Spoiler warning: Spoilers for the entirety of Who Is Imouto?/NakaImo are beyond this line. Read with caution!
Once upon a time - and by that, I mean the first of July, which seems like a long time ago - I asked readers to pick which show of the then current season I would review. The singular response to this poll was clear: I was to be punished by the powers of incest roulette. And by incest roulette, I am naturally referring to One Of Them Is My Younger Sister! aka Kono Naka Ni Hitori Imouto Ga Iru. The ultimate irony of this situation? The person who had me review NakaImo is my own sister, albeit an older sister. And so review it I did. Every. Bloody. Week.
Have I learned my lesson? Nope. I'm going to be blogging about this season's latest sis-con fest as well: "Onii-chan Dakedo Ai Sae Areba Kankeinai yo ne", which translates into "As Long as There's Love, It Doesn't Matter If He is My Brother". Yeeeep. This should be fun - for y'all, not for me. But what does this have to do with NakaImo? Not a lot. Except that when it comes to imoutos, NakaImo has taken a hold of me in the worst way possible. As in, I still want to blog about it!
So, the question is: was NakaImo a success? Was it a romance, a mystery, or a comedy? Was there even an Imouto to begin with? Twelve episodes later, and we're left with a hot mess. Let us dissect this hot mess, piece by piece. It's the treatment NakaImo deserves but not necessarily the treatment NakaImo wants.
The premise of NakaImo is deceptively is simple: Shougo needs a bride. One of these girls could possibly become his bride. Also, one of these girls is his sister (imouto), but he doesn't know who she is or what she looks like. He needs to marry a girl who is not his imouto, or he's screwed. This is Shougo's basic dilemma.
What made Shougo's issue so damn complicated is that once he started his hunt to find out Who Is Imouto, it seemed like every eligible girl was coming out of the woodwork, all claiming to be the secret imouto of his dreams. Konoe? Miyabi? Yuzuriha? Sagara? Hell, I'm surprised Rinka or Mana didn't try their hand at playing mystery imouto with poor Shougo. So naturally, Shougo can't tell who is who and eventually everyone becomes a suspect in his brain. We could have had a brilliant Higurashi-like turn, but such a twist wasn't in NakaImo's cards. It stayed in its safe little harem humor box, leading Shougo into one fake-out story arc after the other.
And it took him half the series until he thought of using a DNA test, which is usually the best and most practical way to find out who one's blood relative is. Seriously? Shougo is supposed to be a future heir of a major corporation; he can't figure this stuff out first? If his trap bodyguard/ninja/boys' love sidekick Ikusu wasn't there, Shougo would probably still be wondering who his imouto is. Actually, if it weren't for Ikusu, a lot of the 'revelations' in-series probably wouldn't have happened or taken longer to come into Shougo's brain.
So, when it came to being a mystery, NakaImo fell flat on its face. A lot of its twists were based on coincidences and the fact that Shougo's childhood injury wiped out a lot of his memories of growing up, thus leaving a lot of room for writers to take advantage of his amnesia with surprise childhood friends and imoutos. Plus, a lot of Shougo's brilliant detective work came on the basis of Ikusu's research. If I wanted to watch someone take the analytical credit for someone else's detective footwork, I'd read a Nero Wolfe novel (with apologies to Rex Stout and that series in general for bringing it up in this context).
As for being a harem, NakaImo managed to check all the correct ticky boxes, although in the end it was a harem squandered by a lackluster mystery plot of imouto's true identity. In the end, Shougo's harem ends up being smaller than most: childhood friend Konoe, class vice president Rinka, actual imouto Miyabi. Naturally, her being imouto and still wanting to marry Shougo is played off for laughs and as something inherently 'whacky'. Well, I guess if Shougo wants a 'bad end', there's always Miyabi . . . or Yuzuriha, wherever the hell she ran off to.
Honestly, at this point Shougo is better off with - wait for it - Ikusu. She's a ninja, for one, and is basically his best confidant and partner on campus. It wouldn't be hard after a few episodes to develop an actual romantic relationship. Plus, Shougo has already seen her naked numerous times. They might as well, according to the laws of NakaImo. Or we could just have Shougo die in a tragic boating accident and have Ikusu take over as head of the family corporation. Legal? Hell no. But it is fun.
As a comedy, if you enjoy low-brow humor based on accidental fanservice, a tsundere teacher, and Shougo and Konoe's combined idiocy, then NakaImo definitely succeeded on that end. And to be honest, I did find myself laughing quite a bit while watching it. It just requires the complete shutdown of the part of one's brain that would be normally questioning these kinds of oddball jokes in a series like NakaImo.
Plus, an appreciation for fanservice is required to not completely despise this series - although censorship meant a lot of panty/oppai shots were blurred or darkened or otherwise distorted to conform to broadcast standards. Thank God for uncensored Blu-Rays, right? Unless the North American release keeps the censorship - but I sincerely doubt that will happen, if the company who has licensed it actually wants sales.
Overall, I would not recommend Who Is Imouto?/NakaImo to anyone who demands that their anime be intelligent, well plotted, or spectacularly animated. But if you have time to blow off, you like gratuitous 'cream puff' jiggling and soap opera-like schemes of romance and secrecy, and perhaps have an imouto complex that would make Yuzuriha blush - well, you'd be doing yourself a disservice by not watching NakaImo. Plus, at only twelve episodes, it's not a major investment of time compared to other more recent programs. Frankly, you could do better - but you could also do a hell of a lot worse. Whether or not your personal standards are low enough to stomach 12 segments of incest roulette madness is up to you.
You can watch subbed streaming episodes of the complete NakaImo series atCrunchyroll. The DVD/BRs should be available for pre-order in spring 2013 at the earliest.