I suppose there’s a rose-colored glasses effect, but I think I’ve tended to remember the things I loved about the first season of Oreimo more than the things I hated about it. Unfortunately the first two eps served as an ample reminder of the latter, although the first one at least wasn’t dominated by them. The weird thing is that even in a highly irritating episode like this one, there are also reminders of what I really liked.
If I’m disappointed in anything in these first two eps collectively, it’s that so little has seemingly changed in the character dynamic. Effectively both the “Good End” and “True End” might as well have never happened, because apart from a check-in with the club last week there’s no way you’d have been able to tell they head. I’m hoping for character growth, yes, but we’re seeing the sort of premise that could have come in the first half of the first season.
I’ll say right up front that Ayase is probably my least favorite character in Oreimo (though it’s a close race with Kanako) so I’m biased against this episode from the beginning. I find Kirino’s social circle (her exclusive one, not the one she shares with Kyousuke) to be pretty annoying on the whole, and Ayase especially is a chore to watch. I’ve never found her sort of abusive yandere antics especially funny, and her interactions with Kyousuke are unfailingly tedious because she brings out the worst in him as a character, too. A whole episode built around her jealousy of a virtual girlfriend? You could hardly craft a worse premise for me, but there must be large chunks of the fanbase who feel differently or these sorts of eps wouldn’t exist.
There is some funny stuff attached to the “Love Touch” gag, no doubt about it. First of all, is it really possible to have VN characters text you on with a smartphone app? The possibilities for RL mayhem abound, if so. As usual, one of the best things about Oreimo is the way it so perfectly captures the mindset of the enthusiast, poking fun at it without being cruel about it. Yes, what we want is to have someone to talk about the latest cool thing we’re hooked on – that’s where the real fun is, sharing the passion. And Manami doing her impersonation of Ayaka was highly amusing. Creepy, indeed – there’s a reason virtual girlfriends act differently than RL girlfriends.
I suppose it’s to Oreimo’s credit that it isn’t trying to cash in on the popularity of Kuroneko by featuring her more often, but I think there’s a reason why she’s so well-loved by the fans. It drives me a bit nuts to see she, Saori, the club members and Manami be largely absent from the first two episodes when they’re frankly both funnier and more interesting than what we’ve been given. It’s the paradox of this series – it’s a show of highs and lows, capable of soaring brilliance and grating mediocrity, often in the same episode. I can’t shake my belief that this was a better show when Kirino wasn’t in it, and the shadow of that hangs over everything that’s happening now. But even if we’re never going back to those carefree days, there are certainly ways that Oreimo can be Kirino-centric that serve the story better than what we got this week. Hopefully it won’t be long before we see some of them.