Known as “Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai” in Japan, this show marks a turning point for Kyoto Animation. Prior to this, KyoAni was like most other anime studios, vying for contracts to animate a show from a publisher. This led them to creating shows like “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” for Kadokawa, “K-On!” for TBS, and “Clannad” for Visual Arts. However, when it decided to publish its own light novel, and then turn it into this very anime adaptation, we knew something different was happening. Kyoto Animation was now going to start making its own shows, about the stories the company itself wanted to animate.
So Chu2koi (as this show is often abbreviated to) had a lot to live up to. If this show did well, it meant KyoAni could continue making its own light novels and anime, not having to deal with publishers and some of the other pains of anime production. If this show tanked, though, it would’ve been a big waste of Kyoto Animation’s time and money, and the company itself would have to pay for it.
All the better that this show did fairly well in Japan, then.
Do you remember when you were a little kid, and you thought you were the coolest kid out there? Maybe you thought you had superpowers, and you were destined to save the world. Maybe you were a magician, your abilities leaving everyone else around you in awe. No matter what you thought as a kid, you thought it was all real, and that you were involved in some pretty cool things.
Or at least, I had memories like these. And, if you were like me, you look back on these moments with embarrassment. Thinking I really had superpowers that could defeat the strongest of foes? Yeah, no. No way I really possessed such things. Or anyone did, for that matter. Having delusions of such grandeur is called “chuunibyou” in Japanese (“middle schooler disease”). These are some of the same experiences the main character of this show, Yuuta, has to deal with.
Yuuta moves into a new high school, wanting to get away from all the middle school kids he previously knew (and told that he was some gothic swordsmaster named Dark Flame Master). Ready to put his embarrassing past behind him, he wanted to start off a normal high school life, hanging out with normal high school friends, and having crushes on normal high school girls.
Of course, that doesn’t start to go well when he gets himself intertwined with a girl in his class named Rikka. Like Yuuta, Rikka has believed herself to be some gothic superpowered being who must wear an eyepatch at all time (lest the power of her Wicked Eye Shingan be fully unleashed, should the eyepatch be removed!). Unlike Yuuta though, she still is head-over-heels deep into this chuunibyou delusion of hers, and she decided to get Yuuta roped into her random activities.
From there, we follow the start of a cute but awkward friendship, leading into a romantic story, as Yuuta and Rikka explore more about each other, about high school, and about chuunibyou.
The Plot and Characters
One of the biggest things that sets this show apart from others in its genre is the whole dealing with “chuunibyou” and the weird words and explanations Rikka gives to what’s going on around her. The stuff she says can be a bit confusing (going on about her powerful eye, and looking for invisible boundary lines), but once you think about it a bit, you can tell she’s just seeing the world through an imaginative mind. It ranges from annoying to endearing, depending upon the context, but never to the point that it made me dislike her character; if anything, it made me feel for her.
We see Yuuta go from trying to push her away, as she reminds him of his embarrassing middle school experiences, to slowly beginning to accept her. A lot happens to get these characters to the end of the last episode though, and it’s a bit of a ride. Rikka and Yuuta, of course, are right in the middle of it, and there are twists and topics in the latter half that you wouldn’t have expected going in. I won’t say this anime has the most dramatic twists or reveals out there, though, but it does have some teeth to it.
The show’s supporting cast includes Shinka Nibutani, a girl who’s popular, pretty, and smart; Sanae Dekomori, Rikka’s faithful and energetic assistant; Kumin Tsuyuri, an airhead upperclassmen who loves to sleep; Makoto Isshiki, a guy trying to do all he can to get a date; and Toka Takanashi, Rikka’s older sister that just wants Rikka to be rational about what’s going on around her.
The characters in this show are relatively well developed, with Rikka being the most rounded. However, that being said, Yuuta seems mostly defined by just his embarrassing middle school days, and little else. He ended up being the character I liked the least in this series, and I do wish he got a bit more time to come into his own. It’s obvious the show wanted to put more attention on Rikka and her chuunibyou. Even saying that, though, I didn’t dislike Yuuta at all, and he had his fun times too; I just wish there was a bit more complexity to him.
The supporting cast doesn’t receive much development until near the end of the series, when we see them respond to all the drama going on. However, the supporting cast was what really made this show for me. The interactions with all of them, especially Dekomori, Shinka, and Makoto, are what really help to keep this show entertaining and fun, even when we’re waist-deep in emotional scenes in the latter half of the series. The various anime references that Dekomori and Rikka make are fun to pick up on too, when you can pick up on them.
In regards to the pacing, it starts off relatively slow, and continues at a rather relaxed pace for the majority of the series, only picking up speed during dramatic moments and scenes.
Chu2koi, being animated by Kyoto Animation, of course already meets a certain level of quality, so you can be sure you’ll be watching a good-looking show. I wouldn’t call this Kyoto Animation’s finest work in recent times, but it still looks great regardless.
The character designs are akin to the Kyoto Animation standard that’s been used since K-On! (if not earlier), and I like them. I particularly like the designs of Rikka, Toka, and Dekomori. Oppositely, Yuuta’s design comes off as a bit too bland to me, which probably helped make him the one I liked the least. The backgrounds in general look pretty great, but there’s certain scenes, including one in episode 8 with Rikka and Yuuta sitting near a river admiring the city lights, where the backgrounds are particularly gorgeous.
Watching the show as it aired, I of course could only see it in Japanese. I think there was a lot of great vocal performances in this show on the Japanese side. I’ve not seen it in English.
When it comes to the music, it stays relatively subtle, really only peaking up during the dramatic battle scenes (because, yes, there are dramatic chuunibyou battle scenes the characters take place in) and during the really emotional parts of the series. The music tends to be pretty good, but there’s not really any tracks that are that defining or memorable; even the themes during the battles aren’t all that noteworthy. The music is just… there, and that’s about it.
The opening theme, though, I think is really great. The first few seconds of the song gets stuck in my head a lot, and I think the whole song is powerful and just sounds good. It’s put alongside a simplistic but mesmerizing opening animation, with it flashing between each of the main characters doing various activities. It’s not something easily described, and when you see it, it’s somewhat entrancing. The ending theme is also pretty good, but I don’t enjoy it quite as much. The ending animation is also pretty awesome, though, and I especially enjoyed the scene featuring Rikka standing outside with the factory in the distance, for some odd reason.
Final Remarks / TL;DR
This show isn’t exceptionally emotional and deep, but it’s not all light-hearted and sunshine either. It’s somewhere in the middle, incorporating a fair amount of both, and I think it does a good job. On top of that, it develops a sweet romantic story, all while being told by a talented and quality animation studio. However, looking back on this show, the funny jokes and scenes stick out more to me than the plot.
I wouldn’t say this is a show for you to go out of your way to watch, but it’s certainly not a waste of time either. I suggest giving it a shot if you were even somewhat interested in it, because it isn’t a bad choice, but don’t feel too ashamed about skipping it either.
Recommendation: Give It a Shot
+++ emotional latter half with Rikka and Yuuta, funny comedic moments, quality animation
— jokes more memorable than the plot, okay ending song, Yuuta needed more time to develop