Reviewby Theron Martin,
Chūnibyō Demo Koi ga Shitai!
episodes 1-6 streaming
Chuunibyou, which roughly translates as “8th Grader Syndrome,” is an actual colloquial Japanese term which derisively refers to a propensity for self-delusion and aggrandizement in early adolescents. It can take several forms, one of which is Evil Eye, the belief that one has hidden, mystical super-powers and the construction of an alter ego to manage those powers. Newly-minted high schooler Yuuta Togashi suffered badly from the latter in middle school, even going so far as to call himself Dark Flame Master, but he now looks back on his behavior with embarrassment and horror and wants nothing more than to leave it behind him. To that end he chose a high school as far away from his middle school as possible so that he could get a fresh start. The problem is that the eye patch-wearing girl who lives with her older sister in the apartment above his, one Rikka Takanashi, still suffers from chuunibyou (she believes that the Wicked Eye under her eye patch channels dark mystical powers, hence the reason she normally keeps it covered) and actively tries to draw him into her fantasies once she gets wind that he is the former Dark Flame Master. A cute, nap-loving upperclassman also gets drawn in when an encounter with Rikka's antics with Yuuta greatly amuses her, and Rikka summons to their school a twin-tailed underling who's not only just as deep into chuunibyou as Rikka is but also regards Rikka as her master. The final member of what eventually becomes the Oriental Magick Napping Society in Summer club, the beautiful class rep and cheerleader of Yuuta's class, gets caught up in the craziness when she also proves to have said and done some things in middle school that she'd rather forget but cannot because of Rikka and her minion.
The series whose name is sometimes abbreviated as Chu2 is based on a two volume light novel series whose first novel was an Honorable Mention winner in the inaugural 2010 Kyoto Animation Awards. Doubtless that contributed heavily to it being animated two years later by a Kyoto Animation team led by director Tatsuya Ishihara, the man behind KyoAni's adaptations of the Haruhi Suzumiya series and movie and Key/Visual Art's visual novels (Air, Kanon 2006, Clannad). The influence of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya in particular is evident, even pervasive, in almost every aspect of the series' production; even the basic story structure – a young man who once entertained fanciful notions but now wants to lead an ordinary high school life has his plan rent apart by his involvement with a cute but whacked-out girl and the oddballs who gather around them – is essentially the same. Rather than actually engage in the supernatural and sci fi, though, Chu2 takes the opposite approach: it totally grounds itself in reality and shows its characters as imagining themselves as part of a fantasy world rather than actually being a part of one. The result is a series that, through the first half of its planned 13 episode run (12 TV episodes and one OVA next year), is one of the year's freshest, funniest, and most energetic romps.
Perhaps the series' cleverest and funniest aspect is the way it handles its fantasy/reality contrast. Its primary recurring gag involves showing characters apparently engaged in glorious magical and/or high-tech actions, only to suddenly shift to showing what the scene really looks like when devoid of it delusional enhancements; in one “battle” scene it even does this several times. This results in comparisons like a glowing magic circle that's really just a pattern of bulbs laid out on a floor and wired to a switch manipulated by the “caster's” assistant or a battle between Rikka and her older sister using elaborate hyper-tech weapons that's really just a fight using a long-handled ladle against an umbrella. Rikka and Sanae (her servant) also slickly couch just about everything in her fantasy terms, too, so that the milk that Sanae dreads becomes “white water.” We even get to see scenes where Rikka and Sanae adjust their fantasy interpretations on the fly, such as one great scene where Sanae calls a threat to her a demon but then realizes that she is the one who's supposed to have the dark powers and so switches to calling the threat an angel. It's an amusing look into how the mind of a harmlessly delusional person works.
But the series has much more than just that going for it. Rikka is lovably batty as the clumsy and not overly bright but still immensely creative female lead, but she is not just a one-trick pony; the series subtly implies that her fantasy world might actually be a defense against a world where she has trouble fitting in socially. Class rep/cheerleader/bishojo Shinka is more of an Ami Kawashima (from Toradora!) type, a two-faced girl who acts one way in public but has a nastier side in private and wants just as desperately as Yuuta to forget her own embarrassing chuunibyou phase, while Yuuta is more like Kyon in his apparent resistance to getting dragged into things but basic tolerance of all of the craziness despite that. Sanae is, so far, a purer comic relief character (not surprising, since she is also an anime original), while upperclassman Kumin is an immensely cute and delightfully adorable girl who doesn't really understand Rikka and Sanae's fantasies but finds their enthusiasm so infectious that she plays along anyway. Even the side characters, like Yuuta's goofy friend Makoto, Yuuta's mother and younger sisters, Rikka's “High Priestess” older sister, and a crafty homeroom teacher, are enjoyable in their own rights.
The series also deserves credit for what it doesn't do. It studiously avoids indulging in significant fan service despite innumerable good opportunities to do so; it even puts everyone in swimsuits for part of one episode but does not conspicuously play up the ladies' sexiness. The content is good enough that it hardly needs a fan service crutch, though, and inserting such content in would have interfered with the pleasant charm that the series develops. It also has avoided playing out as a harem scenario despite an ideal set-up for it (i.e., a club where Yuuta is the only boy amongst four cute girls). Yuuta is attracted to Shinka and Rikka is vaguely implied to be interested in Yuuta, but so far romantic dynamics have not been even a minor part of the overall story. And that's totally fine, because at this point the story doesn't need them to keep its audience locked in.
The visual quality is par for the course for KyoAni's high standards. A bit of the K-ON! influence still lingers in the character designs (especially Sanae), it's hard to look at Shinka in some shots (especially in her cheerleader outfit) without thinking of Mikuru Asahina, and what's with this ongoing fascination with short-haired girls who wear eye patches over their right eyes? Still, the characters are drawn and animated plenty well enough that who they look like may not matter. Action scenes and visual gimmicks also look suitably terrific, and backgrounds and coloring do not disappoint. The animation quality also shows in the opener and closer, both of which uses dance moves and the latter of which will probably long be best-known for the “bullet through the apple” slo-mo shot. The songs that they back are both strong, fitting entries, and the jaunty, fun-loving soundtrack in between does an excellent job of supporting the comedy elements.
In a rarity for anime TV series, Chu2's Japanese broadcast is accompanied by a series of concurrent ONA shorts called “Lites,” which tell amusing side stories that fit in the cracks between the main episodes. Unfortunately these are not, at the time of this writing, available via English-subbed streams, but they are apparently legally available in raw form on Japanese sites. Sentai Filmworks, who has the rights to the series and is simulcasting it on The Anime Network, should be sure to secure these, too, for any future DVD/Blu-Ray release, as they are quite funny.
So far Chu2 does not aspire to be much more than a fun frolic through a world of teenage delusions, and at that its first six episodes succeed admirably.
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ Very funny, takes an interesting angle on subject matter, strong production merits across the board.
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