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Manga / Dear Brother

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Dear Brother (Oniisama e...) is a Yuri manga series by Riyoko Ikeda, also the author of The Rose of Versailles. Serialized in Shueisha's Margaret from March to September 1974, it is one of the earliest examples of the genre, and has had a considerable influence on many yuri and shoujo series that came after it. It was adapted into an anime series by influential director Osamu Dezaki, which first aired on NHK from 1991 to 1992 for 39 episodes.

Told through a series of letters written by the protagonist to her Cram School teacher and older brother figure, Henmi Takehiko, it is the story of Misonoo Nanako, an average girl who manages to be accepted to Seiran Academy, a prestigious girls' school for the wealthy and talented. Despite lacking the background and qualifications of her fellow students, she is soon invited to be a member of the Sorority, an elite group of talented and popular girls. This makes her an easy target for the machinations of her ambitious peers — especially one Misaki Aya, who will do anything it takes to discredit her so she loses her place in the Sorority.

As time passes and Nanako meets more people, she becomes embroiled in the drama and complex, often angsty relationships between them... And that's only the tip of the drama iceberg.

It's available on Hulu, Viki, and RetroCrush under the title "Dear Brother." Discotek Media announced that they licensed it for a Blu-Ray release in 2021, though due to licensing restrictions, the series will only be available for a year.

Dear Brother provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Powerful Student Council: The Sorority, sort of.
  • All for Nothing: All of Fukiko's cruel scheming to keep Nanako away from Takehiko is ultimately pointless, because not only are they half-siblings but at the end Takehiko marries someone else anyways. Fukiko debased herself, risked her social standing and ultimately kicked off a chain of events that led to the end of her precious sorority for nothing.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The anime adds quite a bit more to the manga's storyline. To give some perspective, the manga is only three volumes long, while the anime consists of 39 episodes.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Nanako delivers one to Rei. Fukiko also gives one to Nanako, although it turns out to be fake.
  • Animation Bump: While the rest of the series makes liberal use of Limited Animation, The Ken Burns Effect and Pastel-Chalked Freeze Frames to avoid animating complex scenes, episode 27 has suddenly much more fluid, dynamic, and expressive animation than any other episode.
  • Ascended Extra: Tomoko gets much more facetime in the anime than in the manga, mainly thanks to a specific early incident being changed. ( Namely in the manga, Tomoko only rekindles her trashed-by-Mariko friendship with Nanako almost at the end of the story; in the anime, she does this after less than two episodes.)
  • As You Know: The specifics of Fukiko and Rei's relationship at least insofar as they understand it are established in such a manner, when they visit the grave of the latter's mother.
  • Bait-and-Switch Credits: The opening credits seem to be sort of thing suited to Shojo anime, but after Episode 11 and Rei's apartment are seen, they take on an eerie new significance. Even more so after episode 23, where we see Fukiko's Room Full of Crazy....
  • Bait-and-Switch Lesbians: Kaoru aka Kaoru-no-Kimi (marries Takehiko in both manga and anime, with different results on each continuity), Mariko (implied to enter a relationship with Fukiko's brother Takeshi, though only in the manga), Fukiko (revealed to have loved Takehiko all along, then deciding to remain celibate after Rei's death and Takehiko hitching up again with Kaoru). Nanako subverts this in the manga as there are no hints of anything aside from her mourning for Rei, but at the end of the anime, she mentions that she fancies a "university student" — but we don't know if said student is a boy or a girl since in the original Japanese she uses gender-neutral pronouns when talking about them. (It gets Lost in Translation in fansubs, logically)
  • Bifauxnen and Lad-ette: Rei and Kaoru. Both are quite androgynous although Kaoru displays more athletic, tomboyish traits while Rei is more urbane with an interest (and huge talent) in art and music.
  • Big Fancy House:
    • Fukiko and Takeshi's family have several, complete with greenhouses, rose gardens, huge pools, picturesque forests, and the odd Room Full of Crazy to even everything out.
    • Also, for a middle-class girl Nanako lives with her parents in a pretty large house. Likely to contrast with her "Oniisama" Takehiko's rather simple apartment and Rei's flat with a Room Full of Crazy.
    • Mariko and her mom Hisako live in a really nice home too. After the Shinobus' divorce, they move out into a cozy but small flat.
  • Bookends: Early on in the show, several of the school's Mean Girls circulate a petition to have Nanako expelled from the Sorority, for which she was chosen over Aya. Much later on in the show, Nanako herself organizes the petition to have the Sorority disbanded.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Episode 15 shows the devastating social/emotional consequences of being kicked out of the Sorority due to failing midterms, like it happens to Mariko and Nanako's classmate Junko Nakaya — which also affects Nanako quite a bit.
