Apart of the Valentine’s Day sale offered at participating retailers this week (or a few weeks ago since I delayed posting this), I decided to pickup the oddly appropriate Chūnibyō demo Koi ga Shitai! or also known as Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions. Along with some other smaller anime-centric purchases made
this week , this has to be the least romantically endowed of the bunch, but still one I wanted to add to my collection.
Title: Chūnibyō demo Koi ga Shitai! (subtitled: Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions)
Studio: Kyoto Animation
Yūta Togashi is a boy who, during junior high school, suffered from “chūnibyō” (中二病?, lit. “second year middle schooler syndrome”, or “delusions of grandeur”), believing that he possesses supernatural powers and dubbing himself the “Dark Flame Master”, therefore alienating himself from his classmates. Finding his past embarrassing, Yūta attempts to start off high school where he does not know anyone, free from his old delusions. This proves to be difficult, however, as a delusional girl in his class, Rikka Takanashi, learns of Yūta’s past and becomes interested in him.
Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions is a simple and standard idea for a romantic-comedy as it takes two kids: one seemingly stuck in the past and the other tries to move forward into adulthood when they lives intersect. Accenting that concept with some coming-of-age trimmings, it then becomes a relatable one about getting go of childish fantasies, waking up to the harsh realities of life, and experiencing new opportunities that arrive with age. Surely not a new proposition that hasn’t been done to death in any medium, but for Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions – it is a sweet and admirable one that comes off more or less as it is presented. Not the best of presentations, yet one with its heart in the right place. Most of the time, anyway…
Although, for Rikka Takanashi, her fantasies are not just for escapism than they are for protecting herself through self-validation, something she only gains from her older sister and other delusional friend, Dekomori. Upon meeting Yuta whose is trying to make new start for himself in high school, Rikka refuses to let his old delusions stay dead after finding about them through a neighborly encounter and thus, the two begin their weird relationship. Throughout the series (or roughly 6 episodes in), Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions doesn’t stray too far from the flippant premise it sets for itself as most of it revolves Yuta, Rikka and the other members of the “Far Eastern Magic Society” club in a slice-of-life type of deal with all the conventional mishaps and shenanigans you can imagine. However as things progress forward, we learn the reason behind Rikka’s masquerade that involves a heartfelt tragedy she hasn’t fully been able to remedy. Where the story is very skilled moving between the cheery romp and forlorn moments, both really don’t have a chance to come to fruition since the narrative itself doesn’t allow that to happen. When it does finally settle into a comfortable mode, the storytelling shifts gears and loses any kind traction the aforementioned elements carried. Not exactly sure what the directorial intent was in this regard, yet in any case, some parts of the story do seem hamstrung where they could have been salvageable or utilized better such as the pivotal 9th episode where actually romance begins to intercede.
Aside from some missed narrative opportunities, the only other issue (or maybe my own personal grievance) that plagues the series is that the comedy does drive it more than the romantic angle. Given the setting and subject matter – the inevitability isn’t exactly unforeseeable or much of a problem, but it does tend to go overboard. The characters, their interactions, and all their idiosyncrasies act as the main anchor for the antics, but do easily compensate for the amount of horseplay. Whether it be Yuta’s lapses into his “Dark Flame Master” persona or Nibutani and Dekomori constantly going at each others throats like a Spy vs. Spy vignette, the charm of the interactions do sometimes trump the situational gags that frankly aren’t that good in many cases. Sometimes, even better when 2 dimensional personalities are ditched to show some deeper characterization such as Nibutani actually being very caring or Dekomori realizing the extent of her disillusionment. Much like with studios follow-up adaptations such as: Tamako Market, Free!, and Kyoukai no Kanata – Kyoto Animation has always struggled to make the mood simpatico with the actual tone itself and for this particular one, the challenge does still present itself in spite of the actual successful moments where it does balance the romance, comedy, and drama. That being said, while Yuta and Rikka do have more of a “straight man and air head” combo going on, respectively – they do also make a strangely amiable couple and another small sign of the romance and campy nature coming together well.
Even if you aren’t anticipating it, the series does sport very high-fidelity animation. While most of this is primarily put to use when Rikka or any other characters go into their imaginative worlds filled with over-the-top battles, it is a nice contrast against “reality” and very conducive for highlighting one of the prominent themes. Akito Matsuda’s music composition pieces aren’t bad either – ranging between lighthearted moments to sentimental as each scene is likely to bring out. Without question, the most noticeable piece (and my favorite) would have to be Hazero Real! Hajikero Synapse!, music that is so grandiose and extravagant it actually fits with those ridiculous battles. In addition to the Japanese voice-over, an English one is customary, but for this series, actually “hit-or-miss” in terms of both voice choices and the script itself. Some the voices like Yuta and Toka feel spot on, but others like Rikka and Sanae do feel slightly off from their Japanese counterparts. And while the script does try to maintain some of the original Japanese language usage and feel (minus honorifics) like the use of the word chūnibyō and Nibutani’s nickname of “Mori Summer”, it largely feels strained or just plain out-of-place as well as making the delivery sound off. However, given the fact that there is no close English equivalent there is no other choice. Needless to say, most of the jokes or gags have been taken out of context slightly and can be seen with the subtitles such as one scene where Yuta makes a explicit Super Smash Bros reference that is non-existence in the dub for various reasons.
All-in-all, I have to say I enjoyed Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions far from more than I thought I would, but still not as much as I would liked to. It does have a few weak spots by design, yet ones that can easily be overlooked and that the 2nd season manages to get under control (well, somewhat anyway). Certainly series like Toradora or Kimi ni Todoke are made of stronger materials when it comes to weaving compelling romances, yet for what is worth, Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions still manages to warm the heart through humor and well-articulated sentiment. I would be hard pressed trying to recommended it for anything other than the comedy, but if you don’t mind some of the aforementioned issues – you’ll find a relatively pleasant title in all of KyoAni’s mischief…or an embarrassing one for bringing forth any delusions you have had from days passed.
Pros: Great soundtrack, likeable cast of characters, contrasting animation styles, some moments that strike the romantic-comedy balance, few instances of drama used well.
Cons: The comedy sometimes subdues the romance and drama elements, lot of missed opportunities for the 2nd season setup.