I’m a chunibyo, you’re a chunibyo, everyone’s a chunibyo.
What They Say:
Yuta has a problem. As one of the thousands of Japanese students afflicted with “chunibyo,” a state where they’re so desperate to stand out that they’ve literally convinced themselves that they have secret knowledge and hidden powers, Yuta spent most of his middle school years living in a complete fantasy world. But that’s not his major problem now, as with a lot of work and effort, he’s finally managing to overcome his delusions to the point where he thinks he’s ready to start high school with all his cards in order. No, his BIG problem is the girls he first encounters climbing on his balcony. Because it seems that his own efforts to rid himself of his chunibyo have attracted the attentions of another sufferer, and SHE’Ss decided that this makes him her soul mate. And since Rikka’s just moved in upstairs, now he’s being sucked into HER fantasy world! Can a formerly wild and crazy guy handle being the focus of a completely delusional girl? Or will his own chunibyo return with a vengeance? Either way, the phrase “madly in love” is bound to get redefined in Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions!
The only audio track available was Japanese 2.0. English subtitles are provided for non-Japanese speakers, like myself. The audio quality is perfectly fine, although there is no directionality or other types of effects employed. Considering that this is a more a comedy-drama, that’s not necessarily surprising. The only issue I had was that sometimes a second set of subtitles would appear either to translate Japanese text shown on screen or to provide explanations for some of the in-jokes. The problem was that these subtitles would appear so quickly that I had to pause the show to read them, and if I wasn’t quick on the draw, I’d either have to rewind or just ignore it.
Each episode is presented in 1080 p in 16:9 aspect ratio. The video quality is quite good—the images are crisp and sharp with no discernable issues.
The series comes in three discs housed in a standard Amaray case. Two of the three discs rest in a center inset and the third in the back cover. The front cover features Rikka in her school uniform, wearing her trademark eyepatch and flashing a peace sign. She stands against a white background full of shimmering lights and wheels full of alchemical symbols. Rikka also appears on the spine right above the show’s title. The back cover is interesting because it makes use of slanting lines, perhaps to highlight the “crazy” aspect of the show. The series’ summary occupies the center with screenshots from the show placed above and below it and the characters Rikka and Kumin off to the right. The show’s credits and DVD specifications occupy the bottom third of the case.
The menus follow the same basic format: the left side features one or more of the characters from the show (the first disk has the same image of Rikka as on the case). The left side features the menu options set against a red background bordered with black filigree. The red is made to look almost like crushed velvet. The episodes are listed separately, but choosing one will activate the “play all” function. The show’s ED plays on a five second loop, so you don’t want to let the menu sit for any great amount of time. It’s a clear design that functions well, but isn’t exactly the most aesthetically pleasing. It’s not that it’s ugly, but more could have been done to try and integrate the picture and the menu.
The best extra on this feature are the “Chuni-Shorts,” which are mini-stories featuring the show’s characters. Other than that this set comes with the standard special features that come with every anime.
“Chunibyo” roughly translates to “Middle School 2nd Year Syndrome.” It’s a stage of growth that typically affects young adults in their second year of grade school (hence the name) and it takes two different forms: some chunibyo act like know-it-all adults to the point where they look down on real adults, and others believe that they have secret powers and/or knowledge. It’s a harmless phase from what I can tell, but not surprisingly, those who grow out of it tend to look back at how they were with a great deal of embarrassment.
That’s certainly the case with Yuta. During middle school he went around calling himself “Dark Flame Master” and carried a sword. He believed he possessed a powerful magic and was embroiled in a war against evil. Not surprisingly, Yuta didn’t have many friends then and now that he’s moved on to high school, he sees this as a chance to reinvent himself. He chooses a high school far away from his home in the hope that no one from his past will attend and strives to be as normal as possible.
Unfortunately, his chunibyo past comes back to haunt him in the form of Rikka, a young girl who first appears on Yuta’s balcony. Rikka believes that her right eye houses the “Evil Lord Shingen,” which grants her great power. She also believes that there are invisible boundary lines that are being protected by a mysterious organization which counts her older sister and mother as members. She immediately takes a liking to Yuta and hopes that the Dark Flame Master will help her defeat her enemies and find the boundary lines.
