elsewhere that also complement them.  But I think they would be happy together, so it's simply rude to object to that result occurring.  Kirino is rich and powerful, so there's no worries on the financial front.  And both of them aren't so shallow that a love like theirs would ever break up and leave their family ties in shambles.  In fact, the only objection to their incest people could make is that they'll be unfairly persecuted and ostracized by those around them for doing so.  Ie, people shouldn't do incest because other people, not the perpetrators of incest, will randomly be evil and destroy them if they do so.  This is just blaming the victim and is moral nonsense.  If that's the problem, then it's not this couple which must change, it's the rest of the world which needs to learn to accept their love.

Actually, this taboo against incest causes such unnecessary harm that it ends up even being the cause of incest in the first place.  In the past, brothers and sisters would commonly live together, even after marrying a third party.  In Nicholas Nickleby, by Charles Dickens, the main character is a brother who lives with his beloved, virtuous sister and the three of them move in together when he or she gets married and live as a threesome, the married, sexual pair and the unmarried, unsexual, family pair all considered legitimate life companions.  It is only recently that families felt the need to break up every last parent and grandparent from every child, and every sibling from every other sibling, even when they got along better than anyone else in the world.  Case 'D' for incest would disappear if people were fine with a brother and sister staying together beyond marriage, but if one has to choose who you wish to spend the rest of your life with, and your brother or sister is far and away the person who makes you happiest, incest becomes the only logical recourse.  Talking about bonds between people who don't live together is just nonsense.  The people you spend time with are the people who make or break your life, not people you're lucky to see once a year.  The people you live with are the people who listen to everything you say, are there for you exactly when you need them, share in all your activities, and so on.  Just as a divorced father may as well never meet his children, since 'once a weekend dates' with his children are utterly worthless and the children will never give a damn about him on such a tenuous basis, any family member being forced to separate from another family member with some dumb 'monthly visitation rights' isn't remotely the same.

I wonder how many people would object to Kirino and Kyosuke living in the same house together, never having sex, and never marrying anyone else.  Is this also taboo?  If so, why?  If not, why not?  Adding in sex to this equation doesn't change the moral picture whatsoever, it's just one more expression of love and joy together alongside all the others.  If your argument truly is as ludicrous as 'it would be a waste if they didn't find partners and didn't reproduce,' the moral argument against incest has been reduced to a generalized argument against all bachelors everywhere and every childless couple of every stripe.  Before you targeted incestuous couples, you would have to mandate marriage and reproduction for everyone on Earth.  It simply doesn't fly.  There is no principled argument that can get anywhere, it all ends up just being 'eww incest eww', the level of a 5th grader bully and nothing more.

There is no reason to object to Oreimo because you think there might someday be incest in the future, nor is there any reason to object to Oreimo if you think it somehow 'stealthily promotes incest' through sidelong implications, because if incest isn't wrong neither is stealthily promoting it.  The entire objection to the series can therefore be discarded as childish nonsense.  What remaining objections do people then have against the series?  Since even Scamp admits the first season is good, we can restrain ourselves to just the four episodes that have aired this spring:

Episode 1:  The story opens up with a dream sequence that, presumably, is a memory of when they first became estranged.  It turns out that Kyosuke, acting like a typical male brat, was embarrassed about having a close relationship with a girl, even his own sister.  He therefore said things he didn't even feel in order to hurt her enough that she would distance herself from him, and he could then be seen in public as a 'first rate young boy' doing proper young boy things.  He succeeded in terribly hurting Kirino, turning the person she loved most in the world into the person she hated most in the world, who then found it necessary in order to prove her older brother wrong that she was just 'annoying baggage' to transform herself into the best girl on Earth.  This is what drove her to becoming a model, a track star, a straight A student, and so on.  You could also see that her love of little sister games and anime is in memory of the good times when she got to be a happy little sister with a nice older brother who treated her well, and also a corresponding wish for the idealized world where that relationship had remained.  Since she could no longer have the reality, she retreated to the virtual version of her happiness.  We learn so much about Kyosuke and Kirino in just a few seconds, all of it extremely deep and moving.  Is this why the anime is bad?   Hmm, maybe the next segment is the problem.

