‘member South Park? There’s an episode of the scatological comedy where Kyle’s younger brother Ike is shacked up with his schoolmistress. Kyle is appalled and tries to report the statutory rape of his sibling to the police, but the cops don't want to make any arrests: their only reaction is an impressed, congratulatory, back-slapping, wistfully jealous “…nice!”
There’s always been that curious double-standard in sexual ethics. Lolicon, and manga’s general tendency to show gamine maidens flourishing in budding youth, can often be the most… awkward aspect of the medium to explain to outside observers and certainly not one you want to mention when you’re among the uninitiated no matter how earnestly you protest that is it is progressive to celebrate cultural differences. Seven Seas Entertainment’s attempt to publish Kodomo no Jikan in English as Nymphet failed without a single volume ever being released because bookshops flatly refused to stock it. On the other hand the male genre counterpart, shotacon, passes by largely without notice. We’ve even had several public, commercial releases on the theme already without a hue-and-cry being raised – for instance, you can watch the anime The World Is Still Beautiful (where a boy saunters around the bedroom mooning the viewer during the ending credits sequence) streaming on Hi-Dive, busty dragon girls "ara ara" all over the young Shouta-kun in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, and poor little Reg of Made in Abyss gets poked in all sorts of private places yet his show's been hailed as one of the best manga and anime of recent years. Hell, I can still remember a kid's TV advert (for Dairylea Lunchables, of all things) right here in the UK where a class of schoolboys were stunned into slack-jawed silence when Lightning from Gladiators showed up as their PE teacher.
Lolicon is denounced as creepy and exploitative; yet shotacon is indulged more liberally as harmlessly and nostalgically reliving silly boyhood fantasies. Are they two different concepts? Is it an inconsistency? Should we be more accepting or more restrictive? Will The Elder Sister-Like One be a manga to test the boundaries between morals as much as its characters break the barriers between dimensions?
Yuu is an adolescent orphan. Since his parents died he has been bounced around from house to house as the guest of various members of his extended family but his relatives find him an irritating burden: the very quietness he has learned to try and be unobtrusive has become disturbing and off-putting to them, so his ghostly presence is scarcely tolerated. Yuu eventually finds some measure of domestic stability when he is taken in by his uncle – an irascible, standoffish, unkempt man preoccupied with his storehouse projects, but it at least gives Yuu the home he’s lacked since infancy. After a while, though, Yuu finds himself home alone once more when his uncle falls ill and is hospitalised. While rooting around his uncle’s study looking for his medical insurance documents Yuu makes a surprising discovery – what his uncle was keeping private was the fact that he’s an occultist and his shelves are stuffed with esoteric forbidden lore and blasphemous artefacts. Finding a passage to a secret cellar that his uncle couldn’t close before he collapsed, Yuu wanders down and disturbs a summoning circle – and with the inadvertent completion of an arcane ritual, brings forth a demon into the world!
Yuu, blessedly naïve youthful unspoiled ingenue that he is, sees the creature with cruel horns, goat feet, tentacle hair, and a DD rack that’s almost falling out of her eyeball bikini and asks if she’s an angel. Amused by Yuu’s fearless ignorance, the demon grants her supplicant a wish, and as Yuu gradually becomes conscious of the awful truth of being in the presence of something that radiates the very essence of death itself he belatedly realises that he’s going to perish without ever having a family to welcome him home – and responding to his subconscious desire the diabolical Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat With A Thousand Young, duly squashes herself down into a human shape to become Yuu’s domestic companion “Chiyo”. It looks like this growing lad is all set to enjoy a steamy summer playing house with his new not-blood-related older sister, but while Yuu cherishes the beautiful girl living with him… are there other, more monstrous things - all teeth and loathing - that have moved into the shadows of the lonely house along with her?
