The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!

Title: Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!
Genre: Comedy/Romance
Company: Kyoto Animation
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 03 Oct 2012 – 19 Dec 2012

Synopsis: Togashi Yuuta is a high school freshman and an ex-chuunibyou: a Japanese slang for teenagers who obsess over the occult and pretend that elements of fantasy and horror fiction exist in reality. Embarrassed by his childish past, he attempts to quit his obsessive activities and live a regular high school life, but he meets a girl named Takanashi Rikka who reminds him of his middle school self. A full-fledged chuunibyou patient, Rikka discovers Yuuta’s secret past and attempts to draw him back into the culture.

The Highlights
Visuals: Evocative animation and detailed backgrounds.
Drama: Awkwardly paced in contrast with the early comedic episodes.
Characters: Quirky in all the right ways but shallow when it counts.

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! is KyoAni‘s attempt at the now-commonplace light novel-adapted romantic comedy genre. Loosely based on a short light novel series and filled with anime-original content, the series features a premise that will be familiar to most anime fans: an ordinary boy meets an eccentric girl and unwittingly gets pulled into her offbeat world. Of course, there is a catch in Chuunikoi‘s plot: Rikka’s eccentricity is centered around a geeky obsession with the occult, an experience that many anime fans share through our exposure to RPGs and shounen anime as kids. For many, the relatability of the show’s story will be a large part of its appeal. The cast’s chuunibyou antics are impressively realistic and they trigger an awkward mix of nostalgia and embarrassment. Later, as the themes are developed, the viewer is urged to empathize with the characters as an adorable group of misfits–a task that its target audience will find easy. On the flip side, those who can’t relate as personally to chuunibyou will be forced to experience the anime as a standard romantic comedy, losing some of its charm in the process.

Regardless, Chuunikoi is a solid production even without its gimmicks. Its characters, while far from original, have a superb chemistry with one another. Combine this with top-notch pacing within episodes (for the most part) and you end up with a show that takes a bland, over-saturated genre and refreshes it by doing everything correctly. The pacing of the punchlines is quick enough to hold one’s attention without drifting into the discontinuous 4panel format, and the very nature of chuunibyou as a premise allows for the possibility of almost any everyday scenario to spiral into reference-laden, embarrassingly over-the-top hilarity. Even the personality dynamic between Yuuta and Rikka–one that has been played countless times in KyoAni productions–is rejuvenated by the show’s ability to pace sitcom-style comedic episodes.

But it is the drama that earns Chuunikoi its most frequent complaints, and it’s a difficult problem to overlook because it occupies half of the already short series. The romance between Yuuta and Rikka is admittedly well-paced; there is enough beating around the bush in traditional rom-com fashion, but their mutual attraction develops steadily once it’s introduced and its resolution is delivered with a burst of KyoAni aesthetic flair, leaving out the contrived melodrama we’ve come to expect. That said, the romance’s main flaw is a hard one to avoid: the characters themselves are ultimately shallow and predictable despite their quirky exteriors. It is difficult to care about Yuuta and Rikka as anything more than eccentric anime characters when the former is boring and the latter is artificially engineered to be perfect. This flaw is at the very heart of Chuunikoi, and while it rears its head as the romance develops, it only grows worse when the drama hits full stride. Rikka’s backstory feels unnecessary and comes across as a simple tool to generate drama and provide some thematic backing to the show’s seemingly random premise. Worse yet, the comedy–arguably the strongest element of the series–vanishes entirely in the later episodes. Once again, the drama is well-presented, using a duller colour palette and an absence of sound and music to express the lack of vibrancy in the world without chuunibyou delusions (along the same lines as the alternate world in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (1,2)). However, the attractive coat of paint is ultimately unfulfilling when the story at its core is as mundane and unoriginal as one would expect from reading the novel’s premise.

What this results in is a work that is aesthetically and artistically gorgeous but ultimately falls apart due to its lack of substance. Comedy transitions awkwardly into drama without nearly enough of a gradient, and the characters, while amusing, are never able to reach the level of depth and realism required for the romance and drama to truly hit home. Instead, we end up with a highly attractive but hollow rom-com with a few surprisingly good episodes early on. The aesthetics are still top-notch and outdo most non-KyoAni anime, encouraging the viewer to watch with their eyes rather than their ears and to pay attention to the smallest details, but the story and characters  at the show’s heart fail to invoke the kind of emotion that they carelessly attempt to.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Eternal

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