Past columns here have talked about the anime genre of “magical girls”, featuring super-powered girls (and sometimes boys too) battling each other out. This week’s anime looks at a character who thinks she has these powers, but doesn’t. After all, this is the real world.
Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions began in 2011 as a series of light novels by Nozomi Osaka. It was first animated in 2012, as a TV series and as a series of online shorts. Since then there have been Original Video Animations (OVA), anime films, and a second TV series that went out in 2014.
It begins with schoolboy Yuta Togashi, who has moved to a new school where nobody knows who he is. He has done this in order to get away from his embarrassing past. Yuta used to by a “chunibyo”, which translates as “second year middle schooler syndrome”. To put it simpler, he had delusions of grandeur. His overactive imagination led to acting like a character from some fantasy novel, referring to himself as the “Dark Flame Master”, dressing up in gothic clothing and carrying gigantic toy swords. Not surprising, this meant other people distanced themselves from him.
Now Yuta is trying to put it all behind him and behave normally, but things go a bit weird when a new girl moves into the flat above him, who first appears to Yuta by climbing down a length of rope. The girl in question is dressed in gothic clothing and wearing an eye patch. He later spots that this girl is in the same class as him at school. The girl in question, named Rikka Takanashi, turns out is also a chunibyo, and not one who is embarrassed at all. Among her other oddities include wearing Heelys, using an umbrella as a weapon, and wearing a gold contact lens in her patched-over eye which she believes has magical powers.
To make things worse, just before school began, Rikka observed Yuta acting out his “Dark Flame Master” stance for one last time, so she knows that Yuta also used to be like her. Thus Yuta has to go out of his way to prevent her from spilling the beans on his past behaviour. Not only that, but he ends up in the middle of fights between Rikka and her big sister Toka, who Rikka refers to as an evil high priestess.
Yuta and Rikka do however become friends, and also establish friendship with other people in their school. These include Shinka Nibutani, another girl who like Yuta was a chunibyo and is trying to forget how embarrassing she was; Kumin Tsuyuri, a carefree girl whose favourite hobby is napping; Makoto Isshiki, the boy who sits behind Yuta in class and is constantly thinking of way of attracting girls, eventually falling for Kumin; and Sanae Dekomori, another chunibyo friend of Rikka’s. Eventually they form their own school society which tries to combine all their interests: “The Far East Magical and Napping Society – Formerly Thereof”.
As the series progresses, Yuta becomes even more romantically involved with Rikka, and learns why she became the way she is. A series that starts off very comedic later on becomes rather tragic, as Rikka’s behaviour stems back to a terrible trauma she experienced several years earlier.
The comedy is probably the best aspect of this series. Much of the humour is slapstick, and very cartoonish slapstick at that. It is a fun and funny series, partly because of this physical comedy, and partly due to the embarrassment that Yuta and the other characters have to go through because of Yuta’s behaviour. Then the series changes somewhat when you learn about Rikka’s past trauma, and then the romantic and more tragic elements help make the characters more three-dimensional and give the series more depth.
The art is also another bonus. The series is made by Kyoto Animation, a company which has had much success making anime set in schools. Past series made by them include The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (No. 14), Free! (No. 17), K-On! (No. 28), Clannad (No. 29) and Nichijou (No. 82). In terms of artistic style, it is most similar to K-On! and Clannad, but it combines it some fantasy elements. These occur when the chunibyo fight each other out, and you see their battle as they imagine them, fighting with fantastical weapons.
Kyoto Animation is also the company that publishes the original novels. This might explain why there are several differences between the anime and the novel. Several of the characters including Toka, Kumin and Sanae only appear in the anime, although they are key characters. The novel has not been released in English yet so it is hard to compare both versions, but it must be strange to read two different versions of the same story.
The anime version of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions on its own however is a very good show. Very funny, sometimes moving and wonderfully animated. The only annoying thing is that when I wrote this article the series was going to be released on disc in August, but not it has been delayed.
The first series Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions is released on Blu-Ray and DVD by Animatsu on 7th September. Both series can be streamed online via Animax.