Review for Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions! Heart Throb - Deluxe Edition
I have to admit off the bat, that I never gave Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions Heart Throb a chance the first time around. I loved the first series of Chunibyo wholeheartedly, without reservation. For me it was a perfect, high school romantic comedy, warm, entertaining, and delightfully geeky, set in the world of young adults who were yet to escape the fantastic delusions of late childhood. Its story was its biggest charm, taking its characters on a journey of self-realisation and healing, as well as throwing in some delicious character comedy along the way. Its story was whole, the character arcs complete, and by the end you could be satisfied with where the characters ended up, assured of a happily ever after.
Chunibyo was also deservedly successful, only that success might just be its biggest weakness. Of course fans wanted more, and of course Studio KyoAni gave the fans what they wanted. But what more is there to give from a story that was complete in its original 13 episode run? My first instinct when Heart Throb dropped was that it was a contrived cash-in. Chunibyo is a romantic comedy, and how many romantic comedies do you know that get sequels, where we actually get to see the happily ever after? With that attitude in mind, I was never going to be predisposed to it. That was three years ago though, and that’s long enough for me to lose that predisposition, and give Heart Throb a second chance, less tainted by my expectations. After all, a sequel can only disappoint me once, right?
Chunibyo is a disease of puberty as it were, where self-awareness and childhood whimsy collide. Yuta Togashi was a chunibyo in middle school, styling himself as the Dark Flame Master, speaking and posing portentously, assured of his inner dark powers. He quickly grew out of that, and by the time high school started, he chose a school where he could start with a blank slate, where no-one knew the idiot he was before. But then he met Rikka Takanashi, whose delusions continue despite her age. She still believes that she is the Wicked Lord Shingan, and she knows that Yuta Togashi is the Dark Flame Master, no matter what he says, and that they are destined to forge a dark contract. Which is how Yuta wound up in the Far East Magical Napping Society, along with Rikka, her ‘servant’ Sanae Dekomori, Kumin Tsuyuri (she’s more into Napping than the Far East Magical bit), and Shinka Nibutani, a girl like Yuta who is trying desperately to forget her own chunibyo past. Over their first year of high school, they wound up indulging several geek fantasies, but Yuta also helped Rikka work through the cause of her lingering delusions, the tragic past that she was hiding from, and in the course of that, they took the first steps towards falling in love.
In Heart Throb, their second year at high school has started, Dekomori has enrolled as a first year, and despite Rikka discretely moving in with Yuta when she unexpectedly finds herself homeless, and Yuta’s family are transferred to another city, they’re firmly in the friend-zone, and Rikka’s still indulging in her chunibyo fantasies. Only things are about to get complicated, when Satone Shichimiya, or rather the Magical Devil Girl Sophia returns. Indeed she moves into Rikka’s old apartment above Yuta’s. Shichimiya was actually the girl who first drew Yuta into the adolescent fantasies of chunibyo back in middle school, and she’s looking to reunite with the Dark Flame Master. On top of that, he’s not the only one of their group that she has chunibyo connections to...
12 episodes plus the OVA and extras are presented across two Blu-rays from Manga Entertainment thus.
1. Wicked Lord Shingan... Reborn
2. Dolphin Ring Striker
3. Magical Devil Girl in Pursuit
4. (Queen Maker) The Election for President of the Student Council... Of Purity
5. Meeting of Club Delegates Meeting
6. Travelling to the Island of Tsukushi... Of Hesitation
7. Triangle... Of Missed Encounters
8. (Morisummer) The False... “Holy Spirit Mother”
9. Resort... Last Resort
10. Gauntlet of Rain/A Midsummer Night’s... Rain and Whips
11. Blue Moon Ragnarok
12. The Superior Contract... Of Twilight
OVA. The Rikka Wars/Apocalypse of the Wicked Lord Shingan Reborn
Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer. What we have here is a really nice presentation of the show, clear and sharp throughout, with strong, bold colours, and bringing across the animation as smoothly and as faithfully as you can hope for. Chunibyo is a Kyoto Animation series, and that comes across in the style of the animation, and the bright and slightly hazy, softened look to the piece. The character designs are very distinctive, and come across with consistency, staying on model throughout. However, where for Season 1, I opined that Sentai had sussed their Blu-ray transfers, it seems with Heart Throb that I was premature. This isn’t a problem with digital banding, rather the brightness, which is set too high throughout. True blacks don’t then exist in this show, just varying shades of grey, and while brighter, daytime scenes aren’t too badly affected, except maybe by a slight excessive haze, detail is completely washed out in night time scenes, which just come across as a uniform grey. It’s a disappointing treatment of a visually oriented title.
You have the choice between DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo English with a signs only track, and Japanese with a translated subtitle and signs track. As you might guess from that sentence, the audio and subtitle options are locked during playback, although you can easily change through the pop-up menu. Also, with this being a Manga port of the Sentai discs, you’ll have to live with Sentai’s big yellow subtitles, and you might be pressing the pause button quite often given the profusion of translation notes that pop up during playback. It’s nice to know what some of the references and in-jokes are.
I watched the show, in Japanese, and for me it’s the ideal way to watch it, the characters are perfectly cast, the stereo does a good job of reflecting the show’s delusionary action sequences, and also bring across the music well. I gave the dub a quick try, and after 8 minutes of a Sentai dub, I wasn’t in any rush to turn it off, which can only be a good thing. I’m not sold on Rikka’s English voice actress though, who sounds a little too mature for the character.