The next scene shows that the voice actor and actress for Kirino and Kyosuke just so happen to be some of the best in the business, the same people who voiced Azusa from K-On and Tomoya from Clannad.  Also, the studio animating Oreimo season 2 is A-1 pictures, which happens to be the best in the business.  So they have no grounds to complain about the production value of the series.  If there is any flaw at all, it must be in the script.  Okay, check.  I'm still waiting for the script to be bad.

The next scene has the camera pan over the gorgeous Kirino as she lays in the couch, a somewhat erotic position.  Oh no, incest!!  Oh wait, we already established that it didn't matter even if Kyosuke did lust after his sister.  But in fact a far more likely explanation presents itself.  Kirino has just come back from America after three months or so, she's also so beautiful she's a successful model, and he's unused to seeing her (especially her newly aged form), so her image strikes him forcefully as frustratingly beautiful despite himself.  Just like how a girl can still notice how beautiful another girl is, so too can a non-lustful brother.  Since Kyosuke resents how great Kirino is in every way, because she so outshines him, he could be looking her over as a grudge, with a 'tch, why does she have to be so beautiful?' feeling, far more so than looking her over with a 'ooooh, I want to worship at her feet' feeling.  If you understood Kyosuke's psychology from the preceding eps of the series, this would be the normal conclusion a non-gutter mind would come to.

Next, Kyosuke tries to strike up a conversation with Kirino, the first since she's gotten back from America, but she ignores him and continues calling her friends to greet them instead.  She even calls him creepy for hanging around her and waiting until she's done.  This is good evidence that no, she isn't in the least interested in incest with him.  But it also just means that she trusts her brother will be around later so she has to deal with her friends now.  The reverse prioritization is actually the reverse order of her trust in the strength of her bonds -- those needing immediate attention are the most critically at risk -- it's just triage you'd find in any hospital room.

Kyosuke realizes this in the next scene talking with his childhood friend, Manami.  He says their relationship is the same as before she left for America, which in effect means it's still very strong, but he's still worried because there's no tangible proof of this.  It's just a hunch, he's still waiting for some sign that Kirino actually likes him like before.  When Manami assures him it will be fine, he's slightly relieved.  But when Manami asks him what else he's worrying about, he says he can't tell her.  This is a critical data point.

He can't tell Manami about Kuroneko confessing to him right before he left for America to pick up Kirino, because it's rude to talk about other potential girlfriends in front of a potential girlfriend.  It lacks delicacy and puts the girl in an impossible situation when asked for advice.  But look at this critical difference in behavior -- he won't talk about a possible romance with Kuroneko, but he freely talks about his relationship with Kirino to Manami.  This isn't some sort of grand deception plan.  Kyosuke simply doesn't think of her romantically, so he doesn't consider it impolite to talk about in front of Manami and ask for advice from her.  Previously we were given evidence that Kirino isn't head over heels romantically enamoured of her brother, and now we are given evidence that Kyosuke isn't head over heels romantically enamoured with his little sister.  If both people on the surface think of each other as siblings, the only thing left to complain about is there's some sort of incestuous unconscious vibe going on between them that even they don't realize.  This may be true or it may not be, only future episodes will tell.  But people can't possibly be blamed for what goes on in their unconscious minds.  That standard wouldn't absolve anyone of guilt.

In the next scene, Kirino has a tear jerking reunion with her friend Ayase, who hugs her, and is immediately accused of being a lesbian for it.  When she angrily denies it, the misunderstanding is removed, but this is exactly the problem I'm talking about.  It's now apparently sexual for any two people of any relationships whatsoever to care about each other in any way.  Only cold, robot-like steel faces when dealing with separate individuals can possibly remove suspicions that you might be having sex or want to have sex with the other person.  The sexual revolution, by turning every last thing sexual, has ruined every non-sexual relationship possible by making them all somehow perverted instead of pure.  A true sexual revolution wouldn't insist everything be sexual.  It would say that all sex is permitted, but that nothing has to be sexual unless people wish it to be.  Nor would anyone think there's anything wrong with a relationship, whether it were sexual or non-sexual.  Only then can girl friends hug each other in public without being judged.  Or a brother and a sister get along.  It's the same problem.  It's always the same thing wherever you go.  People with sex on the brains can only see sex even if it's a train entering a tunnel.  It isn't the innocent loving parties who are to blame, it's the diseased minds that constantly criticize them from the side who need to change.

