I don’t really know what to make of this episode as it relates to the rest of the series – it felt very much like a side story or extra. I’ve also never been much of a fan of the “give a character almost no development and then cram everything into one episode” approach, and that’s basically where we are with Saori. She’s been largely an accessory, and practically non-existent so far this season, so an entire ep dedicated to her backstory – though that’s welcome in itself – feels a bit out of place.
Then again, I like Saori a lot – in fact, she was the girl I pegged as the best match for Kyousuke when we first met the cast. Events since then have clearly demonstrated that she’s strictly sidekick material and there’s no possibility whatsoever of that happening, but I still quite like her – the eps where the story surrounds the trio of Saori, Ruri and Kyousuke have generally been the best. The funny thing is, we as an audience already knew more of Saori’s actual persona than her friends did, having seen her sans glasses and living the secret life of an ojou-sama. So this was a moment that was bound to happen, sooner or later.
There weren’t any big surprises in her tale, and the telling of it was respectably entertaining but quite forgettable. Turns out Saori was sucked into the otaku life by her rough-and-tumble older sister Kaori (Kuwashima Houko) for whom being rich allowed her to indulge her geek tendencies by keeping an apartment she called “Pretty Garden” filled with models, manga, cosplay goods and friends. Those would be “Prince of Darkness” – yes, another Chuunibyou character – Sanada Shin’ya (Katou Masayuki), tea master Hoshino (Yukari Tamura) and aspiring mangaka and presumably Kanako’s older sister Kanata (Kugimiya Rie in full-on Happy voice). It’s Kanata who really matters, because she was the old who included the shy and demure chibi-Saori in the fun and games and cultivated her inner otaku – even giving her the trademark glasses.
Oreimo is always on pretty safe ground when it waxes sentimental about the otaku life, and it’s a nice thought that Saori has assembled this new group of friends as a replacement for the one her sister assembled, and which broke apart (as these sorts of social circles are wont to do) when she married and moved overseas. Nothing here changes my opinion about Saori one way or the other – she always seemed like a nice person and still does, and one assumed she wasn’t always an Amazon. So I suppose in that sense the episode wasn’t strictly necessary especially in a one-cour series, though if we’re going to idle away 22 minutes I’d rather do it with Saori than Kirino’s insufferable friends.