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Chuunibyo Demo Koi Ga Shitai (Regardless of my Adolescent Delusions of Grandeur, I Want a Date!) (Love, Chuunibyou, and Other Delusions) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 21 February 2013 00:00
Love, Chuunibyou, and Other Delusions (hemceforth Chuu2koi, as that's the generally-accepted short form) was Kyoto Animation's contribution to the Autumn season, so you'd be forgiven for immediately running up a checklist of what the show will involve. But hold on there, you might not be entirely correct...

Transitioning from boyhood into adolescence is never easy, but thanks to an extended tendency to try and live out his fantasy life as the Dark Flame Master, for Yuta it's also embarrassing - so embarrassing that he switches schools so that he can start with a clean slate where no-one will remind him of his cringeworthy past. But just as he gets a glimpse of the normalcy he so desires, in walks Rikka Takanashi, who claims to share a karmic connection with him and who knows all about the Dark Flame Master...

"Chuunibyou" - those who live out their fantasy lives (also translated in the show as "8th Grade Syndrome") - seems to be a 'thing' at the moment. We had this in the Aurumn season, while OreShura is revisiting some of the same territory in the Winter (protip: Oreshura's the weaker of the two - review eventually). It's not really that hard of an idea to get to grips with, fortunately - we probably all went through phases during the teenage years of wanting to be someone more exciting or interesting. Yuta, Rikka and the likes just get a little bit carried away with that, pulling that desire from the head into the real world. Yuta's just outgrown the phase - and realised what a complete twat it made him appear to others - but, for reasons that the series goes on to explain, Rikka's very much still there. And when she sees in Yuta something between a kindred chuuni spirit and a potential love interest, it's pretty clear that neither she nor fate are going to let Yuta get away.

Adding quickly to the chaos surrounding these two are Shinka Nibutani, the best-looking girl in class who, like Yuta, is a recovering chuuni (don't ever mention her time as Morisummer to her - really bad for the health) but gets caught in the orbit of the other two; Sanae Dekomori, Rikka's 'servant' and weilder of the Mjolnir Hammer (aka heavy weights on the ends of her twintails); and Tsuyuri Kumin, the world's sleepiest senpai. For reasons more contrived that anything else, these five end up forming a club of sorts - mostly to have fun together, but as the series goes on the also delve into Rikka's troubled past. All chuuni kids grow up eventually, but there's something that's stopping Rikka from taking that step.

While the series focusses on simply having fun with the gang, it's a blast - there's a visual deceit that the show uses quite often, cutting quickly between what Rikka or Dekomori are seeing in their heads (epic fantasy battles with powerful spells and huge weapons) and what's actually happening in the real world (effort keeping those twintails spinning and frantic wielding of umbrellas) that's very simple stuff, and great fun to watch. Yuta and Nibutani both over-react to any mention of their own pasts, which - initiall at least - also adds to the humour of the piece (they cut that out before it gets too old, fortunately), while Kumin-senpai brings a sense of normalcy. When she's awake, at least. If the series had followed the K-On! approach of simply following the club having fun, it would've been up there with one of the best comedies of the year - something KyoAni hasn't really nailed since Full Metal Panic? FUMOFFU!.

But, perhaps aware of the old claim of "cute girls doing nothing", there's a plot sneaked in here, revolving around Rikka, her family, and why she just can't seem to grow up. It's a storyline that dominates the latter third of the series, and that pretty much pushes the show's humour entirely out of the way. I'm sorry to say that the characters and premise don't work nearly so well without it, either - the nature of Rikka's issues is almost like something out of a KEY title, and KyoAni seem to try to work the same emotional manipulation tricks here that they used with their KEY trilogy. This time around, though, it's such a jarring difference from the fun and hi-jinks of the earlier part of the series that it jars instead of getting the emotional response it so clearly wants. Or perhaps I'm just getting immune.

So, from fun and bouncy, we go to slow and moody. That wasn't what I wanted from the series or from its characters, unfortunately. Part of the problem with the later storyline may be down to the amount of time devoted to it. It feels rushed, and consequently contrived, when if the series had been 26 episodes there would've been time to both develop the issues more, and to keep some of the humour in there - giving us the best of both worlds. That wan't to be, unfortunately, and so the end result is a show that has some great ideas and moments, but that can't quite juggle them well enough to make something really good. Instead, it's just "good". A shame.

Rating - ****