Exhibit C.  Kyosuke is sitting with Kuroneko for the first time after she confessed to him.  It's revealed that last night he fantasized about getting into a relationship with her (which he's never done with Kirino), blushing, breathing hard, the works.  This does not seem like a guy whose heart already belongs to another girl, (ie, his sister).  On his way back from school, he recalls that Kuroneko once said she 'loved him as much as his little sister does.'  However, Kyosuke is constantly getting mixed signals from Kirino and honestly doesn't know if she likes him, or just likes how useful he is to her.  This is accentuated by the fact that Kirino is too embarassed to ever honestly reveal her feelings to her brother and always hides it behind bluffs and insults.  (Given that last time she honestly revealed her feelings to him, when they were still kids, he insulted her and drove her away, this is only natural.  In fact, if Kirino wishes to stay close to Kyosuke, she's been trained to believe that the only way to do so is to preserve the illusion that they're still far apart, or Kyosuke will 'dump' her again like he did last time.)

Kyosuke tries to figure out Kuroneko's meaning by calling Kirino and asking her how much she likes him.  But as typical, Kirino dodges the question entirely and just insults and rebuffs him.  Kyosuke's too dense to understand any hidden meanings behind all this, so he just assumes Kirino doesn't much like him, and as a result, Kuroneko must not like him much either.  This is a rather hilarious turn of events, but it's in no way 'sinful' on anyone's side.  No one has done anything wrong.

The episode ends with Kirino finally working through her 'triage' system and ending it with anime, dating sims, and her brother -- the three things she can rely on most to always be there for her.  She has a heartfelt return to Japan buying all the things she couldn't get in America with the brother she couldn't be around in America.  Then she gives Kyosuke a game to play out of the mass purchase on the anniversary of the day they first started getting along again with a hidden message, "thank you, onii-san" (affectionate term for older brother) spoken by a character on the back.  It's also explained that Kirino went on this shopping spree because of royalties from her published light novel.  Her love of anime is what made it possible for her to write said story, and her fans' love of anime is what made it possible for her to get rich, so she felt it was morally just to give all the proceeds back to anime by buying anime related products with every cent she had gotten.  What a wonderful girl!  Not only does she genuinely enjoy things to the bottom of her heart, but she's also grateful to them and never forgets the joy she's gotten once it's been received.  After the new (by the way awesome) opening song by ClariS, one last picture is presented of Kirino and Kyosuke when they were kids still getting along.  It's obvious how happy Kirino was back then from the look on her face, and I doubt people would accuse the kids of incest, now would they?  Are brothers and sisters only allowed to love each other until age six?  If the picture at the end is heartwarming, why can't the shopping spree right before the end be heartwarming as well?  The answer is it can be.  Both should be.  It's not the anime that's rotten, it's solely the viewers who dislike it that are to blame.

Episode 2:  Episode 2 starts with Ayase taking Kyosuke aside to talk about Kirino's recent obsession with an eroge.  Ayase is of course totally right that ignoring a friend to do a solo activity right in front of her face is a very lonely feeling you shouldn't do to a friend.  She asks Kyosuke to convince Kirino to stop it, which he then does like a proper understanding but also advising big brother.  Kirino agrees with his logic and hands the game over to him, with a soto vocce statement that she'd like to be able to talk about the game with him anyway.  It's a pretty nice relationship when people can talk earnestly with each other without giving offense and people can share the same hobby together.  All I'm seeing here is all the benefits a close relationship brings.

