Title: Boku wa Imouto ni Koi wo Suru / I’m In Love With My Little Sister
Length: 1 x 49 minute movie
Genre: Romance, drama
Year of release: 2005
Long time readers of this blog are hopefully not clicking onto the fact that yours truly is a fan of incest fiction. Rather, I hope that the signs point to my love of the scandalous drama! Incest and scandals almost always share a common ground, and that’s where I come in to lap up the fallout of taboo spats and impulses. Naturally then, when I saw the poster of this relatively short anime movie and a brief snippet of the synopsis, I jumped straight in to experience some wonderfully tense romance. And indeed, Yori’s story of incestuous love is one of classic melodrama, with potency straight out of the starcrossed lovers tales of yore.
There’s always going to be a flashback to childhood in these sorts of incest stories. The Westermarck Effect is too typically glazed over in this subgenre of drama, whereby childhood splits are often pointed to in explanation of why the sibling or siblings do not feel disgust over their feelings for each other. While the backstory padding of Boku wa Imouto no Koi wo Suru, whereby a very young Yori merely says he wants to marry his twin sister, Iku, the pair are not split at any point in their growing up. In fact, they end up sleeping in the same room during their high school years. Don’t panic just yet, they’re using bunk beds.
There’s that unsaid push-and-pull between a character who understands why he cannot voice his feelings and one who could not fathom what those feelings are, and it’s absolutely delicious drama to unfurl. While Iku is imbued rather generically by Mai Nakahara with typical traits of energetic optimism, she’s cognisant of her gradual distancing her brother has taken, to the point where he is standoffish – yet, in scenes such as boys picking on her when her bra is partially visible through her top, he is violently overprotective. Shoutarou Morikubo is convincing as the troubled Yori, who has harboured these intense feelings for a long time, but the performance struggles to show many other desires or ambitions in the nuance. The tension is thick in the air, particularly as Yori begins to make mistakes and sleep with Iku’s best friend. The anime has a keen eye for sensuality with physicality really coming across in the multiple kisses and forces, though sometimes betrays with a focus on more mundane grabs and soapy adolescent peaks or touches; an average production with some highlights on the surprisingly risqué sex scenes.
It’s in the second half of the movie that everything becomes a little too clean, however. There’s one of those classic moments where Yori steals a kiss from his sister at a difficult juncture, only to have her confusion return; that’s the problematic romance precisely which we came for, after all, but it doesn’t feel like it was the only option at the time. Nor does the aftermath convince; the way Yori hugs at his sister self-depreciatingly thereafter is no doubt powerful, but Iku’s gradual leaning towards him is a little too rushed. It feels like a natural continuation, and perhaps even a little unhealthy, as if she has no other choice lest she lose her brother.
And that’s a problem. A big, big problem. Incest fiction, as an unwritten rule, has to be a little diplomatic. It has to suggest that there is not necessarily as much wrong with the potential of an incestuous relationship as the rest of the fictitious world thinks. I’ve even reviewed a particularly good sample of this in the heavily NSFW anime, Yosuga no Sora. Boku wa Imouto ni Koi wo Suru avoids the classic pitfalls that many other incestuous romances fall into, such as ‘blaming’ the feelings on psychological separation or parent death (while scantily shown, these siblings still have their folks!) or using ‘excuses’ such as illegitimate siblingship or step-siblingship. However, this movie falls into a much bigger trap.
As Iku begins to fall deeply for her brother, her development is not given enough oomph. The suggestion that prior in the movie, whereby she moved to kiss her brother in confusion, draws her ensuing feelings of jealousy and the further something more into question. I do not doubt that she romantically and sexually feels for Yori later, as scenes such as the tender sex they share in the hotel paints something really very intimate, but I do worry that that catalyst was perhaps closer to emotional blackmail from that one time that Yori asked Iku to ‘make a choice’ between having him or not having him. It’s only a brief scene that did it of course, but it did so much to the movie’s later legitimacy, particularly as incest fiction is already such a difficult topic to approach sensibly.
The movie does go down the usual route, in its strong but typical dramatic fashion, to show the pair splitting up and keeping their romance long-distance. Yori gets Iku a puppy, and then has to find a way to tell his sister he loves her before he leaves that crowded train station. It’s a very effective way to bring into question the pair’s future, as they effectively bypass the stigma to have something indeed – but considering the prior blip, this strong tale of taboo lust isn’t deconstructing the social structures oppressing Yori in the first place, and in fact legitimises them. But, then again, why does this anime have to become a political flag-bearer for incestuous morality? Who picks up a slushily dramatic incestuous sex story and expect anything other than preaching to the converted?