Against his better judgment, Yuta becomes involved in Rikka’s world. It helps that she lives right above him, but it’s more than that. Yuta sees a great deal of himself in Rikka, and he likes her despite her chunibyo “craziness.” However, while he finds her chunibyo fantasies mildly irritating, Rikka’s family is actively worried over them. Here sister, her mother, and her grandparents want nothing more than for Rikka to return to her pre-chunibyo ways, and they have a fairly good reason for wanting that.
Rikka’s chunibyo fantasies came about because of a specific tragedy she experienced, not because she entered a phase like Yuta, and there are times when she is so invested in the fantasy that it appears that she doesn’t truly know the difference between it and reality. It’s this uncertainty over Rikka’s handle on reality that makes this a problematic show for me. While I enjoyed the characters and the comedy that arose from their fantasies, the show’s theme raises problematic issues. The theme is that we are all chunibyo in one way or another: we all perform different roles depending on the situation, some of which are “truer” (to use a problematic phrase) to our core personality than others. Now this is true, and the general idea that we should be free to be who we are is positive and healthy, except that Rikka is obviously dealing with a deep trauma that should be treated professionally.
If Rikka were just going through a chunibyo phase then I would have no problem with this theme, but the show makes it clear that she retreated to a fantasy world in order to deal with a tragic event. She is clearly suffering from clinical depression and perhaps even post-traumatic stress and this casts her actions and the actions of her family in a very different light. If it were just Rikka is being a little weird and her family not understanding it, then I would completely be on Rikka’s side, but her family’s concern is logical and understandable. They should be concerned over Rikka’s actions.
However, the way they handle it leaves much to be desired. Her older sister badgers and bullies her, her mother is completely removed from the situation, her grandmother condescends, and her grandfather just grumbles. If it weren’t for Yuta, Rikka would have no one who would both support her and call her out on her chunibyo fantasies (I’m not counting Rikka’s friend Dekomori, because she just enables). It’s because Yuta straddles this line between supporting and challenging that the ending sort of works. As you probably guessed, Rikka remains chunibyo, and it’s celebrated as a victory for individualism. It sort of works because we know that Yuta will reign her in, but the fact that she needs reigning in just illustrates how far she’s gone into chunibyo land.
It became clear fairly early in the series that Rikka needs therapy, and I feel that this is really where her family lets her down. The show presents it as a case where the family just doesn’t understand her, but it’s more complicated than that. While it is true that they don’t understand her, they also don’t take steps to do so. More importantly, though, they know that this is more than just a “phase” and yet do nothing to help her become healthy. Rikka’s just a child trying to deal with a terrible time in her life, but these are adults who either are unwilling to take the necessary steps to help her or don’t realize what they need to do. I don’t know enough about Japanese society to speak on how the culture regards therapy, but the adults in Rikka’s life completely fail her in this respect.
I suppose it might seem odd for me to be tackling these serious issues in an anime that’s intended to be light and fun; however, it is the show that brings up these discussion points. This is not me reading subtext, this is text. The anime shifts tone from being lighthearted and silly to somber and dramatic, and the problem arises from the answers it poses to the questions it brings up, because those answers gloss over Rikka’s real problems in order for it to return to being a lighthearted, silly show again. While I liked the lighthearted portions, returning to them seems narratively irresponsible.
This is what I wrestled with throughout the entire show, because even though I found problems with how they handled Rikka’s identity as chunibyo, I enjoyed the series. The silly parts were fun, and the dramatic moments were well written and engaging. However, and this may be due to my own experiences with clinical depression, I couldn’t get past the ending, because even though it was painted as being Rikka’s decision and about her being happy, it’s a more complex issue than that.
Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions is a fun anime that is tempered by the troubling issues it raises. While it may seem like I’m reading too much into the story, there’s nothing here that wasn’t brought up in the story itself. While I would say that this is worth watching just for the anime and video game in-jokes, the manner in which they handle Rikka’s Chunibyo-ness keeps me from awarding this anything higher than a C+. Sort of recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Chuni-Shorts, Japanese Promos, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: May 27th, 2014
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection