Title: Intricate Relations Author: Teagarden
Source: Brothers x Conflict Characters: Ema H. & All Asahina Brothers
Genre(s): Drama / Romance Rating: T
Chapter(s): 36 Status: Complete
Author’s Synopsis: Ema Hinata joins the Asahina family at age eleven. As Ema grows she offers the brothers support in their dreams, care when they’re down, and cheering when they succeed. The brothers all come to adore Ema, but as time goes on they have to ask themselves: do they love her as their stepsister, or as a woman?
Welcome Readers, I felt like I was on a movie kick with my reviews lately and I needed to change things up. So, I returned to a story a found a couple of months ago when I was on a Brothers x Conflict binge. It was one of the few stories I found that featured the series’ focal character, Ema, and the multitudes of stepbrothers rather than on just one or two brothers; so, it caught my attention. Now, after reading this story twice I can properly give it a review that it deserves.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am your reviewing host, the Fan Fic Reviewer; here to review the good, the bad, and those that should never exist in fan fiction. Today we are entering the world of harem fan fiction – well, reverse harem fan fiction – with “Intricate Relations.”
For those who may have never heard of Brothers x Conflict it is an Otome game, there are manga and light novels available, and an anime. The premise is that Ema Hinata an only child of a world renowned adventurer, she gains 13 stepbrothers when her father remarries. Ema begins living with her stepbrothers and over the course of the game, novel, manga, and anime several (all 13) of the brothers come to feel romantic feelings for Emi and vie for her heart.
That is not a typo, there are 13 potential guys for this girl. Well, 12 in this story because the story didn’t bother with the youngest (thankfully) who is 10 in the anime (13 in Season 2 of the novels). Still, that is 12 guys to juggle and build potential relationships with in the story. It’s hard work and the story puts in an admirable effort, however it still has its flaws. Let’s start there, with the balance of these 12 suitors and their quest for Ema’s affections.
This story was not a slouch in how it handled the brothers. The brothers each made a different impact on Ema and had their moments with her, and while the balance was pretty well maintained there were still some characters who ended up falling to the way side during the course of the story. Hikaru didn’t get much of an opportunity to try his luck at Ema’s heart due to the fact that the character moved out of the country and was mostly kept out of the picture; in the end, he became the voice of wisdom to Ema. Not a bad change. Iori suffered though. His potential romance was built as strictly one-sided and his sudden departure then return left no room for anything to potentially take root between him and Ema. Louis was another one that got regulated to “friend” despite having a decent beginning and would have made a strong contender had his character and attentions been maintained.
Otherwise, the other 9 siblings had pretty solid romance opportunities with Ema. Each one being cultivated over time from Ema at age 9 to Ema at 18. The story maintained several of the rivalries from the game / novels / anime and used those to help generate tension between the brothers. Unfortunately, this made these characters seem narrow sighted for not seeing all their brothers as rivals. The few brothers who did not have rival to be pitted against normally had to compete with their jobs and the age difference. Those were probably the most interesting characters as they often acted not out of jealousy (except for 2 instances) but out of the desire to make the most of their time with Ema.
It’s a difference in terms of how the characters approach their feelings for Ema but still the 9 brothers build up strong potential romances with Ema. Strong enough that it’s hard to know who she will eventually choose. I will touch on the ending later, for now I want to dive into Ema’s side of this romantic harem.
Ema Hinata is one of those characters who is meant to be the “every girl,” very few defining personality traits and quirks in the game and while she has a bit more in the anime, she lacks a bit of depth. This story gives her that depth and actually tries to shape her away from the “every girl.” She doesn’t have a strong personality but she does have one, enough of one that when as her brothers start confessing their feelings to her and (some) becoming aggressive with their affections she reacts. She doesn’t just take their actions or words; she reacts to them.
Everything that happens as the brothers make moves on her causes Ema stress and the pushier they become, the more she retreats from them. In the anime, Ema kept pointing out that “they’re family” and in this story she clings to the idea of “Family” even more firmly because she grew up side by side with the brothers then suddenly – it would feel sudden to her – how her brothers feel for her has turned from familial to romantic; it causes her to eventually lash out and say how she sees them as family. In the anime, it feels like the “family” reason is more of an excuse for her to not analyze her feelings but in this story it makes sense given the history it builds between her and the brothers.
Actually, because of how Ema reacts to the brothers’ aggressive behavior leads to my favorite moment in the story; the part where she leaves Japan with Louis (the brother regulated to friend/family zone) to spend the summer in France. It’s my favorite part of the story because unlike the anime where Ema tries to family-zone the brothers and they all decide to still pursue her; this story shows that there are consequences to the brothers pushing so hard for her to return their affections. Ema leaving is also the best point because it allows the character to analyze her feelings and what she wants for her future – a subplot in the story. It’s the only time where Ema is able to focus on herself instead of the Asahina brothers.
Now, as for the end; much like the game, there are multiple different endings. There is an ending for Tsubaki, Azusa, Natsuem, Yusuke, Fuuto, Kaname, and Masomi. While I think this is genius because it allows just about any Reader to be happy with the various endings, it also pisses me off. Note the number of different endings – 7 – note how many brothers I said had strong romance potential with Ema – 9. Yeah, two of those brothers did not get an ending, Ukyo and Subaru. Why I’m mad about this is because the Ukyo had a strong build and was on the same level as Masomi yet for whatever reason he was never given an ending. Just nothing. Apparently the story didn’t bother with giving Ukyo a happy ending beyond him just being happy that Ema’s happy.
Truthfully, I’m more upset about Subaru not getting an ending because out of the 9 potential romances his got dropped a bit earlier than the others. Not completely dropped but enough to signal that the story was done trying to wiggle the basketball star back in. He had a strong beginning, a weak middle, and then he disappears near the end to pursue his career only to return when Ema returns. There’s concessions made for the other brothers to try and tie up loose unrequited ends but Subaru gets nothing. I understand that he’s hard to write – whoever created Subaru’s character did not bother trying to go past “he’s a basketball star who’s awkward with girls” – but this story could’ve given him a bit more potential. It certainly could’ve – at the very least – given him an end where Ema goes to watch one of his first games in the pro and…well, time makes the heart grow fonder. This story could’ve gone corny and made it work. Instead, it ignored the potential.
Overall, the story is very good. Despite my grievances about certain characters not receiving an ending or a chance at romance, I still enjoy it a lot. I appreciate how the brothers’ feelings slow eat away at Ema until she breaks down and must literally leave to find herself. I also enjoy the amount of time devoted to each brother’s feelings and their interactions with Ema. Personally, my pick would be for Kaname or Yusuke but I’m biased.
I do highly recommend the story, it’s a good one to read and it does a great job of maintaining the harem aspect of the story. I seriously could see each one of those endings happening and when Ema returned from Japan it was wide open as to who she would end up with. It was a great story to read and I hope other Readers take the time to check it out.
Stars: 8.5 / 10