If there were any doubt that Chuunibyou would be pursuing the romance angle in its final arc, I think it’s safely dispelled now.
Chuunibyou has been a study in extremes for the most part. In the first six episodes it was very silly and pretty funny a good percentage of the time, with the more serious elements attached to the chuunibyou premise pretty much getting washed away in the comedic flood. The last couple of episodes were quite serious, with Rikka’s past coming to the forefront and the romantic tension taking several leaps forward. With this episode the series probably found the best balance yet between those two poles. Given the quite charming way the episode mixed humor and warmth in the romance subplot, it’s clear that this is comfortable ground to cover.
One aspect in which that balance was reflected was the way the supporting characters were rolled into the plot, with each member of the cast having a sizable role to play in the episode. Foremost among them was Nibutani, who first makes a splash by trying to get herself seen as a miracle worker by getting the loser Society (“Club” is a title that’s denied it) she belongs to recognized as a standout at the upcoming culture fest (KyoAni has set the bar pretty high with that setting this year). All Nibutani has done, really, is substitute a more socially acceptable form of chuunibyou for the one she suffered from as Mori Summer – she’s still pretending she’s something she’s not, only this time it’s to try and climb the social ladder and maker herself feel important. In short, high school. As I said last week, the gap between 16 and 14 is not nearly so great as 16 would like to believe.
Even more important in practical terms is Nibutani’s self-appointed role as matchmaker of the group. While she apparently has no romantic experience herself she considers herself quite the expert, and I suppose whatever she’s divined from teen advice magazines puts her leagues ahead of the likes of Rikka and the unbelievably innocent (seeming) Kumin. She’s picked up on the vibe between Isshiki and Kumin despite forgetting who he was at the start of the episode, and she correctly diagnoses Rikka’s malaise as lovesickness. It’s on the latter pairing that she extends most of her efforts, though she does make sure Kumin and Isshiki are working together to prepare for the culture fest (for which, by the way, she’s advertised a battle featuring a very unwilling Dark Flame Master).
Rikka seems to view chuunibyou an all-purpose pressure-release valve from reality. As she did with her father’s death she tries to convince herself that dark forces are behind the way Yuuta has changed in her perception, and the strange gut-wrenching feelings she has when she sees him (especially the eyes). She even resorts to attacking her her strange feelings with physical violence (against Yuuta, of course). Little does her sister know the real reason why Rikka isn’t eating or talking, but it’s hard to believe – even in anime – that Yuuta would be so dense that he’d have no clue even after the events of the night they spent at his apartment. Rikka is increasingly coming off as a sad and pathetic character to me, though I don’t mean that in a negative way – her act was sometimes funny and sometimes irritating, but now it’s more just tragic. There’s a value that should be placed on an active imagination and a sense of fantasy, especially in the young – but there’s also a line where disconnect from reality becomes a real problem, and she’s clearly crossed it.
Maybe the scare she got on the school roof (rather irresponsible of Nibutani to put Rikka and Yuuta in such a dangerous place as a social experiment if you ask me, though she doesn’t seem too bothered about it) will be the shock that finally jump-starts Rikka’s reality engine – it certainly seems to have put her relationship with Yuuta in fast-forward. If nothing else perhaps a crush will be an easier reality for her to come to terms with than the death of her father, and Yuuta is actually around to try and help her do so. I remain interested to see whether Chuunibyou tackles the issue of what the appropriate role for the titular condition is in a young adult’s life, and if it does, what stand it takes on the question.