Oniisama e… (Dear Brother) may be a lesser-known title, but its eye-catching imagery probably looks familiar to fans of cel animation. Screenshots of the 1987 anime have been floating around social media for some time, and it's easy to understand the popularity. Beautiful and refined, Oniisama e… doesn’t look quite like anything else, yet it rests comfortably within the shojo genre. Mangaka Riyoko Ikeda's illustrations are stunning, incorporating established manga styles while still creating something completely unique.
The subject matter is also considered revolutionary for its time. Oniisama e… is an honest, coming-of-age story that does not shy away from difficult topics. For all the soap opera-style drama, the characters remain authentic throughout. It is also an early pioneer of the yuri genre -- as well as manga and anime as a whole -- with romantic relationships between its female characters. These are handled with care and feel real rather than a gimmicky trope. Here's what Dear Brother is all about, and how to get started with the series.
The Plot of Dear Brother (Oniisama e...)
This slice-of-life drama explores girl culture, touching on themes of friendship, rivalry, romance, and heartbreak. Oniisama e... is unique in that it creates an almost exclusively female cast and uses this to play with gender roles. It follows the story of sixteen year-old Nanako Misonoo as she attends an all-girl boarding school. Nanako is somewhat of a plain Jane character, yet upon her arrival, she is invited to join the school’s prestigious sorority. Other standout characters in Dear Brother include the raven-haired beauty Mariko Shinobu and androgynous artist Rei Asaka.
The only notable male character is Takehiko Henmi, to whom Nanako writes her letters. She addresses him as Oniisama (meaning 'brother' in Japanese), though he is actually a former teacher. As time goes on, the audience learns Takehiko has secrets of his own -- and that there is more to his relationship with Nanako than is initially presented.
Where to Read the Dear Brother (Oniisama e...) Manga
Oniisama e… has a bit of a controversial past. With its original release in the mid-70s, topics such as mental illness and homosexuality were still considered taboo. It also touches on darker themes such as drug addiction, violence, abuse, family dysfunction and terminal illness. The anime’s release in France was cut short to seven episodes after being considered too mature for children. Oniisama e... was later released on several Arabic speaking networks in the early 1990s, but this also suffered from censorship and was repeatedly pulled from broadcast.
The Dear Brother manga was originally published in 1975 by Shueisha Inc. (best known for Shonen Jump) in its Margaret magazine. Sadly it has never been officially translated to English, though French, Italian and Polish versions are available. Luckily, the anime is available and easy to watch in the West.
Where to Watch the Dear Brother (Oniisama e...) Anime
The Oniisama e... anime is available to Western viewers with English subs on Pluto TV and Peacock. Both stations are free, and the series consists of one season spanning 39 episodes.
From its stunning artwork to never-ending drama, Oniisama e… is a classic that many shojo fans will enjoy. The amount of content squeezed into its single season takes the audience on an emotional rollercoaster. It is a bittersweet show that does an incredible job balancing fantasy with realism, taking the audience to a magical place -- but maybe one where they'd rather not live.