Chuuninyou – 05

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Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later – Chuunibyou gives us what by its standards is a serious episode.  So – was it any good?

[URW]_Chuunibyou_demo_Koi_ga_Shitai!_-_05_[720p][650467CD].mkv_snapshot_00.22_[2012.11.02_00.11.18]As I’ve said, I think Chuunibyou – at least in theory – wants to work as both a completely frivolous screwball comedy and as a semi-serious and poignant look at adolescence.  It’s not an easy balance but a really great writer could pull it off – and in the absence of one, I think the two elements have been working in opposition rather than support with the comedy aspect winning handily.  The result hasn’t been unpleasant by any means, but the suspicion was always there that the series was going to try and level the playing field at some point.  My main question is whether this episode marks the first step in a journey in that direction, or a one-week detour that we’ll see repeated once in a while as a change of pace.

[URW]_Chuunibyou_demo_Koi_ga_Shitai!_-_05_[720p][650467CD].mkv_snapshot_01.15_[2012.11.02_00.12.11]In truth, what we got this week wasn’t so much an episode dedicated to the deeper implications of the whole chuunibyou phenomenon, but a straight-up teen romance episode.  And it was a pretty solid one – nothing special, but not too cloying and with enough funny moments remaining to keep things from feeling ponderous.  There were certainly the first signs of actual romantic interest here on Rikka’s part, as she was clearly jealous when Yuuta was spending too much time talking to Nibutani in the pool.  She recognizes where the threat lies, at least – but frankly it’s hard to take Rikka too seriously as a romantic figure.  She’s certainly cute – Chuunibyou is up to its eyeballs in cute – but she’s at the maturity level of an elementary school.  And unlike many emotionally immature teens (like Dekomori, somewhat shockingly) she doesn’t seem especially book-smart either.  In short, she’s a high-schooler who for all practical purposes (apart from hormones, presumably) is a grade-schooler.

[URW]_Chuunibyou_demo_Koi_ga_Shitai!_-_05_[720p][650467CD].mkv_snapshot_05.44_[2012.11.02_00.16.35]Still, it was an episode that featured a bit of growth for Rikka as she realized the fate of her club society rested squarely on her shoulders after her rousing 2% score on her math midterm.  That information was made public by Nana-sensei, who may just be my favorite character in the series for the perfect way she plays the sweet and slightly dim hot teacher when in fact she’s whip-smart and ruthless.  Things like romantic jealousy and guilt are emotional steps forward for a girl as stilted in her growth as Rikka, and even if she doesn’t exactly throw herself into studying she at least realizes she has a responsibility to try.

[URW]_Chuunibyou_demo_Koi_ga_Shitai!_-_05_[720p][650467CD].mkv_snapshot_07.01_[2012.11.02_00.17.51]There is this problem with Rikka, and with Chuunibyou, and I think it stems from too much focus on the madcap comedy and not enough on the more profound aspects of the condition – I really don’t feel sorry for a girl so fixated on her fantasies that she can’t be bothered to at least study hard enough for a midterm to get into double digits.  Rikka is entertaining but I don’t exactly find her sympathetic.  Yuuta at least comes off a little more so this week, as he shows some real cleverness in realizing that a carrot will be much more effective than the stick he’s been using (sometimes literally) on Rikka.  He even brings out the Dark Flame Master in paying off his bribe to her for applying herself enough to get the average grade that’s the condition of the Society’s survival, slipping into character to deliver her new cell phone ID (“Black Raison D’etre”).  Perhaps it’s a sign that Yuuta is relaxing his you-know-what just enough to let the stick loosen up a little bit and come to terms with the fact that the Dark Flame Master didn’t come into existence by accident – he’s a big part of who Yuuta is.  Or perhaps that’s just a little too philosophical for this show, and it was just a comedy bit.  I’m looking forward to seeing that question answered, too.

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10 comments

  1. V

    Odd that you didn't warm up to Rikka this episode 'cause I certainly did.

    Rikka's parents aren't home and so is her sister, who's always busy with work and comes home late. To keep herself entertained, she immerses in her delusions so that she won't get lonely.

    I admit that her delusions are out of this world but she isn't oblivious to the point that she reject reality completely.

    There's no one at home to tell her to study or to keep track of her progress, so she doesn't take the initiative herself. Yuuta baited her and got her to study because he understood her situation. I think they connected in a meaningful way this episode.

    This was a really good episode.

