Words can hardly express how great that episode was – but this being a blog, I guess I have to try.
For starters, I can now officially say this series is not at all what I expected. Rather than focusing on incest and titillation a la “Kiss x Sis”, it turns out this is a really sharp slice-of-life focusing on healthy sibling love, friendship and otaku meta-humor. I stick by my B Gata H Kei comparison, in the sense that a show that looked shallow and exploitative turned out subtle and emotionally hefty.
Having been to Akiba each of the last two years, I have to admit I took real pleasure in seeing Animate! and Toranoana up there on screen, so faithfully depicted. But even more, I loved the sensitive and smart way the ep looked at what it means to be an otaku. Kirino surely is one, but she’s also a stone fox and a model – and thus, unwilling to jeopardize her relationship with her shallow friends to discuss her passion. Kyousuke, despite being no otaku himself, recognizes that what she needs is friends. So he encourages her to join an online club, which leads to an “IRL” meetup in a (perfectly captured – not that I’d know…) Akihabara maid cafe. Kyousuke really is a good brother – not only does he push Kirino down this healthy path, he even accompanies her to make sure she’s OK.
As for that meetup, “classic” doesn’t begin to do it justice. All of the club members seem interesting, but it’s the retro otaku Amazon Saori and the goth girl Kuroneko who stand out. Kirino can’t quite bring herself to blend in at the meeting, but Saori – who appears to be a total sweetheart and a possible love match for Kyousuke – invites the two shy girls and Kyousuke to an “after-party” at McDonalds (I would have liked to have seen Mos Burger). There, we get possibly the funniest conversation of the year – where Kirino argues her “Nanoha”-styled magical girl obsession against Kuroneko’s “Kuroshitsuji”-like Gothic stuff. Teen complex vs. Kids show, BL vs. Perverted men… Every note of the argument is dead-on, not least of which Kuroneko’s “Let’s take it outside, Bitch”. It’s funny as pure satire, but this scene works even better because it perfectly captures the earnest seriousness inherent in these kinds of arguments.
As we go forward I hope to see a more two-sided sibling relationship between Kirino and Kyousuke – he did finally finish hie first eroge, after all. Right now their relationship is a little pat – she treats him like garbage despite the fact that he clearly cares for her, the parents ignore him and dote on her, etc. But that’s really the only discordant note for me so far, and I suspect it’s an intentional one to leave lots of room for growth between them.