You know what I find to be something akin to frustrating about Anime? How I like to follow a completed story, and they all finish about the same time if you want to do the recent stuff. One could call this the start of a six part series on the selected Fall 2012 Anime I chose to review based on an interesting sounding premise or I hear Sir Tobbii talk about it. Instead of rushing to the most recent stuff, I’m starting with what finished first, before I finish, and have to do the whole thing once more for Winter 2013, while hopefully getting to the Berserk movie trilogy sometime between. But onto the review in question
Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions Review
Studio: Kyoto Animation
Length: 12 episodes
Availability: Subtitled at The Anime Network, assuming you have a subscription.
Boy that title is a doozie, Chuunibyou Demo Koi Ga Shitai or Chu-2, because Japan does things like that. Which directly translates to Even People with Adolescent Delusions of Grandeur Want To Experience Love! But the English version is going to be called Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions…. Really? So I’ll just call it Chunibyo, even though that title means nothing to me. I mean, Oreimo had a dumb title when translated, but it made sense in terms of the show. Not that it matters that much, titles don’t make the show, the studio does. Which is Kyoto Animation, a studio who I feel like I must be harsh to, because they got a lot of fans with stuff like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Lucky Star, Nichijou and K-On. While I was mostly indifferent towards all three of them, with six of the fourteen original episodes of Haruhi being the exception. Not that I was even aware of the studio before watching, just to show that I don’t do any research.
Chunibyo is the story about a regular occurrence that happens in Japan, or at least this version of it, known as “Eighth Grader Syndrome”, at least when you alter it to fit a more worldly school system. Which has many young adults leave their childhoods while believing themselves to be some important figure, once who looks to things seen as wrong in order to defy society. And thinking themselves as a unique individual who is far more important than they actually are. Mostly, at least in this show, by sounding like some cheese-tastic anime character. In other words, teenage rebellion, because they are both looked back on with at least a bit of embarrassment before you become a true adult.
The main character of this interesting premise is Yuta Togashi, a student who went out of his way to ignore his past as a, for lack of a better term, victim of “Eighth Grader Syndrome”. Who is at the stage of abandoning his former ideals, and become an everyman, one who does not stand out, or experience much joy, just keeps the evolutionary chains rolling. Yeah, I’m being morbid, but that happens after I hear people who desire to be “normal”. As a character trait, I find it to be remarkably hard to sympathize with, because they are aiming for mediocrity. Not even to have a good life, just one that’s okay.
But right as he begins his attempt to leave his former persona of the, “Dark Flame Master” behind, the white eye-patch wearing Rikka Takanashi comes in to show him one of the most “extreme” examples of “Eighth Grader Syndrome”. After hearing him from her nearby apartment complex, she decided that Yuta must be her playmate, with her sister baiting him with a recording of him acting like a more morbid Super Sentai villain. From there, the duo set off on an escapade of forming a club, and exaggerating on a series of escapades as Rikka talks about her Wicked Eye, and an “Ethereal Horizon”.
While it is normal for shows like this to have a cast of about a half a dozen characters, the story is almost completely built around the main male and female lead. With maybe one more in the form of Rikka’s friend, Sanae Dekomori. Another individual who holds “Eighth Grader Syndrome”, but could easily be replaced with Rikka in the parts where she is important. But I’ll get to that in a bit. Then there’s a nap happy girl existing for comic relief, and because Kyoto Animation still wants to do K-On. Another former holder of “Eighth Grader Syndrome” who is only involved because of Dekomori, with an unfinished character arc, because this show just kinda stops because the budget ran out. And a horny male classmate who gets involved in the end, because he wants to nap with the nap lover.
But beyond those minor characters, the show also struggles to keep up a consistent tone. The beginning is lighthearted and goofy, then there’s a revelation, which lacks the amount of information for the viewer to fully assess how much weight it should hold. Short version, RIkka loses something and we don’t really know how important it was to her. And then the ending is some sort of romantic turning point where it decides that the two main characters needed to fall in love. Which is the point where I want to talk about this show in the most detail.
Now, I plan on doing an individual piece about the very issues of romance as I’ve seen it portrayed in media, and my specific problems with it. But for a compact version, you really don’t need to have a romance in order to have a relationship between two characters. In popular culture, the idea of falling in love never made much sense to me. Perhaps its my Asexuality or lack of social skills, but I can’t understand personal relationships beyond ones that are for assistance, so you can call back on someone with a favor, or friendship.