Next up comes a series of comic situations suited to a love comedy.  Kyosuke falls for the game just like Kirino did, and starts acting weird and neglecting Minami just like Kirino had Ayase.  Ayase confronts him about this, but he explains it's all part of a strategy of finding the 'secret weapon' that can overcome the attractiveness of this game.  In the dating sim game, there's a girl named 'Ayaka' who looks and talks just like Ayase, but she's much cuter and fawning and lovey-dovey than Ayase ever is.  Kyosuke says the secret to defeating 'Ayaka' is to be as cute as Ayaka while still being real, thus surpassing Kirino's fake girlfriend.  He then has Ayase practice some cute, lovey-dovey lines and body language, which she can't hope to accomplish in front of a strange boy because it's too embarrassing, so she just ends up hitting him instead.  However, she takes the game with her and, after debating whether to kill the game, "no, the thieving cat,"  (A term you would use if another girl stole your boyfriend from under you), it's clear that Ayase too has fallen for the game's spell and treats Ayaka as a real separate existence just like Kirino and Kyosuke did.  She ends up taking the advice Kyosuke gave her while practicing on her own, but since she knows nothing about dating sim games (like Minami who also tries to practice being cute like Ayaka from the game), she misses the all important need to say these lines and use this body language only in the proper time, place, and situation.  The punch line at the end of the episode is Ayase trying to out-Ayaka Ayaka but simulating not the lovey-dovey route, but the scary 'School Days' route where she turns into a psycho-killer.  As someone who's totally unfamiliar with dating sims, she can't tell one behavior routine from the other and makes this pitiful mistake, thinking it will appeal to Kirino as it was, after all, in the game she loves.  When Kirino calls her creepy, she runs off crying and the ending credits roll.

There's a lot of good old fashioned humor in this episode that hits on every cylinder, but it also shows off the true nature of Manami, Kyosuke, Ayase and Kirino as well as the bonds between them.  Ayase is a passionate girl who always goes too far (like when she's caught up in the moment and thinks excitedly Kyosuke is telling her that Kirino wants to be her lover), Manami a helplessly nice girl who believes anything she's told, Kirino a gaming addict who's insensitive to those around her, and Kyosuke a pervert who can't quite hide his attraction to the girls around him or even 'Ayaka' in the virtual world.  But they're also four people who care about each other and want to be together and rely on each other -- which just goes to show how flaws never mattered from the beginning.  If their flaws hurt each other, their wish to be together can overcome it with a simple apology and forgiveness.  If it causes misunderstandings, they can just talk it over again until everything's clear.  Love is amazing because it makes petty character flaws no obstacle at all to people staying together.  People who accept each other, flaws and all, are a better bond than a bunch of flawless people who never offend each other in the first place.  All of this is embedded in just episode 2 of Oreimo 2.  And we still have two more to go -->

Episode 3:    Remember what I was saying about top notch voice acting in Oreimo?  Well, how about this?  Kuroneko's voice actress is Kana Hanazawa.  Her friend and homoge lover Sena Akagi is voiced by Mariya Ise.  Saori's old friend Kanata is voiced by Rie Kugimiya.  And Kirino and Ayase's friend Kanako is voiced by Yukari Tamura.  This all star cast is virtually the greatest dream line up that anyone could have ever imagined in a single series.  If you think voices don't matter, just try listening to anime dubbed.  Every line is a tortured monotone that sounds like it was spoken by an uncaring bystander or a melodramatic stage actor flubbing a school play.  There isn't a single sense of passion or wisdom to their performances.  They obviously don't care about the character they're playing, nor do they understand that character's feelings or behavior in the slightest.  A few seconds of dubbed anime is so bad that all you can do is run screaming away from the screen.  The voice is the soul of anime, since everything else is imaginary drawings.  Without a good voice, since anime faces have few details and can't express anything on their own, series can't do anything.  There are many talented seiyuu in Japan, so you might think that one or two star voices won't make a difference either way.  But that simply isn't the case.  There's a difference between being able to deliver a line and making your line memorable.  Voice actresses who can breathe life and soul into their characters, and voice actresses whose voices are so unique and captivating that you pay infinite attention to every last syllable, are a breed apart from 'talented workers.'  And of that breed apart, I said 4 seiyuu were the best of all --  Yukari Tamura, Rie Kugimiya, Kana Hanazawa, and Mai Nakahara.  And of those 4 seiyuu, 3 of them are working on Oreimo.  It's a big difference.

