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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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!]).