Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! (KyoAni, 2012)

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My last review was about an anime that featured a girl with an eyepatch so I figured my next review had to be about the other anime with a girl wearing an eyepatch: Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! (also known as Chu2) However, Chu2 is pretty much the complete opposite of Another: a lighthearted slice-of-life instead of a poorly written piece of horror. I came in with pretty much zero expectations, and found myself very pleasantly surprised with how much I fell in love with this show; it was a perfectly executed piece of slice-of-life with a unique premise.

Chunnibyou’s plot stems from the Japanese word “chuunibyou.” Chuunibyou, as taken from Urban Dictionary, is a Japanese slang term which roughly translates to “Middle School 2nd Year Syndrome”. People with chuunibyou either act like a know-it-all adult and look down on real ones or believe they have special powers unlike others. In this anime the latter applies, as our main character, Yuuta Togashi, is entering his first year of high school after an embarrassing middle school life spent as the “Dark Flame Master.” Determined to leave that life behind, he aims to be a “normal” high school guy and coast through high school peacefully. All of this is ruined, however, when a girl in his class named Rikka Takanashi overhears Yuuta reenacting his persona one last time. Rikka, a current sufferer of chuunibyou herself, decides to make Yuuta an ally in her search of the “Unseen Horizon”. The show follows the adventures of these two and their directly opposite approaches in surviving daily high school life.

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A great image of the starring cast.

The cast of Chu2 is small yet diverse. The characters have more depth to them than the usual shallow pools we get normally in slice of life anime, which is great as this allows there for an actual plot to exist and advance. Rikka’s world view of everything as straight out of some JRPG video game makes for hilarious interactions between her and everyone else in the show, and despite her usually “serious” demeanor in finding the Unseen Horizon, she also has KyoAni’s trademark moe moments whenever Yuuta is around.  However, her chuunibyou syndrome has an actual basis for existing, and when that big reveal happens the story actually kicks into action. Yuuta is a pretty standard MC, clueless when it comes to girls and is the straight man for the comedy, but his moments as the “Dark Flame Master” are unforgettable. Yuuta is also very easy to empathize with, as whenever he gets embarrassed about his past life I am forced to remember my chuunibyou moments in middle school and how socially awkward I used to be. Those moments in the show are really…humbling is the best way I can describe it. Nibutani is the class rep for their class, and although at first she appears like a normal girl, it turns out she is also a former sufferer of chuunibyou and like Yuuta was trying to hide it. However, she is caught in the awkward position of both wanting to deny it and accept it as she wants Dekomori, Rikka’s “servant”, to acknowledge her past “Mori Summer” self and to stop bringing it up. Dekomori is Rikka’s loyal follower who is completely swept up in Rikka’s pace, but unfortunately does not have the same compelling reason to do so as Rikka. Kumin is the last of the main cast, and she really doesn’t add much to the plot other than sleeping.

I first expected Chu2 to just be a typical comedic slice-of-life a la K-ON! or Nichijou, with no real overarching story or character development. Which is what the show does for the first few episodes (very well I might add), but about halfway through the series KyoAni decides that this is not enough and gives Rikka a humanizing reason for her chuunibyou sickness: the death of her father. This backstory turns Rikka from some ridiculous caricature of chuunibyou sufferers into someone who you could know in real life who acts out in order to forget or hide their pain.  The story then follows the pain that Rikka has experienced and continues to experience, which leaves Yuuta with the difficult decision of whether or not he should pull Rikka out of her delusions for “her own good” as decided upon by her family or leave her be happy in her fantasy world. Near the end of the series I found myself seriously angry at Yuuta for being too passive about what Rikka wants and instead acting as her parent, which is probably what the writers were aiming for. However, in the end it all wraps up really nicely and leaves you with a fuzzy feeling.

Yuuta and Rikka being super cute.

Yuuta and Rikka being super cute.

Another thing I really liked about this SoL was that it wasn’t at all a harem, all the romance was centered around Yuuta and Rikka which made it just so much sweeter and focused. At the beginning of the show Rikka is not even on Yuuta’s radar in terms of romance (a total mistake because Rikka is so adorbs), and he is instead focused on Nibutani. A misunderstanding between the two leads them to have a sort of pseudo-date; Nibutani is seeking to erase her chuunibyou past and Yuuta has the only evidence, but after that is resolved Rikka is the only girl in the picture. Rikka slowly falls for Yuuta throughout the show, but she is unable to realize that she is in love with Yuuta without Nibutani’s help. To her the feelings of love are seen as an infiltration of an evil society, which makes it all the more difficult for her to seriously confess to Yuuta. Yuuta also happens to feel the same about Rikka, but my gripe is that he sort of just “falls” into it jsut for the sake of the plot, we don’t really see him slowly falling for Rikka or anything, but it does make sense that he would feel affection for her. Also it frustrates me that the only thing that the two do together is hold pinkies, I expected at least a kiss at the end of the last episode, but KyoAni is just a huge tease. I get that they’re both new to relationships, but damn Yuuta, just like, go for it bro.

A still of Rikka unlocking her "powers"

A still of Rikka unlocking her “powers”

Probably the best thing about this show in typical KyoAni fashion is the beautiful animation. Even if you don’t like the story, one can’t deny that the animation of Chu2 is so fluid, beautiful, and dynamic that it just blows away most other shows. Undoubtedly the best scenes in the show are the battles that Rikka has with various opponents in the show; KyoAni brings Rikka’s imagination to life with beautiful special effects and ridiculous weapons that would put any shonen anime to shame. KyoAni is also not afraid to switch up animation styles: from realistic to gag to fairy tale (a la No Game No Life). It never feels out of place and it really showcases just how talented KyoAni is in terms of animation and how they are seemingly unparalleled compared to other big studios.

I’d have to say that the weakest element of Chu2 is actually it’s soundtrack, which I didn’t think was all that spectacular. The OP and ED were not really great at all, I tried listening to both each time but they were never really sounded that great. Eventually the OP, “Sparkling Daydream” kind of grew on me, but it’s definitely not one of the strongest OPs KyoAni has had in it’s history. The soundtrack is pleasant and is great when it’s present, but I didn’t find it particularly important to the storytelling or have it leave any impression upon me. It wasn’t a bad soundtrack in anyway, just not very memorable or able to evoke any nostalgia from me in future listens.

Overall Chu2 was one of the best anime I’ve seen in a long time. It was the perfect balance of comedic slice-of-life antics and a small low-key story with a unique twist on the typical high school life that make it really enjoyable. KyoAni’s idea to take chuunibyou syndrome and develop an entire anime out of it was ingenious and really gave the show an unforgettable flavor. It allowed them to mix shonen battle scenes with daily high school life and also evoke an embarrassment of my (and likely other viewers’s) past self watching Yuuta and Rikka. Chu2 also has a great message, which is that you should accept others for who they are and also accept yourself, while at the same time telling viewer’s that it’s not healthy to escape from real world problems with fantasies, that at some point you will have to accept reality.

For the end of this review, I leave you with the best gif from Chu2, taken from the opening and posted everywhere ’cause it’s so adorable.

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