Now, the plot of episode 3 is a big change of pace from 1 & 2.  It takes us back in time to the back story of an up until now mysterious character from season 1.  Who is this masked girl and why was she so able to make a group of friends out of very difficult personalities that refused to get along originally -- Kirino and Kuroneko?  Not only why she was able, but why was she willing to go so far?  The answers to these questions are all revealed in this episode.  When Saori was a kid, she was shy and isolated, with no one in particular who cared for her or she cared for.  That was when her older sister forcibly invited her to the outside world and taught her 'how to swim,' ie, how to get along and make friends with people.  From the very beginning, her older sister Kaori warned her that she only had a limited interest in anime and video games and would be gone again in two or three years.  So she wanted Saori to be someone who could be social and enjoy herself even without her when that time came.  That's why she ignored her and made her reach out to other people in order to have fun.

When Kaori and all her friends moved off because they were older and busy with adult things, Saori was alone again, but with one critical difference.  She had already learned A) the importance of friends, B) what made her happy, and C) how to get along with others, even if they were a bit strange.  (This goes back to the theme that character flaws can be overcome by love, so the only real character flaw that keeps people apart is lack of love, that's what everyone needs to learn to overcome.  Sort of like the lack of love critics of Oreimo show to this series they can't possibly begin to understand or appreciate.)  When Kanata points this out to her, that she isn't really alone because she now has the strength and the will to achieve her objectives, Saori agrees and says she wants to pass down her love of anime to others and make new friends, just like Kaori-oneesan passed the gift down to her when she was friendless.  So she found the two people with the most difficult personalities without any friends and befriended them, becoming the guardian angel that had once previously saved her.  Passing the torch, and getting a new group of friends as a bonus.  When Kaori returned to see how Saori was doing years later, she found Saori having fun with her new friends enjoying anime, and with a smile said she apparently wasn't needed anymore.  She left a birthday present behind, but the real present was the strength she had left in the shy Saori's heart when she was still a kid.  By now, even Saori had realized the kindness behind her sister's actions and embraced them with gratitude.  The ep ends with a gorgeous picture of Kuroneko and Kirino cosplaying, and one more piece of the Oreimo puzzle solved.

Episode 4:  Episode 4 begins with the introduction of a new character, Ria.  She's the girl who was Kirino's roommate in America and the girl Kirino beat in a track race before being willing to fly back home to Japan.  She's only 12 years old, which is why Kirino, who couldn't keep up with the other track specialists at the training camp, could just barely beat her and get at least a semblance of honor to her disastrous stay overseas.  Ria doesn't see it that way, though, and is still frustrated that the 'loser' Kirino was able to beat her even once.  As former roommates, they're not only rivals, but best friends, so coming to visit Kirino in Japan serves a dual purpose.

So far so good.  But at this point Cart Driver goes ballistic and starts shredding the series apart as abysmal in every way.  What exactly is Oreimo's sin?  Ria, you see, at 12 years old and a little eccentric, lacks modesty and doesn't mind being seen naked or getting all touchy-feely with other people.  She doesn't know what she's doing, like Eve in the Garden of Eden before eating the forbidden fruit.  This results in a series of continuous 'ecchi' mishaps involving Ria, Kirino and Kyosuke.  Mishap 1, Kyosuke sees Ria nude.  Mishap 2, he then sees Kirino nude chasing after Ria.  Kirino is angry about both situations, calling him a lolicon on one hand and having disgraced her on the other.  Kyosuke says he isn't to blame for either and isn't attracted to either of them anyway so it shouldn't matter.  ((You would think this would put to rest the 'Kyosuke is madly in lust with his little sister' theory and the 'incest right around the corner' theory, but apparently not.))  This doesn't satisfy Kirino because it still lacks delicacy.  In one sense, it's as though he's saying she's unattractive, which would hurt any girl.  In another, it's as though he doesn't care about her hurt feelings, even if they are irrational, which is cruel.  His insensitive nature just makes her more angry about the whole situation.

