Chuunibyou was one of those shows labelled as a high-school comedy, and I really had no cause to think otherwise until late on. It had a lovely cast, plenty of good humour in the right amount, and managed to somehow make something that should be cringe-worthy actually adorable. The chuunibyou syndrome is something a lot of people can relate to.
To what degree one's fantasies are pronounced varies. What's lovely about this show is that the cast wear their creativity on their sleeves without concern for who witnesses their antics. Those that try to scorn their past, like Nabutani and Yuuta, often react in hilarious ways to any suggestion of their embarrassing lives.
Despite this being a high-school show it has something that Toradora - one of my favourite shows - has: emotional depth. You won't see it until over half-way into the show, but when you do it renders everything previously into a new light. I felt like going back and watching it all again with this new knowledge in mind, picking apart the character's dialogue for hidden clues to their psyche.
One of the finest moments in the show is also one of the shortest. There is a sense of foreboding as Rikka travels back to her grandparents, her mood being noticeably suppressed throughout her stay, leading up to the reasoning for Rikka's obsessive delusion: her father's death. Suddenly, in this small scene, Rikka's chant of “reality be rent, banishment this world” becomes so much more meaningful than the throw-away phrase it initially appeared. There is her anguish and pain for reality in those words, her chuunibyou being the only defence against the truth. Shortly before, it occurred to me that the Unseen Horizon that Rikka talks of is actually a reference to the afterlife, and that her quest to search for it is all in an effort to hide behind her fiction.
The dialogue is cleverly constructed to hide double meaning within most of the obscure terminology. Rikka later refers to a singularity that has affected both her and Yuuta, which can be interpreted as the moment that Rikka started having feelings for him. Even mundane things like e-mail have their own idiosyncrasies which blend with the more important stuff, requiring an attentive ear – or eye – to the catch the subtleties being conveyed.
Rikka's sister, Touka, has more to her personality than at first appearances. The fight sequences between the siblings appeared merely to be an older sister tempering those youthful fantasies. I could have believed that she was allowing Rikka to play Tyrant Eye so the weight of what she was avoiding didn't come crashing down, had it not been for later scenes which felt like a contradiction.
That moment came in episode 8, while Yuuta had made his mind up to go along with Rikka's fantasy in what he thought would be helping her, Touka has a change of heart: Following the pair to the abandoned lot of their old residence, she confronts Rikka to force her to accept the truth of their father. Had Touka been content to allow Rikka to wallow in her chuunibyou, why would she suddenly push reality on her sister?
Then it hit me: Touka's tearful admonition wasn't simply so Rikka would face reality so she'd be easier to deal with, but because the full weight of it was going to crash down on Rikka soon enough anyway, and Touka was afraid she wouldn't be there for her sister when it did. Likewise, she told Yuuta that Rikka had to face up to reality not to play the antagonist, but so Yuuta would react and let Rikka hear how he truly felt. From there, Touka knew that she could trust Yuuta with her sister's well-being, which is why she decided not to pursue them back home, and later on she even pleads with Yuuta to help Rikka.
It is, perhaps, this event that acts as the catalyst for Rikka's crush on Yuuta. Was it too sudden after getting through more than half the show with no prior indicators? I personally don't think so; simply put, Rikka hadn't cause to think about love until Yuuta becomes someone who won't run away because of her chuunibyou, for she is acutely aware of how her syndrome alienates people.
I've focused mostly on these three but other members of the cast have their own moments, though some like Kanae and Kumin were never explored. Kanae provided many moments of comedy, beyond that she was a stand-in to provide Nabutani with most of her conflict as she tries to shed the persona of Mori Summers and be the noble student council president. I did actually dislike Nabutani at first, her hidden personality came as a shock, yes, but I couldn't bring myself to liking it until very late into the show.
I was fearful of Nabutani being the fake-beauty-queen hiding a loathsome alter-ego, and that's certainly how she was presented. I'm not incapable of adapting, however, and there are traits of Nabutani's that endeared me to her as more than the stereotype she initially appeared to be.
If there's one major flaw it's that the writers didn't spend enough time with the characters. Even Rikka and Yuuta could have benefited from a lot more attention to their personalities, because while the theme of the show strayed outside of the high-school comedy genre, the characters pretty much found roots in it, crossing to the side of emotional drama far too little to make much impact.
The core of the show is dealing with chuunibyou as a problem that one needs to grow out of. However, Rikka's particular case is dealt with in such a direct manner that she loses focus on the small beauties in life, consumed by her naivety for moderation. Her world was black and white, fact and fiction, and she couldn't live in both.
It was a relief that Yuuta realized the mistake he'd made and stopped trying to force Rikka to live by others' expectations. The show's ending monologue dares to tread the ground that we are all sufferers of our imaginations, but without this syndrome we'd be as Rikka was – unable to appreciate the beauty in life.