Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren – 11

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It takes him till the eleventh of twelve episodes, but Yuuta finally figures out that Satone is in love with him. Because he’s in love with Rikka (the only girl he’s ever been in love with), he has no idea how to proceed. This irks Shinka to no end, and she’s irked even more when he takes Satone’s assurances that she’s alright at face value.

Having no luck with Yuuta, Shinka breaks out her middle school uniform and Morisummer veil, in a nice callback to the last Lite episode, which reiterated the fact that Satone reveres Morisummer and would therefore be receptive to advice from her on a delicate matter. Basically, Satone has to fight a legendary battle to overcome her despair, with Yuuta, or rather the Dark Flame Dragon within him, as her target.

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On that note, Yuuta first learns about something else that’s been giong on all season: the answer to what Rikka has been up to of evenings. Having read a missive of his (which Satone also read years back) describing how to unlock and release the Dark Flame Dragon, Rikka has set out to do just that. Far from just a means of wasting some time, she considers the task crucial to becoming truly bound to Yuuta.

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For someone who lives with her very doting, scoldy, oftentimes father-like boyfriend, she did a fine job keeping her mission on the downlow until now. It’s thanks to Satone that Yuuta’s able to figure it out. Unlike them, he’s not nearly as in touch with his chunibyou as he once was, but it’s still there, just as it is for Shinka. He knew it would remain a part of his and Rikka’s life; he just didn’t think she’d go so far to realize a dream he’d pretty much forgotten about.

It’s nice to see Yuuta get worried about Rikka and embrace her tightly when he finds her; it would seem he needs to take care of her as much as she needs to be taken care of, lest she stay out in the rain all night and catch a cold that will never end. At the same time, Rikka remains as good a fit for Yuuta as ever, allowing him to straddle the worlds of fantasy and reality, for stepping all the way into the latter just wouldn’t be as fun.

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As for Satone, it’s gotta be tough watching Yuuta perform the ritual to release the dragon with another girl, she does get her battle when it emerges from the blue moon, in a stirring, gorgeous scene. Afterwards, Rikka has an even worse cold but is satisfied she’s sufficienly bound to Yuuta, while Satone seems to be fine, and may indeed be much better than she was behind the facade. Hopefully Yuuta’s learned a little more about women (those with chunibyou, at least, which are the best kind!) and the consequences of leaving his old notebooks lying around to be discovered.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

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Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren – 10

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Whatever Chuunibyou euphemisms she needs to use to describe her condition, the simple fact is that Satone has fallen for Yuuta…again…and has fallen hard. She’s determined to keep the promise she made to herself the first time it happened: to devote herself to remaining the magical devil girl forever. The persona (and mental state) that is Sophia Ring etc. is nicely represented by a simple (and very KyoAni) symbol: the little heart sticker on her cheek.

Whether due to the sweat and increased heart rate from her rekindled infatuation or the summer heat, that sticker has been coming loose and falling off. She tries to stick it back on, but it just falls off again. Her “condition” is being fueled by memories of close moments she had with Yuuta, and they’re proving more powerful than she can handle. It’s quite a transformation from the Satone we were first introduced to.

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It’s also a welcome one. With Shinka and Sanae’s love-hate relationship chugging along Yuuta, Rikka’s powers back, and she and Yuuta in their own lovey-dovey little world, it was only logical for the drama to start brewing around Satone, especially after her epiphany on the train. Having recently watched the film that recaps the first season, there’s a definite symmetry to Satone and Rikka’s arcs—only Satone’s isn’t poised to end happily; after all, there’s only one Yuuta. The pain and anguish Satone goes through this week is familiar, but still powerful.

Oh, Yuuta: so busy participating in his own subtle, unique, brand of romance with Rikka, doesn’t see Satone’s “battle” coming. They end up together again while Yuuta is searching for Rikka (natch) and have to seek shelter under a shrine when the heavens open up. That’s when Satone begins a totally different battle – one against herself. Despite featuring no fantastical special effects, it’s easily the best battle we’ve seen her in. She insists that Yuuta tell her everything he can to give her brain enough logical ammo to convince her heart to give up on this whole Yuuta business.

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Yuuta has no idea what’s going on, but when he gets a text from Rikka (natch) that sends him away, he unknowingly repeats a gesture he made to Satone in the past (throwing his cape over her in the rain), only this time, he’s throwing it over himself as he leaves. Satone thinks she’s gotten through the battle, but he returns with an umbrella he found for her. Just like that, the tears flow, the heart sticker washes away, and victory for Sophia may be out of reach for good.