When Kirino is angry, she not only hits Kyosuke, she throws out insults non-stop without actually meaning any of them.  This is why she continuously calls him a lolicon all episode long, because it's a convenient insult given how often Ria clings to him, and she's upset about what's going on around the house.  She's also doing it as a security measure.  As the person who invited Ria over to her house, it's her responsibility that nothing happens between Ria and Kyosuke.  As Ria is a 12 year old, Kirino is especially anxious to be a proper guardian, which Ria makes especially difficult due to her personality.  By continuously calling Kyosuke a lolicon, she hopes to dissuade Ria from being nude all the time and all touchy feely with him -- not because she genuinely distrusts her brother, but because it's her duty to protect Ria from her own bad behavior.  Kirino can't bring herself to punish Ria for acting badly around her brother, because she's her guest and will be gone shortly, so every time Ria misbehaves she breaks it up by punishing her brother instead.  This is the principle of 'the whipping boy.'  If there's someone who, for whatever reason, cannot be harmed, all you can do is harm someone else nearby until the original actor stops.  If the immune-to-punishment person has even a little bit of empathy, she'll realize the harm she's doing and stop the moment the whipping boy starts getting whipped.  Kirino's chastisements of Kyosuke throughout this episode are expressly for this purpose, and actually do succeed each time in getting Ria to stop whatever she's doing.  The moment Ria's gone, Kirino drops the rough treatment except as a parting joke and then resumes her normal cheerful behavior.  She even gives him a happy smile for his 'siscon' comment he gave earlier.  That's her genuine feeling, not a suspicious jealous paranoid blah blah blah like people who can't seem to grasp Kirino's psychology continue to blabber on about.  Apparently this series is simply quantum physics to them and is beyond their comprehension levels to the point of all being Greek.  For people too stupid to understand the true motivations of people's words and deeds, who can only read what's going on on the very surface, I guess Oreimo is just too tough for them to enjoy.  But for, you know, people who regularly read Dostoeveskey, who talks all the time about how many different wheels and springs there are behind a person's motivations, hidden layer after hidden layer propelling them to do things they don't really want or mean, Oreimo fits in just fine.  Oreimo is literature too, after all, since it's originally a light novel series.  People need to grow up and learn how to read.

Another "oh incest" rumor is centered around the scene where Kirino is seen in her panties over and over.  This is due to Ria messing around with Kirino, another symptom of her lack of modesty overflowing into a lack of consideration for other girls' modesty as well.  Kyosuke can't help but look at such scenes, but he doesn't start thinking "whee incest I'm sure pumped," afterwards, instead he sighs and wishes Kirino were more ladylike and would guard herself better from such unfortunate accidents.  This again is direct evidence against the incest theory.  Now, you could instead complain that a character like Ria should have never happened, but ecchi is no big deal and can be found in practically every anime on Earth.  It sells well and there's no harm in it so it shouldn't be a big deal.  Maybe if you were 14 and just the mention of panties sends you blushing and giggling from the room I could see having a fit over it, or if you were a puritan nun from the 1600's, but for people alive in the post-sexual revolution, all I can say is grow up, this is the world we live in today.

Ria is not just a vehicle for fanservice accidents, however.  There's a lot more to her role that helps characterize both Kirino and Kyosuke.  When Ria says she came all this way to find out why Kirino was able to run so much faster on the day she won than ever before, Kirino makes a fantastic answering speech.  "I just wasn't myself over there.  In the end, I couldn't abandon everything I loved -- my friends, my family, or my hobbies.  I'm only myself if I have them all, so as myself I'm now strong enough to beat you."

The next moment Kyosuke makes a badass speech.  His previous jealousy of his little sister's ridiculous abilities in all fields has long since been forgiven, and now he just feels the desire to support her and cheer her on as far as she can go.  Of course, he did this for her when he prostrated himself to the anime producers to make the anime adaption of Kirino's light novel the way she asked them to adapt it, but at the time Kirino wasn't there and never learned of it.  This was the first time he had ever made his feelings clear to Kirino that he no longer resents her, but in fact loves her both for how great she is and for how hard she works to be great.  That was the meaning behind his saying he was a 'siscon, not a lolicon.'  It meant he was cheering for Kirino, not Ria, to win the race.  Not that he was sexually interested in sisters, but that he had fallen for the hard working imouto who was challenging a much better sprinter on the race track with all she had.  It's clear as day that's what he meant by it, because that was how everyone took it.  Only sick-in-the-head western viewers managed to interpret the speech a different way from the characters in the actual story who were there and so would know what they actually meant.

