A few terms you will encounter in this article:
Tsundere - a character who is cold/hostile in the surface but is really a sweet person inside
Yandere - a character who seems nice and sweet but can be over-possessiveness to the point of being really scary
Eroge - 18+ games
Otaku - negative term for people with obsession to anime or others
Combine tsundere, incest, eroge, and otaku, and we have Oreimo. Oreimo is the shortened version of Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai, which is My Little Sister Can’t be This Cute in English. Oreimo was initially a light novel, that was adapted to other media such as manga, game, and anime. It revolves around the relationship of the two siblings, Kyousuke and Kirino. Aside from their relationship, the story’s main theme is Kirino secretly being an otaku underneath being a pretty, smart, and talented little sister. Oddly, this becomes the catalyst of the restoration of the siblings’ relationship after years of being cold to each other. You can already tell this will be complicated. If this interests you, perhaps the characters will interest you more. Let’s meet the characters who complicate this story:
Kyousuke Kousaka, the male protagonist of the series, is the older brother of Kirino. He is laid-back and does not exert too much effort on anything at all. He has expressed that he wants to live a quiet life and that normality is best for humans. This may be due to his inferiority complex which has been developed because of his little sister Kirino, who is an overachiever. He considers himself useless, especially in the eyes of his parents. He has pretty much accepted that he will continue to be overshadowed by his prodigy little sister, but he admits that it is hard.
His relationship with her sister has been rough for years. He acts cold towards her and does not talk to her much. However, it is later revealed that they were not always this way towards each other. In fact, they were shown to have had a very close relationship when they were younger. But as a consequence of growing up, Kyousuke drifted from Kirino.
He starts being brotherly to Kirino when he accidentally discovers Kirino’s hobby of collecting eroge and merchandise. Though he is surprised, he does not judge Kirino for being an otaku. He is confused as to why Kirino is interested in such things as eroge with little sister themes, but he doesn’t dwell too much on that thought. He is often troubled by Kirino to do tasks related to her hobby but he seems to quite enjoy it. He also enjoys the times he spends with Kirino and likes his role of being an older brother to her. He helps Kirino hide her hobbies from their parents who disagree with that kind of stuff and from other people who will look down on her when they learn that she is an otaku. Even if he himself is not interested in that kind of stuff, he supports Kirino wholeheartedly and tells her that she should do whatever makes her happy.
Despite his laid-back nature, he sometimes gets angry. Usually, he is calm and doesn't panic easily, often thinking things through before acting. He can be a mature person when it comes to serious things. He attracts a lot of girls in the series, though he is only attracted to some of them. At the end of it all, the one he prioritizes above all is his little sister. For that, he is considered a siscon (a person who is unusually attracted to his little sister).
Kirino Kousaka is Kyousuke’s little sister. She is smart, pretty, and often breaks record times in track and field. In short, she is an overachiever. But under all that is a closet otaku who likes collecting eroge with little sister themes. She has hidden this secret quite well until Kyousuke discovers it. Despite being cold towards her brother (Kyousuke even states that she constantly looks down on him and doesn’t listen to him at all), she seems to value his opinions highly. She later asks for life counseling from her older brother then shows him her extensive collection of eroge and merchandise. She later asks him if it is weird for her to like such things and becomes happy when Kyousuke doesn’t judge her.
When asked where she gets her money to buy such things (which are ridiculously expensive), she reveals that she works as a model – something Kyousuke is not aware of. She states that it is not really a big deal but being a model just affirmed her status as an overachieving little sister. In the beginning of the series, she is shown to hate her brother and is hostile towards him. But, when they were young, she was quite attached to him. She held her brother in high regard and even stated that she wanted to marry him. This is completely normal for younger sisters and this often doesn’t develop into real romantic attraction towards older brothers.
This may be the main cause of her tsundere behavior. She became cold and hostile to her brother but her bottled feelings only grew to the point of being something more than a brother complex. Even after they have reconciled, she still remained somewhat hostile towards her brother. But, she later reveals that she is thankful for everything Kyousuke has done for her and cares for him a lot.
