Everyone has something in their life that they’re not proud of. Some people were bullies when they were kids, some people have had relationships they regret…
Some people pretend to be supervillains until they’re 15.
Such is the lot of the interesting bunch afflicted by “chūnibyō”. But what is chūnibyō? Well, as with all odd Japanese, there’s a Wikipedia definition to help us out:
“The tendency of a character to pretend to be a made-up character from fantasy such as a vampire, demon, angel, wizard, alien, warrior or people with special bloodline, often imagining themselves to possess magical/super powers or cursed items. Characters with chūnibyō tend to have a unique manner of speech, dress in gothic clothing, and sometimes wear objects such as bandages or eyepatches to represent their persona. The term refers to 14-15 year-old children, but can also be used to describe characters who exhibit these traits regardless of their actual age. The term is believed to have been coined by Hikaru Ijūin in 1999 and was originally intended to describe things people who are pretending to be “grown-ups” in their second year of middle school.”
Our hero, Yuta Togashi, was a chūnibyō, and the embarrassing memory of his time being the DARK FLAME MASTER haunts his every waking moment. To avoid any awkwardness in his transition to high school, Yuta decides to attend a school miles away from his home, where people won’t know about his sordid past. One problem – other people have a sordid present.
You see, our heroine, Rikka Togashi, is also a chūnibyō, except she hasn’t quite grown out of it. Worse yet, she and Yuta are in the same class at school, and even live in the same apartment building!
But despite the fact seeing her every day is like looking in a horrible window to the past, Yuta somehow feels obliged to look out for Rikka, help her out with her school club, and maybe even break her chūnibyō habits.
Along the way they’ll meet a host of entertaining side characters, including a narcoleptic third-year, a spunky grade schooler and a class rep with a sordid past (don’t they all).
So begins an actually rather sweet love story, filled with the kind of care and attention we’ve come to expect from Kyoto Animation.
The animation, naturally, is beautiful and fluid, with a myriad of small touches and visual flairs that give the scenes set in reality a warm, mellow feeling…
…and the scenes set in delusions a loud, overzealous fighting spirit.
Indeed, one of the best parts of the series is when scenes take an unexpected turn to the outlandish – Rikka and her friends’ delusions are presented on-screen in a classic shonen style with plenty of flashy colours and explosions as they “battle to the death” with their “superpowers” and “weaponry”.
Thankfully, the English dub is able to keep up with the silly tone of the series with such talents as Leraldo Anzaldua, Brittney Karbowski and Emily Neves in the leading roles.
Margaret McDonald is easily the highlight of the dub as Rikka, in a performance that I think actively improves on the original. While the Japanese dub offers the relatively clichéd squeaky-voiced character you’d cynically expect from the way she’s drawn, McDonald feels much more like a teenager with delusions of villainy. She clearly got into the role, and it pays dividends.
The weakest aspect of the dub, in my opinion, is Maggie Flecknoe’s performance as Shinka Nibutani. Unfortunately she just sounds a little too old for the role – a minor character with that voice could have been forgiven, but as a main cast member it ultimately feels a little off. That said, trying to sound like a teenager as an adult is a difficult task, so I can respect the attempt.
Still, overall, I have to give the series a positive rating. It’s really funny when it’s not making you embarrassed for the characters (while watching the first episode of the series one of my friends nearly cringed out of her skin), and has a lot of heart. And really, that’s all I ask of a KyoAni series.
A cute, funny, completely inoffensive romance story that never annoys, Love, Chūnibyō and Other Delusions will make you laugh, and maybe even cry – just a little. Bring on season two!