Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions (2012)
Episode 01 – 12 + OVA
Vanishment This World!
What is it about ‘geeks’ that makes them so different? What sets them apart from the crowd? What drives their obsession with science fiction, fantasy or anime, and possess them to dress up as their favorite heroes and heroines whilst attending various conventions or events, sometimes even taking on the character’s persona? Maybe it’s a shield to protect themselves from today’s harsh, cynical climate, or maybe, just maybe they’ve retained a sense of child-like wonder and imagination, one that’s allowed them to envision themselves as powerful wizards or mighty champions, people who hold the balance of the world in their hands. Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions, also known as Chūnibyō Demo Koi ga Shitai!, focuses on a group of students who are trying to come to terms with their own ‘geekiness,’ and the social stigma that’s often associated with the term Chunibyo, a Japanese slang word that roughly translates into ‘junior high school second grade syndrome,’ referring to the early adolescent fantasies of those who believe that they have special powers and alternate personas.
Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2006), and based on the light Japanese novel series written by Torako, Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions follows protagonist Yūta Togashi, a high school freshman who suffered from Chunibyo or ‘delusions of grandeur’ during his junior high school years. Believing to have ominous supernatural powers — dubbing himself as the ‘Dark Flame Master’ — Yūta inevitably found himself isolated from many of his junior high colleagues and classmates, as he was generally seen as a bit of a ‘weirdo.’ Embarrassed of his childhood delusions, Yūta seeks to start high school with a fresh slate, enrolling at a school where no one knows him, in turn, giving Yūta the opportunity to distance himself from his chunibyo past. Alas, this proves to be somewhat difficult as Yūta’s upstairs neighbor, Rikka Takanashi, disrupts his plan; a 16-year-old girl who believes that she’s a sorceress possessed by a ‘Wicked Eye’ that’s able to reveal people’s destinies. You see, Rikka quickly comes to realize that Yūta used to go by the name of ‘Dark Flame Master,’ whom she had heard so much about, and becomes fascinated by him. Although Yūta initially tries to brush Rikka off, he eventually welcomes her into his life and the pair establishes and maintains a club on campus under the title of the Far Eastern Magic Nap Society of Summer.
Don’t let the cutesy magical girls premise fool you as Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions is essentially a slice of life romance/ drama about growing up and leaving one’s past behind, touching on tough subjects such as dealing with grief and loss. Without spoiling too much, the bulk of the narrative revolves around Rikka and the death of her father, who passed away from a terminal illness when she was only a child, with the incident forming the bulk of her delusions. Armed with her ‘wicked’ right eye — its power sealed by an eye patch — Rikka searches for the ‘Ethereal Horizon,’ a mysterious place that our heroine believes will lead her to her late father and allow her to say ‘goodbye’ to him one final time. As it turns out, this overarching storyline neatly balances elements of comedy, drama and even romance together, with Yūta and Rikka becoming romantically entwined as the series progresses. While the first half of the show is generally more ‘fun,’ the second part becomes a little solemn and sombre, highlighting what grief can do to a person whilst stressing the power of human imagination.
Wonderfully realized and beautifully animated by Kyoto Animation, K-On! (2009), Love Chunibyo & Other Delusions also features a number of playful secondary characters that soften some of the narrative’s bleaker moments. Shinka Nibutani, a freshman cheerleader and one of the most popular girls in the school, is the clear second tier standout. Once a chunibyo herself, going by the name of ‘Mori Summer,’ Nibutani uses her sweet personality and natural good looks to hide her embarrassing past, ditching her delusions in order to ‘fit in.’ Nibutani joins the Far Eastern Magic Nap Society of Summer after she finds out that a third-year junior student — a self-professed chunibyo named Sanae Dekomori — has in her possession, the last piece of evidence verifying Nibutani’s delusional phase, a blog titled ‘Mabinogion,’ a manuscript documenting Mori Summer’s life as the last mage on Earth. Given that Dekomori is Rikka’s ‘servant,’ good friend and club member, Nibutani reluctantly joins the group so that she can retrieve the Mabinogion and destroy it, seeing as the text could potentially unveil her past.
Armed with two long pony tails, both tied with small weight bags that she calls ‘Mighty Mjolnir Maul,’ weapons that ‘make men meet their mortality,’ the banter between Sanae Dekomori and ‘rival’ Nibutani is one of the show’s strongest elements, with the focus of the rivalry centering on and around the ‘Mabinogion,’ with Dekomori convinced that Nibutani is posing as a ‘fake’ Mori Summer, taking credit for someone else’s master work; throughout this interplay, the girls exhibit a cute frisky energy that really shines, although some of this repartee mightn’t work for everyone. Scenes where Nibutani forces Dekomori to drink milk — which the third-year junior hates — are amusing while a Christmas OVA card game that pits the pair against one other is rather ‘merry,’ with these characters both adding a feisty zest to the show.
Another player worthy of note is the second-year high school student Kumin Tsuyuri, a character who loves sleeping so much that she’s normally seen carrying a pillow — or several — around with her, wherever she goes, just in case she feels like some shuteye. Attempting to form a ‘Nap Club’ but failing, Kumin collaborates with Rikka when the latter is trying to open the original Far Eastern Magic Society, with Kumin believing that she’s finally formed her ‘Nap Club,’ albeit, a highly modified version. Rating and analyzing all the girls in his class is Makoto Isshiki, a 16–year-old male student who sits behind Yūta and befriends him early on in the show. When his notebook, containing a ‘Cutie Girl Poll,’ is discovered, Makoto is forced to shave his thick luscious hair as a self-given punishment for his regrettable actions. Makoto eventually joins the Far Eastern Magic Nap Society of Summer and falls for the innocent, naïve and old-fashioned Kumin, with the pair sharing a couple of sweet moments throughout the anime. Last but not least we have Tōka Takanashi — with her long black hair and striking red eyes — Rikka’s acrobatic and flexible older sister, who works as a chef at a fine restaurant to support her chunibyo sister. Sick of Rikka’s delusional antics, Tōka often disciplines her younger sibling — or anyone else that she finds irritating — by whacking them with a ladle. Kind of quirky, huh?
Bookended by a fantastic opening — featuring the track ‘Sparkling Daydream’ by Zaq — and a fitting closing — brought to life by Black Raison d’être’s ‘Inside Identity’ — Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions is relatively light on fan service, so those looking for a harem-type series may find themselves somewhat disappointed. Moreover, lead Yūta might seem a little brash or selfish when we first meet him, particularly after he hits Rikka a couple of times early on in the series, but don’t fret as he becomes much more bearable as the series prods along, with Yūta working tirelessly to snap Rikka back into reality. Admirably though, director Tatsuya Ishihara lightens the mood by skilfully adding and incorporating a number of highly engaging battle sequences into the narrative, all taking place inside character’s minds. With vibrant colors and sleek energy, these arresting clashes stand to be some of the show’s most clever elements and are sure to please — even though these imagined fights and illusions are few and far between.
Populated by an array of adorable moe characters, Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions tackles serious themes of loss, regret and escapism, all in a light and playful manner; the anime speaks directly to young adults who are not quite ready to grow up, and ‘grown folks’ who might feel as though they need a break from reality. With this first season wrapping up rather tidily, I’m curious to see where its follow-up series, Heart Throb, might venture. Entertaining, touching, strange and pretty darn cool, Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions is a genuine treat, one that embraces the inner geek inside us all.
3.5 / 5 – Great
Reviewed by Mr. Movie
Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions is released through Madman Entertainment Australia