Victims, Persecutors, and Little Sisters

This post was meticulously filed under Anime on January 2, 2011 – 8:10 pm
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So I normally only maintain reading a couple of other anime blogs (because there are lots and lots of anime blogs out there and only one Dustin), but apparently on a few of them (blogs that are quite a bit more popular than mine) there has been a lot of controversy over Ore no Imouto. Apparently it is commonly known that “Kirino is a bitch”. I’ve recently read a couple of defenses of Kirino’s character that weren’t very convincing, yet surprising more convincing than the one line statement the opposition is throwing around. Thus you suddenly have a stereotypical “pick your side” kind of argument. In one corner you have the people who apparently like her character and thus want to defend her and in the other you have a group of people who really disliked her and are squaring all of their blame for their dislike of the anime on her. In either case you have arguments trying to bring intelligent sounding proof for a defense of her personality. I find that I’m less interested in how people would classify her though and more interested in the question of whether or not it matters how anybody classifies her. However, I’m suckered, I have to say something now that I’ve read them because there is something about it that is just deliciously self-defeating and ironic.

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Frankly, I’m finding myself happy that I don’t frequent these blogs that often, because honestly arguments like this annoy the crap out of me. In defense of Kirino, regardless of my personal feelings on how I would react to her as a real person, she certainly was an interesting character. She was more physically abusive than I’ve really ever seen siblings, but at the same time this was a lot of what made her interesting. She came to depend on her brother, but he was often undependable in the ways she needed. Kirino needed someone who didn’t only accept her, but could see all of her–The person she is, and the person she could be—and still accept her. As much as people will blame her for that it’s a very common desire to be able to take off your mask in front of at least one person and find that they still love and respect you. Kirino ended up having to play a part at school and in many ways this made her far more realistic of a character than I’ve ever seen portrayed in anime: She was dramatic, she was unnecessarily emotional at inopportune times, she wasn’t all that self-aware, and she wore her masks surprisingly well. Kyosuke wanted to be helpful, but in the end he couldn’t provide what she needed from him and this lead to the seemingly overblown conflict. Frustrated she showed her frustration in arguably the worst ways. However, although this might make her a bad person (but not necessarily) this does not make her a bad character. Arguably in the anime institution, as it exists now, this makes her a unique character as she doesn’t quite fit into character archetypes. Actually in many ways I’m grateful that the anime didn’t follow the manga (with which I quickly grew bored and stopped reading) all that closely because they didn’t rely on her two-dimensional character to define all of her interactions.

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Now Kirino as a character is different from Kirino as one half of several of the relationships that ended up defining the sentiment that Kirino is a bitch. The worst relationship of course being Kirino and Kyosuke which is partially defined above, but other than that interaction I didn’t really find other characters had a particularly difficult time dealing with Kirino. As I said above she wore her masks well except with respect to Kuroneko, but this was also an intentionally dissonant relationship. The entire point, and what made the dynamic interesting, of the Kirino-Kuroneko character interactions was a similar obsession that wasn’t shared. They were similar types of characters in one respect but the wide division of interest within the very large anime genre created a disagreement that they sometimes blew out of proportion. However, it’s important to notice that it took both sides stubbornness to fuel this argument as Saori, who easily caved to both parties, was able to easily get along with both. But perhaps surprisingly to some and not so surprisingly to others: It wasn’t Saori that Kirino often chose to hang out with. They both [Kuroneko and Kirino] had some level of respect for the other’s passions, and as frustrated as they might be they really wanted to make the other see what they found so obsession worthy. Unfortunately, one other person ended up creating a conflict that could not so easily be brushed off and unfortunately this person was our main character and narrator apparent, Kyosuke. Kuroneko was jealous of Kirino for having a brother like Kyosuke and very obviously thought Kirino took it for granted. Kirino sensing the barbs behind the not so subtle comments of Kuroneko reacted the way anyone does when being attacked or called ungrateful: aggressively defensive. If Kyosuke was out of the picture the relationship would still have had its problems, but the disagreements would have been so shallow they could easily be very good friends. Kyosuke, however, made the disagreement not shallow and the two of them began picking on each other on a personal level. I would argue that half the reason people found Kirino so insufferable was a direct result of this conflict. As we project on Kuroneko (who is almost impossible not to like) we find her own situation sympathetic and thus take her anti-Kirino stance with regards to her seemingly ungrateful treatment of Kyosuke.

