It’s been a quality spring season despite a somewhat rocky start, and there’s been a lot to think and talk about. Way too much in fact. Even talking generally about singular shows – like about OreImo 2 – seems like such an impossibly colossal task for a single post at this point – halfway across the season. I had to force myself to make a focus, and after reading some conflicting opinion on OreImo 2 ep 7 (and the nth Kirino-hating post), I’ve decided to bring out my own take on the Kirino-Kyousuke-Kuroneko dynamic leading up to, and in the wake of episode 7, and fling it out into the chaos out there.
Hey, it’s good to have opinion variety, no?
I should probably put it out there right off the bat that I consider Kirino my favorite OreImo character at this point. Not a popular position I know, and in fact not a position that I held for most of season 1 either. But I’ve come round – I think she’s a pretty fascinating character, and in her own ways endearing. Kyousuke should know:
“Always giving her best”, “finding interest in a lot of things, and pursuing them wholeheartedly”. Also, importantly: “Thanks to you, there’s a lot more fun in my life”. I think it’s important to think about the kind of existence Kirino is to Kyousuke, which mirrors the kind of impact Kirino obliviously exerts onto the lives of the people close to her. Consider these lines during the race with Ria in episode 4:
Right now, Kirino is being cornered by someone far better than her.
Just like I once was… when my little sister beat me, overwhelmed me, in everything I did.
But. She isn’t running away like I did. She’s facing her.
She’s facing her head-on, and struggling her hardest…
I think there is an interesting reversal of roles in effect here, where Kirino the younger sibling is not only incontrovertibly more accomplished than Kyousuke, but also the target of his admiration for her attitude and spirit. I think this is important – that Kirino is someone Kyousuke fundamentally respects and looks up to. I think this has a lot to do with the way Kyousuke behaves and all the crazy antics he has pulled throughout the show. Being able to do something for Kirino, even being relied upon by Kirino, is probably both a gratifying feeling and also a chance at reaching out into something beyond himself. Sans Kirino, Kyousuke would probably have simply been, as he calls himself, a simple, average high school student. But Kirino’s existence, and with her the constant pressure of living alongside someone accomplished, as well as the given chance to be of positive help to someone he looks up to, in all likelihood compels him to go further, to go beyond his better judgment and do things outside of his comfort zone. Being able to be of help to his sister probably gives him a kind of validation, a kind of “I may never be as accomplished in my life, but I am able to contribute positively, I can be of help to my sister” – almost a kind of transcendence you could say, over his relative mediocrity. I think Kyousuke came to form something of an emotional reliance on this, and that likely at least partially explains why, the instant Kirino leaves for America, he compulsively launches into fussing over Kuroneko, as well as why he ended up so restless at being mostly ignored by Kirino at the beginning of season 2.
It’s probably arguable whether or not Kyousuke is actually infatuated with Kirino romantically on top of all of that, but I think it’s fairly clear that Kirino at least is pretty infatuated with Kyousuke. Overall I think that Kirino is one of the more straightforward characters in the show, but in this particular regard alone she seems to be constantly unable to communicate, or perhaps even decide, her feelings, seeding the constant ‘bridge-too-far’ dynamic between her and her brother. It is likely that she is a little in denial about her feelings for Kyousuke, especially since she could hardly be unaware of its incestuous implications (why hello elephant in the room), but I think these last few episodes should have made it pretty clear to us the viewers at least. Kirino is in love with Kyousuke. Even Kuroneko describes the extent of her own feelings for Kyousuke as “as strongly as your little sister loves you”.
I think it’s important not to sweep this under the rug, and to actually keep in mind that a Kirino-Kyousuke thread is spun firmly into the OreImo web – incestuous implications and all. So I think it is good that the narrative did not simply take a clean nose-dive into a Shironeko girlfriend arc. The existing Kirino-Kyousuke dynamics and lingering loose ends need to be given some sort of resolution. I thought it was really nice that the whole fake-boyfriend arc concluded with Kirino essentially telling Kyousuke to go out with Kuroneko. I think it casts a gentler light on the messy affairs preceding that point, and hints at a Kirino that had been gradually struggling to come to terms with the idea of Kyousuke being with another girl – eventually succeeding. On the other side of things Kyousuke must have come off the whole thing with a somewhat clear idea of, at the very least, how Kirino feels seeing him being flirty with the other haremettes. And the collective of all of that, leads to what I consider a very palpable Kuroneko confession scene.
