Reviewby Theron Martin, Jan 9th 2013
Love, Chunibyo, & Other Delusions
episodes 7-12 streaming
The gang accompanies Rikka and her sister on their summer visit to their grandparents' home, a visit which leaves Rikka much more subdued than normal. While there, Yuuta learns the truth behind Rikka's stubborn insistence on staying in character and her search for the Unseen Horizon, which causes him to start to regard her in a new light. In addition to her fight to stave off acceptance of the truth, Rikka also struggles to understand a previously unknown feeling: that she might actually be in love with Yuuta. For her to move forward with her life, though, a big change is necessary, and it isn't one that she can initiate on her own.
The first half of the series also known as Chu2 played out as a pure, raucous comedy, with only the faintest inklings of future romantic entanglements or serious subtext. That changes beginning with episode 7. While the comedy elements remain, the series also progressively undertakes a more sobering look into why Rikka acts the way that she does and how that is affecting her life, and it turns out to be much more than just something thrown in to give the content a little actual weight. Many comedy series attempt to inject such serious elements into their later episodes, but they typically struggle to pull it off smoothly. This one doesn't, and that helps firm up its position as one of 2012's best titles.
The key to the series' success at integrating in its serious component is that the entire series so far serves as a foundation for its inclusion. Yuuta has consistently suggested that Rikka is getting a little too old for her to still be wrapped up in her delusions, but in most series that would be passed off as a convenience for the storytelling; indeed, that seemed to be the case here early on, and her older sister's disgust with Rikka seemed to be merely a case of the sister wanting Rikka to grow up. Learning that Rikka is actually using her delusions to avoid accepting loss, rather than just as a cover for being socially awkward, puts everything in an entirely different context, however, and establishes a logical foundation for the way that she acts. Denial in humans can take many elaborate forms, and the notion of using some kind of fantasy construct to escape having to confront the death of a loved one is an entirely sensible one that has been used many times before in literature and media. Chu2's master stroke here is in not making this a sudden revelation but gradually transitioning its heroine in that direction by setting up circumstances which do not individually break her delusion but instead build up truths to the point where she can no longer deny it. This is ultimately a heartbreaking process, but the series is all the better for having it. The story does not just leave it at that, either, as the last two episodes are all about dealing with the fallout of Rikka coming to terms with reality and how that affects everyone around her.
The romantic component largely absent in the first half also becomes more prominent in this half, albeit not always in quite a weighty sense. Yuuta's classmate Makoto's efforts to woo the clueless Kumin (which are a storyline original to the anime) make for an entertaining sidelight and help ensure that the series does not devolve into a harem romantic comedy. Yuuta and Rikka also gradually fall for each other, and this development is at turns light-hearted and serious. Rikka's initial lack of comprehension of her growing feelings results in her initially interpreting them in terms of her delusions, with amusing results, but it also leads to some charming and heartfelt interactions; one scene involving a hug after a near-calamity is especially satisfying on this front. It also gives Yuuta a means to attempt to force Rikka out of her delusions, and the series does not miss the opportunity to use that, but it also does not make the process too easy; when Rikka finally does finally allow Yuuta to convince her to let go of her delusions, the impetus towards it has been building for several episodes. Although Sanae and Shinka only figure peripherally into the romantic developments, the relationship between the two of them also evolves in satisfyingly platonic directions, too.
Complementing the writing developments is a continuing quality production job courtesy of Kyoto Animation. It maintains the high-caliber standards its first half set for background art, animation, coloring, and character designs and never misses a beat when characters are in non-school wear, with one highlight being eventually getting to see Sanae with her hair not in twin tails (and she's quite the looker that way, too). Like with its earlier pool-cleaning episode, it handles the beach content very tastefully, with barely a hint of salacious fan service to be found. The special effects-powered delusional battle scenes also look as sharp as ever and continue to make interesting interpretations of what is actually happening. (An energy attack on Rikka washes over her as if she is protected by a force field to indicate that she is resisting being drawn into the delusions again, for instance.)
The sound effort also continues to be solid, though not the stand-out that the visual effort is. The soundtrack smoothly transitions to handling more serious matters, mixes in some appropriate insert songs and light but not comedic ditties for the romantic elements, and continues to bookend each episode with the strong original opener and closer. The voice acting also shines in the later episodes, especially relative newcomer Sumire Uesaka's effort as Sanae (her only previous major role was Sora, the eldest daughter in Listen to Me, Girls, I'm Your Father!), though Maaya Uchida also nicely handles the emotional roller coaster that Rikka must ride through.
The execution through these episodes is not perfect; certain serious aspects of the way the last couple of episodes play out feel more retread than the fresher comedy content and in a couple of places the writing does seem to be forcing the serious turn just a little bit. Nothing there is a big enough problem to hold the series back, however, as the emotional climax and quality character development more than make up for the flaws. Overall, the series remains funny and entertaining even while infusing depth, emotion, and context to back up the humor, and that leads to a very satisfying finish.
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ Handles a serious turn well, satisfying climax, high production values.
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