Now, I’m not going to say Kirino didn’t deserve this treatment, but it sure seemed like in the anime—at least among the anime group of friends—it was everybody against Kirino. It’s hard to feel sympathetic when everyone is teaming up against one person and even though she was probably in the wrong on most occasions we as the viewers ended up in a semi-riled up mob mentality in places like the Christmas party where Kirino wanted to be Kirino but everyone was calling her out for being an ungrateful bitch. It’s tough not to agree with the narrator, it’s tough to not agree with someone as rational (and cute) as Kuroneko, but I have to say in many respects Kyosuke butted into those situations in a very unfortunate way. Though the Christmas party was for him I have a hard time imagining myself in Kirino’s position. She has finally found some people to be friends with who are also into anime and in many respects they seem more interested in her brother (and quite frankly like her brother better). Where do you think Kirino’s “Stay away from my friends!” line comes from? As counter intuitive as this might be at first she cannot win against her brother. Think about it: She’s great looking, a model, an athlete, a novelist, and many other things that stir up a ton of envy in her friends from the get go. I’ve seen the argument several times that she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. This might be true, but think about what this means for all of her interactions from there onwards. No matter how hard she actually tries, or how much people take notice of her effort they will always assume that her life in many respects is great and their lives aren’t as good so what does she have to complain about? Compared to her normal, seemingly undervalued brother, who do you think people will have sympathy for? The answer is of course Kyosuke, and besides her “closest” friends at school (which I think you can understand now why Kirino painted such a horrendous image of Kyosuke to her friends) the other characters almost always take Kyosuke’s side for his sympathetic nature. This is frustrating! This is so very frustrating for Kirino as there is almost nothing she can do while he continues to play the sacrificing saint of a brother he seems to be. Kirino can’t really get her friendship off the ground with Kuroneko as long as this is maintained and Kirino doesn’t know how to beat it. Honestly, as badly as Kirino has handled things I have seen worse: Take the Romans/Jews crucifying Jesus (oh man this might get me some hate, but nobody likes a saint when they’re being compared to one [except for other saints] :P). In many ways Kirino has still made Kyosuke into a martyr (and I think I’ve even heard this word tossed around), but when I start coming at the relationships from this perspective I have a lot of sympathy for Kirino. On one hand she loves her brother Kyosuke and wants his approval, on the other hand she absolutely loathes the way he makes her look in comparison: Especially to her friends. (Aside: There is one relationship dynamic where this isn’t true and that’s with the parents. However, this only adds fuel to the fire as the parents should really love both of their children, but instead it appears as if they only really love Kirino. Thus once again Kyosuke is the victim.)

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With all that said I have reached the crux of my argument and whether you agree with me or not at this point I think it’s interesting to note how good the writing is to deliver characters of this depth. Whether or not Kirino is a bitch is completely irrelevant to the fact that Kyosuke makes her look like one. What’s worse: he makes her look like one in front of people she really wants to like her and as many viewers of this show have frequently noted it is very hard to like her when she’s standing next to Kyosuke (and stomping on his foot). I will further enforce this statement by saying that whenever Kirino is not in the direct/indirect presence of Kyosuke she is perfectly fine and has almost no unlikeable qualities. So in essence the relationship dynamic really revolves around Kirino loving her brother but absolutely hating his victimized image. She confronts him for being a victim, but of course this makes him into more of a victim. She wants him to be around and when he’s around she wants him to change, but he doesn’t. Thus, I challenge everyone who doesn’t like Kirino to spend a couple of days hanging out with people that make you look bad in comparison (especially if you’re also around your other friends) and see how you react. Truthfully when we find flaws in others it’s a relief as we no longer have to worry about measuring up.

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So I said at the beginning of this post that my personal feelings for Kirino didn’t matter, but I’ll state them anyways for arguments sake. Kirino is very unsympathetic: She gets almost everything she wants and the few things she doesn’t get (like the production company shooting down her ideas for anime) are things that a commoner like me feels no sympathy for. Even her lack of self-awareness makes it hard for me to empathize with her in the slightest. However, there are two places that I end up feeling sympathy for Kirino: One, I empathize with her hopeless situation of having to be what everyone expects her to be while hiding what she truly loves, and Two, I empathize with just how unsympathetic she ends up being to the judgmental masses which is us. I’m not going to lie; this sets up a strange anomaly with my like for the character. The more Kirino is persecuted on blogs and the more she’s called a bitch the more I sympathize with her and like her. When a character is disliked to this extent it becomes easier and easier to claim things like: “She’s just misunderstood.” Eventually pro Kirino people will feel themselves being persecuted and respond with angrily defensive posts (like this one) that have an odd flair of rational-irrational Kirino to them. Hence, the people who hate Kirino are persecuting the people who defend her in much the same way Kuroneko persecutes Kirino which leads to a reincarnation of the essence of the character’s disagreement within the blogosphere. The very people who claim to hate the way Kirino acts are creating the very relationship dynamic that they find despicable. Is this hilarious? Probably! Is this a sad reflection of human nature creating things to hate: Yes… yes it is.