We should also take a moment to consider what the Kirino-Kuroneko relationship is like. While Kirino’s feelings towards Kuroneko is fairly straightforward – a close friend with shared interests that nonetheless needs to be constantly battled because of her anime preferences (and her tendency to flirt with Mr Kyousuke), things are likely more complicated on the Kuroneko side. Like with Kyousuke, Kirino’s talent and tendency to succeed (especially with regards to her novel and anime) likely exerts a kind of unwitting pressure on Kuroneko. On the one hand inspiring her to work harder and assert herself in the season 1 OVAs – as well as likely manifesting as something of a minor inferiority complex when she, being her perceptive self, understood that the principal rival for her love interest was this person whom she grudgingly envies and admires.
And with all of the above as context we can watch the unspoken threads of thought unfold during Kuroneko’s confession, and ride the emotional roller coaster it entails. When Kuroneko blurted her confession, Kyousuke was clearly thinking about the episode with his sister and her “boyfriend”, and knowing better than to just leap headfirst into a romantic entanglement right after that. And yet on the other hand we can see Kuroneko clearly choking on her own heart, knowing that this was the moment of reckoning, of whether or not she could shake the shadow of Kirino in the heart of the one she loves. It was almost unbearable to see her tears beginning to well at Kyousuke’s uncomfortable silence. But the grace with which she recovered (and her delicious scathing demand that Kyousuke kneel) says something about the strength of her character. She wasn’t going to give up lying down, and I thought the whole thing that followed: Kyousuke kneeling on the floor as Kuroneko flouts the fortes of going out with her, then passionately wording her heartfelt adoration, and Kyousuke’s smile, was all very nice and suffused with something like a mutual affection between the two, as well as with feelings and personalities uniquely their own. In particular that final head-on-floor dogeza, that’s Kyousuke down to a T.
There are also a few things to say about this part where Kirino effectively gives her blessing. Firstly, it’s really kind of cute how Kyousuke sort of droops and blurts that he’d probably cry if Kirino got a real boyfriend. It’s like the most uncool thing to say possible, but that’s the business Kyousuke is in in this show. This time in particular though I think it was an incredibly apt thing to say, since the true situation is actually reversed: Kyousuke is the one that is going to get a real girlfriend, and it’s easy to imagine that Kirino will probably be the one to end up doing some crying over that. Perhaps the knowledge that Kyousuke would have done the same – would have held back his own unhappiness for the sake of her happiness, and simply cried – would serve as a kind of consolation for Kirino. It’s also interesting that Kirino is able to give her blessings like that in the first place, as that would imply that, in all likelihood, Kuroneko has actually talked this out with Kirino already. Quoting Kyousuke and Kuroneko’s conversation at the end of ep6 right before the confession scene proper:
Kyousuke: Kirino says she wants to redo the party tomorrow.
Kuroneko: She told me last night on the phone.
Kyousuke: Oh yeah, I did hear her talking for awhile.
She looked relieved. So you two made up, huh?
In all likelihood, they did more than just make up and plan a party. I think it says something nice about the friendship between Kuroneko and Kirino that things could culminate in this way. Kuroneko’s confession and Kyousuke’s eventual acceptance I think is something of a special moment for a series like OreImo. Although – this being OreImo – I can certainly see more trainwreck drama coming our way in the following episodes, right now at least there exists a rare stretch of synchrony and mutual understanding between our principal characters. It is a palatable thing.
I couldn’t resist dropping a side-mention for Manami, who is really quite amazing. You never sense a trace of jealousy or envy from the girl, even though she’s probably been the most obvious member of the harem since forever. That steadfast smile as she gives Kyousuke her honest advice. Sometimes Kyousuke does seem like something of a lucky bastard.
It’s also nice that they spent some time closing out the minor abrasions in their “circle”. Saori totally deserved that apology. I could probably spend a full separate post talking about this circle, but for the time being it suffices to say that I think this is another important part of the equation of their lives balanced and closed out. I cringed a little at Kyousuke and his bikini-Kirino wallpaper antics – that’s probably his patently uncool way of affirming the importance of Kirino’s existence to himself, right on the eve of accepting Kuroneko’s confession. But man, it’s just… the dumbest thing in the universe to do in front of the girl who just confessed to you. Fortune of fortunes though, Kuroneko is too smart and perceptive to be blindsided by that one, so things proceeded smoothly, and we have ourselves our new couple.
On the whole, I liked the episode, thought it was all fairly well handled: the whole transition into Kyousuke and Kuroneko finally getting together officially. Of course, it won’t be Kyousuke if he didn’t completely blow his first day as Kuroneko’s boyfriend, but I thought the little episode between them at the end was very cute. It’s kind of endearing that Kuroneko still keeps lapsing into her chuunibyou talk when she gets embarrassed – heaping on the mystique over all the embarrassing things she does as if it could cover up the cuteness. Awesome. I look forward to plenty more of that in the episodes to come.
(And yes, I happen to have read the semi-spoilerific tweets and comments hinting at the eventuality of this whole affair, but I’m going to pretend I never saw any of that)