Ria also tries to inform Kyosuke how much Kirino likes him, but he refuses to believe it.  His state of denial is understandable, however, given how often she hits and insults him even within this episode, so it can be forgiven.  Then there's a stunning 'plot twist' at the end of the episode where Kirino asks him to be her boyfriend.  Obviously she wouldn't ask in such a direct and random manner out of the blue like that if she meant it.  Therefore, she's only asking him to 'pretend' to be her boyfriend for some ulterior purpose.  Anyone with two brain cells could realize this just from her tone of voice, but yet again we have westerners screaming in agony as though the world had just exploded.  The next episode will reveal what she meant just like how in Da Capo Mako only asked Asakura to pretend to be her boyfriend to chase off a stalker.  I'm not asserting that Kirino will never want Kyosuke to be her boyfriend, or that Kyosuke will never want Kirino to be his girlfriend.  But at this point in time, it's obvious neither have such feelings for each other, nor would they be willing to express them even if they did.  Anyone can see that, and so the next episode must be about something else.  If we wait patiently a few more days, we'll all get to find out, and yet again this incest panic can subside.

Since I've shown throughout every episode that the production value of every episode is the highest imaginable, and that the content is thoughtful, funny, exciting and heartfelt, there is no possible way to dislike this series except for the 'incest' calumny.  There is no way anyone dislikes this series on the merits.  Even if they say they do, they're lying, because their claims are totally baseless and they like series with far lower production values and far less thought out plot developments than exist in Oreimo.  There's nothing wrong with anything else in the series.  Which brings us back to incest.

Oreimo isn't the only series people hate on for having 'incest.'  Da Capo revolves around the theme constantly, and is great precisely because it does so.  Asakura and Nemu are step-brother and step-sister, who have lived together since childhood, but they aren't really related.  The troublesome feelings this causes when they realize they love each other romantically is a beautiful story.  Even Nemu's love rival in Da Capo, Sakura, is Asakura's cousin and thus another tale of 'forbidden incest.'  In Da Capo II as well, Yoshiyuki was raised as a step-brother to Nemu and Otome, and again they fell in love romantically at the end.  And in Da Capo III, Charles Yoshino, who lives with Kiyotaka, is Kiyotaka Yoshino's cousin and again is romantically in love with him.  To disapprove of Oreimo's incest, which in fact doesn't even exist, would also mean discarding Da Capo.  But if you discard Da Capo, you've punched a hole in a painting by Monet.  It's about the worst thing you can do in life.

