When I wrote about My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, I briefly mentioned the character Yoshiteru Zaimokuza, who has dealt with being a social outcast by withdrawing into a world of fantasy. Well it turns out that this is actually a very real issue for some children in Japan, and is known as chunibyo, or “8th Grade Syndrome”. I suppose it springs from the popularity of fantasy-based manga, anime and light novels, and perhaps the pressures of very intense schooling, much tougher on the children than anything we are used to over here. Some children just deal with their problems by fantasising, imagining they are somewhere else, heroes in their own stories.
This is what has happened to most of the main characters in Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions, so an umbrella becomes a deadly weapon, and a coloured contact lens covered with an eye-patch becomes a magical eye, etc etc. Our point-of-view character is Yuta Togashi, who has pulled himself out of his chunibyo and is trying to make a fresh start in a new school. His past in an embarrassment to him, and he is trying to escape from it. Into the apartment above him (and abseiling down from it on a rope) moves his love-interest Rikka Takanashi, who is fully in the grip of chunibyo. In her mind, her sister is the “priestess” who is trying to stop her from behaving so oddly, resulting in silly fights with umbrellas and ladles which play out in Rikka’s mind as epic fantasy battles on a grand scale. Kyoto Animation does an amazing job of animating those moments. I’ve mentioned them before – they are a stunningly brilliant animation studio.
Then there Rikka’s loyal follower Sanae Dekomori, and popular girl in school Shinka Nibutani, who hides her chunibyo past as the great “Mori Summer”. Dekomori has come to virtually worship the internet-based character of Mori Summer, and amusingly refuses to believe that Nibutani is actually her. So beings the most entertaining double act of the entire two series. They constantly fight, but when they are eventually described as the “best of friends” that makes perfect sense, despite their ongoing squabbling, (“fake Mori Summer”, “brat!”). It’s a genius bit of writing to make that all work so brilliantly.
Completing the line-up of main characters for the first season is Kumin Tsuyuri, the only one who has never suffered with chunibyo. Bizarrely her main characteristic seems to be that she likes having a nap in the daytime, a running joke that doesn’t exactly wear thin, but ends up adding little to the series. Very occasionally she has something important to do, but by and large she is unfortunately surplus to requirements in story terms, although it is refreshing to see a non-chunibyo character who generally takes the view that it all looks like a huge amount of fun.
The first series deals with Yuta and Rikka’s budding romance, the events which led to Rikka’s chunibyo, and whether Rikka should change who she is, and whether Yuta and Nibutani did the right thing to change. In the end it all comes down on the side of the chunibyo being fun and a useful coping mechanism, and those who fight to bury chunibyo in the past in order to fit in are living just as much of a fake existence as Rikka, in their own way. In an absolutely blistering moment, Dekomori, who is a fabulous character, screams out in rage, through her tears, that she realises it’s not real. They aren’t delusional idiots, but they need their chunibyo and, what’s more, they enjoy it. The whole series is a life-affirming parable about being true to who you are, not having to fit in, while recognising the need to change as you grow older, but not forcing instant change. Rikka and Yuta need to go through a gradual evolution, and that also applies to their relationship.
The second series doesn’t quite live up to the first. A new character is introduced, from Yuta’s past, in an attempt to mix things up a bit with a love triangle of sorts, but ultimately it doesn’t really lead anywhere, beyond a lot of angsty moments. Also, the whole series takes an age to build up to Rikka and Yuta’s first kiss (despite being in a relationship for ages and actually living together), and then it doesn’t happen (wait for the film!), so the second series really does feel like treading water. Then there is the frustration of nothing whatsoever happening between Dekomori and Nibutani, despite strong hints of an attraction between them during the OVA episode that accompanies the first season. Their love/hate relationship (which superficially appears to be all hate) is a huge amount of fun, but there was so much more could and should have been done with the characters. Plus Kumin is an entirely redundant character in the second series and in the film…
…speaking of which, we’ll look at the film that concludes the Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions story next time.
The only trailer I can find is truly awful, and gives a skewed impression of the series, so here are the opening credits to the first series instead. Look out for the finger dance and the butt dance. RP