Chuunibyou – 07

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So this was the week Chuunibyou finally crossed the unseen horizon and went serious.  And all in all, it did a pretty darn good job of it.

When a comedy goes serious, you can look at it two ways.  You can judge it by the vehicle it chooses for the journey, or by how good a driver it is.  There’s certainly nothing new or original about the plot twist Chuunibyou executed this week – in fact you could even say it was pretty predictable based on precedent and foreshadowing – but of greater importance is the fact that it was executed pretty well.  The tone was a nice balance of humor and pathos, and while there were a few steps over the line into maudlin territory, on balance that trap was avoided most of the time.  And as poet Audre Lord once said, “There are no new ideas – only new ways of making them felt”.

What’s interesting to me in watching this episode isn’t so much the backstory that was given to Rikka, but the statement the series is eventually going to try to make about chuunibyou generally and the way it relates specifically to its characters.  I’ve always felt that there was an impulse here to try and look at the phenomenon if not seriously than at least wistfully, but it was being undercut by the comedy (which was mostly working, thankfully).  Now we’ve got the facts laid out on the table it seems we may be headed for that sort of examination after all, because the merits of escapism are squarely at the center of where the show is now. 

The opposing camps have staked out their positions pretty clearly.  Touka and Grandpa are squarely in the “face reality” camp, believing that no matter how painful, life must be faced head-on before we can move on.  Rikka (and Dekomori, though I consider her largely a comic device just as Isshiki is) has chosen to live her life in an alternate reality (“Break reality!  Open the synapse!”) to avoid facing what’s undeniably a very painful reality.  And squarely in the middle, just as a main character should be, is Yuuta.  He has a chuunibyou past to rival anyone’s, and he’s chosen to abandon it for reasons entirely more shallow than what Touka has in mind.  He also has a loving family that’s intact (even if Dad is in Jakarta on business) and nominally has no good reason to live in a fantasy world of his or anyone else’s making.  It seems as if Yuuta is going to be the pivot point around which this conflict gets resolved, and it’ll be very interesting to see which side the author (and the adaptation) comes down on.  Perhaps a measure of both – an acceptance that we weren’t given minds capable of flights of fancy just so we would stay grounded all the time, but that sooner or later all of us have to land.

There’s no denying that the humor in Chuunibyou continues to be pretty effective, and it wasn’t completely swept away in the flood of angst this time either.  Isshiki seems to have been officially added to the gang, thus fulfilling the KyoAni requirement of a butt-monkey male best friend (happily, a rule that was waived for Hyouka) and the group chemistry continues to work comedically.  Isshiki’s crush on Kumin is part of the mix now, and Nibutani seems to have adopted him as a secondary target, though her primary opponent remains Dekomori.  Their eternal battle is always good for a few laughs, the highlight this week being the dueling sunscreen insults.  Dekomori’s role is straight idiocy, but Nibutani is more interesting as the most inflated and pompous member of the group – she’s so easily goaded into the trenches with Dekomori that it’s obvious to everyone but herself that she’s nowhere near as mature and removed from the creature she was as she’d like everyone (including herself) to believe.

I like two-cour shows (and longer ones for that matter) but I think Chuunibyou is a show that might benefit from being one cour.  Moderation is not a strength here, either when it comes to moe or melodrama – everything this show does is over the top, and I don’t know how well that would hold up over 24 episodes.  I can see a pretty brisk and frenetic conclusion with a lot of tears happening here if the cards are played correctly, but I think moments like the big reveal of the vacant lot – covered in flowers, no less – at the end of this episode start to lose their impact when they’re repeated too often.  Five remaining episodes feels just about right to tie a bow on the series and arrive at a (hopefully) meaningful revelation about chuunibyou and the role it has – and should have – in the lives of kids of all ages.

