Chuunibyou – 10

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I’ll say this much for Chuunibyou – when it decided to make a transition to serious mode, it didn’t pull any punches.

[URW]_Chuunibyou_demo_Koi_ga_Shitai!_-_10_[720p][D505F865].mkv_snapshot_03.44_[2012.12.07_10.18.43]I personally would have preferred a more balanced recipe from the beginning, with the obvious implications of chuunibyou – which were always the elephant in the room – being explored a little along with the comedy in the first half of the series.  I think that would have worked better than the whipsaw, all-or-nothing transition we’ve gotten, but there’s no denying that the comedy was usually pretty funny and the drama has been rather effective.  It’s as Isshiki says, “You never know what kind of pasts are going to come out”.

[URW]_Chuunibyou_demo_Koi_ga_Shitai!_-_10_[720p][D505F865].mkv_snapshot_05.27_[2012.12.07_10.20.27]As I’ve said before about this show, it doesn’t do anything halfway.  When it was a comedy it was unbelievably broad and outlandish.  Now that it’s a romance and a serious look at disassociation from reality, it’s once again leaving nothing in the tank – which as I said makes me think this is well-suited to be a one-cour show, because the lack of restraint would cause serious burnout otherwise.  What this approach leads to here is a no-holds-barred episode – full-on confessions for both pairings (one with an “I love you”, the other with a microphone), life-changing events, angry confrontations, sentimental songs by the light of bonfires.  Subtle it wasn’t – stylistically anyway – and a lot of this is pretty familiar territory, as is the usual KyoAni overdose of kawaii.  But the fact that the commitment is undeniable makes the whole thing work pretty well.

[URW]_Chuunibyou_demo_Koi_ga_Shitai!_-_10_[720p][D505F865].mkv_snapshot_05.38_[2012.12.07_10.20.38]I’ll get to the big events that are surely causing great discord and vitriol in the Chuunibyou fanbase in a minute, but one thing that struck me here is the sort of Peter Pan Syndrome that exists in anime, and how chuunibyou (small “c”) fits rather neatly with that.  Once again (and this is not a condemnation, because it’s nearly universal in anime) we see a ridiculously idealized portrait of high school romance – one where the boys have never touched a girl and the mere though of a hug makes them melt, and where the girls are chaste and shy (in a non-threateningly sexy way, of course).  I don’t think anime producers – or fans – believe that high school is really like that, and if that’s the case it must surely be a sort of wish-fulfillment to pretend as if it is.  And I think chuunibyou is something like that, too – a reaction to the impending terror of adulthood by clinging desperately to a fantasy that we know isn’t real, but gives us something to cling to in our insecurity.  The fact that it’s “Eighth-Grade Syndrome” isn’t a coincidence, as that’s typically the age when the full-bore onset of puberty really kicks in.  Chuunibyou is mostly portrayed as a kind of self-aggrandizement – and it surely is in part – but I think this desperate clinging to innocence is part of it too.

[URW]_Chuunibyou_demo_Koi_ga_Shitai!_-_10_[720p][D505F865].mkv_snapshot_06.33_[2012.12.07_10.21.33]I could go on about that topic endlessly – one of the finest anime of all-time, FLCL, is a fascinating look at the notion of trying to fight off the terrors of adolescence told from a very different perspective – but since this is a post about Chuunibyou Episode 10 it’s more important to discuss it in context.  I think we can see that in Rikka’s case she has very obvious reasons for her specific case of chuunibyou, but she too has this fear of adulthood that’s a part of the issue, and we see evidence of it in her reaction to her feelings for Yuuta.  In fact, it may be the onset of romantic love that finally forces her to come to terms with the loss of her father, because she can’t step boldly into adulthood in one respect and stay behind in the other.  We see her last futile grasping in the scene with Dekomori in the clubroom – one last-ditch attempt to lose herself in her fantasy, which in Dekomori’s case is at least age-appropriate – but we can see even here that Rikka knows the battle has been lost.  In a way, I view this as Rikka saying goodbye to her Tyrant’s Eye persona – though I suspect we haven’t seen the last of it (or the Dark Flame Master).

