It just wouldn’t be Oreimo 2 if it didn’t make me cringe or howl with outrage at least once or twice, but this episode definitely delivered more on the positive side of the ledger than any this season. As for our hero, Kyousuke has descended deep into the pit of creepy losers this season – or maybe he was just as much a creepy loser in S1 and I just didn’t see it – but I almost forgive all of it when he said “You want to touch my boobs, too?” That was definitely the hardest I’ve laughed at Oreimo this season.
Is it a coincidence that this was the ep in which Kirino appeared the least and also the best of the season? No, but for all the temptation to be a smart-ass about it, there’s a lot more to the issue than it seems. Yes, Kirino is annoying and extremely unlikable, but the real issue is twofold. First, her presence turns Kyousuke into the most disgusting and pathetic version of himself. Seriously, that wallpaper – just what the hell are you thinking? Second, Kirino’s presence crowds out all the elements of the series that are far more appealing. She’s a big, powerful and disruptive presence, and when she’s on stage there’s just no chance for anyone or anything else to flourish. There’s a saying about multi-candidate races in politics – “There’s only so much oxygen in the room”. And Kirino sucks up most of it when she’s inside.
With Kirino largely absent, all the other elements that make Oreimo a much more pleasurable experience get a chance to breathe. First and most obviously there’s Kuroneko, whose nascent romance with Kyousuke takes center stage this week. But there’s also stuff like a conversation between Kyousuke and Manami, whose relationship has a different dynamic than any other in the series. And there’s the club, which provided some of the best moments of the first season in the BD extra eps (not coincidentally, with Kirino absent) but has been almost entirely forgotten this year. For pure comedy the clubroom might be the most consistently entertaining setting in Oreimo, and this episode was no exception. I’m not sure the addition of Kirino’s beard Mikagami really brings anything to the mix, but it doesn’t ruin it either, and he does prompt a funny moment when he states his astonishment that Kyousuke isn’t in fact doing his sister, and an important plot driver when he spills the beans about Kyousuke’s comment that he wanted to touch his girlfriend’s boobs.
The centerpiece of the episode – and of the series, for now – is of course Shironeko’s confession to Kyousuke, or rather its aftermath. There’s no two ways about it – Ruri is a highly appealing character, plain and simple. She’s funny, she’s cute (chuunibyou has never been more winning), and she’s fundamentally kind despite her tastes in fantasy. In many ways she and Kyousuke dating couldn’t be more logical – yet, I can’t shake the conviction that he’s going to royally screw it up. We have way too much time left in the series for things to go smoothly, first of all. And while I’d like to believe Oreimo has come to its senses and set aside incest as a credible alternative, I’m not sold – I think that ugliness is still to be heard from. Kirino encouraging Kyousuke to accept Kuroneko’s confession – and his doing so – is all well and good, but I still think the two of them are obsessed with each other to an unhealthy degree. Call is sexual or not, I don’t think they’re capable of extracting themselves from it to the degree necessary for either of them to have a healthy romantic relationship with anyone else.
I’ll say this for Ruri, though – it may be pretty bogus for a girl to call her boyfriend “Senpai” but she’s darn good at confessing. It’s pretty rare in anime to see a character so open and straightforward about what they want, and she was certainly unambiguous in her “greater than the stars and stronger than death” declaration of love. Ruri is a very naive and innocent girl in many ways, and Kyosuke obviously a complete neophyte when it comes to relationships, so even setting aside the incest elephant in the room I think these two would be in for a rocky start. The thing is, as much of a pathetic specimen as Kyousuke can be, he’s not malicious – he wants to do the right thing and he’s not intentionally trying to hurt anybody. So who knows, maybe there’s a chance this thing can beat the odds and work – but even if it does I suspect there are going to be several fits and starts on the way. If that proves to be the meat of the remaining episodes, I’ll be more than satisfied – but I have serious doubts it will be.