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And now for my second part in my two part "girls with eyepatches" review series! Chuunibyou (or Chuu2 for short) is an anime about a boy named Yuuta Togashi who is trying to lock up his dark and hidden past. This past is something so horrifying, so shocking, that he never wants to remember one iota of it ever again. To make a long story short he doesn't want to remember his chuunibyo, or eighth-grader syndrome where he adopted a ridiculous persona as the DARK FLAME MASTER. Back when he was in the throes of chuunibyo he paraded around in all-black clothes and wielding an assortment of laughable "weapons" as he acted like something out of a bad Dragonball Z script. But that's all behind him! He's gonna have a fresh start at high school! Problem is a girl named Rikka Takanashi is also in his class and unlike him she still fully embraces her adolescent delusions of hidden worlds and magical powers. She goes so far as to wear an eyepatch and colored contact that she claims seals the power of the "Wicked Lord Shingan". Will Yuuta be able to distance himself from his past embarrassments, or will Rikka drag out the DARK FLAME MASTER once again?
The story is actually fairly unique for a romantic comedy. Under the premise of Rikka's chuunibyo Yuuta has to navigate through his feelings for her despite how hard it may be to talk to her in a serious manner. Whilst he wants to see the world through the eyes of an average high-schooler he also has to remember his past self to figure out why Rikka is acting the way she is and how he can communicate with her in a manner that she'll be receptive to. As the series progresses the romance between the two slowly start to bloom, and halfway through the show things take a turn from something that is simply a rom-com to something much more dramatic and emotional. This is one of the strong suits of the show I feel as KyoAni isn't afraid to add some strong character-development into a bunch of the latter scenes, culminating in immense pain for the chuunis as their delusions start to shatter around them. And when it's not serious it has the kinds of characters who are simply fun to watch. Not to mention you also get to see through the eyes of the chuunis in epic imaginary fight scenes with elaborate weapons and techniques. The show balances out all these elements well so that you get a dose of several different feelings in the twelve episodes.
Yuuta as the main character is played as the straight man most of the series. He's a lot like Oreki Houtarou or Kyon in that he gets easily exasperated at Rikka's delusions and he likes to make a lot of snide remarks regarding when people are acting silly around him. Despite this though he really does start to deeply care about Rikka and much as he tries to push away his chuuni past it comes back to him at odd moments as needed. The Dark Flame Master persona is one that he has to slowly come to terms with throughout the series and begin to understand that it's part of what made him who he is today, no matter how embarrassing it may be.
Rikka meanwhile is still enthusiastically chuuni despite having moved on to high school and she likes to show it off at every chance she gets. She has an umbrella that she considers to be one of her primary weapons along with the eye under the patch that houses all the dark powers of the Wicked Lord Shingan. Understandably, acting like this has made her sort of the odd duck amongst her classmates, and this isolates her from a chance at having friends and this only pushes her further and further into her fantasy world. Upon meeting Yuuta however they begin to get to know each other more and she starts to have her feelings of loneliness alleviated due to the help of her newfound friends. She lives with her big sister Touka in the apartment above Yuuta's and so she often drops in to visit him in rather unexpected ways. She's always searching for a mysterious place known as the Ethereal Horizon, and harbors hurt over an event in her past she still has yet to accept and be able to move on from. Only with Yuuta's help can she begin to continue her life.
Joining them are four other club members that they get to know over the course of the series. Shinka Nibutani is much like Yuuta in that she tries to hide from her chuuni past as the hippie magician Morisummer, to the point where she goes off like a fuse if anyone mentions it. Most of the time however she's level-headed and reasonable and tries to help out her friends when they're in need of advice. Kumin Tsuyuri... I can't really say much about her. She's airheaded and likes to nap. A lot of fans seem to like her for cuteness or something but she doesn't really DO anything other than some light comedy from time to time. Makoto Isshiki exists as nothing more than the anime whipping boy to mercilessly make fun of and toss aside as often as necessary. And Sanae Dekomori is another chuuni who identifies herself as Rikka's servant. She also idolizes the magician Morisummer for a book she wrote called the Mabinogion that Deko basically uses as a chuuni bible. However she can't reconcile the fact that Nibutani and Morisummer are one and the same due to the fact that Nibutani shuns the identity, and this leads to the two basically becoming feuding archenemies throughout the series. Oddly enough though they're still friends in their own way even though they're constantly fighting. Deko also likes to tack on "desu" on the ends of her sentences due to the fact that it sounds like death and is part of her chuuni identity.
The visuals, once again I simply have to point out that they're KyoAni, and I'm sure you all are already sick to death of me for praising them all the time but DAMMIT KYOTO ANIMATION HAS SOME DAMN FINE PRODUCTION VALUES AND YOU BETTER APPRECIATE THEM. In particular Chuu2 shares a ton of traits between this series and Hyouka. This extends into the similar styles of drawing the backgrounds and settings as well as going to the point where even the character faces look a lot like each other. And when you have this studio also doing stuff as far-ranging as Nichijou and Clannad it's surprising that two of the series look so much alike. The music of the series is nothing particularly impressive... until you get to the ending theme anyways. Inside Identity is the name of the song and the thing I like about it so much is the fact that it's sung by the seiyuu for Nibutani, Kumin, Rikka, and Deko. And I'll be damned if they don't sound like they had an absolute blast recording it. The song is most likely gonna end up stuck in your head and if it doesn't then you're missing out.
Final verdict: 8.5. While not doing anything particularly mind-blowing, Chuu2 takes the unique core concept of eighth-grader syndrome and builds up an enjoyable tale of comedy, romance, and drama around it. A lot of the humor comes from an almost cringe-type empathy you feel for the characters as you compare their experiences to stupid and embarrassing things you yourself did back in middle school. Even if you might not have went the full DARK FLAME MASTER route you most likely still have some things you can't look back on without wanting to hit your head against the nearest wall repeatedly. (Also it is worth noting that if you've read a novel called Stargirl there's a lot of similarities between it and this anime). Anyhow, combine the sympathetic humor stemming from chuunibyo and other random assorted jokes together with a surprisingly likable cast of characters, great visuals, and a story that gradually gets richer as it progresses and you get one of the better recent series to watch and enjoy. If you have even a passing interest in romcoms this is definitely one you should pick up.