The Incest Taboo
Ah, incest. Whether you’re all for it, not interested, or hate the very mention of it, you can’t deny that it’s an ongoing theme in the anime world. Especially the older brother-little sister trope, which every fan will be familiar with thanks to shows such as Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai aka Oreimo (My Little Sister Can't Be This Cute), Oniichan dakedo Ai Sae Areba Kankei Nai Yo Ne! aka OniAi (As Long as There's Love, It Doesn't Matter If He Is My Brother, Right?), and the currently-airing anime we’re discussing today, Ero Manga Sensei.
But is the incest in Ero Manga Sensei really incest at all? To find out, we first have to question what exactly constitutes incest - something which doesn’t actually have a clear answer. Depending on who you ask, the definition will vary. For example, marriage between cousins in the U.S. is not only looked down upon, as it is in many cultures, but is actually illegal. On the other hand, it’s legal in Japan, as well as many other countries.
At the end of the day, incest is a taboo - a social construct. However, when it comes to inter-sibling incest, there are generally two things that people argue make a relationship incestuous: when the couple in question are blood-related, or have been raised as siblings. With this in mind, let’s take a look at why Ero Manga Sensei doesn’t actually qualify as incest.
1. They’re Not Blood Relatives
This introduction to the beginning of Masamune and Sagiri’s relationship shows that the two are not siblings by blood, but step-brother and -sister. In other words, these two were brought together at an older age, and are siblings in name only. We can see Masamune trying to quash his feelings and play the role of big brother that was forced upon him, often referring to Sagiri as his “imouto” (younger sister). The reason for this becomes clear in the beginning of the anime, where Masamune refers to Sagiri as “the only family member he has left.”
But what about Sagiri? She’s made it very clear that she has feelings for Masamune, but she still refers to him as “nii-san.” There are three potential reasons for this: 1) she both sees him as a brother and has romantic feelings for him; 2) she is referring to him as her brother for formalities sake, but doesn’t see him as a brother; 3) she is distancing herself from him by using “nii-san” (which can also be used to refer to any older boy/man, not just “big brother”) instead of his name. Knowing Sagiri’s character, it’s easy to surmise it’s one of the latter two. It’s also sad but likely that these terms are used to up the taboo effect and draw more fans in. In any case, these two aren’t related by blood - making Ero Manga Sensei a whole lot less incestuous than you might think at first.
2. They Weren’t Raised Together
If you believe Masamune and Sagiri’s relationship to be incestuous despite them not being blood-related, consider this: unlike many step-siblings, they haven’t actually been raised to be brother and sister. They were told in a single sentence that that’s what their relationship is, but there’s been no family structure in place to reinforce the statement. Since they were first introduced, their parents haven’t been there to create a family atmosphere or to treat them like children, let alone siblings that are part of the same family unit.
So, not only have they not had the years of being raised as siblings that they may have had if they were blood-related, they haven’t been able to truly become brother and sister on an emotional level, either. In other words, not only have these two only been “brother and sister” for about a year, but they have no reason to see each other as such - other than the word of their parents. Instead, they get to know each other outside of a family setting, with Sagiri only starting to come out of her shell once she realises that the two basically work together. Incest? Sounds more like a business relationship to me…
3. They’re Basically Strangers
If you can’t get over the whole technically-siblings thing, let’s ignore that for now and look at their overall relationship. After they were first introduced, Sagiri didn’t come out of her room for a year. Masamune didn’t see her for that entire time. The only way they communicated was through Sagiri’s stomping for food and the notes Masamune would leave on said food. They know nothing about each other, because they’ve never had a proper conversation (even now, halfway through the season, their interactions are stilted).
With Sagiri being a shut-in and Masamune busy juggling his writing career and the household chores, they weren’t able to interact at all until a year after they met. How can you learn to love someone as a sibling if you don’t even talk to each other? Even if they were blood-related, or raised as brother and sister, not talking is a sure-fire way to make sure you don’t have any family bond. If it weren’t for them working together, they would have nothing to do with each other - they’re basically strangers, and you can’t have incestuous relationships with strangers.
So, not only are Masamune and Sagiri’s not blood-related, they weren’t even raised as siblings, and are basically strangers. How do you feel about their relationship? Do you agree, or do you still think Ero Manga Sensei is incestuous? How do you define incest, and how do you feel about it in real life and anime? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts - so make sure to let me know in the comments below!