Haruma Kawagoe always wanted a little sister, but when his mother miscarried and lost the ability to have children, it seemed like a wish that would never be granted. As it turns out, however, some years later, Santa herself stops by at the now college student Haruma’s apartment to drop off a rather unexpected Christmas present- Choko, his long-awaited little sister! Unfortunately, Choko may be an enthusiastic and loving sibling, but she is also so naïve and clueless as to need to continually refer to the guidance of a notebook. Can Haruma hope to impart some common sense to his little sister, or will it be too one task too many for a man attempting to not only handle the attentions of his eclectic neighbours, but win the heart of the girl he likes?
All too often, a series will come along that exhibits great potential but consistently fails to capitalise on it, and unfortunately, it has to be said that Chokotto Sister is one such title. In the right hands, this could have been a compulsive mix of comedy, romance and drama, featuring Choko discovering the world in an entertaining Yotsuba-esque fashion, whilst Haruma worked through his own romantic tangles. Unfortunately, the series chooses to adopt a less edifying tone, forsaking simplistic charm for the cheap success guaranteed by page upon page of fanservice.
Now, whilst I’m not particularly enthused at the prospect of fanservice, nor am I immediately turned off by it; if there’s a plot of sorts to be had behind all the ‘creative camera angles’, a series can still be worth investigating. Chokotto, however, is not just a case of a few panty shots here and there- instead, it seems designed to test the tolerances of all but the most hardened pervert. Barely a chapter goes by without recourse to nudity, breast fondling or a “let’s show each other our bras” moment, often involving Choko herself. Under such conditions, even Haruma and Choko’s relationship seems less like the innocent feelings between brother and sister, and more akin to something far more disturbing.
Why then, you might ask, would anyone not wishing to drool over a naked underage girl even want to read this? The reason lies with the aforementioned potential, the glimpses of promise sandwiched between the shower scenes and breast grabbing. From Haruma’s budding relationship with flower shop owner Ayano (no pun intended) and the ensuing love polygon, to Choko’s forays into the world, the individual story elements are interesting enough to keep you reading long after good taste dictates that you turn away.
Whilst the cast can hardly be said to be the most original bunch, they are at least relatively inoffensive, failing to inspire strong feelings either way. Haruma is more likable than the average male lead by virtue of having enough backbone and courage to interact with women, although for the most part he seems like little more than a background character. Choko, meanwhile, is the standard naïve yet enthusiastic personality, with questions regarding her origins and early life, or even why she can get away without attending school, left entirely unaddressed. Other characters, such as the ever drunken Makoto; rich girl Yurika; gentle yet troubled Ayano; and Chitose, the bespectacled landlady inexplicably infatuated with Haruma, are essentially one-trick personalities, but tend more towards likable than annoying.
Visually, the artwork is solid enough, featuring detailed backgrounds and simple yet well drawn character designs. Every so often, however, the mangaka will adopt a different style for character panels, using line drawings with only light, low-contrast shading for a softer look that enhances both the emotion of a scene and the aesthetic quality of the art.
Chokotto Sister is not so much a series that is particularly good, as one that tempts you to keep reading by hinting at how good it could be if it neglected the breast shots and concentrated more on the story. Unless you have a fetish for excessive fanservice, however, it is best to approach with caution.