She is passionate about her hobbies and often bothers Kyousuke to do things related to her hobbies. She always asks him to do a variety of things like playing her favorite game and lining up for the release of an eroge. She attends IRL (In Real Life) meetings with other otakus but sometimes finds it hard to blend in with them due to the way she dresses. But, even if it’s their first time to meet, she will argue passionately with a stranger just to defend her favorite genre. Though she knows her hobbies are weird and not accepted by her parents and the society, she continues to devote her energy to such things with the support of her older brother.
Daisuke Kousaka is Kirino’s and Kyousuke’s father. He is shown to be very strict parent to the two but rarely becomes angry. He doesn’t talk much and his responses are limited to a few words only. However, he has a strong negative opinion about otaku culture, claiming that it is a bad influence to youth. Daisuke becomes extremely angry at Kirino when he finds out about her hobby of collecting eroge. He is an understanding parent but only to a point. He acknowledges that Kirino buys those things out of her own money but he claims that those things are unacceptable for a young girl. When Kyousuke takes the fall and claims that the eroge is actually his, Daisuke becomes so angry that he ends up punching Kyousuke. But, at the end, Daisuke states that Kyousuke can do whatever he wants. He supports and loves both his children and even keeps pictures of them in his own album. Though he claims that he is only keeping track, he really cares about his children and is proud of them.
Yoshino Kousaka is the mother to Kirino and Kyousuke and is a simple housewife. She is a caring mother but does not get involved too much in the affairs of her children. Her personality is the opposite of Daisuke's, and she often stays out of the way when he scolds their children. She even volunteers to buy beer as Kyousuke and Daisuke talk about Kirino’s hobby. Yoshino may be regarded as a cool mom as she knows about the stack of porn under Kyousuke’s bed but is pretty chill about it. She also doesn’t pay much attention to Kyousuke’s weird actions. She even looks at Kyousuke mockingly when she misunderstands Kyousuke’s odd behavior as if he’s been caught doing something normal and healthy boys do. Yoshino doesn’t also express much disappointment in Kirino’s hobbies and just chooses to maintain the peace in their house. Like Daisuke, she loves her children very much and is really proud of Kirino’s achievements.
Friends in School
Manami Tamura is Kyousuke’s childhood friend and is the Queen of Normal, as stated by Kyousuke. He describes her as an “old lady stuck in the body of a teenage girl.” Weirdly enough, she considers that a compliment. She is also shown to be obsessed with something – and that is being ordinary and normal. She has become Kyousuke’s confidante over the years and she has always been there for him. She goes over the top just to please him but these things mainly go unnoticed by Kyousuke. Because she is his best friend, some girls who also like Kyousuke confide in her and ask for advice. Even though she likes Kyousuke so much, she shows support to these girls. She generally supports everyone – everyone but Kirino that is.
Ayase Aragaki is one of Kirino’s classmates and close friends. She also works as a model and often works with Kirino. Her character is the opposite of Kirino’s tsundere behavior. She can be considered a yandere with the mix of her nice and aggressive sides. But most of the times she has a kind and sweet attitude. Her attitude towards Kirino might seem a little bit over the top; Ayase is a little too attached to Kirino and would immediately switch to her aggressive side whenever Kirino might be threatened. She even threatens Kyousuke to stay away from Kirino.
Ayase is very supporting of the normal and popular side of Kirino. So when Kirino’s hobby was discovered, she becomes extremely disappointed. Ayase refuses to accept the Kirino who is obsessed with eroge and anime. She still strongly believes that Kirino should be the overachieving girl she has always been. Ayase doesn’t approve of Kirino’s hobbies but she regards their friendship above her dislike for otaku culture.
She also harbored feelings for Kyousuke at some point. Ayase instantly likes Kyousuke during their first meeting, which is in the Kousaka household. She even apologizes for Kirino’s behavior and suggests that they exchange numbers. Her feelings for Kousaka has received its ups and downs and she will come to do something about it eventually.