  2. B

    This episode gave us not only several very funny moments, but also more Nana-sensei AND Rikka's sister. So I guess it could be said that this episode really appealed to me on a lot of levels. I do agree that Rikka isn't exactly coming off as sympathetic here. I understand she has an absentee parent situation but she's in high school now and at some point has to take responsibility for herself, using them not being around as an excuse to do poorly in school doesn't really work forever. Of course, I graduated high school with barely a 2.0 GPA, so I probably shouldn't be throwing stones from within my glass house here.

  3. A

    Hmmm… Well, Enzo, this is probably a series where we'll just have to agree to disagree.

    I actually thought the writers did actually pull off in this episode the reconciliation you mention between comedy and a serious look at adolescence. For me, the best example of this was how they hinted at Rikka's divorced parents, with the game of House played by her older sister. Divorce is a serious topic, and a workable explanation for Rikka's "illness", but anguished backstory just doesn't fit the show's tone. So, the writers had Touka play a farcical game of house with Yuuta's younger sister to give the backstory, but make it funny at the same time. Capped then with Touka's envious comment toward Yuuta about how well he can deal with Rikka–acknowledging her inability to have a normal relationship with her sister. Considering what she prepares for her lunch, I think it's clear Touka cares about her sister, but she seems to be at a loss of how to deal with her antics.

    I think Rikka is stubborn to a fault, but I don't look at her as a grade schooler in the way you do. Her loneliness strikes me as part and parcel of adolescence, as is her own inscrutable inability to behave in a way that would ameliorate it–i.e. not act so strange. Having a friend (well, I guess Yuuta's more than a friend) help her reconcile herself to the harsh reality of the real world, filled with seemingly pointless math exams and a confused family life, strikes me as a worthy and credible plot line. Is she obviously immature? Yes. But maturity can be over-rated, even if it has to be accepted at some point, and the show captures the process well in this episode.

    I do think that the comic tone can be problematic at times. Indeed, some of the side characters such as Dekomori may end up never progressing beyond comic relief, but for me this isn't a huge problem. Hyouka this is not, but so far I've been very pleasantly surprised as to how this show has balanced a zany comic premise with a "serious" romantic plot.

  4. I

    Mmm i felt a love triangle… ^.^

  5. S

    Naa .. the triangle died last episode. Note that Yuuta's no longer having his daydreams anymore

  6. H

    I don't know that it necessarily 'died'. I think two things might contribute to him not daydreaming about her, one that she's at least superficially rejected him and two that he's actually interacting with her a lot more, so he doesn't really need to fantasize about interactions.

    One thing it's definitely done tho is take Shinka off the pedestal Yuuta had her on, and now they're on a more equal level, which would actually facilitate a love triangle, rather than just pining or idolization. Also, bringing Shinka off the pedestal comparatively raises Rikka up.

    But I still note that Shinka was nice to Yuuta before they found out about each other's pasts, seemingly moreso than other boys in their class. I don't think that's completely gone away. And I don't quite buy that Shinka's just hanging out with the club to try to convince Dekomori to delete the Mabinogion. I'm starting to think that it's a little like Sorata in Sakurasou no pet no kanojo: Trying to front the normal stuff and diss the weird stuff, but enjoying it on the inside.

  7. A

    I think the writers won't push a love triangle, because it'd just cause too much tension in a series that avoids drama. However, I *do* think Shinka has enough interest in Yuuta that she'll become at least a bit envious of Rikka's relationship with him. After all, this ep. makes it clear that Yuuta is a fundamentally decent guy, and one who's clever and more than capable of thinking on his feet. And Shinka knows that Yuuta won't judge her for her past. But to avoid the full blown conflict of a love triangle, I think they'll just hint at this, in the same way they subtly telegraph Rikka's possessiveness toward Yuuta.

    I also think you're right that Shinka does like being in the club more than she lets on.

  8. A

    I like that little Lelouch moment that Jun Fukuyama had when he was about to give Rikka her new cellphone ID.

  9. S

    KyoAni asked Inoue Kikuko to channel a bit more of a ditzy Mizuho-sensei. As a fan of the Onegai-series, I'm rather enjoying the role. :)

    I like the characters and the way they interact. They're active and entertaining to watch. There's a story and a relationship here, but there's no attempt at a deep study. So, I like it a lot for what it is. Actually, I like it too much, haha.

  10. H

    I keep thinking Belldandy, rather than Mizuho, with that little bit of bite that we never saw in Belldandy, which makes it even funnier.

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