Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: Animatsu Entertainment) Running time: 331 minutes approx.
You have to hand it to the Japanese for their remarkable ability to give names to even the strangest conditions that blight our lives – in this case the quirky phenomenon known as “Eighth Grade Syndrome” or “Chunibyo”. This is where kids adopt an alter ego, either to convince others they are tougher than they are, or most commonly, involving the creation of a fantasy persona with bespoke imaginary powers.
Yuta Togashi is such a victim of Chunibyo, or rather he was, calling himself the Dark Flame Master but now Yuta is starting high school, he is determined to leave that side of him in the past and become a sensible young lad. Unfortunately, a chance encounter with a new resident in his apartment block who also attends the same school as Yuta makes it extremely difficult for him to ditch his past.
Unlike Yuta, petite eye-patch wearing Rikka Takanashi is less willing to excise her Chunibyo delusions – on the contrary she embraces them even more and declares Yuta her soul mate. Under her eye-patch Rikka claims she has the Wicked Eye (a golden contact lens), she wields a button-operated umbrella as her chief weapon and speaks only in exaggerated fantasy dialogue. This not only a makes her an outcast in the classroom but an embarrassment to Yuta, to whom Rikka is fatedly bound.
Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! – or just Chunibyo as it is more commonly known – began life as a series of light novels by Torako which was picked up by Koyoto Animation as a series after it won an award they sponsored. KyoAni as they are known created a six episode web series followed by this twelve episode TV adaptation. Their style of animation, specifically their moe character designs, are absolutely perfect for this series, making it all the more enjoyable and immersive for the audience.
Despite her curious ways Rikka is adorable but often cringe worthy in how she remains completely in character regardless of the situation or location. Yuta should be able to empathise with Rikka but he finds it embarrassing and presumably recognises how he must have appeared to others around him during his phase. Yet Rikka is capable of manipulating Yuta into slipping back into his Dark Flame Master persona on occasion to either placate Rikka, or as a last resort to get a serious message through to her.
And if that wasn’t enough Rikka unearths more people at school who are unable to shed their Chunibyo! Rikka sets up the “Far Eastern Magical Napping Club” with narcoleptic senior Kumin Tsuyuri and quicker than you can say “harem comedy” Yuta is surrounded by a group of girls, whose delusions create great conflict and increasing humiliation for beleaguered protagonist.
Why the conflict? For starters, the youngest is junior high-schooler Sanae Dekomori, a noisy brat with ridiculously long pigtails, attached to which are small balls of some kind, and Rikka’s loyal zealot. She likes to attack Yuta for breathing the same air as her master but often ends up on the losing side. Her biggest enemy is Shinka Nibutani, class representative and most popular babe in the eyes of the boys – including Yuta – who harbours a secret as she once ran a blog under the pseudonym Mori Summer. Sanae also worshipped Mori Summer but refuses to believe that Shinka is her, resulting in a heated feud.
All of these ingredients make up the recipe for a zany comedy show, and indeed this is quiet an energetic and often riotous outing, with many laugh out loud moments usually via Yuta’s exasperated outbursts at the others’ behaviour. However there is a sensitive side to the story revolving around the reason for Rikka’s continual Chunibyo when she is at an age where she should have grown out of it.
A dark secret involving a family tragedy is revealed and Yuta is, perhaps unfairly, tasked with being the one to help Rika come to terms with the issues she is hiding from. Rikka lives with her older sister, Toka, a talented chef who soon departs for a study course in Italy, leaving Rikka in Yuta’s care, and while the lad has his own life to deal with, he does make the most progress in getting through to Rikka.
In contrast to the preceding episodes, there is a sharp tonal shift in the final two chapters as the story is predominantly serious, yet this is completely justified. While we have plenty of fun at Rikka’s expense there is always a lingering suggestion that her delusions run deeper than superficial immaturity. This pervasive sense of pathos builds gradually through the show, beginning with Toka’s stern approach to dealing with Rikka leading to her sharing the backstory with Yuta.
I firmly believe this series was not intended to mock the Chunibyo phenomenon but to help understand it and why it may manifest itself so forcefully in one’s life. In this case it is a defence mechanism but for others it could be a sign of autism or simply an over active imagination. Knowing the Japanese and their embracing of the quirkier side of life, I wouldn’t be surprised if this show helped lift the stigma of Chunibyo for some, helping them come to terms with their own eccentricities.
As mentioned earlier KyoAni have delivered a gorgeous looking show that looks a treat in HD. While the regular artwork is stunning in both depth of detail and vibrancy, the fantasy asides when the girls enter into combat rival the best animation seen of this genre, adding a (no pun intended) extra dimension to the visuals. The characters are all likeable, well defined and their chemistry is beautifully observed and rather touching.
Subtly crafting a delicate and sensitively handled drama out of situation that invites ridicule and teasing is no easy task but Chunibyo does just that while being completely respectful in recognising its comic value.
An utterly delightful show!
English Language DTS-HD Master Audio
Japanese Language DTS-HD Master Audio with English Subtitles
Disc 2 Only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – **** ½
Man In Black