Recap: Yuuta and Rikka can no longer ignore the change in their relationship and they both decide to take action during the school festival. There are bigger issues at hand however as Touka has some important news of her own.
Jel’s Thoughts: Well that was certainly a nice warm bento full of reality, wasn’t it? Chuunibyou could only leave Rikka’s, well, chuunibyou unaddressed for so long and if events pan out the way I think they will, I really like how they’re handling the situation. At first glance it appears that Yuuta has adopted Touka’s “beat it out of her” shock therapy, at least verbally in his case. And at episode’s end, as the eyepatch comes off, they want you to believe it worked. But I think it’s clear they don’t really want you to believe it worked either.
I don’t know whether it was the writer or the director who chose to not show us their actual confrontation, but I thought that was a clever move. We could all probably figure out exactly what was said, and ultimately I think it will be irrelevant. The small clip they do show feels very uncomfortable, unsettling, and just kind of wrong. Not wrong that Rikka has to own up to reality, but wrong in the method. When I saw her taking off the eyepatch, I saw it as Rikka caring so much about Yuuta that she’s willing to give it a try, even if she’s not ready.
Basically I think our thematic pendulum is swinging to the opposite extreme. In the early goings of Yuuta and Rikka’s relationship he would just play along and pacify her, occasionally slipping into the Dark Flame Master voice as necessary. As Touka says this episode, continuing to do that would just be irresponsible. So now we are seeing what happens if we go in the other extreme. I’m pretty confident that will also backfire. It will really be a matter of finding the right balance between Rikka’s sensitive, creative side and the tough hand of reality she’s been dealt. A lot of that will probably have to do with her mother returning, I’m looking forward to getting some insight on her. Why did she basically abandon her children and why is she willing to come back now? I don’t need a whole long back story on it, but I think it would help to know a little more.
Perhaps most intriguing to me is how all this Touka leaving/Mom coming home business overshadows the fact we had our Big Adorable Anime Confession in the beginning of the episode. Usually that’s the kind of thing saved for the last episode (if it happens at all) and the couple lives happily ever after. Obviously that’s not the case right now, but I’m wondering if they’ll even get there at all. How much of their romantic attraction was real and how much was just another delusion? Yuuta even slipped into his Dark Flame Master role during his confession (NERD!), what would happen if they took all of that away? I have a feeling it will all balance out in the end, but part of me wouldn’t be surprised if they backtracked on the romance angle a bit by the time the final credits roll.
As the series nears its end, I can already tell you I’ve devoted way more words to Chuunibyou than I would have ever anticipated after watching the first episode. It’s gone through some pretty wild mood swings and I suspect we will see a few more as the story wraps up. I do appreciate KyoAni’s effort to tackle something with a little more substance though, even if it is tempered with hefty amounts of cartoonish comedy. Now I’m just hoping we get a satisfying conclusion in the next couple of episodes.
Zigg’s Thoughts: This was an enjoyable episode, and as Jel noted, one which is cleverly written and directed. I have some issues with the direction they seem to be going, but let’s reel off the good stuff first. As I’ve mentioned before, KyoAni are absolute fiends for teasing romances, and the first half of this episode shows them at their adorable best as Rikka and Yuuta deal with their sudden mutual realisation that they’re attracted to each other. There’s tons of fantastic jokes here which make the buildup funny as well as heartwarming. Dekomori’s misinterpretation of Rikka’s affection is pretty amusing but it’s her reaction when she realises the truth that’s most telling. She’s displayed a pretty healthy hostility to Yuuta thus far, but her immediate acceptance and gentle words show how really attached she is to Rikka. Combined with last week I think it’s more indication that her chuunibyou is not as all consuming as it seems, and that there might actually be a smart, sensitive girl underneath all that.
Meanwhile, Yuuta and Isshiki get an amusing parallel scene, which is mostly played for laughs. I’m glad Isshiki seems to have been absorbed into the main cast, as his down-to-earth chumminess makes for a good contrast to the increasingly fraught Yuuta, sort of a straight man for the straight man if you will. We also get the bonus of the Most Awkward Foreplay of All TimeTM, which is again a pretty decent joke. These little vignettes before the big hookup help establish where our protagonists are in their heads, and it’s nice that the show doesn’t resort to the ‘This must stay a secret’ trope!
The buildup and the confession themselves are sweet and beautifully handled, helped by the decision to devote ALL THE MONEY to animation. The shimmering city lights, the way each of the two has a wet patch on opposite shoulders, it’s wonderful to behold. There’s some great dialogue too. I love how Rikka pulls the rug out from Yuuta by confessing first, and subsequently blocks him with her umbrella, and how Yuuta starts his confession in character but gets gradually more distracted as he goes along. They’re the slightly confused actions of real people, and it’s appropriate that there’s no big kiss or romantic gesture to cap this, just an slightly shaky but cute accord.
It;’s the back end though, where my worries begin to resurface. Introducing Rikka’s mother into the mix is a bold, interesting move that’s bound to generate some excellent drama, but it all comes back to the recurring idea that Rikka has to be cured of her Chuunibyou. It’s not the idea that I have the problem with – I’m 100% in agreement with all Touka says, as I’ve expressed before. Seeing Rikka shed her eyepatch at the end of this episode was a good moment. No, it’s more the lurking feeling the show is giving me that I should be disapproving of this. The way it’s shot, cut and the general tone seems to me to indicate that the show is about to make the argument that interfering with Rikka’s delusions will destroy who she is as a character. That couldn’t be further from my view – for her to remain in this ridiculous fantasy is stunting her growth as a person.
Chuunibyou and I are therefore in an uneasy truce until the next episode emerges. I want to be wrong, and I want this show to end with Rikka emerging from her shell and growing up to become a proper person, maybe still with a hint of loopiness on the side. But I’ve seen this kind of thing too many times before to be too optimistic. I’ll be hoping for the brave decision, but preparing for the cop-out.