Nov 7, 2010
Most of the time, hentai is good on only one level: sex. Hentai has sex; that's its primary appeal. So what happens when you run into a hentai with an engaging story?
Step Sister (Gibomai) is one of those cases where the story somehow manages to be the main appeal. Well, more accurately, I find that the dark, partially self-analytic TONE of the story is much more fascinating than the sex is exciting. But still, my point remains valid.
Step Sister is about a young man by the name of Kyosuke whose father dies. His father, a famous painter, leaves to his
son his entire fortune and his paintings. However, Kyosuke's stepmother, Megumi, whom he blames for his mother's death, seems to be after one of those paintings. She is willing to cut a deal with him: she gives him her daughter, Yuna, to do with however he pleases, and he gives her the paintings in exchange. Sweet deal, right? Wrong. What proceeds is kinda messed up, by real-world standards. For hentai, eh, par for the course.
Kyosuke basically turns Yuna into his S&M slave, and she begins to like it. Then Kyosuke turns his attentions to Megumi. All the while, Kyosuke wonders what the meaning behind his father's last piece is.
The story is somehow very engaging. It may have to do with the dark tones of the series, as well as the Kyosuke's acknowledgment of both his own sadistic tendencies and the fact that he is kind of being a huge dick (pun intended). I don't really know why, but I was glued to the screen.
The characters may help this. The star of the show is perhaps Kyosuke, who is manipulative and sadistic, as well as strong-willed in a mean way. And yet, he seems to have some sort of heart under all of it. Some sort, at least, as he is still a really big jerk who more-or-less blackmails people into sex (AKA rape). Despite behaving in a very typical way for a hentai "hero" when it comes down to the wire, his way of thinking about things, including (especially?) his own behavior, places him a cut above the rest.
Megumi is the second-most-interesting, I think. She, too, is manipulative, but she cares more than she lets on, and this will backfire on her sooner or later (watch if you want to find out). She seems to be an art dealer or a curator at an art museum, and is torn about showing a painting (by Kyosuke's father) entitled, "The Yearn of the Morn." Why? You'll find out. Sorta.
The last main character is Yuna. She was kind fascinating at first, since she seemed a bit more strong-willed than your typical hentai "heroine" (which doesn't say much, I know). It's somewhat interesting to watch her own descent into a masochistic delirium, and her sense of priorities lead her to some very irrational decisions, but, again, hentai, par for the course.
The sound in this OVA is a mixed bag. The voice acting is pretty typical, which is to say it works well, as far as I can tell. However, I'm not a big fan of Megumi's voice during sex. I find her voice hard to describe, other than perhaps as scratchy or annoying, but, again, this is only really during sex. Oh, and expect quite a lot of screaming during sex, especially in the second episode. And, I guess, while on the topic of sex, it's pretty well-acted (plenty of squeals of delight, squishing and squelching sound effects, and whatnot), previously noted exceptions notwithstanding.
The BGM, for what may be the first and last time, is worth a mention. Step Sister starts off with an ambient, dark, brooding string piece that really sets the mood, and the music throughout is consistently creepy in nature. The ED, "sensitive" by KOTOKO, is actually rather good, if J-Techno is your thing. Eh, I guess it's more J-Eurobeat. I should know better, right?
The art for this OVA is fairly good, although it does kinda show some age. Colors are pretty deep (although it has a pretty dull color palette, somewhat fittingly for something dark in tone), and lines are pretty sharp. The animation itself is a mixed bag, with some scenes being amazingly fluid, while others are not impressive in the least. The cinematography actually merits some mention here, as it is occasionally quite dynamic. Occasionally. The character designs are okay, but not fantastic in the least. There are two things I'd like to note about the designs: 1) they are fairly modest, and 2) watch out for the Visual Arts/Key eye-spacing, especially on Yuna. One more thing to note is that characters are generally on-model, which kinda surprises me, given the overall inconsistent nature of the visual aspects of Step Sister.
I suppose this leaves the sex. I have one, very important thing to say about the sex:
This is a S&M/Bondage OVA. No way around it. And there's some issues of dubious consent. What a surprise.
Step Sister is middlingly explicit, with much more detail on the sex organs than was given in the 90s, but with nowhere near the dripping detail of today's productions. Also, the seximatography is actually a little modest by today's standards. Not very modest, though: the camera angles are all pretty revealing, as are most of the sex positions. The sex itself is fairly hot, with a good amount of movement, but the production quality seems low, with what could be considered animation shortcuts like occasional looping. There is also not a huge amount of position-changing, which leads to a bit of stagnation. Step Sister tries to make up for this by being kinky. As mentioned before, this is S&M, and we get a fair amount of physical abuse, unwanted penetration, as well as humiliation. We also get toys and bondage. It's almost needless to say, buy your mileage may vary. Furthermore, as stated earlier, it's not exactly a shining example of consensuality, so your mileage may vary even more.
This kind of sex is...not really my thing. It is bondage and abuse, only consensual towards the end, which makes a lot of this OVA abusive rape. This has its appeal to some, but not really to me. I'm also not that into May-December Sex. This makes it a little more disturbing to me. All of this combined is probably why I consider the story to be the best part of Step Sister.
Overall, I actually enjoyed Step Sister to an extent. It is, after all, a rather intriguing and entrancing story about a broken family coming together (pun totally intended). I recommend it to those looking for a surprisingly gripping story to go with their questionably consensual S&M/Bondage hentai.
Oh, and, Kyosuke has one hell of a sturdy ceiling. Just sayin.
Reviewer’s Rating: 7
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