Well I have finally done it. After much procrastination, I have finally completed it. This review. Oh, my readers, you have no idea what great struggle I persisted through to write this review. How many times I would start writing to find myself erupting with an insurmountable tidal wave of outrage and disgust; reducing the review to a series of unintelligible screams placed between asterisks. Or how many times I energetically said to myself “This review shall be written!” only to descend into a depressive blob; unable to click anything other than the “Don’t Save” button on Microsoft Word. But why was writing this so hard you ask?
You see, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! (which I will refer to as Chuunibyou from now on) was not only one of my favorite romantic comedies, but also was the first review I put up on this site (but it wasn’t a good review, so please don’t go back and read it). At the end of that review I said I would review the second season Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren (which I will simply call Ren) once it had finished airing. To me it wasn’t going to be a chore, I was excited like nothing else for this second season. But I made a brazen assumption; the assumption was that Ren would be good. Let the rest of the review be equal to me stating “I was wrong.”
Enough of me beating around the bush, I’ll just come out and say it. Ren is not merely a bad sequel to Chuunibyou; it’s one of the worst anime sequels I’ve seen to date. Under no circumstance would I recommend Ren to anyone. Ren’s existence as Chuunibyou’s second season upset me so much that I could not bear to write a rational review of it that was not filled with either anger or despair.
Yes, those words might sound harsh but even as I came to accept Ren’s existence my reasons for believing that it is rotten have not changed. So let me take some time and give a clear comparison between both seasons to show my opinion is completely justified (expect spoilers to Chuunibyou, but honestly why are you reading this if you haven’t seen the first season).
Let’s start with plot comparison. Chuunibyou had a seemingly superficial but inevitably engrossing plot that developed into a fantastic exposition of growth and self-discovery through the use of childish delusions. This development from slice of life to coming of age story with the intertwined threads of comedy, romance and pseudo-fantasy made Chuunibyou original, unpredictable and a fulfilling watch. Let us forget the execution of the idea for now; this ambitious and unique story alone is enough for me to award Chuunibyou points in my book. But how does Ren hold up by comparison?
With regards to story, Ren doesn’t even try. Ren is above all else a slice of life. An episodic, “plotless” slice of life, with next no character development throughout its 12 episodes. Now I have nothing against slices of life’s, but I find it harrowing that a show with such a good story has been reduced to a state of nothingness. It feels like Ren is merely trying to milk the success out of Chuunibyou by placing the already loved cast in new silly circumstances to satisfy the would be viewers. This is made all the more painful in that some of these episodes contain plots so asinine not even small children would be amused by them. You see, it’s not bad that Ren has essentially no plot; it’s bad that a show that was known for a fantastic plot now has no plot. This is the major nail in Ren’s coffin, it’s not terrible on its own, but by comparison, it is.
Yet Ren also promised one other thing. A continuation of the romantic plotline that defined the first season. A promise that was almost completely unfulfilled. For start I won’t rag on the romantic plot to strong because it started off well. Yuuta and Rika go on their first date, they don’t get very far (as expected) but the groundwork was laid for good things to come. But no coming of age story ever came. No interesting exploration of maintaining a relationship. Nothing came, except the most dreaded way of making content for a pre-established romance. The forced love triangle. You understand the formula. Introduce new character. New character falls in love with one of the main characters, causes a kerfuffle in their relationship, then eventually comes to terms with their feelings and leaves the main couple alone. It’s a lame and stale trick that doesn’t involve any true sense of growth for the characters or any creativity on the part of the writer. But even with endless references to work off of Ren seems to pull of this cliché storyline with as much finesse as a sleep deprived neckbeard glue-gunning together their Sword Art Online cosplay the night before Anime North. It feels incredibly shoehorned in and takes forever before the new characters feelings come to surface. But then, the show rushes to a whimsical conclusion before the viewer can even say “gee, I wonder how this is going to play out *sarcasm*”.
Now story matters a lot but execution of said story is unignorable. There are many shows with great ideas that fall victim to the perils of just not knowing how to say them. Either that or they run out of money.
Now when we turn to Chuunibyou we see a beautiful execution with so much room for praise. First Chuunibyou was unpredictable; the story set up what appeared to be clichéd anime antics, but revealed to turn them on its head. Take for example what I call the “anti-beach episode”, where the characters have a beach episode but instead of fun and fanservice we get tragic backstory and an extra-large helping of feels. It was this playing with expectation that made Chuunibyou so exceptionally above its competitors. Add to this good pacing along with actually funny slapstick comedy and we have many a gold star to hand out. With its only major fault being a rushed final episode, Chuunibyou is a shining example of both good story and good story telling.
