If there’s one thing with the anime community nowadays that really cheeses my beans, it’s the way the term “romance” gets thrown around all willy-nilly onto any series people feel like. The term gets slapped onto any mecha series where a shallow and useless female character falls for an angsty male lead who seems to care about her as much as your dog cares about Canada’s Olympic medal standings. Even worse than that, people dare use the word “romance” to describe the most generic examples of the harem genre. This is made all the more agonizing for the simple reason that all harems end with nothing more than our β-male lead telling all the girls to leave him alone so he can watch his hentai in peace and quiet.
Now, please note that you have the right to like all these types of anime; I’m not trying to say they are bad. What I am trying to say is that I refuse to let the term romance be representative of nothing more than awkward sexual encounters and tsunderes.
So, what about this “Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!” thing? Where does it fit, you may ask. Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!, which I will refer to as “Chuunibyou” for short, is a high school romantic comedy anime.
Yes yes, I know. After that long-winded introduction about people using the word romance where it doesn’t belong I’m using the word to describe another genre that has also fallen into the gutter of low quality anime production, with its cheap tropes and cardboard cut-out characters. I am well aware of this fact, and it is for this reason that I chose to review this show. I bet you snide cynical folk are going to be skeptical, but I plan to show you that Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai is a shining example of an original, funny, touching and simply well-made romance anime. So take your elitist caps off and grab a large glass of open-mindedness, because I’m going to finally start my review, and you should be ready, because I’m about to begin, like in the next paragraph, I’m going to start, so you can’t say I didn’t make an obnoxious run on sentence to warn you, because I did, that’s what this is, ok?
Well now, any good anime review begins with a brief plot synopsis. But I’m not about that life, so I’m instead going to talk about the general principles that make Chuunibyou a well written show. To start off let me mention what Chuunibyou is not.
Chuunibyou is one of the very, very few anime romances that never, I repeat, NEVER, becomes a harem. Gone are the pointless arcs and dialogues devoted to characters neither us (nor the main character for that matter) care about in the long run.
But then you may ask, “How does Chuunibyou manage to make 12 solid episodes of enjoyable anime with only 1 girl and 1 guy? I mean, that requires characters with more than a 1D personality.” Well hopefully, my dear readers, you have used your beautiful nervous systems to do a little deductive inference on the previous premises and as a result have concluded what this all must mean… … Ok, to spell it out the characters are more than just your skin deep standard anime archetypes.*
Ah, alas, writing that asterisk truly does bring a tear to my eye. While I would love to hold up Chuunibyou as a solid example of good character writing, the supporting cast is unfortunately bogged down by overused and bland character types. I excuse Chuunibyou of this terrible crime though, on the grounds that poor character writing has been plaguing all of anime for over a year as of now, and the fact that Chuunibyou has high quality characters where it counts. Both our male and female leads have well-rounded personalities allowing us to empathise with them, laugh at them, cry for them and overall make us want to see them get together, an essential attribute for any good romance.
You saw that statement “cry for them” didn’t you reader? You better have, because if you didn’t, well, it means you didn’t read what I wrote, and if you didn’t, well, that would hurt my feelings, which isn’t nice… Transitioning as smooth as sandpaper back to where I was going, Chuunibyou is a sad-feel anime. While this is nothing special in itself since romance juggernaut Clannad immortalized the “romance, comedy, feels” trio that has become quite prevalent now a days, I do feel it necessary to explicitly tell you of this fact. For many the main turn-off for Chuunibyou was a sharp transition from happy-go-lucky antics to characters using their eyes as industrial strength water cannons; and yes, the transition is pronounced, but it does not come out of nowhere. What many suspect to be at fault is a more general aspect of Chuunibyou’s narrative principles, and therein lies the ingenious way it manipulates the viewer’s expectations.
If you know bad anime, you know the lame one-liners and asinine tropes that go along with it. Chuunibyou knows this too, and uses this knowledge to its full ability. The show presents an event, a single moment in space and time, with all the foreshadowing necessary to make you shout aloud, “Please tell me they aren’t going to do this,” only to flip your expectations on their head. This isn’t merely used with comedy, it’s integral to the storytelling style the writers are going for, and I have to say, it’s one of the most standout aspects of the show.
