Chuunibyo starts as a strange, uncomfortable slice of life comedy, but slowly turns into something so much more than that. One girl’s “awkward stage” (chuunibyo) quickly becomes her way of accepting the wounds of her past. Watching these truths reveal themselves turned this quirky comedy into a wonderful coming-of-age drama. And, by the end, I was all in.
Rikka Takanashi has no friends because she is submerged in an imaginary world of dark spells, wizards, magical battles, and evil organizations. It is only when she meets other people who had have similar delusions that she finally starts to connect with people and share her ultimate goal: to find the invisible boundary lines, an alternate dimension, where she can complete her mission.
Throughout the course of the show, it is revealed that Rikka’s chuunibyo is a coping mechanism. Her chuunibyo hides her father’s sudden death. Her eyepatch aids in her isolation from reality. She is searching for the invisible boundary lines to get the chance she never had to say goodbye to her father. She lives in this fantasy world, inspired by Yuta, in order to regain autonomy in her chaotic life. Chuunibyo helps her make sense of it all. It is the ultimate, mystical armor.
I thought this aspect of Chuunibyo was unexpectedly beautiful. The invisible boundary lines— the boats’ vibrant lights reflecting on the water— are the afterlife. Right over the horizon, an eternally unreachable place. Who hasn’t wished to get a final chance of saying goodbye to a loved one? Just one more word or look or embrace? Rikka has this inherently human desire and channels it into a mystical search for the afterlife. It is only through the help of her friends that she made through her chuunibyo that she is able to finally find that dimension and say goodbye. Her chuunibyo wasn’t worthless after all.
The narrator says at the end of the finale that most people are embarrassed by that stage in their life, but does the person made through chuunibyo ever disappear? Is it really such a horrific period of youth? Just like her father’s death, her mother’s cowardice, and her internal struggles, Rikka’s chuunibyo makes her who she is. If chuunibyo is activated by an adolescent’s desire to be special, then overcoming chuunibyo is the self-acceptance young people are yearning for. Yuta, Rikka, and the cast make strides towards that self-acceptance in a very impactful way. Life is hard, especially when you’re young, but it is also rewarding.
I’m glad I watched Chuunibyo. I almost dropped it at first due to its weird premise, touch-and-go comedy, and over-the-top antics. But the finale was so emotionally cathartic that it was worth it. The emotions and experiences laced within this show are very real, even if the characters’ fanciful adventures are not. And, as a bonus, I love all those crazy goobers. Chuunibyo had an amazingly fun and engaging cast. Every character dealt with their chuunibyo in their own way and watching them learn from these similar yet different experiences was incredibly charming. What started as a farfetched comedy ended up becoming a grounded, emotionally resonant show. I love surprises and, in a way, I think I ended up loving Chuunibyo. Dark Flame Master and all.