And I could just be missing the point entirely, but the modern idea of romantic relationships is that you want to be with those who have similar interests with you, along with a mutual physical attraction. And even that is unnecessary. I mean, the only “Romance Story” that I liked was ToraDora, where the two leads had next to no physical attraction, and just enjoyed being with each other. And when they said the whole, “I love you” schpeel, it was part for formalities, part to form a bond that cements their relationships, and part to defy the ideals set for them by others.
And while the confession scene in this show was fairly heartwarming and well presented, there was really no reason for it. The conclusion requires the two to care for each other and realize how important each other was for them in how they allowed them to grow and find themselves. And the confession is never heard from again, and met with a build up that could have easily been done without altering one character’s personality into helping RIkka confess to Yuta. And the moment when she realized that she did love him, was pretty unprovoked as well, so it does not seem like a logical moment for a character to act out against their established nature. Especially since it does end with her not speaking to him for, and I quote, half a semester… They are in the same class and in a club together, how’s that even possible? I know that little number issues don’t matter all that much, but come on!
It was while watching the final two episodes, where Rikka is told to abandon her “Eighth Grader Syndrome” where this plot point and issue basically disappears, only to make way for another one. How the big scenes that the series was built around, where the girl must learn to accept reality, were where I just could not help but think that the minor characters ultimately served no purpose. Oh sure, the families play a role and support both of the characters, but the classmates just end up stealing thunder and depth from the main two.
Namely how the inevitable talk that Yuta would have with Rikka about learning to accept reality is never shown. There are shorter conversations with Dekomori, where she continues to believe that she is living in a world where there are unseen forces, and she can pull giant mallets from her weird pigtail things. Which I found to be gripping scenes, but we don’t see Yuta confront Rika about this, we cut away from that, and then jump ahead three weeks. It just feels like instead of developing a main character, we had to focus the depth into a less interesting side character, who we still barely know by the end.
It’s kind of like how in Oedipus Rex, we are told that Oedipus’ wife hung herself, right before Oedipus blinded himself for realizing that not only did he kill his father, but made three kids with his Mom. We don’t see the actual anguish due to limitations of the original Greek play structure, but here? There’s no reason other than the writer was not up to the challenge, or the animators lacked the time, which just makes the side characters feel all the more useless.
At least the show’s end was presented well, or at least I’d think it would if better translated from the fansub I watched. With the very predictable message of how this “Eighth Grader Syndrome” is a young adults way to help figure out who exactly they are. But the show seems to be so skewered on other plot threads that I would not be surprised if the message were to be lost. Resulting in an ending that is more of a relief that they did not screw up too much, rather than seeing everything conclusively wrap itself up. Because the ending is RIkka and Yuta riding on a bike away from the cops, into the sunrise, after an old man presumably beat up the secondary characters in order to get his granddaughter back… What?
But onto the animation, all I have to say is the studio, and you know that you’re in for something that looks lovely. Fluent frames, just the right amount of fluff to make the characters look nice as their hair bobs, and a very nice job in terms of sharing. As well as the designs for anyone but Rikka and Dekomori certainly being memorable. I can flaunt the narrative for quite a while, but the animation remains smooth right down to the pretty damn lovely looking backdrops. While the music is pretty much what one would expect, except for maybe a touching track or two near the end.
I don’t think it was one of my best ideas to add this show back onto my list… twice. The whole structure of also being a romance story really bogs a very touching and possibly introspective story into something that is an odd hybrid of lighthearted comedy and mismatched romantic drama. And the characters feeling like stickers to the plot when I really started to think on their significance beyond filling a clubroom.
Perhaps I am just not the right kind of guy who can enjoy love stories. But that’s like being a guy who, “just can’t enjoy kid’s shows”. More often it is not the subject matter, but how it is presented. And while I can comprehend some enjoying love without reason, I can’t ignore issues as big as these. It could have been better, could have been worse, but if it bombed, I’d feel nothing
Fans of the genre or premise might enjoy the product, and there is a kernel of goodness, but is still surrounded by some non-goodness, making the final product a bit “bleh”.