Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions Episode 12 & Final Impressions

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Recap: Yuuta grows concerned as time passes and Rikka does not return home. With the support of the other former club members, he realizes he may have had the power to help her all along.

Jel’s Thoughts: Conceptually, the final episode of Chuunibyou played out exactly as you would expect it would, but at this point it’s less about the predictable results and more about the execution. For the most part KyoAni delivers, providing us with the emotional but appropriately quirky conclusion the story needed.

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The writers did make sure we had a few moments to retain the show’s personality. Most of it worked great, like Dekomori’s return to reality and Kumin’s attempt to “inherit” the Wicked Eye. The bit with Yuuta receiving a letter from himself in the past, Mayan Doomsday reference included, deserved a gentle eye roll considering the air date of the episode. But we all knew he was going to go after Rikka regardless of what happened, so the little bit of extra motivation was all in good fun.

The Key scene of course (pun possibly intended) was Rikka saying goodbye to her father. The entire series built up to that moment, every bit of Yuuta and Rikka’s characterization lending its weight to it. We get to see Yuuta really did have a power all along, refined with the help of Nibutani, Kumin, Dekomori and, sure why not, even Isshiki. He was able to stay true to his identity, whether he was having fun as the embarrassingly dorky Dark Flame Master or standing his ground as Rikka’s responsible companion. His stable influence gives Rikka the perspective she needs to gain that power as well.

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They do make it a point to emphasize again that Rikka is not actually crazy or delusional. She knows the Ethereal Horizon is not real, she understands that her Father is gone. Even when Yuuta puts on the Dark Flame Master act she doesn’t fall back into character, her memories and her farewell are all very real. Coupled with the stunning, surreal visual interpretation of Yuuta’s power, it made for a very powerful scene and KyoAni deserves a great deal of credit for executing it so well.

As the series draws to a close Rikka does have her eyepatch and bandages, but for now that’s OK. So long as she has the right perspective she can enjoy her teenage years however she wants, there will be plenty of time to be a boring, self conscious adult later.

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Zigg’s Thoughts: Firstly I must apologise for my absence on last week’s very important episode – alas I was taken ill and writing was very much a no-no. If you read my stuff though, you can probably guess I was not a fan of the very black and white portrayal of Rikka’s dilemma.

This episode did ease those concerns a little, but I still had a little trouble getting entirely onboard with what was clearly meant to be a rousing finale.  There’s simply too much here which is clearly a mechanical contrivance designed to generate drama. Yuuta’s letter to himself is a perfect example of this. Why would a 14 year old wrapped up in a delusional fantasy ever even consider the possibility that he’d one day ditch it? And isn’t it convenient the letter turns up at precisely this moment? It’s just sort of a lazy way to bring about an epiphany, although I did rather enjoy the Mayan Apocalypse joke.

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That’s the real problem with this episode – it’s very by the numbers. The hero loses the girl, has an epiphany and then makes a mad scramble to get her in time for the big emotional finale. I’ve never really had much empathy for Rikka’s dilemma and this didn’t do anything to change that, and I’m sort of insulted by the idea the show presents that abandoning your childish fantasies instantly turns you into a soulless automaton unable to appreciate the beauty of a city lightscape.  The ending is reconciliatory in tone, suggesting that we look to strike a balance between the two extremes, but that’s not apparent from the content, which very heavily leans on the side of ‘being crazy is awesome!

Having said that, there’s still some satisfaction to be had from a well executed story, and there’s some good moments in this episode, mostly at the periphery. The animation is exceptional as always, and the best bits tend to be the delightfully quirky comedy asides, such as Yuuta’s encounter with newly de-toxed Dekomori or Isshiki’s continuing role as the greatest wingman of all time. They remind me of the earlier parts of the show, when it more overtly concentrated on the comedy that ultimately proved to be the show’s strongest weapon.

In the end, this was not a terrible finale and ties up the plot thread that’s been running through the series. But I don’t feel it’s a particularly emotionally satisfying one – it’s too blase and too easy, and there’s something indefinably hollow about it that I have trouble putting my finger on. At the end of the day, we’re sort of back where we started, with everyone a little older, a little closer, but perhaps not really a little wiser.

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Final Impressions

Jel: If you want a good laugh go back and read our first impressions of Chuunibyou. To quote myself after watching the first episode: “What a moving, insightful take on the pain of searching for your identity anPFFFF HAHAHA OK I couldn’t keep a straight face on that one.” Needless to say, I’m not sure anyone thought the show would progress much past a silly romantic comedy about a bunch of nerdy teenagers learning the power of love and friendship.

Of course Romantic Comedy is a large portion of what Chuuni does and it does it very well. The comedy is fast and outlandish, from Yuuta and Rikka’s cartoonish slapstick gags, to Dekomori’s CONSTANT trolling of Nibutani, to the completely ridiculous imaginary battle scenes. The romance is simple and sweet, with very little time wasted on the usual anime romance build up.

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What makes Chuuni impressive though is it aspires to be more than that, and for the most part it succeeds. The exaggerated characters might be funny and amusing, but they also develop in a way that highlights the main theme: How do you find your identity? How do you reconcile the silly, inconsequential things you love with the cold hard facts of reality? As you get older, what do you keep and what do you throw away? Chuuni doesn’t really answer those questions, it merely reminds us that we can’t ignore them and that everyone’s answer is different. Certainly a lot more food for thought than I was expecting as Yuuta was comically abusing Rikka in the first episode or two.

