How would you rate episode 9 of Sister’s All You Need ? A Sister’s All You Need has always been a fanservicey show, but...

How would you rate episode 9 of
Sister’s All You Need ?

A Sister’s All You Need has always been a fanservicey show, but this latest episode is the first one specifically about fanservice. Kaiko, the artist behind the manga adaptation of Itsuki’s novels, returns for much more character development, leading into a serious question. Which is more desirable: underwear shots or full-on nudity?

After the previous episode infused its look at the characters’ various relationships with a surprising amount of depth, this comes across as strong material for a lighter episode. What makes it work is the sheer seriousness with which all the artists and creators involved discuss the issue. Itsuki and Kaiko both espouse philosophical reasoning for their preferred kind of lurid content, and their shamelessly self-serving attitudes push what could have been an annoying discussion between two perverts into enjoyably absurd territory. ASAYN has dabbled in more experimental explorations of its x-rated ideas before to mixed results, but this week it’s happy to just be silly and irreverent. Even when Setsuna returns, he’s back to his good-natured self, and it’s nice that his inclusion moves the storytelling beyond yet another conversation in Itsuki’s apartment and on to something as ridiculous as a fanservice-drawing competition.

Admittedly, this is where an already-divisive show becomes even more not for everyone, which continues through the rest of its runtime. Adding the tic of underwear fetishism admittedly makes Kaiko much more unique than her initial introduction implied, lending her an effective contrast with the other characters. Having her reveal that her hair ribbon was in fact a pair of folded-up panties that she insists on wearing on her face while drawing might be an unfunny bridge too far for some audiences, but I thought it fit right in with the infusion of wackiness this episode was bringing. Even Itsuki admits that it’s not the weirdest thing he’s seen so far. The scene finally culminates in a shocking judgment on the sexy sketch-off that wouldn’t be out of place in Food Wars. More impressively, the judges’ affirmation of the quality of Kaiko’s work seriously convinces them of the appeal of her preferred brand of fanservice in a way that feels genuine; after all that ridiculous back-and-forth, we actually feel happy for Kaiko when she succeeds through sheer passion for her craft, however saucy it is.

The second half of the episode is decidedly more uneven. Everything about Kaiko was already pushing the show’s limits for some audiences, so adding Nayu to the equation just pushes the whole envelope through the paper-shredder. You might think another character challenging Kaiko on her fanservice preferences again would run us through the same motions we just saw, and while the pseudo-philosophical debate over nudity vs. underwear hits a few of the same notes at first, the conflict quickly escalates and not in a good way. Nayu’s borderline-assault of Kaiko is neither cool nor funny, in a way that seriously doesn’t jibe with the otherwise jocular vibe of its dirty humor. That section at least passes quickly into a much funnier moment where Kaiko turns the tables on Nayu and they both turn out to be into it. By the end, the implication is that these two characters just straight-up had sex in front of a horrified Miyako, and while it definitely won’t be funny to some people, at least it rounds back to the kind of absurdity that can carry the show more consistently. The knowing cut to the two roping Miyako into their fanservicey antics is timed just right to be really funny as well.

While all the outrageous action that occurs in this episode is pointedly shallow (this is another one that will probably move a lot of blu-rays), there are surprisingly some strong ideas in this mess of fetishes and pandering. Itsuki decides to include more underwear-clad scenes in his novels, while Kaiko ends up choosing to include both lingerie and nudity in her manga adaptation. For her part, Nayu finds herself thoroughly convinced of Kaiko’s talents, and the whole driving undercurrent is seeing artists grow from their interactions with other artists. Around this point, I started to realize how much this point has factored into the series itself, from the games the authors play usually doubling as writers’ exercises of some sort to how the whole central cast has learned something through Miyako despite her not yet being a creator. It’s a more focused version of the idea from back in episode 5 of where writers get their ideas from.

It’s maybe an odd way to make this point, but ASAYN seems to be trying to say that engaging with people outside your comfort zone can lead to you discovering new realms of your own creativity. The ridiculously badly-behaved Nayu is regularly cited as the best author in the show, and even she learns something from a new character who challenges how she shamelessly imposes herself on the world. The notoriously (though recently less-so) self-centered Itsuki finds himself respecting the work of someone diametrically opposed to his preferred type of expression (fanservice in this case) to the point that he trusts her to adapt his own work. The emotional depth of ASAYN has always been its most notable aspect, managing to communicate abstract ideas through simple storytelling. The only problem is that you can only engage with these ideas if you can stand to watch the show.

Rating: B+

A Sister’s All You Need is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.