Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai Ren 02/03 – Different kinds of relationships
January 27, 2014 Leave a comment
Throughout Chuunibyou’s first series the central relationship between Rikka and Yuuta was always highly unorthodox. Rikka’s wild delusions played an obvious role in their relationship, making it difficult for them to have the sort of relationship that we would consider to be normal. However, it was a wonderful relationship to watch, switching between slapstick comedy and cute teen romance, with a hint of the imaginary thrown in for good measure. The notion of a ‘normal’ romance isn’t even discussed, or mentioned in this first series, as it arguably doesn’t matter what sort of relationship they have. But, Yuuta was, and remains an important part of Rikka life, not least because he was able to help her come to terms with the death of her father, and realise that despite everything, her Chuunibyou was not a disease, or mental problem, but was merely a part of her childhood and one of the main ways she approaches the world. And by accepting these simple facts we can see why Rikka’s Chuunibyou personality has remained even after the facts about her fathers death have come to light and been acknowledged.
Chuunibyou is not something that can simply disappear, and while you may grow older and move on from that period in your life, the ability to create these wonderful worlds still exists. It is your imagination that allows Chuunibyou to exist and this doesn’t change no matter how old you may be, it might be embarrassing to high schoolers or more broadly teenagers to think that they used to believe in having super powers, but this is not something that is unique to that point in your life. Writers, film directors, actors, painters and everyone else has the ability to conjure up wonderful worlds in their own minds, and despite the embarrassment that many might feel this ability should never disappear. This simple thought process helps to demonstrate how important a good imagination is to anyone, and how much Rikka and in some respects Yuuta depend upon theirs. By realising and accepting this simple fact we see Rikka, Yuuta, The Dark Flame Master and The Tyrant’s Eye all riding off into the sunset, because in reality they are all the same people, just looking at the world from a different perspective.
Chuunibyou is a fascinating and complicated idea, one that embodies the surprisingly simply but occasionally complicated notion of imagination. Throughout this series we have been told how ridiculous and embarrassing Chuunibyou is, with repeated examples of the strange and the wondrous shown in the form of Rikka and Dekomori. Chuunibyou is a social Haiku, as a term it is used to condense and concentrate numerous complicated social and cultural situations and attitudes into a single, easily used idea. At its most basic, Chuunibyou is essentially a term used to describe adolescence, a period in everyone’s life where external influences and ideas can have a tremendous impact on how you view yourself and the wider world. It is therefore tremendously difficult to truly label someone as a ‘sufferer’ of Chunnibyou, apart from those who act in the most extreme ways. Rikka, Dekomori, and the past Yuuta (and Nibutani) are all perfect examples of the more extreme end of Chunnibyou, with each character taking on a new, and altogether different personality. The way they act, speak, and interact with the wider world around them differs tremendously from the social ‘norm’, therefore marking them out as wider, or perhaps dysfunctional.
But, to move on from a general idea of Chuuniyou, in thius second season we are seeing the relationship between Rikka and Yuuta remain static, at least according to Nibutani. She is a character with a complicated personality and past, one who wishes to keep her Chuunibyou side hidden from everyone, even going to extreme lengths to cover up a past she considers both embarrassing and a stain on her record. Whereas Yuuta has finally come to terms with his Chuunibyou persona – arguably because of his constant interactions with Rikka – Nibutani remains someone who tries to build new personalities that will help her fit into high school and become a ‘normal’ person. This idea of ‘normal’ is important to Nibutani, and is something she continuously brings up, specifically when it involves the relationship between Rikka and Yuuta. To her, the relationship that Rikka and Yuuta have doesn’t make sense, its not the stereotypical teenage romance that you might find in shoujo manga, or certain magazines.
