Day 2 – Discovering Otaku Culture Through Oreimo

Code Geass is otaku as all get out but there aren’t actually any otaku in it. The series certainly made me fall deeply in love with both it and anime as a whole but it was utterly incapable of introducing me to perhaps the most important part of otakudom: the broader culture. Furthermore, I couldn’t actually assign Code Geass’ traits to its place in a wider subculture, it was just a good time. In order to discover all this, I had to find a light novel adaptation, a work which valorizes its heroes for being fans of the very media being consumed. And for me, that work was Oreimo.

It’s hard to really explain how or why I came to discover a sister-fucking anime a couple months after finishing Code Geass. Aside from seeing a clip of it on youtube, I can’t exactly place what it was that drew me in, but as soon as I began the show, I was hooked. At this point I was still young enough to feel shame towards my interests, so it took no time whatsoever to relate to Kirino. And that was perfect, since the series drags her straight into otaku culture as soon as episode 1 reaches its conclusion. Like her, I had few friends with which to share my interests, and so the show did for me what Kyousuke does for her. No, not the fucking part, the introducing to other otaku part.

Of course, Oreimo did not exactly throw me into the shallow end. As with most of these shows, the references come flying at 100 miles per hour, so unless you’ve actually spent some time watching anime, you’re not going to hit most of them, and I certainly didn’t. But here, unlike in Code Geass, it was obvious when they were references. I might not have known that Saori’s nom-de-guerre was based on Char’s antics in Gundam Zeta, but I could tell it didn’t come from nowhere. I had no idea that Meruru was based on a mixture of Precure and Nanoha, but it was clearly a homage to something. In itself, this was important to me, installing a drive to search out more of this medium, to grow to the point where all of these references would make sense. It well and truly formed me into an otaku, an obsessive focused on navigating the anime landscape, far before I could’ve put that into words.

Beyond that, however, the most important thing to me was seeing the friendship dynamic of Kirino and her circle. Look, I was really lonely when I watched this show. It was late 2012, I hated most my friends at school, and none of the issues I discussed in my Code Geass video had even come close to being resolved. I wanted people with whom I could discuss things truthfully and Oreimo gave me a glimpse of that. Kirino and Kuroneko’s arguments are petty, to put it lightly, but they’re fun and realistic, a proper taste of the way people can argue when their favorite series are in desperate need of defense. I can’t say I haven’t gotten into plenty of similar conversations since, something I’m sure 13-year-old me would be excited to hear.

It really can’t be overstated how important the show was to educating me as to what the broader culture looks like. Episode 4, when they attend Comiket, helped elucidate the actual context of the doujinshi I’d been reading for some time at that point. Visual novels, a genre I had never meaningfully thought about, became a real object of interest after seeing the dozens that Kirino burns through. I learned about cosplay, about the publishing industry, even a bit about anime production, a whole 2 years before Shirobako. Oreimo, simply put, served as the first of many guides to a subculture which has, at this point, become my primary one. The fact that I greatly enjoyed the series at the time did not hurt.

But, I watched it in the winter of 2012. That, of course, was before season 2 came out. Which leads to Oreimo’s main reason for mattering: it actually introduced me to a real community of anime fans.

When I first watched the show, I was still at the point where illegal streaming sites were my go-to mode of watching anime. But by spring of 2013, when season 2 rolled around, I was no longer willing to put up with these awful services. However, I didn’t feel like paying for CR, and I didn’t know where to torrent anime, so what was I to do? Well, I decided to see if someone would post the link on 4chan’s /a/. I had already been using the site to browse /b/ and /v/ for a while, so it wasn’t exactly a leap. But in doing so, I discovered this magical thing called seasonal anime. I learned that this new season of Oreimo was airing at the start of April because that’s one of the times when anime just starts. So I picked up a few anime from the season — those being Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet and Valvrave the Liberator — and spent the next 3 months browsing /a/ while watching anime weekly. It was a great time, regardless of the quality of the anime themselves, and I had Oreimo to thank for bringing me to an actual place where I could speak to other anime fans, not that I actually did much beyond lurking.

And as the season ended and Oreimo’s final episodes were shunted off to its OVA, I began spending more and more time in its threads, proudly taking up the banner of Kirino defender in what may have been the bloodiest waifu war of all time. Arguments were tense as all hell, but I managed to make friends with a few Ayase fans, eventually turning the daily Oreimo threads into personal blogging grounds, to the point that people frequently complained about us, not unfairly. Eventually, we navigated to Steam chats, and for the next 2 years these people would be some of my closest friends, pivotal to my development as an otaku and a person. I said Oreimo did for me what Kyousuke did for Kirino, didn’t I? Legitimately, without this show, I would not be the person I am today. I was hesitant in saying that with Code Geass, but I’m utterly confident about it here, and in the remaining 10 videos I’m sure you’ll see plenty more shows that changed my life just as certainly.

Nowadays, I can’t say Oreimo is perfect. Even bypassing the multitude of problematic elements, the writing of the second season takes a notable dip as it moves into a more generic harem direction. But I will forever defend it as having a real heart that its spiritual successor seems to lack, and be it due to nostalgia or legitimate quality, I still enjoy every episode. It’s not a show that I’d even give a second look if I saw it on a seasonal chart nowadays but at the time it was the most important thing in the world to me and I’ll never be able to let go of the monumental impact that it’s had.

[Play screen name clip] Actually this show is garbage, fuck off.


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