Yuta has a problem. As one of the thousands of Japanese students afflicted with "chunibyo," a state where they're so desperate to stand out that they've literally convinced themselves that they have secret knowledge and hidden powers, Yuta spent most of his middle school years living in a complete fantasy world. But that's not his major problem now, as with a lot of work and effort, he's finally managing to overcome his delusions to the point where thinks he's ready to start high school with all his cards in order. No, his BIG problem is the girl he first encounters climbing on his balcony. It seems that his own efforts to rid himself of his chunibyo have attracted the attentions of another sufferer, and she's decided that this makes him her soul mate. And since Rikka's just moved in upstairs, now he's being sucked into her fantasy world! Can a formerly wild and crazy guy handle being the focus of a completely delusional girl? Or will his own chunibyo return with a vengeance?
It's unlikely that there is anyone who didn't do something embarrassing during their teenage years. Whether it was an addiction to one regrettable fandom or another, disastrous decisions in friends or fashion, very few of us can testify to having no skeletons in our closets from adolescence.
The series has captured this cringe-inducing time by exploring a phenomenon known in Japan as chuunibyo or "eighth grader syndrome". It is said to strike at the onset of teenage years - that most challenging interstice between childhood and adulthood. Supposedly a common side effect of a new sense of self-awareness, it results in an array of unusual behaviour such as delusions of grandeur and possession of magical powers.
So we have a mix of characters – those who are wrapped up in fantasy and who are trying desperately to bury their misadventures and move on with "normal" life. When these two stages of the syndrome combine, it brews a whole host of complications and Kyoto Animation has exploited this for great comedic effect.
Chuunibyo is an excellent comedy series that carries a serious undertone. It uncovers the truth behind the fantasy, which is refuge from trauma. The studio has honed this style of tragic and bittersweet storytelling over the years while producing various adaptations of popular visual novels by Key (such as Kanon, Air and Clannad).
The characters are very cute (think K-On!) and the comic timing is always on point (think The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya). For fans of series such as Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, the characters' fantasy battle scenes are sure to raise a smile. Magical weapons are substituted for everyday things (such as frying pans and umbrellas) yet the girls wield these items as though they were mighty armaments.
As is to be expected with Kyoto Animation, the production quality is consistently high and the story, its heart and humour stay strong until the very end. As the series stands against a legacy of hits from the studio, it is hard not to draw comparison with their former works. The story is pleasantly self-reflective about anime and the allure of Japanese popular culture and yet doesn't quite have the emotional impact of the classics from Key. It's not their best work, on that I think most fans would agree but it is an excellent watch nonetheless.
It's a mix of magical girl parody and pastiche that hits all the vital points for laughs and moe. Chuunibyo is practically irresistible for many of those die hard otaku but also great fun for anyone starting out an interest in anime, or those who know the curse of an overactive imagination.