[URW]_Chuunibyou_demo_Koi_ga_Shitai!_-_10_[720p][D505F865].mkv_snapshot_07.31_[2012.12.07_10.22.31]Now, surely, comes the blame game.  Who’s in the wrong here – is it Touka, for deciding that she must accept the career opportunity in Italy?  Is it her mother, for thinking she can slide back into her daughter’s life with a bento she doesn’t even deliver herself?  Is it Rikka, for refusing to see her mother despite repeated apologies?  Or is it Yuuta for initiating a confrontation, which we see only in flashback?  While I’m sure Rikka’s cute-girl armor will protect her from most fan wrath, it’s my view that no one is really in the wrong here – everyone is doing the best they can under very bad circumstances.  Touka and the mother certainly made mistakes, and they bear more responsibility than Rikka because Rikka was  – and is – still a child.  But Touka can’t take care of Rikka forever, and she’s clearly at her wits’ end – we can see how exhausted she is by the way she humbles herself to Yuuta, realizing he knows Rikka better than she does now.  That can’t have been easy for Touka, and I won’t condemn her for what she’s doing – she has a life and a career, and Rikka has a mother who wants to be a part of her life.  Touka has tried her best and given up a lot already, and I think what she’s doing here is understandable.

[URW]_Chuunibyou_demo_Koi_ga_Shitai!_-_10_[720p][D505F865].mkv_snapshot_08.02_[2012.12.07_10.23.02]As for their mother, while we don’t know her very well, I don’t think there’s much doubt she was in the wrong in hiding her husband’s condition from Rikka.  But let’s be clear, he surely was in on that decision – he may even have insisted on it.  We just don’t know enough yet to say whether she’s fit to take a place in Rikka’s life again, but I see nothing in her actions in the episode itself that makes me judge her harshly – just as I see nothing in Rikka’s refusal to accept her peace offering that makes me judge her harshly.  She’s confused and in pain, and while she might be in the wrong in freezing her mother out (or not – we can’t say yet) even if she is, it’s impossible for me to blame her.  As for Yuuta, we don’t know exactly what was said between he and Rikka and without that knowledge it’s hard to say if he acted wisely or not.  But it is fair to say he’s been Rikka’s best friend and support, and extraordinarily patient and indulgent of her, and in his way he was trying to help her come to grips with things that can no longer be avoided.  Yuuta is still a child too, like Rikka, and he made the best decision he could based on limited experience.  No blame for him, either.

[URW]_Chuunibyou_demo_Koi_ga_Shitai!_-_10_[720p][D505F865].mkv_snapshot_08.36_[2012.12.07_10.23.35]What – nobody’s wrong?  How boring!  Maybe, but that’s life – and in fact, everyone involved is wrong in their own way, but that isn’t what’s important.  With two eps left I’m the first to confess I don’t know how this is going to end, which is rather fun.  It seems small potatoes, but I’m even curious to know why Kumin turned Isshiki down (rather bold confession, I thought).  I’m most curious to see how the series will judge the actions of the characters in this episode, and what role it will decide chuunibyou should play in Rikka’s (and everyone else’s) life.  She may have taken the Tyrant’s Contact Lens out, but I don’t see an outright rejection of fantasy in the cards here.  In a sense, it’s a matter of keeping both the ones we’ve lost and the child inside us alive that drives our attraction to fantasy – and I think those are worthwhile ends that shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

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  1. T

    Two notes:
    1. I love that when Yuuta and Rikka confessed to each other, it was Yuuta who gave his confession the chuuni treatment while Rikka simply gave a very shy "I love you." Seems to me like the two are meeting halfway, or trying to communicate in each others' language, or like Yuuta has made some peace with his chuuni past while Rikka's shell on that matter has cracked a bit. Or all of the above? Regardless, I dug that.

    2. It seems to me that the romance has done a bit to Rikka—here's a (well, somewhat) adult, real-world situation that she can't handle through the lens of her chuunibyou and might not want to. A sort of sign that the world outside of her fantasies might not be so scary after all. I wouldn't be surprised to see her relationship with her mother take on a similar sort of aspect, though I might be over-speculating here.

    And while I wouldn't in general go out of my way to praise this show for spectacular writing, I love what you brought up about the nobody's-to-blame setup we've got. Didn't notice at all on my own, but that's the sort of thing that makes a story really shine to me.

  2. A

    I totally agree with your comment.

  3. A

    I'm beginning to think that you're one of KyoAni haters Enzo or at least dislike KyoAni's style of doing anime
    Using the word moe overdose…
    What's wrong with it? It's one of reasons why people watch anime and I think people should accept whether they like it or not
    Back to the topic, the feelings between Yuuta and Rikka was really well portrayed
    I'm glad that KyoAni could use previous episodes to bring the impact that I really want in this episode

  4. S

    Is moe overdose a negative way of putting it? I would have called it pretty much the same, and it's part of what I like about this show. It's a stylistic choice by KyoAni to go all in on the moe and it's also what they do best. But they certainly aren't subtle about it.

  5. Q

    Officially the best show this season, beating Tonari

  6. B

    Shin Sekai Yori would like a word with you sir.

  7. A

    Girls und Panzer would like a word with you. Or Hidamari Sketch.

  8. B

    Woah woah

    Tonari, specifically Haru, would like a word with you as well.

