I love otome games, and I’ll sing their praises to anyone willing to sit still long enough, but even I can admit that they have their flaws. The portrayal of the MCs is one of the biggest complaints folks have about otome games, since most are little more than blank slate self insert characters. But, fans and critics alike have been beating that dead horse for years now and I’ve said my piece about otome heroines quite a few times in the past, so I wanted to talk about something different: brothers.
I’ve been sitting on this for awhile now, but I never really knew how to go about talking about otome games and their complicated relationship with siblings, specifically brothers. Now, otome games aren’t the only medium to toe the incest line, especially when there are anime like Oreimo floating around… But, over the years I’ve noticed that there are quite a few otome games that either flat out focus on romancing siblings or slip it in as a “secret” ending and I haven’t really seen many people talking about it.
It’s Okay We’re NOT Related: Step-Brother Romance in Otome Games
Right, so some folks justify onii-chan romances by saying, that step brothers don’t count because they aren’t blood related. And to an extent they’re right, there is no blood relation, so in the eyes of the law step-siblings are pretty much strangers who happen to live in the same house. No harm, no foul. There are a couple of games that have the premise of a young girl who’s parent marries someone with children from a previous marriage. Most notable is Otomate’s Brothers Conflict series, where the heroine, Ema Hinata’s father marries a famous clothing designer and she gains 13 new step brothers of varying ages. No ickle blood relations attached, just a group of 13 reasonable good looking step brothers vying for the affections of their new cute step-sister.
There’s no issue because there is no blood relation, it’s the illusion of a forbidden romance without the actual “forbidden” aspect of the relationship. Though the ages of some of the step-brother love interests are a bit “risque” since they range from 31 to 10 years old, compared with Ema’s 17… But, age gap romances are a discussion for another post… I’m okay with Brothers Conflict, because they make it clear that the MC and her harem of onii-chans are not blood related and the focus of the romance in question doesn’t stem from a sibling relationship (at least not in the traditional sense). On paper Ema and her step-bros are family, but they don’t exactly act like family.
Voltage Inc. (Otome Romance) does the same thing in their games Our Two Bedroom Story and Diary of a Step-Sister, though the former focuses less on the step-sibling premise and more on the co-habiting with a stranger gimmick. However, Diary of a Step-Sister is a by the book step-sibling romance, where the heroine’s mother marries into a wealthy family with five cute heirs… wash rinse repeat. Then there’s Otouto Scramble, where you play as a 19 year old college student whose mother remarries giving you four new step-brothers, one of which is 11 years old… I know I said I’d hold off on the age gap romance rant, but 11 years old is too young! There is nothing cute about romancing a child, let alone your child step-brother… I don’t care how “mature” they are, it’s just not for me. NOPE!
But, shotacon aside, I don’t have an issue with step-sibling romances unless, the step-sibling’s romantic feelings for the heroine stem from the fact that she is his sister. It’s one thing to have an attachment to you’re step-sibling as a non-blood related person, it’s a another thing entirely to have romantic feelings for them because they’re your sister. As someone that actually has brothers, the idea of romancing a brother character in a game gives me the skeevies and seriously turns me off to not just the bro-con route, but the whole game. I’ve made exceptions for non-blood related step brothers, but even that is a bit too close for comfort, especially when the MC spends the majority of the game referring to the love interest as onii-chan… Either he’s family and not a potential romantic partner or he’s not family and he’s free to date.
This comes up in 7’scarlet where (spoilers turn back now) Ichika finds out that her older brother, Hanate isn’t her real brother, but an impostor pretending to be her onii-chan. Now, technically they aren’t blood related, so no harm no foul, right? Wrong! Even after discovering that her dear “sweet” onii-chan isn’t her brother, she continues to view him as her brother, despite developing romantic feelings for him. There is a scene where she kisses him and declares her love for him all while STILL CALLING HIM ONII-CHAN! For all intents and purposes, to Ichika, Hanate is still her brother and what’s more it’s heavily implied that he has romantic feelings for her as well. He’s known her since she was a child, and while he may not have been “in love” with her until she was much older, it still doesn’t negate the fact that they were living as siblings. This is where I draw the line, you can’t have your cake and eat it too! Which leads me to…
Onii-chan Is All You Need: Straight Up Brocon in Otome Games
This is really what this post is really all about, honest to God incest, bro-con romances. This is a hard no for me. Being blood related negates any and all romantic anything from a relationship. If incest is your thing, more power to you, but that’s a hard pass from me. This was one of the reasons I was so turned off to Period Cube, the heroine’s brother (yes, I believe he is her REAL brother) commits all these atrocities in the real world and in the game world just so he can have a place where he can lust after his sister in peace. Ummm, okay… right… mmhmm… WHAT?!
There is a bit of ambiguity as to whether or not Shiki is Kazuha’s actual blood related brother and even the game is pretty vague about their relationship. However, based on their appearance and some key dialogue from the game, I really believe that he is her true brother, I mean why else would he be so skeevie throughout the game? The one redeeming aspect of his story is that Kazuha doesn’t actively pursue a romantic relationship with Shiki until after (spoilers) time is reset and she can organically fall in love with her onii-chan. However, even then, I still can’t get on board with their relationship. His obsession with his sister isn’t healthy and any relationship borne out of that is just tainted from the get go…
And then there’s Nesso from Black Wolves Saga, where do I begin with Nesso? Should I start with the fact that he’s Fiona’s half brother or with the fact that he develops a total sis-con from day one? It’s explained that marrying your half-sister is TOTALLY okay in the world of BWS, however for me as a player, it just makes me feel… gross. Unlike Shiki in Period Cube, Nesso has no qualms about showing his affections for his sister, openly stating that he WILL marry her one day. He is also extremely protective of Fiona, veering into yandere territory more times than not, especially since he wants to keep his sister locked in her tower. You know so no pesky guys can weasel in on his territory, I mean, harm Fiona. It also doesn’t help that Fiona has a weak constitution and has been confined to a tower for years with minimal contact with the outside world, however at the very least her relationship is platonic in every route but his own. But, that doesn’t mean he isn’t still interested in Fiona in a romantic way, which manifests in him trying to cockblock anyone even vaguely interested in her… especially in Mejojo’s route.
Unlike Shiki’s route, there is no ambiguity, Nesso is Fiona’s brother and despite the way the game tries to justify his feelings, I just couldn’t get down with the whole sibling romance. Of course, there will be folks out there that will say that I’m holding characters up to my standards and beliefs, but otome games are meant to be self insert experiences (at least to some degree). I’m all for the fantasy romance experiences otome games offer, but incest is one fantasy, I DO NOT want to experience.
Where I Stand on Onii-chans…
So, yeah… I’m not a fan of brocon in otome games, I can kind of overlook step-sibling/adopted siblings romances, because they aren’t technically related. But, where I really split hairs is when characters conflate their familial relationship with their siblings with their romantic feelings for their sibling. And straight up incest just isn’t my thing in general. Of course this is just my opinion and if you enjoy forbidden sibling romances in otome games that’s cool too, it’s a matter of preference.
The games I mention are just a few of the otome games that deal with brocon relationships, in fact the free to play English otome game Cinderella Phenomenon has a step sibling romance option and the game very much treats it as something “taboo” which I liked. Then there’s the onii-chan route in LoveRevo that everyone is suprisingly chill about despite the fact that Takashi is the MC’s brother, not half brother, but full blooded big bro…
That’s how I feel about brother/sister relationships in otome games… they exist, I don’t like them and that’s about it… So, yeah… What do you guys think of onii-chan routes in otome games or other Japanese media?