Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions is a romantic comedy series that’s not only quite funny but packs a surprising emotional punch as well. The first episode starts out with a definition of the Japanese slang term ‘chuunibyou‘ (roughly translating to “Year 8 Syndrome”) referring to the way a 14 year old may suddenly and obnoxiously adopt adult mannerisms and tastes, or believe they have magical powers that they act out in public.
“Merely remembering this embarrassing condition makes one want to disappear from the surface of the Earth.”
So if you’re thinking of watching this series get ready to simultaneously laugh and cringe in second-hand embarrassment for the characters (a lot) and to be punched in the feelings as well.
The main character is Togashi Yuuta, a recovered chunibyo who’s starting his new high school life far, far away from anyone who witnessed his past delusion. Having alienated himself at his previous school by pretending he was some kind of CLAMP-style magic user, Yuuta is determined to seal away his alter-ego ‘Dark Flame Master’ forever and lead a normal life.
At first everything seems to be going well. Yuuta is making friends and interacting like a typical high school boy – that is, until Takanashi Rikka shows up. Rikka is a girl deep in the cringe-worthy throes of chunibyo, sporting an eyepatch to cover her demon eye (a contact lens) and an arm bandage to seal away an arcane symbol (drawn in Texta). Piece by piece Rikka begins to reveal the things Yuuta has tried desperately to keep hidden from his ‘normal’ classmates, and even ends up managing to start a ‘Far Eastern Magic Napping Society of Summer’. That’s right, magical napping high school girls.
Other characters include Yuuta’s charming, slightly girl-obsessed male friend Isshiki Makoto; Rikka’s (kind of annoying and bullyish) chunibyo sidekick Dekomori Sanae; class president and cheerleader Nibutani Shinka; and quiet, gentle Tsuyuri Kumin whose hobbies are napping and collecting various kinds of pillows.
I started the series blind, expecting that since there was one guy surrounded by a bunch of girls it would probably be harem and not really to my taste. I’m happy to say it far surpassed my initial expectations and that tired cliché wasn’t evident at all. The main character Yuuta is a gentle, patient boy who cares about the rest of the cast. Romantic themes are important to the story but they’re charming, relatable and actually kind of realistic. While watching it I remembered what it was like to be 14 (or 20 when I fell for my to-be-husband!) and often found myself with a goofy smile or a lump in my throat.
The titular chunibyo brings its own share of emotional impact to the viewer as well. At first Rikka seems a bit annoying, but the more you learn about her past and why she (and to a lesser extent Yuuta) act this way, the more you come to care about her character and the nature of her escapism. And similar to the romantic element, the chunibyo brings back memories of teenage times and the long-term embarrassment that comes with the follies of that age. Ever drawn ugly art, written bad stories, had an awful fashion sense, haircut or online persona? Then you’ll probably be able to empathise with and laugh at Yuuta’s post-chunibyo pain.
The visuals by Kyoto Animation are really beautiful. They sport charming, expressive character designs, jewel-like colours and vibrant background scenery. The music is moving and well-timed and can sometimes manage to bring a tear to your eye. I watched the Japanese language version and the voice acting is typically high quality, with Yuuta being especially expressive. I’ve viewed selections from the English dub and it’s about par for the course. A couple of nitpicks are that Rikka sounds like she’s about 20 years old, older than even her own classroom teacher, and not particularly cute or vulnerable which detracts from her charm. The word ‘chuunibyou’ is pronounced badly and differently from person to person. And one of the most amusing points of the series is lost in translation, the overblown announcement of special moves, originally in a mix of Japanese and random English that the characters thought sounded cool. Dub viewers’ mileage may vary though, and it seems like a lot of the humour has successfully been transferred to the English version.
Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions Season 1 collection is available from Madman on Blu-Ray and DVD. It contains not only the first series of the anime but also Japanese TV promos, textless openings and closings, an OVA and six ‘Chuni-Shorts’ which provide extra character development and backstories. I’m happy to say the second season of Chu-2 is scheduled for Australian release in November 2015, which I’m looking forward to checking out.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.