I’m of the classic “two minds” dilemma with Chuunibyou. There are times when it really makes me laugh, and there are times when I just want to slip decaf into the espresso machine at Kyoto Animation. They really are shameless, these people – they’re experts at creating anime in a style that’s been often imitated, never equaled, and it really seems to me that they’re far too much in love with chasing their own tail for anyone’s good. But credit where it’s due – this is pretty slick stuff, as always. I think my gut reaction that Chuunibyou was a style I don’t especially like done especially well is pretty close to the mark.
That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it – and this show is definitely working for me on the superficially comic level. It’s funny a lot of the time, and occasionally very funny – and the Mabinogions of the world are thick with anime comedies that never manage that. I can’t help but laugh when Dekomori (miraculously, a character who makes Rikka look competent and sane) says she wants to eat curry in the other world, or when Rikka creates a magic circle out of Christmas lights. As a madcap physical comedy Chuunibyou is well above-average and its fearlessness about going big pays off. Where I wish it would tone it down is in the excessive moe pandering, which too often becomes self-serving and smug. Yes, we know – you’re great at it, you don’t have to prove it anymore.
As a character comedy, I remain somewhat ambivalent, though I think the central message of the show is certainly fine. There are secrets in all of our pasts we’d rather not have the world know about, and that’s certainly never more urgent than when we’re 16 and on the cusp of adulthood. The gap between 14 and 16 can seem a millimeter wide one moment and a parsec (I was a sci-fi Chuunibyou, you know) the next, and Yuuta’s struggle with himself isn’t a bad thing to build a show around, especially when you have interesting developments like the reveal (which sharper eyes than mine picked up last week) that Nibutani has a Chuunibyou past herself are included in the mix. I liked her Jekyll/Hyde transformations – I like her character generally, and think the show is better when she’s added to the mix. It just feels to me as if the two aims of the show – the completely farcical comedy and the semi-poignant reflection on adolescence – are working at crossed-purposes for now, with the former winning out. A really great writer could make the two work in harmony with each other, but I’m not seeing writing of that caliber here yet.