You get two Blu-ray discs in a Blu-ray Amaray, one on a central hinged panel. The inner sleeve has some character art, and you’ll also find a creased mini-poster and four unremarkable art cards in the case. It’s all held in a nice chipboard mini-art box that matches the packaging for the first season. One niggle might be the label change from Animatsu to Manga (it’s the same people, just a different logo on the spine, while it’s Animatsu’s logo that plays on the discs).
The discs present their content with static menus, and each episode is followed by a translated credit reel. There are no next episode previews.
The extras are all on disc 2, and we get six more Chunibyo Lite! episodes, running to a total of 25:56, much of that time taken by a cute end credit sequence seeing chibi-Rikka carnival dancing. They are as much fun as those on the first series, offering further little glimpses into the characters, fun under a Kotatsu table, Rikka overdosing on eye-patches, Yuta’s youthful camping antics, another embarrassing Morisummer episode for Nibutani to forget and more.
You also get the textless credit sequences for the second season, and trailers for Little Busters EX, Angelic Layer, Hakuoki – Record of the Jade Blood, and The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors & Hostel Behaviour.
If this were a brand new series, if there had never been a season 1 of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions, then I would be recommending this collection a lot more unequivocally and without stipulation. After all, it’s a charming light romantic comedy, with gorgeous animation from KyoAni, delightfully quirky characters, and a delicious sense of humour. It’s from the slice-of-life, cute girls doing cute things corner of the anime store, and it’s great at what it does, thoroughly entertaining.
Only there is that sticking point of the existence of the first season, and you can’t help but view Heart Throb in that light, and in that glorious, iridescent, geeky luminescence, the sequel series falls short. It falls short by a long, distant mark. That’s the universal problem of an unexpected success. Chunibyo Season 1’s romantic comedy tale of geeks, otaku and unrestrained delusion hit big with its rich characters, but also was genuinely moving with its story of one girl’s trauma, and how her new friends came together to help her resolve those issues. It could have you laughing one minute at Dekomori getting tangled up in her own hair, and it could move you to tears when you learned just why Rikka was searching for the “Ethereal Horizon”. And all through the series, Yuta and Rikka gradually fell in love... in a geeky way. It was a great story, and that’s the problem, it’s pretty much complete. It ends in such a way that has you thinking that with Rikka’s main problem resolved, she’ll gradually move past the Chunibyo fad, just as Yuta and Nibutani have done.
You can’t have a second season that way. After all, fans will have been drawn in by the Chunibyo, the adolescent fantasies that refused to let go, and they’ll want more of these characters getting up to stupid things. So the first thing that happens is that character development is discarded for all of the characters. The second thing is that the romance between Rikka and Yuta is a big draw, so development there has to be frozen, indeed set back just a tad, so that they still haven’t gotten to the holding hands stage, and have bypassed all that squidgy stuff to enter the friends-zone, requiring severe intervention to get that romantic stuff bubbling again. Also, there has to be just a little emotional issue to yet be resolved, to at least get the same feel as the first season. And to make things more interesting, we’ll add a new character, a third Chunibyo for a proper love triangle.
Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions Heart Throb is all about satisfying the fans that wanted more, only they took out what made the first season so special, and kept the superficial in the perception that fans wanted more geeky delusional teenage antics, and not story or character development. That even goes as far as the theme songs for season two, with an opener that sounds just like, but actually isn’t the season 1 opener, and a closing song which actually is called “Vanishment This World!” The animations for the credit sequences also call on the first season credits for inspiration. They also miss the point with the delusional action sequences. In the first season they were funny, as we got to see Rikka’s delusions with a full Hollywood effects budget behind them, and then we’d cut to the real world to see what it actually looks like (A big sister hitting her younger sibling on the head with a ladle). But in season 2, the cutaways are forgotten, and all we get is the eye-candy, except for the bonus 13th episode. It’s no longer as funny, and on occasion as tiresome as a fireworks display that has outlived its welcome.
Once you get past the fact that the story is now trapped in a narrative cul-de-sac, Heart Throb is a great deal of fun. The characters may be developmentally stuck in amber, but they do entertain. You can’t get more enjoyable than a Dekomori Morisummer bout, and Yuta and Rikka’s relationship is always good value, and forgive me, but I’m still tickled pink by a remonstrative chop to the head and a cute yelp of pain. I’m not too fond of the Magical Devil Girl Sophia, Satone Shichimiya, the third vertex of the love triangle, who is more of a fifth wheel, and whose exuberance goes beyond geeky cute to genuine annoyance. This also has the added effect of limiting the appearances of one of the more endearing characters in the first season, Makoto Isshiki, Yuta’s girl obsessed friend who fell for Kumin, and was constantly rebuffed due to her habit of falling asleep whenever he was about to confess. One original development in this second season is the debut of the sport of competitive napping, when the Far East Magical Napping Society goes up against a napping club from a rival school.
Bear in mind that Heart Throb is merely more of the same, without any forward motion, that all you’re really getting is the fun of season 1, but without the emotional context or narrative depth, and then you will have a great time with this series. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, and it’s better than a whole heap of other anime comedies out there. It’s also not a patch on the first season.