What then follows from this are a few interminable chapters of Yuu and Chiyo idly mooching about the house with nothing to do but baby each other with cuddles, light petting and entirely inconsequential blather. Despite the “Explicit Content” warning label that’s prominent on the cover and the set-up making you anticipate that Yuu is going to be smothered by all-in-the-family fetishy fanservice fun, ecchi content of the manga is actually relatively restrained. There’s some blatantly suggestive dialogue (“sis is inside me”, Yuu murmurs as she uses her tentacle-hair to clean his ears) but the raciest the art actually gets is a single panty-shot when during a storm Yuu hides from the scary sound of a thunderclap under Chiyo’s skirt. Even though Chiyo has buxom generousness spilling out of every corner of her sun-dress, Godiva hair always preserves her modesty when she goes around naked – and while Yuu’s thin frame promises that he’s going to grow up into a slender bishonen that will surely have the fujoshi flapping their yaoi paddles, for the time being his bony pelvis catches his jeans from slipping down too far. Reading ahead, the manga will be resolutely avoiding full nudity throughout its entire run and doesn’t even have so much as a suggestion of a nipple-slip until Volume 3 so if you’re reading The Elder Sister-Like One purely to get off then you’re going to have your work cut out.
The question is, would you read The Elder Sister-Like One for any other reason? The art is skilled and comfortably familiar – you will recognise mangaka Pochi Iida as also being the artist and character designer for one of the bigger titles in last year’s crop of isekai, Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks? – and she certainly has the style of luscious, curvaceous, sumptuous warmth of busty bishoujo babes licked. Indeed, Pochi Iida actually publishes her own series of explicit hentai doujinshi of Chiyo and Yuu at Comiket where the older sister does indeed, um, ahem, teach the younger brother how to be a grown-up – so The Elder Sister-Like One is more like a cleaned-up, censored version of her doujinshi for general audiences. The Elder Sister-Like One’s content is 12A-rated at the very absolute most and in all honesty tamer than any one of a dozen fanservice manga that you can buy right now... and knowing about its origin only makes the commercial version's utter failure to titillate all the more stunningly dismal.
In the end this is not going to be the manga to compel us to reassess society’s standards. Yen Press has made the same mistake that I’ve criticized Viz Media for in the past with its overuse of the “Explicit Content” warning label giving readers misleading expectations. The Elder Sister-Like One shouldn’t be presented as a thrillingly dangerous sexual fantasy, because it simply doesn’t put out. The Fate Stay/Night mahou shoujo spinoff Prisma Illya is more transgressive! When I reviewed How to Build a Dungeon: Book of the Demon King I strongly criticised the book for its failure to live up to the labyrinth-building promise of its title, but at the very least you still had the porn to turn the pages - The Elder Sister-Like One is then even more vacant than that, having scrubbed out its sexiness while also not having significant horror content in it to fulfill its title either. You'll struggle to find much else to engage you because it's also not much of a drama – barely one or two panels in the whole book present the possibility of hostile creatures pursuing Chiyo into the human realm so it’s not a strong plot-hook to pull you into later volumes. Rather, The Elder Sister-Like One might be best presented as more of a spin on a show like Haiyore! Nyaruko-san: a light, slice-of-life comedy with the gimmick that it’s Cute Demons Doing Cute Things, as Chiyo brings a Satanic sensibility to running a happy home. Even then, though, it feels under-developed: there are a couple of okay gags, but they don’t realise their full potential. For instance, Chiyo prepares a family meal and she announces that she is going to make placenta – afterbirth is what she was always given as offerings when previously summoned to medieval Black Masses, so she assumes it’s a normal human dish. Now, this could have been a blackly humourous sequence as a horrified Yuu has to chase Chiyo across town when he realises that his sister didn’t pop down to the convenience store but went flying off looking for the nearest maternity ward to ravage; all that actually happens though is that Yuu stammers that normal people don’t eat placenta (don’t tell Penny Arcade) and the incident peters out there. What could have been a madcap chapter thus never even leaves the kitchen, and you are only left amazed by the manga's total lack of imagination.
So, kid, if you wanna /ss/, read Kaoru Mori’s A Bride’s Story instead. It is much more thoughtful and engaging than The Elder Sister-Like One’s dreary rote trope-filled fantasy: young Karluk and older Amira’s marriage across generations forms a literary manga that is genuinely informative and mind-expanding as a historical and anthropological exploration of the Persian Empire and the Central Asian steppes, plus every now and again Amira actually shows you her tits.