We imagine the triangle that has thus coalesced shall be the focus of the two remaining episodes. Yuuta can’t possibly not know what her deal is; that would constitute an unacceptable level of denseness. We’re also hoping next week doesn’t simply pick up where we left off and let Satone get away with laughing it off. We’re going to operate under the assumption that Yuuta knows her true feelings for him now. It will be interesting to see what he does with that knowledge, and how it will affect things with Rikka (who still doesn’t know squat).

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren – 09

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Constantly coming up with magical shit to say must be tiring stuff, even when you’re not in love. Rikka “losing her powers” is a euphemism for increasing difficulty with losing herself in that world. As her feelings for Yuuta continue to swell, they’re muscling out the Chuunibyou. After all, she can imagine all the crazy weapons and battles and experiences_ she wants, it’s still all happening in her head, merely an embellished version of real life. What chance do such ephemeral delusions have against the real life she’s living with Yuuta?

That’s the question posed this week, and the answer seems to be, not much chance at all, if Rikka merely gives up. It’s understood to be a bad thing, if Rikka finds her eyepatch uncomfortable and ceases to be imaginative enough to keep up with, say the samurai-loving daughter of Tooka’s boss (whom she initially, hilariously introduces as her own). To a casual, or rather infrequent observer like Tooka, it may look like nothing has changed between Yuuta and Rikka since she left, which is, as she says, simultaneously relieving and disappointing.

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That’s kind of how we felt this whole episode, too. It passed up a lot of opportunities for real change in the show, which was a little disappointing, but nor did it rush into cheap durama for durama’s sake, for which we were relieved. No doubt there was potential in an arc in which Rikka fully abandoned her delusions and committed to a normal relationship of her own volition (lord knows Yuuta isn’t pushing). But that would defeat the whole purpose of this romance: it isn’t normal. It’s strange, and complex, and unique.

It’s also damned hard to maintain a balance between love and chuunibyou, since they’re both sides of the same coin (and there’s a lot of coins in this episode!): love is it’s own fantasy, just as invigorating and terrifying and powerful, if not moreso, than anything Rikka can pull out of her imagination. But Rikka is determined not to let it take her powers. She and Yuuta have resolved to have their cake and eat it too. Yuuta believes in and loves both sides of her, as she does his, so losing one side just wouldn’t do.

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That brings us to Satone, whose feelings for Yuuta reemerge just as Rikka’s powers are restore (and Satone repeats her support for them). In a beautifully-rendered sequence on the train, as Yuuta falls asleep and leans his head on her, the same imagination that gives Sophia the Magical Devil Girl so much offensive power are twisted into vivid fantasies of a love-that-never-was, because she never confessed to Yuuta back then.

Satone has had her annoying moments, but we have to say we like what the show’s doing with her. She actually made a concerted effort to give the couple her blessing and move on with her life, but that dull pain in her chest won’t go away, nor will the regret and longing. Will she try to hide/repress these revitalized feelings? Will she distance herself from Yuuta (hard to do as they’re neighbors)? This reforged love triangle has potential.

7_very_goodRating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Oh yeah, this was a beach episode, and all of the characters were in swimsuits most of the time, but it was very natural and low-key.
  • Nibutani makes lovely first impressions, and has a knack for marketing.
  • What are the odds of Tooka just happening to come by a seaside noodle stand owned by her little sister and boyfriend’s friend’s aunt and uncle? We like Tooka, she’s deadpan as usual, but we didn’t really see her presence in this episode as all that crucial, other than so Yuuta can tell her progress is being made, even if it may not look it.
  • Speaking of not looking it: it really didn’t look it this week! Yuuta and Rikka barely speak and only touch fingers once. When they do talk, Yuuta acts all fatherly and scoldy.
  • More to the point: why the heck would Yuuta and Rikka not sit next to each other on the train? Did they develop and allergy to each other’s dander or something?

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren – 08

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Sometimes the friendships that are the most fun to watch are the ones whose participants never overtly acknowledge they’re friends at all, and go about trying to prove they don’t like each other at all when in reality they’d be sad without one another. The unspoken friendship in Chuunibyou is obviously that of Shinka and Sanae, bourne out of the latter’s reverence for the former, but made bitter and rancorous by the former’s efforts to erase that embarrassing part of her life and move on as a normal mortal.

Her normal, flawless, overachieving high school life aside, Sanae is still tightly in the grips of Chuunibyou, and has always fostered disappointment at Shinka’s retreat from that world. She labels her as a fake, because the real Mori Summer wouldn’t be ashamed of who she is and hide that identity from everyone else. So when an impostor claiming to be the Real Mori Summer approaches Sanae, she readily embraces her. Where the episode is ultimately ambiguous is whether did Sanae do this only to make Shinka jealous.