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What can we learn from this blog post that is far too preachy and very dislikeable even from the writer’s standpoint? Discussion of anime, characters, likes, and dislikes is all OK! However, please keep your persecution to yourself. It really only creates the same defensive fight over and over and over again. Ore no Imouto should have taught you that ;).

(Edit: It has come to my attention that if I don’t have a brother-sister relationship I apparently know nothing about them. Well rest easy reader I have four sisters: Three older one younger and I’m the only male so I will pretend to have some semblance of knowledge about them. However, just because none of my relationships quite have this dynamic doesn’t mean I can’t pull some truth from my own to apply to this mess. In summary, yes Kirino and Kyosuke’s relationship is overblown but there is a strange feeling of familiarity I just can’t help but shake when they interact [Except for the sexual tension: That just doesn't exist in most brother sister relationships I know. Sorry dreamers!]).


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5 Comments

  1. Cloudless posted on January 3, 2011 at 3:20 am | Permalink

    Good post, I especially liked your point on the differences between Kirino and Kyousuke. It is true that when he is there with her, she only looks worse and I never thought the dichotomy between them that made her look even worse.

    I find it funny that she may be liked because she is the “underdog” so to speak when in the actual story that is the exact reason why the others liked Kyousuke. He’s a sloth compared to Kirino’s achievements and is victimized because of how successful Kirino is. And thus Kirino is hated because how victimized and likable Kyousuke is. How poetic.

    My main gripe with the story is that Kirino is too perfect. Too perfect, lucky, successful, everything. It becomes hard for me to suspend my disbelief while watching simply because of how everything works out for her, which is rather frustrating. I don’t know about how others thought about the whole anime production episode, but I was shaking my head when the producers gave in.

    If it makes any difference I think Kyousuke is a horrible older brother. He’s too indifferent and submissive to her. He’s more of an appeaser than a consultant. He’s not really that supportive when given the opportunity to and instead spoils her which I think worsens the situation. If anything he’s apathetic and Kirino saw that as acceptance (which I suppose can be the same thing).

    In conclusion I don’t like either of the main characters. Kuroneko should have been the main character. She has a little sister and she was too cute. It all works out.

  2. Dabookman posted on January 3, 2011 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    Whilst I have nothing of real value to add to this post (one main reason being stalled on the 3 ep), I shall add that these post are one of the main reasons I still frequent Yin no Piano. Great post Dustin, also the defensive post you linked was interesting to read. Anyway, enough ramble, look forward to more soon!

  3. Dustin posted on January 3, 2011 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    @Cloudless

    My main gripe with the story is that Kirino is too perfect. Too perfect, lucky, successful, everything. It becomes hard for me to suspend my disbelief while watching simply because of how everything works out for her, which is rather frustrating.

    I know what you mean… In some sense I feel like they were trying to set up a Haruhi-Kyon dynamic between the sister and brother (where things magically worked out for Haruhi) except they forgot the magic. While Haruhi’s incredible ability to always land on her feet (except with regards to Kyon) was inspired by the meta of the world (she was the god of it) Kirino has nothing. She’s just far to ridiculous for words and this was incredibly hard from the series as well. I watched it every week, but I think I said in my first Ika Musume post I didn’t really find anything really worth talking about. It was an ok anime, but nothing spectacular. It certainly isn’t worthy of how much some people rave about it nor was it the best anime of the year/season.

    If this anime had been focused on Kuroneko though I suppose I would have to flip all of my previous opinions. Kuroneko was a fantastic character and I loved when she was on screen. The couple times we actually flashed to her life were interesting in their own ways. Oh well, so it goes I suppose.

    This is actually a really good post that addresses that and some of what I talked about.

    @Dabookman

    Thanks for the praise. Sometimes I like writing posts like this, but I’m often afraid that it will draw unwanted attention from Trolls or people obsessed with a show like this. I like the atmosphere of Yin no Piano and all of the commentors that show up regularly. Although I do hope the number will increase someday (sigh) I certainly dislike the typical focuses of attention that drove me to even write a post like this. That said, Anime certainly hasn’t made it easy… As the seeming chief troller of the Kirino fandom put it: [most anime is] “sub-par otaku fap fodder intended for quick cash.” :P. As much as it pains to admit he had a point and it’s the same kind of stagnation that many have been grumbling about for years. Yet the grumbling sometimes makes us blind to the good things too. We’re so quick to look for stagnation that we miss some very decent things some animes do. It’s funny though, even though I said all of that I’ve yet to find a blog that didn’t like Shinyaku! Ika Musume. What is it about that show that makes everyone seem to agree.