  • Break the Haughty: Fukiko and Aya.
  • Breather Episode: Episode 21 is completely free of angst and drama, focusing solely on Nanako, Mariko, and Tomoko accompanying Takehiko and Takashi to the university festival and spending the day having fun and engaging in the festivities.
  • Broken Bird: Rei, aka Hana no Saint-Juste. Kaoru/Kaoru-no-Kimi and Mariko also have their moments.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl:
    • Rei and Nanako are a girl/girl example, what with Rei being a kind yet unstable Brooding Bifauxnen and Nanako being the Yamato Nadeshiko in training who falls for her.
    • Mariko and Nanako might fit in too, despite Mariko being more Hot-Blooded than the usual Brooder.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Or rather, Sister Sister Incest, what Rei feels for Fukiko.
  • Bury Your Gays: Rei, the only major character to not get handed the Bait-and-Switch Lesbians card. (Nanako's ambiguous case notwithstanding). The circumstances of her death differ between the two versions: suicide via drugs overdose in the manga, a train accident in the anime (though people think she killed herself at first).
  • Chekhov's Gunman: In the first scene of the anime, Nanako reminiscences about a pre-teen boy she once saw when she was a little girl, and who ran away from her when she tried to talk to him. That boy is young Takehiko... her stepbrother.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Minor members of the Sorority are modeled after actresses from the Takarazuka Revue who were popular at the time the manga was published.
  • Costume Porn: The clothes worn by pretty much everyone are shown in VERY loving detail.
  • Cram School: Takehiko was Nanako and Tomoko's Cram School tutor.
  • Crash-Into Hello: How Rei and Nanako meet: Nanako had trouble trying to get off the bus in the first day of school, Rei pulls her out of there and, in the anime, cheerfully spins her around in front of Tomoko before letting her go.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: Nanako hums the opening theme in a couple episodes.
  • Does Not Like Men: Mariko. Blame it on her father.
  • Driven to Suicide: Rei, Fukiko, Mariko, and Aya all contemplate or attempt it at some point, and in the manga Rei actually completes it (in the anime, she dies in an accident). Rei's mother also died by drowning herself in the ocean.
  • Elaborate University High: Seiran's campus is only slightly less elaborate than that of Revolutionary Girl Utena's Ohtori Gakuen, for which it was the inspiration.
  • Empathic Environment: In the anime, especially for the first part, it's very common to see the Grey Rain of Depression start as soon as something bad happens.
  • Enemy Civil War: The Sorority's most senior members scheme against Fukiko when they lose faith in her strategy to prevent the club's dissolution; Ogiwara in particular displays hints of The Starscream. Fukiko sees it coming and incites strife among her would-be usurpers.
  • Erudite Stoner: Rei; see Hyperspace Arsenal example.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Kaoru and Rei both have sizable female fanclubs. Not to mention Nanako, who has Mariko clinging to her as well as a Pseudo-Romantic Friendship with Tomoko.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • At some point in the anime, we have Kaoru stripping twice (one of them also includes Kimono Fanservice). She's very beautiful, but both times we see her naked, are in regards to how she had a mastectomy due to breast cancer and is showing her physical scars to others (first to her boyfriend Takehiko, to break up with him; later to her friend Nanako, while explaining her backstory). We don't get to see that, exactly, but the context will get your eyes blurry anyway.
    • Earlier, Nanako and Mariko took a bath together after returning home from Mariko's birthday party, which seems to be pretty friendly...if it wasn't for the fact that Mariko goes Yandere on Nanako and threatens to kill her when she wants to return home afterwards. Brrrrrr...
    • Also, in the anime we're fooled into believing that Nanako and Fukiko will have a Girl on Girl Is Hot-like "moonlight swim". But then Fukiko almost drowns Nanako to scare her off, via hooking her foot under a log and then leaving. Nanako only survives because Fukiko didn't mean to go for the kill and returns to her soon. The scene goes from prospect Les Yay to utterly chilling in a few seconds flat.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Played straight with Supreme Chef Nanako and Lethal Chef Kaoru. Subverted with Tomoko, who's both a Supreme Chef and a Tomboy.
  • Fingore: Happens when Fukiko drops a kenzan (a very pointy flower arranging device) on Rei's hand and makes it look like an accident. Nanako is the only one who notices it wasn't.
  • Funbag Airbag: No doubt happens whenever Nanako runs into Rei's chest despite the fact her chest looks male when hidden under her jacket.