The frustration that Nibutani shows is as a direct result of seeing this relationship go nowhere, with Rikka and Yuuta acting as they have always acted, part father/daughter, part slapstick comedy act. This frustration is only heightened by Rikka and Yuuta living together, a situation that in Nibutani’s mind should result a more intimate relationship. The amount of effort Nibutani puts into this particular issue is fascinating to watch, but also largely misses the point. She assumes a particular kind of normality, one that is slightly cliché, existing in shoujo manga and teenage magazines – an overly romanticised version of what it means to be in love and in a relationship with someone. It is a particular view of romance that assumes the couple in question have to do specific things such as go on dates during Valentine’s Day and Christmas Day, perhaps hold hands constantly, and be very ‘lovey-dovey’ with one another. The advice of Kazari Kannagi mirrors this particular view of romance, with advice like ‘girls are always waiting for boys to take the initiative’, or ideas such as inviting Rikka on a date to create a more romantic mood feeding this relatively narrow, and idealised view of romance.
But as we already know from the previous season, Rikka is far from ‘normal’, and her interactions with Yuuta are largely done through the prism of her Chuunibyou persona. Even during their date in episode two Rikka maintains her Chuunibyou personality as she has done throughout the first, and now this second series. If anything it would like seem weird for Rikka to interact with Yuuta in any other fashion as we the audience are now used to her random and bizarre utterances. Indeed, Yuuta can perfectly counteract anything she says, and is even willing to slip back into the persona of The Dark Flame Master when addressing Rikka, especially when it involves something particularly important. The freedom that they both show in their interactions with the other, especially regarding Yuuta and his Chuunibyou personality demonstrates how close their relationship is, even though it lacks the elements of a stereotypical romance. Yuuta recognises this, and understands that regardless of what Nibutani says, their relationship has to take its own course, and no amount of love advice can change that fact.
This doesn’t mean that Rikka isn’t romantically interested in Yuuta, something that is quite obvious when we see her embarrassed side-glances, and various utterances to do with their relationship. After all, underneath her Chuunibyou persona Rikka is still a teenage girl in the same way that Yuuta is also a teenage boy. Their personas cover their embarrassment and allow them to interact in a relatively normal manner, thus hiding the awkward moments behind the screen of the imagination. Rikka says as much herself when she admits that while they are lovers she still doesn’t understand what it means to be lovers, or how to act like lovers. Obviously her years of escaping into imaginary worlds to escape from the suffering, loneliness and sadness that the sudden death of her father brought about have had an impact on how she interacts with others. But, this particular statement also suggests that there cannot be one single way of interacting with loved ones, or being in a romantic relationship, even when there are idealised versions of them floating around.
Arguably it is the introduction of Satone Shichimiya, aka, ‘Sophia Ring SP Saturn VII’ that shows us how much Rikka cares for Yuuta and how easily she gets jealous at the idea of other girls interacting with on a more intimate level. We also have Yuuta’s dream at the beginning of episode three with Rikka coming to wake him up in the morning completely naked. Because underneath the good intentions and the realisation that their relationship is a slightly more complicated and complex one than normal, both Rikka and Yuuta must still have certain desires locked away inside. The arrival of Sophia-chan also demonstrates how complicated relationships can be, especially those involving Chuunibyou, and how easy it is to hide your feelings behind a fantasy persona and world. We know that Rikka loves Yuuta, and her jealousy is evident as Sophia grows closer to Yuuta throughout episode three. Another facet to this is found in Sophia’s own feelings, kept hidden behind her Sophia persona, although they have already shown themselves in her interaction with Yuuta towards the end of the episode.
What we see in Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai then is how complicated relationships are, and how easy it can be to concentrate everything into simple advice that fails to take into account the numerous other circumstances surrounding any given relationship, romantic or otherwise. Yuuta and Rikka are certainly in love with one another, but they hide their feelings, having no real understanding, or experience of romance, partly because of their Chuunibyou personalities, but also because they are teenagers. Sophia-chan adds another element to this particular romance, as she seems to be in love with Yuuta, but as with Rikka hides behind her other personality instead of confronting these feelings head on. Through all of this we have Nibutani who has her own, conventional views on romance and how it should proceed, running counter to the reality before her eyes. What is particularly interesting is how easily the student body and teachers accept Chuunibyou, even though they look very embarrassing and run counter to the accepted ways of behaving for a teenager. This follows on from last season’s final episode when the narrator talks about Chuunibyou merely being another way to describe the imagination. Yes it complicates matters such as romance, and general social interaction, but its still a part of growing up, and perhaps even an aspect of adulthood. It is not something to be pushed to one side or looked down upon, no mater how odd it may seem.