My Little Religion Can’t be this Cute

oreimoTWWK on Beneath the Tangles has been posting about struggling to get into the second season of Oreimo, a series I hadn’t heard of before. Partly out of sympathy, partly out of desire for new anime to watch, I fired Hulu up and started in the first season. I’m about seven episodes in the first season, and even then I can see why it would be hard to get into it.

Oreimo is about brother and sister Kyousuke and Kirino. Both don’t seem to get along until Kyou discovers something surprising about his otherwise perfect sister. She’s an otaku, and a particularly bad strain of one, because she likes anime and eroge (erotic games) about little sisters. Once he gets over this, he promises to help her deal with her hobby, and you can see their relationship deepen in fits and starts. So far it’s hard to like because Kirino is tsundere (hot and cold) to a strong degree. She doesn’t reach Louise levels, but she’s enough to be unlikable frequently. Kyou doesn’t get off lightly either; while he’s at heart a decent guy, he contributed to the way his sister is by kind of neglecting his own family and adopting a surrogate one, and may be stringing a decent girl along by treating her as a replacement sister. The complexity of their relationship is pretty deep, actually; how much is Kirino’s little sister complex a result of her self-image from always being seen as perfect, and is Kyou doing all this to make amends? But it’s still hard to work through, and a strong supporting cast lessens the pain.

The one thing I thought of though, after watching some of the episodes, is this;

Isn’t how Kirino treats her otaku side a lot like how many Christians treat their faith?

Kirino has gone to elaborate lengths to hide her otaku side because she feels that she would lose friends and face society’s judgment if it were known. In all appearances, she is a perfect young lady who excels in everything. Yet for the longest time she hides one facet of who she is literally behind a dresser and indulge it in secret. It gets better, but she still hides who she is, and if not for a few friends from an online community she sees sporadically, she’s very much alone. When she gets found out by friends and family, there are serious consequences, and acceptance is given grudgingly at all. Her best friend goes so far as to accuse the otaku side of Kirino as a fake.

Now think about Christianity. While it’s nothing like a love of eroge and little sister stuff, to be a devout believer and let the faith affect your life often is as unpopular as Kirino’s likes are in her society. If you let the Bible guide your life, you will have what society sees as outdated or even harmful ideas on sexuality, tolerance, or spirituality. Many of us live our lives alone in our faith, with church as something we do similar to the anime forum’s IRL meet; a gathering of fellow believers who mostly talk shop. We may rarely have friends who understand us, and many times they oppose us; imagine Kirino and Kuroneko as a Christian and an atheist from the way they argue about each other’s favorite anime show, and the dynamics of a tortured friendship are pretty close for both. There’s a lot of similarity between otaku and Christian here.

For all the focus on Christians both by believers and unbelievers, we’re not really like the public ideas of us. The idea of the loud, bold, culture warrior who slaps around a Bible in public and wants everyone to go back to the past only applies to a few of us, and many times never beyond our own families or the net. I think the reality is more a quiet people who tend to withdraw or hide a side of them, and only reveal it in safe places like the net, or a group of fellow-travellers, or to their loved ones and family. Like Kirino, there are two sides of us; the public face, and the otaku face. There’s a difference in that our beliefs also guide our morality, and lead to conflict. I think we too separate them more often than not.

I’m not saying this to condemn at all. What’s interesting about Oreimo is that it doesn’t start off with “Otaku are right, everyone else is wrong!” Kirino faces loss if she affirms that side of her, from parental condemnation, to loss of friends, and conceivably more. It makes you think about how we have to wall off part of ourselves to exist in society, and for us Christians, I wonder if we really recognize it. Or how we can really be isolated, with very little people who know and understand us, until we begin to open up (or have to due to discovery) and seek others like us. It’s something to think about.

5 Comments on “My Little Religion Can’t be this Cute”

  1. TWWK says:

    Yep, that’s an apt comparison. I would guess that many Christians who weren’t churchgoers as children and become born again as teenager or young adults can especially relate the show – the fear of condemnation from their friends and family and the utter joy they find in finding community. Kuroneko, of course, would be the unabashed, unashamed, and unrelenting Christian. :P

    • dmdutcher says:

      If I were to continue with the analogy, Kuruneko is more at peace with her faith, but she’s actually using it as a form of armor to set herself apart and make herself special. It’s really only when Kirino actually engages her (as opposed to ignoring her, which I bet is what usually happens) that her armor is pierced, and she starts to grow beyond this.

      That’s why the two times when her literal armor is removed (when Kirino removes her top during the Summerket, and the day when she’s just at home with her family) are so effective. What’s frustrating though is that Oreimo seems to be coy about each character’s motivations. There’s a reason why Kuroneko acts the way she does, but we aren’t really told it.

      • TWWK says:

        Oreimo is all about being coy. It’s frustrating, but at the same time, it’s what makes the series mainstream. Because it hints at certain things and makes other palatable, I’m willing to watch, even if the series isn’t completely fulfilling (far from it).

  2. […] I figured that I’d also need to review the series after writing about it in My Little Religion Can’t Be This Cute. […]

  3. […] D.M. Dutcher compares Kirino’s treatment of her otakuness in Oreimo to how Christians often treat their faith. [Cacao, put down the shovel!] […]

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