Brothers Conflict was something I watched a long time ago when the sub was still streaming on Funimation. I’ve always meant to review this one, and this interim period while the most recent shows are finishing up gave me a chance to sit back down again and watch it all the way through. This second watch-through, however, has made me realize just how uninteresting this anime is overall. It has it’s good moments, don’t get me wrong, and I think fans of reverse-harems and the otome genre might appreciate it, but I feel like I don’t get that much enjoyment anymore out of series that don’t try and do anything different with their concept.
The series was originally a novel which got turned into a manga, 4-koma comic, and then Playstation otome games before finally becoming an anime in 2013. The story follows the life of highschool student Ema Hinata who finds out that her father will soon be getting married to another woman and she will soon have 13 new brothers. In order to not be a bother to her newlywed parents, Ema decides to live together with her new extended family. As Ema tries to make a place for herself in this new family, her brothers are also having a hard time accepting her as just a sister.
The animation for this show was done by Brain’s Base, who has done work on a lot of big name series such as Baccano!, Spice and Wolf, and recently Cheer Boys!! It’s from this last series that I see some carry-over into at least the ending of this series. The ending must have gotten a huge chunk of the animation budget as it features a choreographed dance routine sung by all the voice actors for the brothers and Juli. It’s catchy, it has great fluid animation, and we honestly don’t see the same level of style or fluidity in the rest of the series. That’s not to say that the rest of the animation is bad, because it’s not, but it just doesn’t have the same level of look or feel that the ending has. This just makes it seem underwhelming in my eyes. For this review though, I think I’d like to focus more on the story and characters.
The first character that really catches your attention in the series is Ema’s pet talking squirrel, Juli. To me, this character seems almost like a lady’s maid type that you would find in classic Disney or Shakespearean movies, there to preserve its charge’s virginity. But Juli also serves as a voice of reason for our sake, telling Ema that she is just too trusting and attacks any of the brothers that get too close. However much Juli adds to Ema’s cuteness appeal as a mascot character, he also distracts a little from the overall feel of the show. His insistence that Ema is too naive and unable or unwilling to protect herself distracts a little from the feel of the show as a whole. For those of you who like otome series, I wonder what you would think of a character that is actively trying to push the main character away from potential love interests. I personally think he creates this weird meta feel where his comments begin to reflect my own frustrated feelings with both Ema and the variety of tropey love interests.
This brings me to Ema’s character, our quintessential blank slate protagonist. One of the selling points of otome or harem shows are the characteristics — or lack thereof — of the protagonist. The purpose of a lot of these series is to give viewers the opportunity to visualize themselves with a certain love interest or to create their desired relationships. It becomes tricky to accomplish this if the protagonist has too unique a personality as it prevents us from projecting onto the main character. Ema’s basic resigned personality is understandable considering her position as a new member of an already established family, but her lack of resistance even after instances that could be construed as sexual harassment lends credence to this blank slate theory of mine. If the writers wanted a character with a unique personality, I believe we would be seeing someone who has more agency over her interactions with the brothers and I believe we would have a better picture of who among the brothers would be a good fit for her. What we get instead is hot and cold reactions to every advance and a semi-weird insertion of her interest in video games — that may or may not only serve as a way to connect her to one of the triplets, Natsume. I think that’s probably one of things that frustrates me the most, just watching her reactions to each advance, especially from the bad-boy type brother, Futo, whose actions consistently border on sexual harassment (but then he wouldn’t be the bad-boy type without it). The way they are displayed makes it seem like she is both welcoming and rejecting them. I almost feel like I’m Juli sometimes, yelling at her to stop being so trusting.
And what about that family? That family that can somehow afford to own a sprawling apartment complex just for them. The absent father and mother who only make an appearance on their wedding day. And don’t forget about the full thirteen brothers who, for the most part, fall into a set of basic romance tropes. If you enjoy harem or otome series, I think you’ll be content with the choice of potential love interests. You have your classy lawyer, the fatherly doctor, the sexy monk, the sporty one, the pop star with a terrible personality, the cultured college student, the little brother, the twins (who are actually triplets), the crossdresser, the loner, and the everyman classmate/first love. Other than Louis, who isn’t technically a love interest, there’s also Juli. That’s right, you eventually get a squirrel-boy love interest towards the end, if only in a dream sequence. The show pretty much has anything you’d ever want for potential romance, but don’t bank on these characters being very fleshed out. I would say we only really get to know about half of them which is understandable considering the run-time of the series. There just isn’t enough time to cover a full 13 character’s worth of characterization and backstory. And, in a way, because of this short time frame, we get scenes that make me think these boys have never seen a woman before in how fast they start coming on to her.
However, I think one of the strengths of this series is her efforts to integrate into the family dynamics and seeing how her presence opens up old wounds or exposes rifts. We see this the most clearly when she begins to take over some of the chores and overall communication with the family away from Ukyo. We also see it in the conflicts that arise between the triplets and between Natsume and Subaru. Her sole goal is to become a family and I can absolutely understand that feeling given her background of absent father and lack of a mother or family of her own. To make this a better series though, I would have loved to see more inclusion of her father and new mother, even if it was just an episode of hanging out with her new mother or an episode where her father comes back to explain her adoption. That episode could have definitely been handled better. Instead of just getting a text from her father and explanation from Juli, it would have been a lot better to see a face-to-face family get-together. But, that is another area that really comes down to how many episodes they have to spare to take characterization away from the brothers.
Overall, I think this is a fairly standard reverse-harem or otome series. I do think lovers of this genre would get some enjoyment out of this series, but I couldn’t really shake my frustration with the main character and the brothers’ unwillingness to back down. Maybe I’m just getting way too cynical to enjoy these series anymore, who knows. If you have watched it or are going to watch it, let me know in the comments below what you thought.
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