Nor is it just Da Capo.  In Umineko, the main character Battler is playfully attracted to both his female cousins and flirts with them.  Kyon from Haruhi Suzumiya's first love was his cousin.  Nayuki from Kanon is Yuichi's cousin and had an unrequited love for him.  ((Of course, in the visual novel it's perfectly possible to make this love requited.  Does this mean Kanon also has to go?  Now we've lost #11, #12 and #13 from our best anime ever list.))  Nisemonogatari has an entire incestuous sex scene as one of its premiere episodes, and there's continuous incestuous flirting throughout the series between Koyomi and his two sisters (though one of them is actually an unrelated dark phoenix cuckoo bird, that one wasn't even the one he almost made love to in a fit of passion, so that doesn't get you very far.)  Bakemonogatari happens to be the most popular anime series in Japan, and is hailed by anime fans all across the world as sophisticated and deep.  Shall we discard it too?  How about Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai?  Sora is Yuuta's adopted daughter, even though they only have an age difference of four years, and she's in love with her 'father.'  Does this story have to go too?  Never mind the touching tale of adopted family being stronger than even the real thing when these girls really needed help and had lost everything except each other on the very first episode?  In Evangelion, Shinji is in love with Rei, who loves him back, but is also a genetic clone of his mother.  Evangelion was hailed worldwide as a landmark anime that 'changed everything.'  Shall we ditch it too?  Akaneiro ni Somaru Saka features the romantic love of a brother and sister that slowly came to realize their feelings for each other as they lived alone together that ended only right before their love was consummated.  I guess it has to go too?  In Bastard, Luche Rin Rin is Youko's little brother but also Dark Schneider, an ancient godlike being who happens to be her lover.  I guess Bastard is out too.  Sword Art Online's entire second arc is about a couple that has lived together as brother and sister, while actually just being cousins, Kirito and Suguha.  They get along so well together and fit each other so well it's almost painful watching Suguha agonize over her romantic love for her brother she cannot have.  When she ultimately confessed to him because she couldn't hide her feelings for him anymore, because they were tearing her apart, Kirito rejected her not on the basis that incest was wrong and she was a sinner.  He didn't call her a filthy person not suitable for the light of day.  He said that he'd already fallen for someone else, just like he would've said to any other girl who approached him.  He promised Suguha that he wouldn't shut her out of his life anymore or deny her love for him, and that they could stay family and friends for the rest of their lives, even better than before.  Sword Art Online is the most popular light novel series in Japan right now and one of the most popular anime series in the world.  Does Sword Art Online also have to go?  Here's my point -- incest isn't a big deal in Japan.  Yes, they admit it causes problems and is generally a bad idea.  But they also think it's just one more obstacle true love must sometimes overcome, and that it's a natural thing that just happens even to the best of people.  If you become a fanatical hater of incest and wish it purged from Oreimo, and if your only objection to Oreimo is that it might somehow be hinting that a romantic relationship between a brother and sister might not be such a bad idea (even though it never actually does such a thing), then you can't stop at just Oreimo.  The entire anime industry is a hateful filthy business that should be burned down to the ground, and in addition, all of Japan should be incinerated by nukes for continuing to pump out such filthy, perverted, evil stories that keep encouraging incest to all the innocent children of the planet.

God's green Earth cannot abide the incest of Oreimo, and so the Japanese people must be rounded up into gas chambers and exterminated.

Or, you know, we could just get over our stupid taboos and love these people for who they are, rather than hating them for who they love.  And then we could, you know, enjoy practically every single good work of art that comes out of Japan, and strive to be more like them.  A country which, by the way, doesn't have particularly high incest rates, but does have some of the most stable families in the world, the lowest levels of STD's in the world, the lowest levels of crime and rape in the world, and so on.  Showing again and again and again that they are, in fact, the least perverted and the least sexually dysfunctional people on Earth.  Is it really despite their culture that excuses incest and constantly shows ecchi scenes of cute girls in panties or bath tubs?  Or is it, just maybe, because they've long since transcended our stupid nonsense, and their culture is a reflection of this fact that freedom doesn't immediately lead to vice?  Or could it be that these sorts of cultural works of art actually immunize them from the real deal, to the point that nobody over there needs to indulge in such activities in real life anymore?  Whichever theory is true, it is an indisputable fact that depictions of incest, erogames, ecchi anime and all the rest have done absolutely no harm sexually to anyone in Japan, no matter how many people watch it, for no matter how many years.  Since they've proven through their actual behavior to not be perverted, who are we to judge what the hell they write about, and who are we to decide if they're mentally twisted or not?  All I see from the crime rates and rape rates around the world says the exact opposite.  We're the ones who can't get out of the gutter, and we're the ones who seize little Japanese girls and gang rape them on our military bases, while they watch helplessly our feral beasts rampage through their peaceful towns.  Who needs to reform who here?  Who exactly needs to change in this equation?  Anime fans, or anime haters?  Who really is the source of the pus of this world?

As for me, I'm going to continue watching and enjoying Ore no Imouto 2.  Everyone else can go have a drunken fling, get an abortion, cheat on and then divorce their husband, date ten boys in ten months falling in love and having sex with all ten of them, or go on a rape spree.  Apparently, everything else in America is forgivable, but Ore no Imouto 2 is beyond the pale.  Moral posturers and squawkers all, trying to get a sense of superiority over a people infinitely superior to themselves.  The whole sorry farce of it all makes me sick.

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