Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Dear Brother

Oniisama e

After some… let's call them recommendations on Twitter, I have started to watch the 1992 shoujo manga adaptation Oniisama e. It was described to me as "pure uncut black-market shoujo" and I honestly cannot find fault with that assessment.

This is melodrama in its concentrated form. Directed by Osamu Dezaki – whose better-known works include the sports anime Ashita no Joe and Ace o Nerae, as well as trashy assassin thriller Golgo 13 – this takes all his trademarks and crams them into a genre that is, frankly, not prepared for it.

Split-screens, dramatic watercolour freeze-frames, lighting cues that would make Edgar Wright sit up and take notes; all in the service of a story that has no rights being so intense. It's something of a credit to the direction here that in the first episode the tension around a teenager's first day at a new high school was ramped up to the point that I genuinely expected the third act to end with a horrific murder.

One of my favourite shows, Kyoto Animation's exquisite Hyouka, is a detective series about nothing of consequence, but does an admirable job infusing its ultimately-insignificant mysteries with dramatic tension and satisfying reveals. Oniisama e doesn't have that whodunnit structure to rely on, but manages (with the liberal application of over-the-top thunder-and-lightning) to make "my new friend seems overly concerned with her position in the social pecking order" feel like the kind of life-or-death situation that most anime shows could only dream of portraying.

In short: I don't know what the hell this thing is, but I love it.

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