While Chuuni does do both comedy and drama well, there are some moments when it snaps back and forth between the two just a bit too fast. It’s one thing to slip in something subtle like humor in the dialogue but when you’re switching out from silly slapstick to serious conversation it can be a little jarring. I also found it weird that KyoAni stubbornly refused to move or omit the OP and ED under any circumstances, which kind of dampened the tension in certain scenes. Most of the time Chuuni stays on point though, and director Tatsuya Ishihara (who directed KyoAni’s Key adaptations) proves once again he’s one of the best at telling this type of story.

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One final point I wanted to mention is Chuuni is an anime I would be comfortable watching with nearly anyone. There’s no creepy fan service or overt otaku references (everyone knows Smash Bros. right?), just a well presented, universal theme I think a lot of people can relate to in some capacity. As the narrator points out in the end, we all keep a little Chuunibyou with us our entire lives when you think about the broader definition of it. We may not be running around pretending we have super powers, but but hopefully we’ll always some kind of interest or hobby we’ll find ourselves absorbed in. We might even be grown men writing about Japanese cartoons on the internet pretending people care about their opinions…… that’s a good thing, right?

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Iro: Watching this show has been interesting. I dropped it after seeing the first two episodes, not feeling like I wanted to watch the rest – but everyone kept talking about it, so I marathoned the show up until the drama bomb at episode 7, then stopped watching AGAIN until the penultimate episode. I still feel the same way I did at the end of the second episode: I see why everyone else likes it, but I just… don’t, I guess. Chuunibyou hasn’t been a BAD anime by any means – I see the merit in the show, and it has a decent moral and all that, but I’m not convinced I approve of the way it goes about telling that story.

Have you ever heard of the Key formula, or the “crying game” formula? It was popularized by Key’s visual novels like Clannad, Kanon, or the currently-airing Little Busters. In short, by starting off with goofy anime antics and then throwing in a crazy drama bomb halfway, the writers aim to milk the audience for maximum emotional reaction and make them cry. Hence, their games are referred to as “crying games”. Chuunibyou pretty much follows this formula directly, whether intentionally or not.

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It isn’t that Chuunibyou is badly constructed – far from it, as you may notice in our upcoming Glorio Awards posts. It just feels very ham-handed to me, written in an unsubtle manner. The imaginary segments are amusing and the dramatic parts are dramatic, to be sure, but in a very in-your-face way. I couldn’t really relate to the characters swinging between utterly delusional and weeping because they can’t face reality. I’d call it melodramatic, if that wouldn’t get me lynched.

I suppose that I was just expecting a more subtle show, especially after watching the very well-made Hyouka last season. It’s perhaps unfair to judge Chuunibyou as such, based on unrealistic expectations, and I apologize – my tastes can be very fickle. Please carry on and enjoy the show regardless.

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Zigg: Chuunibyou has been a show of two halves to me. One was a wickedly funny and irreverent comedy, full of sharp references, terrifically silly battle sequences and very endearing characters. The other was an inoffensive but pretty draggy romance and coming of age story. One was fresh and frenetic, the other predictable and by the numbers. I enjoyed one a lot, and found the other kind of a waste of time, and I think I don’t really need to clarify which is which.

It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the attempt to flesh out the world and add depth to the characters. That is absolutely what the author should have done, and I applaud he and KyoAni for not taking the easy route out and making the entire thing a gag show. I just wish they hadn’t chosen to go with such a well worn set of tropes to try and add drama to the story.

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It’s not that the romance subplot ever strays into being actively bad per se, it’s just it’s mostly uninspired. KyoAni remains a master at immensely cute moments that make you go ‘d’awwwwwwww’ but there’s very little substance below the surface of the relationship. The show continually irked me with its repeated attempts to make us empathise with Rikka, and it clearly wants us to root for her continuing delusion. To me though, it inspired exactly the opposite feeling – I became frustrated with the sheer impenetrability of her facade and her continued attempts to dodge reality. This is almost certainly a personal issue, but in my case at least the attempts to make us sympathise with the character actually drove me further from them.

Fortunately, there were always KyoAni’s traditional strengths to fall back on. This was a show that excelled in small, sharp character vignettes, little moments that were more than the sum of their parts. Even in the most heavyweight episode, there was always a clever joke or surreal sequence to lift the mood. I loved the continuing viciousness of Dekomori and the episode where Nibutani is revealed as an alpha bitch was an absolute highlight. And of course it goes without saying that the production values were off the scale, with exceptional animation, top notch voice acting and all the spit and polish one would expect of arguably the best studio in the industry today.

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Ultimately, I’m really conflicted on Chuunibyou. As someone who likes to think they appreciate ambition, I’m strongly behind the idea of Chuunibyou mixing wacky humour with a more nuanced tone underneath, but I simply couldn’t get behind what was done with the dramatic material. As shallow as it may seem, I liked Chuunibyou best when it was a wacky comedy with only the barest hint of romance sprinkled over the top. This is less to do with the idea of introducing a serious element, and more to do with the way that element was handled.  It’s still very much a show worth watching, and I’m glad I did, but it’s the silly that will stick with me when everything else has faded away.

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