Ren, by contrast, butchers its execution. It’s more than just screwing the pooch at the cliché romantic rival character plot. First, Ren only shatters ones expectations in the negative sense. Mainly the expectation it would be enjoyable. Remember that ingenious “anti-beach episode” I spoke of earlier; in Ren there is a real beach episode, along with a pool episode and a hot spring episode. As you can see all wit has been replaced with fan service. Second, Ren’s doesn’t have the same comedic power of its predecessor. While there were quite a few moments I laughed I swear with good conscience that it felt like Ren had attempted to reuse every joke Chuunibyou had to its name. The most grievous example was the sliding kick that was an out-of-the-blue shock comedy gem in Chuunibyou. In Ren the amount of sliding kicks can’t be counted. Overused is a gargantuan understatement. The result was an angering déjà vu, which not only made me hate Ren more but made even my memories of Chuunibyou suffer. And finally in the basic act of storytelling, Ren was convoluted and clumsy. Plot information felt ineptly introduced so much so that approaching the end the plot simply falls apart into incoherentness (as for if this is a fault of poor narration or a fault of the already mentioned bad plot I cant decide).
This review is getting long but I’m just getting started. Next under the microscope comes the characters.
To be fair, here it was the character department that Chuunibyou scored lowest in, but the characters were far from lousy. Yuuta was an easily empathisable kid bent on changing his life, who’s truly aghast to find the very thing he was trying to run away from right next to him. That thing being embodied in Rikka a quirky moe girl of a female lead that avoided all the usual pitfalls of not-that-bright cutie-pie character type; she was never annoying and had moments of genuine humanness. Simply put they are a fantastic lead duo. But supporting characters were a mixed bag. Nibutani and Dekomori were both interesting and engaging in their own right, along with their charming bickering between one another. When we turn to Kumin and Isshiki we see Chuunibyou’s greatest fault. Both are cliché, uninteresting, and bothersome whenever they were given screen time. Overall though, characters were far above average.
Now where do these characters go in Ren? Nowhere, there’s no real character development, but there is a somewhat fleshing out of the pre-established characters. And it’s horrendous. Kumin for some reason has been given far more screen time and a new character trait. Bad jokes. Let me state the obvious here, bad jokes are bad, and making a character nothing but bad jokes is not going to improve anything. If you thought that was bad Isshiki is pushed out of existence up until the very end, and you wanna know what they did with him? Literally, this is neither an over exaggeration nor a joke; he becomes the butt of a both racist and homophobic joke. I’d be offended if it weren’t for the fact that everything about Ren is offensive. Now let’s not forget how bad the new girl Satone is as we dissect this rotting corpse of a show. Satone serves nothing but to be the love triangle character and to act like an annoying 6 year old. A list of most annoying anime characters is not complete without her and her laugh being somewhere on it. But if you didn’t think things couldn’t get worse, every good character from Chuunibyou is overplayed and over-chuunibyou-ified to the point to which our lovable characters, all, without exception, become annoying. I hated the entire cast of Ren by the end of the show.
It is that reason, the hating everything I used to love in Chuunibyou, that makes me say any Chuunibyou fan should not watch Ren. It takes all those precious memories and corrupts them with all the flare a Kyoto Animation budget can afford you.
Sound and animation is less a complaint and more like the icing on this insidious cake. Both seasons have good animation and sound. Going into the details feels unnecessary for this section; instead I want to talk about how that high quality animation becomes a negative attribute in Ren.
You see, one thing that I like about anime as a whole is how hard it is to make action scenes. Having to draw all that movement is difficult, time consuming, and costly. As a result, anime has always had to focus on doing what they can without incredible explosions and battle sequences. This has resulted in anime having to focus more on crafting interesting plots and plot twists since bad story can’t be hidden behind action spectacles as it can in Hollywood movies. Yet somehow Ren seems to have bypassed this beneficial constraint and turned into a Michel Bay movie. Almost every episode has some over the top action sequence that exists only to look cool. It’s superfluous, unnecessary and feels like a mask to the stories far from sensational plot.
So before I go on for another 1000 words let me deliver the verdict. I wouldn’t have hated Ren so much if it was a standalone show. But the fact that it not only takes the series nowhere, but ruins all that was good about Chuunibyou and all good memories I had of Chuunibyou makes its existence worthy of resentment. Look at the Chuunibyou paragraphs I wrote, and now look at Ren’s. Look into your mind at the moments of Chuunibyou, and now what my description of Ren conjures up in your mind. Just put these things side by side and the comparison exposes the incredible disappointment that Ren is, and why absolutely nobody should watch it.
With my point thoroughly expressed, here’s the result. Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! gets a GREAT… out of 10. This show is simply exceptional, and excels far beyond most anime in its genre. Now, by comparison Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren gets the lowest rank on my rating scale, a HORRIFIC … out of 10. This show is a horrendous, atrocious, and dreadful work that is offensive to anime, as a medium. Ren exhibits everything I dislike in anime and is an immense mark against Kyoto Animation studio. Hopefully now that I have let out most of my bottled up hatred for Ren (trust me, I’m actually making this review brief), I can finally move on to brighter and greener pastures. Expect a not so negative review next time around. Bye bye.