Onii-sama e…: It’s Exciting! It’s Thrilling! It’s Yuri!

Apologies for a lack of any kind of meaningful graphic for Onii-sama e… (also known as Brother, Dear Brother). There really aren’t any good images out there. The fansubs for it are, as far as I can tell, very bad rips of nth-generation VHS subs (two of them had hideous sound errors all over the place), and the series is practically unknown in the English-speaking world (and even the Japanese-speaking world, but that’s understandable as it has to fight with its sibling, Rose of Versailles, for attention.

Onii-sama e…, despite its title, has almost nothing to do with brothers at all, and everything to do with, well, sisters. I guess. The titles comes from the letters Nanako, the main character, writes to her former cram school teacher and penpal “brother”. The letters act as a kind of “frame” for the story of the series, but only barely, and the letters themselves have repercussions later in the series. But that’s later. The actual plot of the series revolves around the mysterious organization known only as the Sorority, and the drama that occurs when the extremely normal and totally not rich snobby girl Nanako is invited to join it, much to the anger and resentment of all the actual rich snobby girls at the school. This results in drama, of course, and ever so gradually Nanako is sent careening through a series of events that defy the mind in terms of totally-out-of-left-fieldness. Also, as is traditional in Ikeda Riyoko manga, every female character who is not the main character is an absolute bitch. There’s no other way to describe it. The plot essentially exists to pull characters from one dramatic revelation or outrage to another, with barely a moment to gasp for breath in between. “There is no end to my tears…” indeed.

THE SERIOUS TALK

The series itself is, essentially, the proto-yuri series. Arguably the prototypes for yuri stretch far back into the early 20th century with the Class S writers, but yuri (and accompanying feminist beliefs) hadn’t crept into manga until the Year 24 Group smashed into the manga scene in the 70s. Never an actual, formal group, the Year 24 Group (so named because they were all born in 1949, or Showa 24) was a nickname for a group of unrelated, independently-working female manga-ka who were popular in the 1970s (and sometimes beyond) and helped define the market for shoujo that we have today. Undeniably the biggest and most successful of these was Ikeda Riyoko, author of Rose of Versailles and Onii-sama e… I’m fairly certain it was 100% impossible to be a young pre-teen or teenage girl in Japan in the 1970s and not have read Rose of Versailles, as even my totally normal female native Japanese language professor reacted with glee when I name-dropped it. Also when I name-dropped Tokikake, but she thought I was referring to the 80s live-action movie. Oops.

At any rate, it’s quite clear that modern successful yuri series owe quite a lot to Onii-sama e…: Marimite in particular, with its all-girls school setting and penchant for overblown schoolgirl drama, but even something like Simoun shows influence from it. Revolutionary Girl Utena drew more from Rose of Versailles, though.

Okay, enough boring, serious talk.

THE EXCITING AND FUN TALK

Like Rose of Versailles back in the 70s, when Onii-sama e… was greenlighted in the early 1990s for an anime adapation, the talents of legendary director Dezaki Osamu were tapped. Known for directing a large array of highly regarded adaptations (Ashita no Joe, Ace o Nerae) and generally being a pretty awesome guy all around.

For those who watched Rose of Versailles, you probably know what’s in store for you, as, despite coming 15 years after that, Dezaki still uses a quite similar direction style. Which means you’ve got more triple takes than you know what to do with. There hasn’t been an epiosde that didn’t have at least one triple take, and, as I get near the end of the series, triple takes have become so commonplace that Dezaki had to resort to a trick very few directors will even attempt: the quadruple take. If dramatic chords were the excessively cheesy awesome hallmark of Rose of Versailles, the triple and quadruple takes are Onii-sama e…’s dramatic flourish of choice. I mean, anything that makes me want to shout at the charactes while I’m watching it on my mp3 player in the very halls of academia itself, despite no one around me having any clue what I’d be talking about, well, that’s beyond entertaining and it enters a new realm called exciting.

The end result is a series I love to watch (even if I’ve neglected it far more than I should have, due to easily distracted clause). I’m not entirely sure I like it better than Rose of Versailles, but that’s a tall order to fill, and no one can top the awesome of Oscar Francois de Jarjeyes for me, anyway. It is still, however, totally awesome and worth it, especially if you’re a fan of Rose of Versailles. Even if I’m not done with it yet.

NONSENSICAL REAL-LIFE WHINING BELOW, SKIP AT YOUR LEISURE

This semester has unexpectedly bindsided me with, uh, a distinct lack of time to do much of anything. Considering the fact that I leave for school around 8 every morning and very, very rarely make it back home for any appreciable length of time before 9pm on weeknights, and then have homework to deal with, and then off to bed to do the same thing the next day. I barely have time to sit down and do much of anything before I’m off gallavanting around campus yet again. At the same time, I’m trying to clear out my backlog. This is why I’ve been noticably quiet lately, I simply haven’t had the time to watch anime, let alone write about it. Apologies to those used to more frequent postings of varying quality

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4 Responses to “Onii-sama e…: It’s Exciting! It’s Thrilling! It’s Yuri!”


  1. 1 hashihime 12 September 2008 at 1:31 am

    One of my favorite anime. Just never lets up. People who don’t like angst in their anime had better steer clear.

    I differ with you on only two points: this show totally does not give me the same feeling as Rose of Versailles. Much more intense, even though the style is similar. And I would never call either Kaoru no Kimi or St. Just a “bitch.” Miya-sama, however…. But everyone seems deep and multi-faceted, by the end.

    Yuri aside, there are ways in which I think this gives some of the same highly wrought emotional feeling as NANA.

  2. 2 Sasa 12 September 2008 at 2:24 am

    Oh oh, this postings makes me want to pick up the series again. I have started reading the manga at the same time as I started watching the anime, but I never went past episode 1. However, I used to love Rose of Versailles when I was younger, and so I definitely planning on giving it another try.

    Anyways, good luck on your endeavours at university!

  3. 3 OGT 12 September 2008 at 7:13 am

    hashihime: Well, true; Kaoru-no-Kimi and Saint-Juste are both pretty decent people, but they’re also not without their own problems. Saint-Juste in particular. Hoo boy.
    .
    Miya, though, I have wanted to punch her in the gut since episode one. I still do, even after seeing what happened between her and Saint-Juste.
    .
    And, if anything, I’d say NANA was tapping the Year 24 Group vibe in a more modern context.
    .
    Sasa: You totally should. I’m not sure if the manga’s been translated into English, but I would like to read it, too…


  1. 1 Foundation for Defense of Democracies Trackback on 13 March 2015 at 11:02 pm

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