Chuunibyou–Anime Early Impressions

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Some shows sound promising in theory but disappoint in execution. Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai is a different sort of beast. The premise doesn’t sound very promising but in practice it is so hilarious that I would be willing to forgive it a multitude of sins.

And in fact there isn’t much to forgive. This is a pretty high-quality show. It comes from Kyoto Animation, which means the animation quality is outstanding. In fact, if this were done by another studio I think it might very well fall flat. Chuunibyou depends heavily on physical comedy which is quite difficult to do well, either in animation or live action. KyoAni’s animation wizards do a terrific job.

When Yuuta Togashi was in middle school he had a bad case of chuunibyou (“Eighth Grade Sickness”) which involves having geeky obsessions and a weak grip on reality. He dressed in black, called himself the “Dark Flame Master” and carried either a cosplay broadsword or a toy assault rifle. Now that he is a first-year high school student (equivalent to 10th grade in the American system) these memories make him want to die from embarrassment.

Determined to make a new start he enrolls in a private high school that no other members of his middle school class will be attending. And indeed on his first day of school he makes a number of new acquaintances, some more welcome than others.

Shinka Nibutani is beautiful, smart and charming. She seems destined to end up as both Student Council President and Head Cheerleader. Yuuta is fascinated but she’s probably out of his league.

Makoto Isshiki, who sits direcltly behind Yuuta in homeroom, seems like just the sort of lecherous sidekick that a virtuous hero needs.

On the other hand Rikka Takanashi looks like trouble. She has all the signs of a very severe case of Eighth Grade Sickness. She wears an eyepatch and a colored contact lens, claiming to have an Evil Eye which gives her great magical powers. She also has a bandage on her arm covering a demonic seal.

Yuuta tries to avoid her but it’s hopeless. It turns out that she has just moved in to the apartment directly above his, so at a minimum they are bound to end up going to and from school together. Worse, she finds out about his past as the Dark Flame Master and latches on to him as a fellow believer.

Fortunately she’s so cute that having her following him around seems to do as much to enhance Yuuta’s reputation with his classmates as to damage it.

They meet Kumin Tsuyuri, a somewhat spacey second-year student who is looking for her lost cat. She seems to think that Rikka is pretty cool.

Yuuta lives with his mother and two younger sisters. Kuzuha is in middle school and thinks that talk about Dark Flame Masters is pretty embarrassing. Five-year-old Yumeha on the other hand thinks that everything her brother does is very cool.

Rikka lives with her older sister Tooka who works as a cook. Rikka thinks this is just a cover for her real job as Evil Priestess. Rikka is determined to thwart her sister’s evil schemes. As a result she often gets bopped with the sacred soup ladle.

Rikka decides to start an extracurricular club called the “Far Eastern Magic Society.” As usual in these stories, school rules require a club to have at least 5 members. Yuuta refuses to have anything to do with this, even when she offers him the presidency.

Kumin has always wanted to start a Nap Club but has never been able to convince anyone else to join. Rikka recruits her by changing the name to the “Far Eastern Magic Nap Society.” (And you thought it would be impossible to come up with a worse name than “SOS Brigade”!)

Rikka’s young friend Sanae Dekomori has if anything an even worse case of Eighth Grade Sickness than Rikka. She also tends to get tangled up in her twintails when she makes her magical moves. Since she is attending the middle school affiliated with the high school she is apparently eligible to join the club.

This still leaves them short one member even if Yuuta was willing to join and he insists that he isn’t. Rikka tries offering the winged cat as a member and then tries channeling the ghost of an 18th century English girl. Neither is acceptable.

But then in a surprise move Rikka manages to recruit Shinka, which leaves Yuuta with little choice but to join. In order to pull this off Rikka has to change the club’s name to the “Far Eastern Magic Nap Society of Summer.” I’m not sure what this signifies other than the fact that Shinka’s name is written “Summer Forest.” (Not “New Flower” as one might expect. Most of the characters have rather odd kanji in their names.)

Long-time fans will note the similarity to Kyoto Animation’s earlier hit The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Both stories involve a male hero who has renounced his early interest in fantasy and science fiction but who is drawn back into it by a strong-willed girl who won’t take “No” for an answer. However the shows are more different than similar. The personalities of the characters are quite different. Most importantly, while Haruhi had real magic powers that she refused to acknowledge, Rikka’s powers seem purely delusional. This eliminates the darker undertones of the earlier show. Chuunibyou is just goofy fun.