Episode 1: “The Magnificent Ones”
Original airdate: July 14, 1991
I possess limited knowledge about Oniisama e…, apart from the fact that Riyoko Ikeda, best known for the popular and influential series The Rose of Versailles, authored its manga.
Notably, the manga was never officially translated into English, and to the best of my knowledge, the anime was never licensed for distribution in the United States.
This lack of availability isn’t entirely surprising, given that Wikipedia contributors reference the show’s “controversial” content and its challenges in finding international broadcasts.
Additionally, TV Tropes recognize the manga as one of the earliest modern examples of yuri in the medium, dating back to 1975. Such content, in 1991, when the anime first aired, was unlikely to pique the interest of U.S. licensors.
However, I can envision how these characteristics might have made it appealing for illegal translations and bootlegs at fan conventions.
So, when it was announced that the series would be available for streaming on Viki (which is where I’ll be tuning in to watch the episodes), it attracted attention from the anime and manga enthusiasts in my Twitter feed.
Their enthusiastic reaction piqued my curiosity. Although I hadn’t watched it until now, I had stored it in the back of my mind.
“The Magnificent Ones” doesn’t exactly offer thrilling storytelling; it comes across as rather “pilot”-like in its execution. Essentially, the episode can be distilled into a “Here’s EVERYONE you need to know.
What crazy things will happen next?!” approach. Personally, I’m not a fan of this particular storytelling style.
However, considering that we have secrets, illnesses, pill-popping, and subtle lesbian undertones to address within the span of 39 episodes, it does make sense from a narrative efficiency perspective. (Part of this, naturally, can also be attributed to the adaptation process. This episode strongly resembles the first chapter of a manga, and it very well might have been.)
In broad terms, our protagonist, Nanako, and her best friend, Tomoko, embark on their first day at the exclusive all-girls school known as Serian.
Throughout the first day, Nanako encounters the three most popular girls in the school: Karou, a star basketball player who took a year off due to a mysterious ailment; Ichinomiya, the sorority president; and Rei, the strikingly androgynous pianist who happens to be a pill-popper and appears to have some sort of connection with Ichinomiya, as hinted by that shared umbrella.
Nanako also has an encounter with the undeniably creepy, obsessively clingy Mariko, who seems to be guarding the secret of the thumbnail’s color.
Lastly, we have the eponymous “oniisama.” He appears to be a college-aged individual, presumably the grown-up version of the boy seen in the opening scene.
He’s the one who receives Nanako’s letters, and he’s even considering purchasing a gift for her, albeit discreetly, so as not to reveal his identity to her parents.
Indeed, what we have here is the potential for a significant amount of romantic melodrama. We can already see little hints of it, particularly in Nanako’s daydream involving Rei and the umbrella.
Moreover, whenever something is drawn in a distinct art style with different lighting and coloring compared to the rest of the episode, it serves a dual purpose: it’s likely a cost-saving measure and carries significant narrative weight.
Think of these moments as akin to the intense, gauzy close-ups seen in American film and TV melodramas; they’re meant to be intentionally excessive and out of place to heighten emotions by breaking away from the series’ typical artistic style.
With that said, it’s worth noting that this series might not cater to everyone’s taste, but I hope you’ll find it compelling enough to join me on this journey.
Cory outlined several reasons for creating this blog, with one of the most important being a retrospective exploration of television history.
However, television history isn’t limited to American television alone, and for a comprehensive understanding of the medium’s evolution, we should delve into the histories of various countries and contexts.
While Oniisama may not boast the same high-profile influence as Astro Boy or Urusei Yatsura in the realm of anime, history doesn’t always revolve around the most influential figures.
Oniisama’s impact was likely more significant in the realm of manga than in anime (the anime aired in 1991, a full 16 years after the manga concluded its relatively brief three-volume run).
However, within a medium as diverse and multifaceted as television, examining even the lesser-known shows can provide us with valuable insights into the culture and industry that gave rise to them.
Much like the Super Friends posts, the Oniisama series is a bi-weekly review that you can expect to see every Tuesday.
The next installment of Oniisama will return on July 3, and I’ll commence by discussing two episodes in each post, which means “The Glass Slippers” and “Nanako is Disqualified?” will be the focus of the next entry.
- “That time, her voice resonated deep in my heart.”
- So who wants to see a young Krysten Ritter play Mariko? Just me? Okay.
- “Those girls live in a different world from us.”
- I’m pretty sure Rei’s pills were actually gravel based on the sound effects.
- I’ll try and talk about the opening credits next week. Or we can discuss them in the comments now!
- I’m taking air dates and episode titles from Anime News Network’s page on the show, so any errors in this information are due to me trusting them.
- Speaking of ANN, head over to their site for an interview with Viki.com co-founder and CEO Razmig Hovahimian. Viki is an incredibly fascinating site in which fansubs of shows are actually licensed and streamed by the site. The interview offers some insight into the site’s creation and business model, so it’s well worth the read.