  • Furo Scene:
    • Mariko invites Nanako to take a bath with her.
    • We're also treated to our fair share of Saint-Juste shower scenes, including one in a later episode where Miya-sama confronts her about their relationship while in the shower.
    • And Fukiko gets a bathtub scene of angst in the anime, after Rei's death
  • Gayngst: Nanako has some when she realizes she's in love with Rei.
  • Girl with Psycho Weapon: Boxcutter Kaede could have taken a few tips from Mariko.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Fukiko is the undisputed ruler of Seiran's social order, and she is admired and revered as a queen. In spite of her graceful and poised facade, she is a ruthless and cruel girl who manipulates others for her own petty ends without any feelings of remorse for the pain she inflicts. Moreover, she is the staunch defender of an oppressive caste system that pits students against each other year after year and leaves the losers with deep and long-lasting feelings of bitterness.
  • Hope Spot:
    • In the manga, Nanako is overjoyed when Rei finally confesses that she needs Nanako's support and comfort. The next day, she finds out that Rei has killed herself.
    • Played differently in the anime, where Nanako and Rei are about to have a meeting is all but stated to be their first date... but Rei dies right on her way there. Nanako is left waiting for her and only learns about it when Tomoko takes her to the hospital where Rei's lifeless body is.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Rei with drugs. But it was the seventies.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: Mariko does this to Fukiko during the Sorority initiation ceremony. Apparently, it's a part of the etiquette during said acts; when Nanako doesn't do anything similar due to being distracted after the Fingore incident involving Rei, Fukiko says nothing, but it's clear that she's pretty angry and surprised. At the end of the episode, Nanako has a nightmare in which she does kiss Fukiko's hand... and then is maimed by her with a pointy kenzan that's very similar to the one that she used to harm Rei.
  • Intimate Healing: Kaoru strips naked to share body heat with Rei after she goes through an icy Shower of Angst.
  • Japanese School Club: Some of the Seiran girls are in these clubs whether they go or not to the Sorority, and overlap is tolerated as long as they keep up with their grades and activities. Kaoru is the star of the basketball team, Tomoko is a member of the cooking club, and Fukiko says she is not just the Student Council President but also a part of both the flower arrangement and the horse riding clubs. (And we do see her in activities related to both of them.) Rei isn't officially in any group but she's seen helping the girls from the Drama Club in the anime and used to be in the basketball team, and Nanako wanted to join the cooking club but being pulled in the Sorority ruined these plans,
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Aya does this quite a bit, but an especially good example is when she mocks both Nanako's middle-class background and Mariko's dysfunctional relationship with her father. Doubled when, sometime later, she publically announces to her classmates that Mariko's parents are getting divorced in a very scandalous manner. And then, Mariko massively snaps on her.
    • Fukiko's abuse of Rei is like kicking a puppy repeatedly. Especially when she tells Rei to wait for her under a tree. During a rainy, cold day. Rei stays there for hours as Fukiko "classily" conducts study sessions, and she fully knows Rei's out there.. No wonder Kaoru hates her so much.
    • Ogiwara does this when she either tries to slap Junko's friends around for supporting the dissolution of the Sorority (anime), or when she throws a stack of papers at Rei and insults her for saying the Sorority should be disbanded. (manga)
  • Late for School: Nanako is almost late for her first day in Seiran when she meets Rei. So does Tomoko in the anime.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Played straight with Nanako and Mariko. While cute, mild-mannered Nanako sits firmly on the Light spectrum, Mariko is a fair-skinned, raven-haired Yandere (with some elements of Tsundere) from day one.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Let's see: Mariko admires Kaoru but has a clingy obsession with Nanako and later is sorta tsundere for Takeshi; Nanako loves Rei, who pines for Fukiko, who acts possessive towards Nanako but actually loves Takehiko; and Kaoru also loves her ex-boyfriend Takehiko, who returns her feelings. Phew!
  • Melodrama: While there is some very real drama in the series, there's plenty of this, too. It is old-school shoujo, after all.
  • Moral Guardians: The animated series was broadcast on Wednesday mornings in France. Guess what happened after 5 episodes. Not even a Macekre could save it.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: As broken and unstable as Rei is, you can't deny that she throws her knives in a very hammy, stylish ways.
  • "On the Next Episode of..." Catch-Phrase: "Brother, there is no end to my tears!"
  • One-Gender School: Seiran Academy is an all-girls' school.
  • Onee-sama: Pretty much all of the eldest Sorority girls play the role, or are supposed to. Lampshaded by Nanako, who comments on how Ogiwara and Komabayashi were kind to her... until the Sorority is in risk of being disbanded.