  4. dai1313 posted on January 4, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    Kirino is a bitch.

    But that is why I like her.

    Stop and think for a moment about how the show would have been if she were not there. Many people complain about how the show would have been a lot better without her, but really NO.

    This anime would not have succeeded had it not been for Kirino. Had Kirino been nice to her brother people may have liked her more but not many people would be interested in the show.

    That thing that did annoy me as well as many others is not how she acted but it was that same

    My main gripe with the story is that Kirino is too perfect. Too perfect, lucky, successful, everything. It becomes hard for me to suspend my disbelief while watching simply because of how everything works out for her, which is rather frustrating.

    Well as perfect as we all say she was, she never really seemed to show it.

    Not once in the anime did Kirino do anything particularly clever. So I don't think that even in her own mind she would think about her brother as someone who makes her look bad, especially because she does not think much of him in the first place.

    Sometimes she's just downright dim. Not that that is a negative thing, we all are a bit slow some times but that is just normal. Putting aside the fact that she gets good test grades of course.

    She may be a beautiful model, but she can never show her true self to her friends. She hides her hobby from her family as well.

    She may be athletic, but she came to that point through hard work. To the point of considering to go train overseas. (I guess people run faster in distant lands)

    And most importantly, she is not confident in who she is. She is not completely happy with who she is.

    And I think that a big part of the anime is how these problems get resolved and her development as a character.

    But if she is believed to be perfect from the get-go then this whole idea flies right out the window.

    The brother is just supposed to be the catalyst for this but he, along with the rest of the cast was just to interesting for that.

    Everyone was more interesting than the main character. Everyone was only there in the first place because of the main character.

  5. Keiri posted on January 8, 2011 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Ahaha I admit it. I admit I am one of those narrow-minded persecutors who detests Kirino’s attitude whenever she’s around Kyousuke. I cringed when I saw her slap her brother. I cringed when I saw her punch him. I cringed when I saw her kick his crown jewels (even though I can’t relate and imagine how painful that was). Every time I saw her bash her brother, it made me wonder whether she could have vented her frustration in less painful and abusive ways because honestly, did Kyousuke deserve that amount of physical beating? If she hadn’t reacted like that towards Kyousuke, would it have made her look like the tyrant and him the victim? Come to think of it, who usually started it? Kirino reacting badly towards Kyousuke first or Kyousuke making her look like the bully and provoking her to react that way? Safe to say, perhaps it’s both and the two of them are equally accountable for the image they project to others. Also to echo Cloudless and Dai1313, I also found it frustrating how everything works out for Kirino somehow (I was especially appalled when the producers gave the green lit to all of her suggestions for her novel’s Anime adaptation).

    Of course me despising Kirino’s attitude when she’s around Kyousuke doesn’t mean I dislike her as a character ;). She’s actually the underlying reason why I enjoy watching OreImo and why I stick to it every week. To second Dai1313’s comments, she’s the main instigator of setting up most of the entertaining scenarios in the series. If it weren’t for Kirino, we wouldn’t be hearing epic quotes from Kuroneko like “Fine, let’s take it outside B!TCH”. If it weren’t for Kirino, we wouldn’t be getting hilarious twists like Manami checking out Kyousuke’s delicious p0rn and freaking him out with her “Would you like me to call you Oniichan from now on?” line. If it weren’t for Kirino, we wouldn’t be seeing all sorts of whack developments with her friends and peers that stemmed from her hobbies.

    I’ll state it right here and now that I detest Kirino’s treatment of Kyousuke and how a lot of things work out in her favor but my annoyance with her only goes this far. Looking at her from an objective point of view, she’s one well written individual that underwent a good deal of authentic character development. I like that kind of believable character. I like how she does take her experiences seriously and make the effort to change herself. I like the fact that she doesn’t stay stock and how that trait helps her build interesting relationship dynamics with the rest of the cast. I hope folks who dropped OreImo because of Kirino’s “b!tchiness” would reconsider picking it up again just to witness these subtle aspects within the series. I may not find OreImo a masterpiece but it was well heck entertaining where it counted.

    Thanks for that great write-up Dustin! It helped me place a finger on why I found the interactions between Kirino and Kyousuke annoying sometimes (that whole victim scenario) but all the same, it reinforced why I like watching OreImo in the first place! Btw, Kuroneko is my fave too. :D

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