Sometimes it feels like Oreimo becomes an entirely different show when not focused on the main characters. Episode 3 of the second season feels like a sincere, intimate episode from the likes of Genshiken.
I’m glad to not have written a Saori post until now. I had been holding out until I learn more about her backstory, about the circumstances that made Saori Makishima don an alter ego just to make otaku friends. She’s easily the most mature and considerate of the characters, a model otaku whom we could all aspire to. The answer was surprising.
It’s revealed in this episode that Saori was once a shy and lonely girl, who gradually opened up to her sister Kaori’s circle of friends. But those happy days did not last when Kaori suddenly left. Little by little, the group drifted away, and Saori blamed her sister.
But Kaori’s friends were never fully Saori’s friends at all–they were Kaori’s in the first place. She had been inducted to the circle, but remained partly an outsider. She was there, but never truly belonged. This drove Saori to make friends on her own, to build up a circle by herself.
The biggest takeaway here was how Saori drew her strength from loneliness, and aided by the kindness of her closest friend, Kanata. It was Kanata who deigned to show her many wonderful things and made an otaku out of her. Saori Bajeena would never have existed without Kanata, for she provided it all–the glasses and insatiable desire to reach out and befriend others.
Here’s my theory: otaku are driven by loneliness. It doesn’t matter what kind of person we are, introvert or extrovert, because loneliness is universal. Our interests are intensely personal, looking inward. We obsess on solitary pursuits, glad for the chance to be ourselves and not have to put up appearances for others.
Sadly, this loneliness often turns into bitterness and misery. When this happens, we lash out at others. We say mean things to each other. We close ourselves from the world and take pride in our seclusion from it.
But there’s another way. Personal experience has showed me that lonely people can be capable of great compassion and friendship. As another otaku-centric show said, pain is power, and we can sublimate it. Ultimately, Saori’s exposure to her sister’s friends, however temporary, proved beneficial to her, as she grew up into a strong, kind person. She had found a friend who sincerely connected with her in shared interests.
When Kanata gave her glasses to Saori, it was a way of telling her to pay it forward. Just as she had been graced with friendship, Saori must now reach out to others who had been like her, alone and without anyone to talk to about a hobby shrouded in ignorance and disdain. Her initial reasons may have been petty, but the results speak for themselves: Kirino and Kuroneko are both better people with her company.
Before this episode, I thought that Saori was this mythical otaku deity who overflowed with goodness. Now, I learn that she’s just a normal person, bruised and miserable at one point in her life, who rose up to dole out the gift of friendship to other lonely souls. Because of this, she has gained even more of my respect. It makes an admirable example of how we could channel the yearning in our hearts into friendship.
What does Saori Bajeena teach us? Sincerity, and openness. Kanata had been both to her; Kanata had shown Saori lots of things because she liked them, and thought that Saori could have fun, too. Unlike Kirino and Kuroneko, Saori never belittles anyone for their tastes. She’s too busy liking things than putting others down. Some otaku want to be seen as purveyors of good taste, so they judge others harshly for not sharing their own interests. Not Saori. She doesn’t have to flaunt her otaku cred. She simply has it.
The fact that Saori was able to pull in a group is no small wonder. Years before, I had a crippling fear of offkais. I was, after all, meeting with strangers, and who knows what crazy sort of people I’d run into? It takes courage to meet people and move from strangers to friends. You have to believe in the goodness of people.
One final thing I want to talk about is Saori’s disguise. Saori Bajeena is like an otaku straight out of the 80’s, from the swirly glasses to the rolled-up posters jutting out of her backpack like beam sabers. It helps that Saori is an otaku of the old school, but I also believe that she puts on a face in order to downplay her social status, which is a potential barrier to making friends. People would be intimidated by a rich lady, and might even interpret her niceness as the condescension of the rich. Otaku are even more susceptible to this, because of the whole riajuu thing. The disguise is a uniform, a message of solidarity. It says: “I’m one of you, so let’s be friends!”
What do you say?
The Oreimo Post Series:
- My Oreimo Can’t Be This Thoughtful
- Kirino, the Misery of Lonely Fans, and the Importance of Making Friends
- Saori, Owner of a Lonely Heart (Still the Best Kind of Fan)