What’s Up With All These Incest Shows?

Management: Yeah, this one’s kinda merciless. What can I say.


What are your feelings on the apparent increase of shows centered around brothers, sisters, and incest?


This… might get a little cynical. Fair warning.

I think it’s just reflective of many anime’s increasing focus on and prioritizing of their own demographics’ fetishes and obsessions. Shows like this or this are the same thing – anime studios (or I guess light novel publishing houses) have realized that many anime fans don’t just want harems or power fantasies, they want harems or power fantasies explicitly centered on overt versions of themselves. Not only do these fulfill the traditional feel-goodness of self-insert characters getting the girl or saving the kingdom or whatnot, but they also serve as affirmations of the viewer’s media and lifestyle choices. It’s “identify with this version of yourself succeeding” and “your media preferences are a legitimate identity” all at once.

If I were to go even deeper into this cynical hypothesis, the “brother/sister” thing specifically is another variant of the “childhood friend” thing, or even the Rei-esque quiet doll archetype. Outsiders are frightening – they challenge you, they don’t understand you, they might even scorn or abandon you. But a little sister? They’re an incredibly “safe” interaction – you can talk with them pretty much by default, and they’re kind of contractually obligated not to utterly leave you behind. In fact, the power dynamic might even swing in the other direction – they might need you to take care of them! Wouldn’t that be a great feeling? Just like a friend you’ve known forever, just like the quiet girl who needs your help with some ordinary task, a little sister is a person who will stay with you long enough to understand you, and anyone who understands you will understand that you’re a good person.

As far as incest itself goes, it’s certainly an interesting topic when actually treated respectfully, and though I don’t find it personally appealing at all (I take Sasahara’s stance – I doubt most incest fans actually have sisters), I also think people should be able to love who they want as long as everyone’s consenting and there aren’t unfair power dynamic issues involved (which I’d assume would often complicate incest situations). But respectful treatment is not really what modern anime tends to use it for.

13 thoughts on “What’s Up With All These Incest Shows?

  1. It’s definitely an interesting topic, because it’s taboo. Liminality is such an interesting topic, and this was one of the main issues Claude-Levi Strauss covered in his early writings on Liminality – incest, that is.

  2. Hey man, really interesting perspective on this. I like your idea that stock anime is set up to pander to and confirm the expectations of the viewer. When it comes to incest (something that I have never watched in anime), I wouldn’t be surprised to see anime either taking the above route of sugaring it up for the viewer’s pleasure, or going the opposite and making it a dense, ultra-sexual/ultra-violent portrayal to be edgy.

    What I think is lacking in mainstream anime’s portrayal of difficult issues, not just incest, is maturity – to actually deal with the interpersonal issues surrounding incest in a realistic manner that confounds, upsets, surprises and educates. Perhaps even touching on, say, things like how incestuous relationships in real life are often abusive. Not sure how the Japanese would handle this and, admittedly, I know very little about incest’s role in their society. Koi Kaze might be an interesting one to watch to see a ‘mature’ take on incest but I hope it’s not just a dressed up romance/drama but one that really takes apart what incest is.

    Anyway, thanks for the read.

    • Funny you mention that ultra-violent/edgy angle, consider Pupa is coming out next season, which basically promises exactly that (http://myanimelist.net/anime/19315/Pupa).

      Anime could certainly use more maturity in dealing with virtually all of its themes and topics. Not to say no anime attempt to deal with real concerns in a thoughtful manner – in general, it actually does seem like a reliable handful of shows each season at least take a stab at seriously addressing real concerns and real characters. I find the medium itself compelling enough to dig into on the basis of those few shows, but I do wish it was more generally supportive of more challenging work.

      • haha, nailed it. Pupa synopsis: “The “life-and-death sibling” story follows Utsutsu and Yume Hasegawa, a boy and his little sister who find themselves all alone. One day, Yume sees a mysterious red butterfly and her body undergoes a strange metamorphosis—into a creature that eats humans. Utsutsu struggles to find a way to restore his sister.”

        Mmm, subtle.

        I agree 100%. It’s like any medium, though – books, TV, films all have their serious and thoughtful works amidst the general clutter of mainstream stuff. Anime’s no different really. Like you, I come back to Anime to dig deep for the stuff that’s interesting. I’m always a bit weary of what most of anime has to offer…Not to sound elitist, though. I just prefer some things over others.

  3. Since coming to WordPress I swear I learnt more about anime in 4 of your post than my 3 years watching haha, indeed the little sister is a very safe character to use and can be quite good if used wisely (oriemo) however it can really take a turn for the worst.
    Im hoping that in the coming future the anime industries revert back to stock story lines, Amp signing out (;_;)7

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  5. I would like to ask why you think that Ore no Nounai Sentakushi ga, Gakuen Love Comedy wo Zenryoku de Jama Shiteiru is a show as stated above. I don’t want to be rude, but I couldn’t even find the show on your Mal, and for me it seems unfair to judge the show as such, considering it being a show you haven’t even seen (based on your Mal).

    I for my part viewed the show as some kind of satire comedy, parodying all the arctimes to the extreme. For example the “Imouto” character (honestly, I hate all of this “Imouto-thingy” as well) calling literally everyone in the entire cast “Onii-chan” or the Tsundere having I think like 3 lines that didn’t insult the MC in some way while having “cute” lines just as extremely often.

    If I understood you correctly, you are criticizing the “I seem so strange/different to everyone [in this anime shown by the action he is forced to do because of his curse] but in reality I am a really good, relatable human being that is just misunderstood [in this anime shown by the narrative and thoughts of the MC]”-thing, that so many people go through in their youth, the main demographic of this show.

    The MC tries to live with his curse, always picking the choice which causes less harm to others and more harm to himself, which seems to support the thing you critizised (If I understood it correctly) about it, him being actually a good person and all. However, he has to deal with situations so utterly ridiculous that I can only see him as an embodyment of the modern youth fighting against all the things that they have little to no influence on, for example there being 2 choices that are basicly the same thing in green.

    A bit offtopic, but I would like to ask if you are watching AMVs, and for what reasons you do/do not. I for my part love a good amv as a kind of summary of the show attached with all the feelings you had while watching the show combined, therefore it can have great influence on me and even make me cry or really, really happy.

    • The shows I picked here were upcoming shows at the time I wrote it – I actually ended up checking out both of them and dropping both of them. Love Comedy just leaned way too much into this anime humor, and I actually think an element of “this is so ridiculous” is now baked in to these shows. They basically accept the artificiality of their construction, and draw attention to it… but this doesn’t really make the shows meaningfully better.

      I actually really like the concept of AMVs and narrative-based music videos in general, but I haven’t watched too many of them. Not because I think they’re not good or anything, I just haven’t really sought them out. I’ve definitely enjoyed some of the ones I’ve seen.

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