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Whatever Sanae’s motives, the Fake Real Summer (voiced by Koshimizu Ami, no stranger to fantasy roles) makes it abundantly clear to both us and the gang: she wants Sanae. Assuming Sanae is just trying to make Shinka mad and compel her to some kind of action beyond ignoring her, she eventually learns she’s in over her head, and even if the impostor wasn’t creepy and predatory, to be blunt, Sanae doesn’t swing that way. Then Shinka comes to the rescue, as Sanae had probably hoped for. The resulting Chuunibyou battle between Shinka and the impostor is a nice piece of action, with the imposters’ attacks turning darker and more sinister as she gets angrier, overpowering Shinka in imagination and thus strength in such a battle.

Sanae has seen enough of the impostor at this point to know she’s not the real Mori Summer either, and if she has to choose between two fakes, she’s choosing Shinka. The impostor’s powers are no match for the Mjolnir Hammer, but more importantly, her wierd crush on Sanae is no match for the genuinely deep (if unspoken) bond between Sanae and Shinka. We thought we’d be a little annoyed when they went back to their usual bickering and denials of mutual affection, but it was actually oddly comforting to watch, as it was for Yuuta, Rikka, and Kumin.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Nice use of Sophia Ring SP Saturn VII as a combat coach for Shinka; she is pretty rusty, after all.
  • We’d be surprised if the animators had never heard of Inoue Naohisa, because the Mori Summers’ battlefield resembles his work. Incidently, one of his paintings also inspired scenes in Whisper of the Heart.
  • While walking home with Yuuta, Rikka realizes they’re not holding hands, and rights the wrong. Nice!
  • Kumin continues to subject everyone to her incredibly hokey wordplay humor, but she gets a pass after winning a battle that saved the club.

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren – 04

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We’ve always automatically assumed Dekomori Sanae was our least favorite member of the (whatever it’s called) club in Chu2Koi, but it’s episodes like this that remind us that she comes out ahead of Tsuyuri Kumin, who has an even more irritating voice and does little but wisecrack and sleep. Meanwhile Sanae is a far more complete character with conflicts and useful skills. She’s actually an extremely capable, resourceful, charismatic young lady. She also happens to worship Mori Summer like a god.

When Satone of all people confirms that Nibutani Shinka is in fact the real Mori Summer (having met her in person before), Sanae’s enmity towards her evaporates instantly. After so many brutal battles, watching her not only put less stress on her desus but act civilly and submissively towards her former nemesis is a refreshing change in behavior. She also confirms what a competent right-hand woman she can be in politics as Shinka seeks the student council presidency. Sanae’s newfound deference to her couldn’t have been better timed.

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So where did it all go wrong? Likely conditioned by so many past ambushes, it’s likely Shinka had a bit of whiplash when she suddenly found herself in the regular presence of a normal, friendly Sanae. But Sanae wasn’t really acting “normal”, she was just being nice to her as opposed to hostile. The Chuunibyou was still there, under the surface, and Shinka grew less strict about being called Mori Summer, then, as a reward for all of Sanae’s hard work (and beautifully-made cookies!), she whipped out the Mori Summer garb one more time. And that was the final nail in the coffin for Shinka’s candidacy.

Being in the presence of her exalted master sparked Sanae’s zealotry. She couldn’t help but modify her speech to honor Mori Summer, and using the one photo Shinka let her take. Mind you, Sanae wasn’t being vindictive (though for a moment we thought she was, but she’s not that mean). No, she’s just really into Mori Summer, and in her Chuuni-tweaked state, thought announcing it to the whole school was a good idea. Shinka freaked, which tipped off Sanae that maybe she was a fake after all, and just like that we’re back to the status quo ante, which is a bit of a shame, because we actually didn’t mind Shinka and Sanae getting along.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Shinka’s impression of Yuuta as Dark Flame Master is pretty good.
  • Yuuta utterly fails to properly distract Sanae so Shinka can talk to Sanae’s class without incident. Sanae hides in the lectern where she speaks, leading to some hilarious changes in Shinka’s voice patterns.
  • Shinka kinda stole Sanae away from Rikka this week, but we liked how Yuuta stepped in to participate in the blue moon ritual thing.
  • Sanae is apparently popular in her year, which suggests she suppresses her chuunibyou most of the time while around her peers. It’s another testament to her intelligence that she can live comfortably in both worlds, which ironically makes her more like Shinka than Rikka or Satone.