HomeAnimeANIME REVIEW | Genderbent Fun & Sweetness in "Onimai"

ANIME REVIEW | Genderbent Fun & Sweetness in "Onimai"

ANIME REVIEW | Genderbent Fun & Sweetness in "Onimai"

Here’s a challenge for you: can a story with a problematic premise still manage to be good? Many times over, that answer will be a hard “no”, with exclamation points that are lit on fire to get the point across. But once in a great while, the right ingredients are mixed with a bad premise, and will result in something that’s both watchable and, to an extent, good. This Winter 2023 season, Onimai: I’m Now Your Sister! manages to walk into a minefield and somehow avoid trigging just about every trap set. However, it does blow itself up a couple of times in the beginning.

Based on the manga by Nekotofu, Onimai: I’m Now Your Sister! places its focus on Mahiro (Marika Kono), who wakes up one day to find that they have switched genders. The culprit is their younger sister Mihari (Kaori Ishihara), a grade-skipping scientist whose latest experiment took the Ys out of Mahiro’s chromosomes and de-aged them by half. Unknown when the experiment will wear out, Mahiro must make due with being a woman for the time being. A tough task, seeing as Mahiro’s a shut-in and hates to leave the house.

It’s a situation that somewhat acts as a wake-up call for Mahiro’s life. With the aid of Mihari, her best friend Kaede (Hisako Kanemoto), and her younger sister Momiji (Minami Tsuda), Mahiro rediscovers the fun things in life. Going to the movies with friends, clothes shopping, and even revisiting middle school give Mahiro an opportunity to see the world from a new perspective. As the days go on, Mahiro manages to reclaim something Mihari thought they had lost forever: their happiness.

Okay, so let’s rip the Band-Aid off of Onimai: I’m Now Your Sister! After the first couple of episodes aired, I expected a show that would be one cringe-inducing moment after another. The premise alone had plenty of warning signs, especially to those in the transgender community. Its health examination in the first episode and the bathing scene in the second one also had some uncomfortable angles on full display. In fact, I was just about ready to drop the anime and never think of it again.

And then, a genuine level of sweetness that wasn’t there before appeared in Episode Three. The addition of Mihari’s friend Kaede gives Mahiro the big sister they never had. She gives them make-up tips, proper clothing techniques, and even gets them out of a jam after having an accident at the movie theater. With the grossness of its first two episodes gone, Onimai transforms into a story that’s actually warmhearted.

It gets even better when Kaede’s tomboy sister Momiji enters the picture. Mahiro bonds with Momiji and her two friends Asahi and Miyo (Kana Yuki and Natsumi Hitoka, respectively), and finds plenty of common ground with these new people in her life. When Mihari first gives Mahiro the chance to go to middle school again, they at first scoff at the idea. But once they get used to the idea, they find a sense of belonging in these new-yet-familiar surroundings.

Perhaps one can look at the positives of Mahiro’s circumstances, and maybe use them as an analogy for someone who is transitioning. As each new change occurs, Mahiro finds a new lease on life. The situations find ways to reinvigorate the former shut-in, giving them new appreciations for the world around them. While it’s not a perfect showcase of someone transitioning from one gender to another (Chii’s autobiographical manga The Bride was a Boy is the go-to for that!), Onimai goes to surprising lengths to show just how happy Mahiro now is since becoming a girl.

The show also knows how to be funny with Mahiro’s new situation, all without having to be mean about it. Dealing with the women’s bathroom for the first time, getting flustered over a yaoi visual novel (with characters cleverly named Toppington and Bottomsly), and even the first trip to the salon are presented with hearty laughs and relatable shenanigans. Mahiro entering middle school also has some great laughs, especially when it comes time to take tests. Apparently, someone didn’t tell the poor lass that middle school studies today are a lot tougher than they were years prior!

Studio Bind (Mushoku Tensei) brings Onimai to life in a very cutesy way. In fact, a show hasn’t looked this adorable and colorful since Kyoto Animation’s Lucky Star adaptation in 2007! The characters are expressive and fluffy, while there’s a great deal of detail placed in their surroundings. A great example of this is in Mahiro’s room, which is filled with otaku-centric knickknacks and the right amount of slop for a shut-in.

There’s a great chemistry with all of the cast members, with Kono’s Mahiro bringing the right amount of cuteness and silliness in her performance. Ishihara’s Mihari is somewhat the same, but there’s a nice bit of strictness in her tone when it comes time to push her now-sister to enjoy life. Kanemoto has a big sis vibe in her role of Kaede, acting as a soft pillow for Mahiro during their rough days. Tsuda pairs up nicely with Kono as Momiji, giving off a friend-for-life aura when aiding Mahiro and their new situations.

For its soundtrack, composers Daisuke Achibe and Alisa Okehazama go simple-yet-sweet. The usage of ukuleles, glockenspiels, and flutes adds a warm cushion to many of the scenes. “Identeitei Meltdown” by Enako & P Maru-san is the right amount of cute to open the show every week, while Kono, Ishihara, Kanemoto, and Tsuda go hyper-fun with the ending “Himegoto*Criststers”. (I’d advise you to watch the credit-less versions of both, since it reveals a lot of great gags that are often hidden.)

I’m not saying that Onimai: I’m Now Your Sister! will win everyone over. But it surprisingly has a lot more good in it than bad, even if it takes a couple of episodes to rid itself of its problems. Once that hurdle is cleared, you’ll find a show that’s about going the many lengths to find one’s happiness and place in society. It’s not revolutionary, but Onimai: I’m Now Your Sister! somehow finds a way to surprise even the harshest of critics with its kindheartedness and adorability.

Voice Acting:
Final Grade (not an average):

Onimai: I’m Now Your Sister! can be viewed on Crunchyroll and VRV. It has been licensed by Crunchyroll. Episodes 1-7 were observed for review. Promotional consideration provided by Crunchyroll.

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The J-POP king of America, Evan has been bringing the hottest sounds of the Land of the Rising Sun to the English-speaking public since his college radio days. He's also an expert in the gaming, anime, & manga realms, never afraid to get critical when the times call for it. Born & bred in Boston, he achieved his biggest dream yet by making the big move to Tokyo, Japan in Summer 2023! For personal inquiries, contact Evan at evan@b3crew.com. For press/band inquiries, write to us at thebastards@bostonbastardbrigade.com. (Drawing by AFLM of Wicked Anime)