Wednesdays Watching Anime – Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!
December 16, 2015 § Leave a comment
Our OP for this week is “Sparkling Daydream” by ZAQ, from Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!.
Let’s talk about messes, both this OP in particular and this show in general.
Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! is a mess. It’s adapted from an ongoing series of light novels, which are presumably not terrible because they were chosen to be made into an all-star anime production by Kyoto Animation, one of the industry’s leading studios. I don’t know, maybe that’s a rash assumption, but we have to start somewhere. Chuu2Koi, as it’s sometimes abbreviated, is a story about a young man who meets a young woman who is living under a set of fantastical delusions, similar to those under which the young man used to live in the recent past. There’s an attraction between them, which takes far too long to be expressed outright, and they begin to spend time together. Simply put, it’s a love story, if you weren’t able to guess from the use of koi (恋, meaning “love”) in the title. It’s okay if you weren’t able to guess, I don’t really speak or read Japanese either.
The problem with Chuu2Koi is that its very premise holds the plot in stasis. Watching the first few episodes, I thought that the major dramatic arc would be one of healing: Yuuta using his experience as a former sufferer of chuunibyou (中二病, literally “eighth-grader syndrome” but broadly describing the efforts of children on the threshold of adolescence to fashion themselves as adults — at least, what their naivete imagines adults to be) to guide Rikka on a path towards greater self-awareness and self-esteem, showing the power of love to make people better. When that failed to materialize, I reinterpreted the dramatic arc as one of codependency: Yuuta’s love for Rikka would drag him back into his old fantasy of being the Dark Flame Master, showing the power of love to make people lose themselves. This also failed to materialize, because Chuu2Koi is fundamentally one of those shows where nothing is allowed to happen. Yuuta loathes chuunibyou and everything about it, yet is filled with a need to be closer to Rikka in any way possible, so he’s stuck exactly where he is with her. Others might gather around the pair, but those characters are largely secondary to the action of the plot. In short, the upshot for every single episode (and, hence, for both cour-length seasons as a whole) is that Yuuta must go along with all of Rikka’s many delusions in order to keep from scaring her away, while Rikka herself gradually drifts into a relationship with him, albeit one that’s no more physical than hand-holding and without any explicit declarations of affection or commitment. It’s engrossingly and terribly tedious to watch it play out.
I am unaware if the plot of Chuu2Koi is deliberately drawn out because there was not enough source material to make it well-paced or because the producers got greedy with the prospect of a long-running series and decided to put their thumbs on the scale, but it’s a dire mistake for them to have made, regardless. There’s simply no available avenue to explore the only thing that’s unique about the anime, the different kinds of chuunibyou, because Yuuta is beholden not to evaluate or criticize anything that Rikka does, even by implication — not that I think the intent of the entire show is to do anything other than cashing in on the increasing popularity of chuunibyou-afflicted characters like Okabe Rintarou from Steins;Gate and Gokou Ruri from Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai. Rikka’s fantasies are almost completely an excuse for her to be exotic to Yuuta yet totally and conveniently unable to return his feelings like a normal human being. They’re a manifestation of author’s fiat, basically. You just can’t write yourself into a corner with chuunibyou, no matter how you try, because you can just make a character put off an important decision or interaction in order to go find an umbrella that’s actually a ensorcelled sword of prophecy or whatever. Do you see what I mean? Even the introduction of a girl from Yuuta’s past, who has moved beyond her chuunibyou and is actually willing to act on her attraction to him, is unable to overcome the static force that such delusions exert on the plot, ultimately deferring to them out of a desire not to rock the boat and upset Yuuta, the one she loves, by upsetting Rikka.
It’s not good. Don’t watch it. It’s like an anime that was designed in some secret government laboratory to be the ultimate in content- and friction-free entertainment that can just go on forever. You’ll regret it, I promise.
Oh, and before I forget, the OP for Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! is also a mess. Literally nothing happens for the first twenty-two seconds, a full quarter of its runtime. That’s not an auspicious start, but it gets worse. For some reason, the director of the OP (unlisted in the production credits and therefore possibly anyone, but I’m going to blame the series’ director Ishihara Tatsuya, who cut his teeth on Nichijou and therefore should have known better) decides that rapid swaps between left and right in a split-screen presentation is the best means for imparting action to a succession of rather stiff and lifeless character introductions. It gives me a headache and doesn’t do anything aesthetically or thematically interesting, except for two instances at 1:00 and 1:11 where characters cross from one time, place, and season into another via the dividing line, which means… nothing, really. Elsewhere, it’s just a blatant Rei expy twirling her fingers and shaking her ass, which is egregiously false advertising when she never does anything cuter than trying not to cry and making Key-style noises best rendered as “uguu.” What a fantastic failure of imagination and implementation, from the studio that gave us the superb openings for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Lucky Star, and Nichijou.