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  1. A

    i can see how everything works in theory, but there is this one thing, just this one thing, that breaks the flow for me everytime. it's the chuuni-talk…
    whenever i try to immerse myself into the show, the chuuni talk snaps me out from it. i don't know if it's the voice delivery, the directing or just the premise in general. maybe it's one of those things that can work on paper but can't possibly work animated. i can imagine how reading that could be interesting and funny, but seeing it is nothing but ridiculous. i can't see how a character like this can exist, that's why it doesn't work. you are faced with trauma and THAT is how you deal with it? it's a ridiculous way to deal with trauma, rikka as a character doesn't work for me. and this episode crushed most of my hopes about this show having more than what i'm seeing from the first few episodes.

  2. B

    I like how, after seeing what she's really like, neither of the male characters are showing any romantic interest towards their super-popular school idol classmate Nibutani. Both of them showed interest originally, then they got to know her and now they're like "err… no, just no." Isshiki's sights seem firmly fixed on Kumin now and it's obvious that the winds are blowing into the sails of the SS Yuuta x Rikka.

    Touka is still the best.

  3. T

    ^ Who's Touka again? ^_^;

    Anyway I really liked this episode, and like it when a show can balance itself out like this, the episode felt like a well oiled machine to me, using good measure of Nibutani and Dekomori's everliving battle with eachother (BTW did you see one of the lites that consisted of this? it was pretty funny) and Isski's crush on Kumin, and none of it felt like it was oddly placed with Yuuta and Rikka's scenes, my favorite being near the end of the episode where they had to jump off the roof and onwards.

  4. B

    Touka is Rikka's megahot sister.

  5. H

    I'm not nearly as quick to put Touka into the 'reality' camp. I've hoped from the start that the overall message of the show would be that there is room in an adult life for some fantastical elements, the ability to look at the world around you and see more than just what's on the surface. To this end, I think that Touka's probably the best character in the show, because she epitomizes to me this balance, and carries it off with caring towards her sister, while being perfectly able to operate in the real world. Does she describe Rikka as a 'problem' and have trouble getting along with her? Sure. But what authority figure doesn't have trouble with a 15-year old? And to me it's telling that Touka is willing to engage Rikka on a common level. Why is using a ladle as a weapon for battle any different than a collapsible umbrella? Who wears sweatpants and strappy pumps with a choker to go down a rope to ask the neighbor boy to come on vacation with you? That's what Touka does.

    And perhaps the most telling thing I inferred from this episode: I get the impression that Touka invited Rikka to come live with her. There doesn't seem to be any reason that she'd get thrown out of their grandparent's house, grandfather's dislike of her fantastical mindset included. But Touka realized that Rikka was unhappy there, and invited her to come to a different city to live with her, definitely with a cost to Touka, for the sake of Rikka not having to live where she was miserable. Because honestly, for all the supposed 'trouble' that Rikka causes, it's mostly just roll your eyes stuff. She doesn't refuse to accept the things of everyone else's world, she just augments it with an overlay of her own, which to her makes it more awesome and meaningful.

    I also don't see Rikka's entire personality and fictional world being entirely escapism to avoid the reality of her father's death. She obviously knows he died, and has accepted that. Her construction is the 'unseen horizon', and that her father is there, watching them. Is that really different from other people who think that souls of their ancestors guide and judge their lives? Especially in a culture like Japan's? I think the main reason for her delusional overlay is really that she thinks it's cool – just like Yuuta, Shinka, and Dekomori all think theirs is cool (I think it would be impossible to try to argue that Yuuta and Shinka don't still think it's cool, given how easily they slip back into admiration of those things. It's only the rational part of their minds that fight so hard to judge it uncool). Like Yuuta says, he can't confirm or deny what Rikka says about her father being across the horizon. None of us can.

  6. H

    Oh, I also wanted to comment that I agree with you that this is definitely a show, based on where they've gone with it and when, that will fit well into a 1 cour series. While I'm somewhat disappointed to know that a show that I enjoy so much will be ending sooner than later, it does really feel like they've got a handle on the spacing to get to the end of the series right at the finish of the stories.

  7. KyoAni does generally seem to "get" pacing pretty well conceptually.

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