  9. S

    Ginga e kickoff! would like to play football with you!
    Think what you want, I guess it's a matter of connection with the syndrome. I never experienced chuunibyou in person, but I think especially people who see their past selves in it would fucking love the show, and it has every other element needed besides that too. A really good show!

  10. S

    Stot, I think you're on to something. The Chuuni antics make me feel so awkward, since I was one (nowhere near as out there about it, but still if you got into my room at the right time I'd be practicing my fireball casting). It's definitely a hook into the show, that awkward 'I was like that once' recognition, and it does play into how much I like it. Heck it's still there under the surface, I think. 23 isn't as far from 14 as 23 would like to think…

  11. H

    My opinion is that you shouldn't be ashamed of that stuff. And don't let your ability to find wonder in things fade or be driven away by people telling you to be serious. Keep that with you, and I think your life will be far more fun and interesting. There's a balance there for sure, and if you find it, you'll be happier for it.

    And I say this as someone who's over 40 and still looks to find that wonder in things.

  12. A

    That confession scene was absolutely beautiful. It just brought everything together spectacularly. Really cute yet powerful stuff.

  13. F

    Enzo, I really loved how you brought the "Peter Pan syndrome" into the discussion here, because that's exactly what I thought about Chuunibyou in general, that it's about young adults clinging to their childhood. I just hope this doesn't mean Rikka lets go of her delusions entirely but grows up and continues to enjoy herself through it, because it's the chuunibyou that brought her and Yuuta together in the first place.

  14. T

    Well once again I'm surpised at how much I'm enjoying this, Kyoani awesome job this year!

    I agree that in the end, you can't really play the blame on anyone and I liked that the most of this episode; Thats life, and its a bitch like that so sometimes. Hell if there was anyway to transition to where we were now its this way. I have to applaud the peter pan reference too I didn't even think of that watching (though to be honest you seem to have read acctual source material while I'd simply remember disney…)

  15. B

    In a surprise ending, we find out that Kumi turned down Isshiki because she's secretly dating Nibutani!

    I can dream.

    Anyway not gonna like, I actually like this show more now that it's in serious mode. The comedy was generally good but I've had enough of it and was ready for some Serious Business from the show. Glad we are getting it.

  16. K

    Sigh …

    I am totally unable to enjoy these "serious" episodes because I read AURA first. I love the anime but … AURA's novel's just way too good. Every time Chuuni transitions into character development I just don't feel the emotion I felt when reading AURA. I don't want to say Chuuni is a rip-off of AURA because the two are different but the similarities are just … Now that everyone has seen Chuuni, I feel like the AURA movie's going to get a cheapened impression.

    All my tears since I can actually recommend AURA to my non-anime/manga friends too.

  17. I wish someone would translate Aura, because I'd love to read it myself.

  18. z

    AURA? Wait… Ah, Tanaka Romeo's novel and upcoming movie?

    Well, it's bound to be awesome. It's Tanaka Romeo, afterall : One of the shiniest gem in VN industry.

    While I only read few of his work and so far we could only get adapatation of Jinrui in anime-front, I have seen many praise to his writing skill everywhere (And also the difficulty to translate them, or so I heard… So I guess we won't get the translation except if the movie made a hit)

    But, to be fair, KyoAni seems to have polished the original material to the highest level that the material support. I hope they will challenge themselves with another god-tier material later rather than polishing mediocre materials to the finest level that they keep doing after their partnership with KEY and Haruhi franchise seems to reach the end.

  19. H

    I found Yuuta's description in the cold open to be perfect, just a tremendous description of the feeling of that first embrace with someone you love. And I actually don't think those sorts of depictions of high school are that different from what goes on in lots of places all the time. It's the difference between talking about it and doing it. So maybe kids do talk about sex and girls and related subjects more (although usually that view is promulgated by kids who just can't believe that their parents and their grandparents and their parents before them also had exactly the same desires and feelings), but when the rubber meets the road, most of them are still novices at it, and privately they react in close to this same way.

    This episode definitely made me change my opinion of Rikka's mother. I had thought there was much more of her running away from her daughters, rather than being frozen out as well. But as you say, it's also hard to blame Rikka, who suffered such trauma due to the well-meaning but ultimately misguided intent of her father to save her from the knowledge of his death. Boiling this down, the primary motivation may have been selfish on the part of her father (even moreso than I believe all motivations are selfish, this was solely to make himself feel better) as he didn't want to see her upset, so he trades her current happiness for a larger shock later (when he isn't around).

    I also liked Shinka's apparent move into more of a middle ground, just like Yuuta's had throughout. Taking Yuuta's place for the club's event, rather than just abandoning the whole scheme in order to safeguard herself against embarrassment, would probably have been unthinkable with the way she was a few episodes ago

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