Kanako Kurusu is also one of Kirino’s classmates and closest friends. The trio Kanako, Ayase, and Kirino are always seen together in school. She acts like a little child and even looks like one. She resembles Meruru, Kirino's favorite character, a great deal. Because of this, she is at one point tricked by the gang to cosplay as Meruru.
Kanako is very talented at singing and aims to be an idol. Her disposition towards being in the spotlight helps her win the contest even though she dislikes having to dress up as an anime character. She has even enjoyed the experience and the attention she gets. Because of this event, her career as in idol receives a jumpstart and begins to blossom.
Kanako develops romantic feelings towards Kyousuke throughout the series. Although she is rejected, she maintains a positive outlook and decides to devote her energy to her career instead; though she also does this with the intention to make Kyousuke regret his decision. Kanako remains a good friend to Kirino even though she is an otaku and seems to accept this without any trouble. This is probably because her older sister, Kanata, is an otaku herself.
Otaku Girls Unite!
Ruri Gokou is a member of the online otaku group Kirino is a member in. She goes by the nickname Kuroneko which means Black Cat. Though they are both otaku, they are interested in completely different genres. This was actually the cause of them yelling at each other on their first meeting. They both defend their preferred genre while simultaneously attacking the other’s preference. It’s safe to say that she hates animes that uses extreme cuteness to sell. An example would be Stardust Witch Meruru which is Kirino’s favorite. She dresses like a gothic lolita which is a reference to her favorite anime, Maschera: Lament of the Fallen Beast, which is dark and gothic in theme.
Ruri even gets into a relationship with Kyousuke at some point after confessing to him. This results to Kirino being extremely jealous and she even uses a fake boyfriend. However, after thinking things thoroughly, Kyousuke still agrees to be Ruri’s boyfriend. Their friends then admit that they have always known that they both liked each other. But, being the awkward people that they are, they turn out to be an awkward couple without knowing how to properly act as a girlfriend and boyfriend. But, even if she really likes Kyousuke, she initiates the break up. She’s the one who pushes Kirino to admit to Kyousuke that she doesn’t want him to have a girlfriend.
She is a parent to her two little siblings because their parents don’t have much time for them and are most often away from home. Because of this, her studies may sometimes be compromised. She also develops homemaking skills such as sewing, which is evident in her costume which she sewed herself. Although she doesn’t seem to be too friendly with others, especially to Kirino, she values everyone and regards them as her friends. She might even get annoyed often and might bicker regularly with anyone (mostly Kirino). But, deep down, she cares and worries for everyone. She is most respectful to Saori and doesn’t seem to argue with her.
Saori Makishima is the one who established “Otaku Girls Unite!” which is the online group Kirino and Ruri are members of. She goes by the name Saori Bajeena and wears big swirly glasses. Kyousuke is a bit shocked when he learns that her personality is different in the internet than in real life. She is more reserved in her online chatting with Kyousuke but more cheerful and energetic in real life. Saori is shown to be very considerate of others and even plans an afterparty for Kirino and Ruri when she observes that the two haven’t made friends with anyone in the group. When the two argue during the afterparty, she mentions to Kyousuke that Kirino and Ruri seem to be getting along really well. But, at the end, her objective is fulfilled. Their long-lasting friendship starts after this.
She is one of the girls who are not romantically attracted to Kyousuke. Saori and Kyousuke maintain a strictly platonic relationship but they are very good friends with each other. They often help each other out in times of need. The gang is caught by surprise when her real appearance beneath the swirly glasses is later revealed in the series.
Saori has a sister named Kaori with whom she doesn’t have a good relationship with. She started “Otaku Girls Unite!” because she was disappointed by the disbandment of “Secret Garden,” an otaku group that Kaori founded. Despite being really rich, she seems to get along with the gang really well even if they don’t have the same financial status. Their similar interests in the otaku culture are what brought them together.
Overall, the characters introduced by Oreimo have been a real pleasure to meet. Each one has different characteristics and there's always another side to them, which is fun to witness. We know that all these components don't necessarily mean that our characters have conflicting sides. All these just make our characters whole and interesting. Viewers will certainly enjoy the different flavors this anime can offer.