Reviewby Kim Morrissy,
Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! Take On Me
Rikka is now a third-year student, but she still has "chunibyo" syndrome. University entrance exams loom on the horizon, and it's spring break, and Yūta and Rikka are together as usual. One day, Rikka's older sister Toka declares that she's going to take Rikka to Italy with her, as Toka is moving to Italy for work and she thinks they should move together as a family. Yuta understands Toka's opinion, but thinks that at this rate he and Rikka will be separated. Shinka and the other members suggest that Yuta and Rikka should "elope," and thus sets the stage for Yuta and Rikka's travels throughout Japan in their escape drama.
Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! Take On Me is what the TV anime's second season should have been. The film finally brings closure to Yuta and Rikka's stagnant relationship while reinforcing the core themes of the series. Unfortunately, this also means that, despite having an all-new story, this film essentially rehashes the same conflict from the second season, only with better writing. The fact that we've seen these story beats before diminishes their impact, no matter how well they stand alone.
Take On Me begins with Rikka up to her usual antics. She's in her third year of high school now, but not only does she still have chunibyo, she and Yuta still haven't even kissed. This alone strains credibility, but fortunately the film immediately identifies this as a problem to be fixed. Rikka and Yuta go on a journey around Japan together, knowing that they're escaping from impending reality, but wanting to maintain their current relationship until the end. Fans who have been waiting to see progress between these two will probably come out of the film feeling satisfied.
It is starting to get tiresome, however, to see this series revolve around the same “will they or won't they?” romance in its third instalment. Rikka and Yuta may be an official couple, but if anything, they've gone backwards since the first season. By this stage, Rikka has some prosaic issues that she ought to be worrying about—like whether she can pass her entrance exams—but her only moments of introspection show her worrying about whether falling more in love with Yuta will make her “lose” her powers. This is the exact same conflict that was central to the second season. This time, at least, Take On Me allows Rikka and Yuta to progress their romance, but the issues of Rikka's grades and future are never brought up past the beginning of the film. It's a sweet resolution, yes, but it's frustrating to watch these kids work through the same basic issues every time.
On the other hand, it's not the destination that matters so much as the journey. As a road trip story, Take On Me encapsulates that idea perfectly. Fans of Kyoto Animation shows will get an extra kick out this film, as the characters visit the locations shown in Tamako Market, Sound! Euphonium, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Clannad, and other familiar series. Not only do these various locations provide fodder for some amusing sight gags and referential humor, it also gives the characters a chance to breathe outside the school setting. The gags feel fresh here; it's especially funny to see Nibutani and Dekomori take on the role of the ineffectual pursuers. Their hilarious frenemy dynamic definitely steals the show more than once.
I should note that not every character gets a chance to shine in this film. Kumin-senpai has apparently graduated but still hangs around the school anyway, but this setup is a bit of a waste since she barely contributes to the plot in any meaningful way. Shichimiya, meanwhile, is stuck playing the same role she had in the second season—the friendly antagonist who pushes Rikka to make an important choice. To be fair, the series has always had a problem with utilizing all of its characters effectively, but I do wish Kumin and Shichimiya could have more chances to show off their quirks in this film.
It's also a bit disappointing that the production values aren't quite as polished as they could be. The film by no means looks bad—this is a Kyoto Animation production we're talking about—but there were some noticeable imperfections with the compositing in particular. 3D objects like vehicles stood out against the 2D backgrounds more than they usually do for a Kyoto Animation production. I also couldn't help but notice that the crowd scenes didn't have as many background characters drawn in them as usual. The animation itself was on par with the TV anime series, which is to say it was full of energy and stylistic flourishes, but for a cinematic feature, Take On Me was a bit of a letdown.
In short, Take On Me is the quintessential Chunibyo experience: it captures the charms of the TV series but also the flaws. On a thematic level, the series has already said everything it needed to say in the first season; everything since has been an extended encore. The film functions best as fanservice, not just for Chunibyo fans, but for anyone who has ever loved a Kyoto Animation production. Take On Me is at its most fun when its jokes veer off the plot's beaten track to revel in the countless Easter eggs aimed at KyoAni fans. I won't spoil these, as spotting them for yourself is half the fun, but after watching the film I've started to think that maybe the world is ready for a Kyoto Animation extended universe saga.
Overall, I recommend Take On Me only for Kyoto Animation fans who weren't too jaded by the second season of the Chunibyo TV series. Actually, you can probably understand the film without watching the second season. Only Shichimiya was a new development in that season, and her role is pretty much the same in the film anyway. Also, do watch this film if you're a fan of the shipping, as it absolutely does deliver by the end. Otherwise, my general recommendation for Chunibyo is to stick to the first season of the TV series—it's the best telling of the same story.
Overall : B
Story : B
Animation : B+
Art : B
Music : B
+ Yuta and Rikka romance is finally resolved, Nibutani and Dekomori are fun characters, lots of fun Easter eggs for KyoAni fans
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