  • Parental Neglect: Mr. Shinobu barely sees his daughter, which contributes to her severe abandonment issues. Mr. Ichinomiya is barely home, isn't there for Fukiko's birthday and from an emotional point of view, he's not involved in her life. Both Mr. Shinobu and Mr. Ichinomiya contribute financially to their children's lives but are not involved enough with them to be aware of their struggles.
  • Parents as People: Mariko's parents aren't evil people, but they have... issues. Serious issues.
  • Pastel-Chalked Freeze Frame: At least half a dozen per episode of the anime, in keeping with director Osamu Dezaki's signature style.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The Sorority is presented first and foremost as a prestige club for The Beautiful Elite. Its purported functions, while occasionally plot-relevant, are on display much less than the private parties membership affords.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Lots of them, but especially Fukiko. Or so it seems at first - she's not actually a lesbian (She could qualify as Ambiguously Bi or Depraved Bisexual, though).
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Mariko, all the more striking for her rich red lips.
  • Repeat Cut: Almost as many as there are Pastel Chalked Freeze Frames!
  • Room Full of Crazy:
    • Rei has two. One with stuff carved into the walls, one with mirrors everywhere.
    • Fukiko deserves an honorable mention for the room at her summer house full of creepy dolls and obsessively arranged items of memorabilia from the day she first met her obsessive crush Henmi, which she has since kept completely unchanged for six years and forbids anyone else (save for herself and one of the maids) to enter.
  • Serious Business: The Sorority's senior members attach immense self-worth to their membership and two of them are driven to kidnap Nanako when its existence is threatened. The confrontation very nearly ends with a death.
  • Ship Tease: Mariko and Takashi. She's at her most Tsundere with him, powers through several emotional nadirs in his company, and he privately admits to finding her more fascinating than impossible. Notably, he ferries Mariko and her mother around while they're house-hunting, and they make their last appearance side by side at Henmi and Kaoru's wedding.
  • Shower of Angst:
    • In the anime, both Mariko and Fukiko have hot baths of angst.
  • Snow Means Death: Sort of. It was snowy when Rei nearly died in her would-have-been double suicide with Fukiko.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Miya-sama. Somewhat unusually for this trope, it's not Henmi, the object of her affections, that is the target of her stalker behavior... but Nanako, his pen pal who Miya-sama believes he is romantically involved with.
  • Stock Shoujo Bullying Tactics: Both Nanako and Mariko are subjected to this by Aya and her Girl Posse. The former gets yelled at, slapped and even given a petition to throw her out of the Sorority, and the latter gets bullied due to her Dark and Troubled Past and when Aya reveals the whole situation to the class, she pushes over the edge and attacks her with a knife.
  • Stood Up: Rei's death causes a Type Five in the anime since she dies on her way to her and Nanako's would-be first date.
    • Fukiko regarded herself as this when Takehiko couldn't make it to her violin recital. Although in her case she saw it more as a deep betrayal, going as far as to try and drown herself immediately after!
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Nanako and either Rei or Tomoko. Especially Rei, given that they fit the Japanese idea of a Butch/Femme role so closely.
  • Tsundere: Mariko sorta evolves into a Type A/tsuntsun (cold outside, sweet inside) as she gets over her Yandere phase.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Especially for Nanako, Tomoko and Fukiko. Lampshaded by Nanako when one of her early letters to Takehiko begins with her describing the outfits she wears to school in loving detal.
  • Wham Line: As spoken by Kaoru:
    Kaoru: "But Rei... Rei, she's your younger sister!"
  • World of Ham: As a melodramatic shoujo from The '70s, adapted in The '90s by the master of the Pastel Chalked Freeze Frames. The anime has melodramatic thunderstorms, lots of Mood Whiplash and hundreds of both Repeat cuts and the aforementioned Pastel Chalked Freeze Frames.
  • Yandere:
    • Mariko threatens to kill Nanako and herself when the latter tries to decline staying overnight, then holds the door closed so she can't get out. Luckily Mariko's mother Hisako provides enough distraction for Nanako to escape, but Mariko still protests. She slowly evolves into a Tsundere, though.
    • Fukiko has shades of this, in another way. Rather than turning her disappointment against the object of her affection, Takehiko, she turns it against others, like Nanako and especially Rei.
    • Also, Rei herself may count. It's less about possession and more about being VERY obsessed with her sister Fukiko, to the point of being a Love Martyr for her. Since she already has lots of issues, this does not bode well.

Alternative Title(s): Oniisama E