Well, since I already kinda started talking about comedy I might as well make another awkward topic sentence to transition into me talking about it some more. You have a problem with that reader? Implying I care if you did? Comedy in anime is always an unusual beast. Western humor is a diverse panoply of humorous styles, but of this assortment of comical styles one has fallen out of taste more so than even the Harlem Shake. What I’m referring to is slapstick comedy. Although Hollywood and the like have limited slapstick’s presence in modern years to the most miniscule of positions, anime still holds on to this passé humor inducer. For the most part it rarely does anything for me, and I usually ignore its role in anime. That is until I saw Chuunibyou. Chuunibyou’s slapstick humour is used in just the right dosage, and in just the right situation such that it never feels excessively cheesy. Most of all, the use of slapstick in Chuunibyou is original in the way that it is used as an active mechanism to reveal characters traits. Charlie Chaplin would tip his hat to you Chuunibyou, and so would I, if I wore hats at least.
Ah this review is getting long, don’t you think so reader? I still have quite a bit to cover now, don’t I? Next big question that always arises is animation and art. To animation I can merely say this: Chuunibyou was produced in late 2012 by Kyoto Animation. Honestly, unless the anime is coming from some no-name studio or is old, animation is relatively well done. I mean, even the bad anime that come out now a days have generally good animation. With Chuunibyou, I can assure you, the same is true (not that it’s bad, that it has good animation. Come on people, read). With art style, Kyoto Animation says it all. It’s their patented style of bright colour palettes and semi-moe character designs. For those of you concerned about the moe level, I’d give it a moderate rating; far from a K-On but definitely more than an Angel Beats, if you get what I’m saying.
When you’re going off about animation one of the first places to look is the opening and ending. It’s the first and last thing you will remember when it comes to any episodic based show and as a result it is imperative that they match up to the quality of the show itself. Well, for Chuunibyou, they do. So ya, outside of that though, when it comes to the opening I’ll describe it like this: if you see the opening, you will recognize about 4 gifs from it, and be spontaneously compelled to make 6 more from it. Now with the ending, animation is scarce, but the song, that song, it’s so addictive it needs to be put on the FDA’s list of prohibited narcotics.
Speaking of drugs, I mean music, Chuunibyou’s OST is a stellar work whose shining quality is its depth. With the traditional romance, comedy, feels trio comes the complication of having to cover a wide range of emotions. The OST has to not just cue the viewer to the emotion each scene serves to invoke, but also must assist in creating the emotion of the moment itself. With regards to this daunting task, Chuunibyou delivers a sensational soundtrack. Most notably its cheerful and somber songs are of the highest quality, so much so that it is almost awkward hearing them beside one another when listening to the OST.
Oh reader; don’t think I’m ignoring you. I’m merely saving the best for last. I have talked about essentially everything under the rainbow with regards to this show, but have been ignoring the very reason I am reviewing it in the first place. Romance.
You are correct. It’s all peachy that Chuunibyou has so much good stuff going for it, but this is the month of romance. Therefore, how does Chuunibyou’s romance hold up? Simply put, sensational.*
Damn those asterisks! Why must things not be perfect!? But alas, they are not. As I mentioned earlier Chuunibyou suffers from some very poorly constructed side characters. As a result, their love is about as bland and unfunny as they are.
Bringing it back to our main male and female leads though, the romance there is a whole other story. Their romance is well paced, gradual and is heartwarming without ever turning into a moe blob. It uses the characters’ traits to their fullest effect and works in tandem with the sad elements of the show, using the conflict to bring our main couple together in a believable fashion. In addition, Chuunibyou is a pure-love anime, my favorite subsection of the romance genre. As a result expect no H-scenes or anything of the sexual nature aside from a few jokes. Yes, it is nothing but an idealized view of childhood love; the one thing, above all else, that a high school romantic comedy should seek to achieve.
P.S. If you liked Chuunibyou, you may also like its 2nd season, “Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren” which as of making this review, is currently airing. Expect a review on the second season once it has finished.