And now for something completely different.
It really says something about how inundated anime viewers these days are with “siscon” jokes that no one bats an eyelid at how overtly Hiromi fetishises his own little sister in Kyoukai no Kanata. It’s just an anime thing, not something to be taken too seriously. And Hiromi’s little sister complex is probably one of the funnier recurring gags in the series.
But when you step outside of looking at Kyoukai no Kanata through the perspective of an anime viewer and just look at the narrative as it stands, what is Kyoukai no Kanata actually trying to say about Hiromi by characterising him as a siscon?
The answer is quite interesting.
Is Hiromi even really a siscon?
Kyoukai no Kanata makes very clear divisions between when it’s trying to be serious and when it’s trying to be funny. That it’s so very tonally dissonant is actually one of the main points of criticism against the series as a whole. It’s hard to tell whether the narrative is earnest about Hiromi being a siscon, since it presents him as an archetype and then caricaturises that archetype for the sake of self-parody. (This is very common in light novel storytelling.)
I think that Hiromi really is a siscon, though, in the same sense that Akihito really is a glasses fetishist. In the serious moments, we see that Akihito’s attachment to glasses transcends its status as a fetish and he becomes concerned about Mirai as the girl, even as he continues to make a point about how much her glasses mean to him. The fetish is not just a cheap joke – it develops honest, emotional meaning. It’s the same with Hiromi, though I think his characterisation is a bit muddier, since it’s not at the forefront of the narrative.
Hiromi is a siscon, but rather than having a complex about his little sister, the implication is that he has a complex about his older sister.
A lot of this post is inference (what fanfic authors call “headcanon”), but I think if we look at his characterisation this way, Hiromi’s attitude towards Mitsuki makes sense within the narrative rather than simply as an “anime thing”.
In the story, we’re told that Izumi is the head of the Nase family and Hiromi is shown deferring to her on numerous points. He does this increasingly less as the narrative progresses. Finally, when he learns that Izumi compromised her own ideals in the past, he resolves to take over her duties. His character arc is about learning to find his own strength independent of his sister. Note that Mitsuki herself barely factors into this.
This subplot is introduced and resolved in a rather rushed manner. The Nase family dynamics are barely ever shown, so it wouldn’t surprise me if this element of the ending left viewers dissatisfied. I don’t expect we’ll ever get the full story in animated form. Maybe the light novels have more information, but I haven’t read them, so my analysis here is mostly speculation and, as I said, inference. I think my logic can be followed, though.
A Complicated Family Situation
Rather than being obsessed with Mitsuki as a person, I’d argue that Hiromi is obsessed with the idea of the sibling relationship. He wants to be looked up to as an older brother and he seeks Mitsuki for this outlet.
Why is this? Because he looks up to Izumi as the older sibling he wants to be.
At the same time, he is frustrated with Izumi and feels distant from her. In a way, she doesn’t really feel like a sister to him.
The emotional distance between the two of them is easy to observe because Izumi keeps herself aloof from everyone and even a casual viewing of the anime would reveal that to the audience.
How can we explain Hiromi’s ambivalence towards her? Izumi plays the role of the mentor towards her two younger siblings and it’s my guess that it was probably she who saved Hiromi’s life when Akihito’s demon form almost killed him.
Her panic and increased personal desire to be rid of Beyond the Boundary then led her to seek devious means and to become emotionally distant from her siblings whom she wished to protect. It was probably around this time when Hiromi became a siscon, seeking to emulate the strength of his older sister by protecting his younger sister and to also shower Mitsuki with the attention he never got from Izumi.
When you add this on top of the fact that the Nase family is said to be an old, prestigious family – which implies insularity – then you have a perfectly reasonable explanation for why Hiromi would be sticking so close to his little sister and appears to be a loner otherwise.
What About Mitsuki?
It must have been suffocating being brought up in the Nase family.
Never really seen for herself but rather as the youngest daughter who must stay at home, Mitsuki eventually got fed up with being treated as a little princess, especially by her brother. She became snarky and somewhat bitter, which explains her coldness towards her brother’s affections and her constant haranguing at Akihito. I think episode 5 conveyed her loneliness in a rather sympathetic way. She wants to be seen as distinct from her siblings and so she relies on her acerbic wit; in the end, she’s rather vulnerable and finds it difficult to make new friends.
If Hiromi wants to step out of his older sister’s shadow and become someone who can be relied upon, then Mitsuki wants the very same thing for herself. There’s tension between the brother and sister over this, and it remains to be seen whether Hiromi will be a better head of the family than Izumi in this respect. The fact that he allowed her to cover for him in the final episode seems to indicate that their future as siblings is nothing to worry about.
Pandering versus Honest Storytelling
What I like about Kyoukai no Kanata is that I was able to infer all of this from such limited prompting. A lot of that had to do with me losing all interest in Mirai and Akihito by episode 3, which led me to pay attention to other things. The other reason is that I’m a huge sucker for family drama and also (especially) siscon characters.
With Kyoukai no Kanata, though, I got the distinct impression that barely anyone else was willing to connect with it on the narrative level. I’ll quote Josh from Chromatic Aberration Everywhere here:
Kyoukai no Kanata shouldn’t just be viewed as “typical KyoAni” stuff – because it looks pretty good and deserves to be treated better than such. Man, even Hyouka had to put up with this nonsense, and I feel it’s time we stop applying this type of mindset to everything the studio puts out. Because they put out some damn good stuff that gets downgraded for seemingly no reason.
When people dismiss an anime’s story elements as “light novel crap” and (even worse) “KyoAni moe crap”, this avoids the intellectual heavylifting required to actually have an interesting discussion about what the narrative was trying to do on a basic storytelling level. Perhaps that’s one of the side effects of having such a genre-savvy, postmodern audience – it becomes tempting for us to look solely outside of the narrative to explain what happens in it.
Kyoukai no Kanata is an anime that consistently straddled the line between earnest and ironic execution of its tropes. To an extent, some aspects of the storytelling can only be understood with respect to the current consumerist trends in anime. Superficially, the siscon gags seem to fall into this mould. But characters who suffer complexes towards their family members have earned a place in our storytelling long before little sisters became a fetish icon in anime. Perhaps Hiromi’s complex would not have been presented with such obvious, subversive humour if this weren’t an “anime thing”, but it’s definitely been worked into the narrative in such a way that his values and attitude can be explained from the plot.
Let’s give siscons a little more credit, guys.
(Btw, this counts as one of my 12 Days of Anime posts. Today’s guest writer is… me. Seeing the ending of Kyoukai no Kanata drove me to write all of this down, but tomorrow we’ll be back to my usual format for this event. I’m glad to see some of my readers having fun with these posts! It’s been a real blast writing them, and I’m also having a great holiday so far. Hope you’re all doing well, too.)