For those unfortunate enough to never have been of the wonderland that is Japan, the term “Chuunibyo” can essentially translate into “facade” – and a childish, most unfavorable one, as one will come to see.
We have all known that one guy. The one guy that emulates a character from a particular series – so much in fact, that it correlates into their daily life and it just becomes a nuisance. Or those who have morals and completely change their point of view, or lack thereof, in an instant after being subject to an ideal – of an anime series no less. Trying too hard to be “cool”, of course, isn’t very “cool”.
Being the first episode of the series, it’s rather hard to start judging where the art direction will go. In just this first meeting, we are graced with the same common backgrounds that viewers are already accustomed to seeing in slice of life anime slice, and most series in general in fact. The shots never stray too far from either a typical bedroom, wide angle of a classroom, or an establishing shot of a school or apartment building – hoping to set some kind of mood.
Now while the setting of a contemporary Japanese lifestyle is in no way original, they’re certainly made one of a kind in how Chuunibyo portrays them. Static backgrounds have rarely ever been as undoubtedly a sight to behold – the colors are bright and vibrant, and lines are distinguishable between various objects. The environment seems to almost be entirely of idling CG imagery – not unlike that of a visual novel.
Most notable are the cityscape shots, as well as the train station, both of which emphasize the use of CG a bit more heavily with the automobiles and trains alike providing motion to the stagnant picture. This mix of computer graphics and classic drawn animation techniques brings the setting to life – which wouldn’t be worth mentioning had it not been executed to such a grand extent.
On the other hand, the animation studio seems to have some sort of unusual arousal for cherry blossoms – as every outdoor scene is littered with them, pink petals flooding in the foreground. Fancy as this all may be, accompanied with the overused sound of wind, it’s unnecessary.
Character design, while expressive, is nothing out of the ordinary – looking as if this is a “Kyoto Animation party”, where select moeblobs of all series prior were invited, and simply adapted into the art style of the series.
The lack of originality is particularly painful when considering the quality of other factors – the presentation is crisp and clear, animation is fluid and life-like, and the sounds of the world feel real and accurate. Interestingly, lesser characters are left to rot forever – remaining as awkward statues clogging the background when their few seconds of fame are expired. Yet the main moeblobs are clearly where all of the studio’s resources have been spent – carrying substantially more frames of movement, facial expressions, and other details.
Indeed, the number of facial expressions a character receives in this series seems dependent on their level of importance within the overall tale.
Perhaps the most grandiose facet of this series however is its ability to pool together so many imitative elements – it’s unimaginative on a magnificent scale. One can especially relate animation style to that of Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu, story and otherwise – and the eyes of each character all seem borrowed from Hyouka.
In fact, even the characters seem to be pulled straight from other series. The male lead visibly resembles Hyouka’s indifferent leading male – and the blob-like heroine, regardless of what reasoning exists behind it, is fairly reminiscent to a character of “Another” anime series.
As early as the generic opening sequence, one of the cheerleaders is a clone of Haruhi’s own busty blonde bishoujo character – throw in a pinch of K-ON flare, and you have Chuunibyo.
If Kyoto Animation, a studio with a formerly much better reputation, can no longer even devise any unique moe characters, considering they’re seemingly intent on these kind of characters specifically, then hope is essentially lost everywhere. Chuunibyo is little more than a moeblob Frankenstein which likely should never have been brought to life.
And unsurprisingly, the story is as exciting as twiddling one’s thumbs – the male lead is a 2-D lover obsessed with dressing himself in silly costumes, thereby frequently ridiculed in his previous school life for his character endowing ways. Highschool begins, and the unheroic protagonist is eager to start anew – leaving his role-playing behind him. Yet the moe mess of a heroine seems to know about his dark past life as a loser, and happens to similarly share that same role-playing fantasy fetish as well – becoming fully engulfed by the fictional characters in her heart.
Adding some typical boy meets girls romance, and a conventional drama of keeping that past life a secret from current society, one then reaches a series sitting at the epitome of banality – “Chuunibyo demo Koi ga Shitai!”.
It’s not necessarily an awful story – it’s merely cliché to no end. “Girl A” finds out about the past of “Boy”, and must keep it a secret lest everyone learns that “Boy” is a loser who cares too much about what random strangers think of him. These types of series always seem to have the boy and girl living in close proximity of each other – alongside a setting which is sure to be two outcasts who seemingly find themselves mixed up in situations together, topped with a fabulous forced romance.
Eventually, there’s bound to be a “coming-of-age” aspect blooming – the male lead gives vibes of apathy and becoming jaded, ignoring the past that made him who he is today. Now bring in the eccentric, childish, and anime trope embodiment of a heroine, she will eventually cause the hero to open up and accept his true self as a nutcase who enjoys dressing in abnormal costumes. One will start to see the inevitable love develop into a sloppy romance – and then further down, a harem will develop.
Assuming one is fine with being pummeled by all manner of recycled goods they’ve likely seen in at least 20 other series, then one should likely manage to finish an episode of Chuunibyo demo Koi ga Shitai! without disliking it. There’s surely still more to see – although whether for better or worse, that is debatable.