Anime Review #77: Chuunibyou – Take On Me!

Ah, good old Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai (Love, Chuunibyou, And Other Delusions). After Clannad came out some six years prior, this was Kyoto Animation’s second throw at the high school romance subgenre. Needless to say, when I watched it, I was less than enthralled. Expectations ended up lower than initially anticipated, as schizophrenic characters and their made-up lores attempted to intertwine themselves with a story of a young boy trying to deny himself, who eventually finds romance with one of the former. You know, the way all anime romances start off? Were it not for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya or Guilty Crown (AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH) this might have become one of the most expectationally bad series that I ever encountered in 2019. All that said, what was my reaction like after finding out about its follow-up movie Chuunibyou – Take On Me? Nothing more than a combination of professional pushing-it-off across my backlog, of course – which ended last summer when I finally amassed the energy to watch it.

CHUUNIBYOU – TAKE ON ME

Schizophrenic anime girls going on the greatest escape ever

Chuunibyou – Take On Me is the second film from the franchise, but the first with an original storyline; the first, titled Chuunibyou: Rikka Version from 2013, is nothing more than a retelling of the first season from Rikka’s point of view. Released on the Feast of the Epiphany in 2018, after five months of production by the KyoAni staff, led once more by Tatsuya Ishihara; a name you might recognize from his directorial role in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, which I covered a few weeks prior. This is in fact his fourth time directing a movie, having previously handled two movies from the Hibike! Euphonium franchise. After a modest initial run in Japanese theatres, it premiered at various film festivals such as the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Australian anime convention, the Madman Anime Festival, later that year, before entering its DVD phase.

The series follows itself up from the end of the second season, where Yuuta and Rikka continue to flip-flop between their relationship statuses and how to move forward with it; on top of that, characters such as the energetic Shichimiya Satone make their appearance once more, thereby bringing a full circle to the main characters’ story.

PLOT

Yuuta Togashi, Rikka Takanashi, Kumin Tsuyuri, best girl Nibutani Shinka and Sanae Dekkomori are all in their final years of high school, and on top of currently making plans on how to manage their post-secondary lifestyle, Yuuta and Rikka are at a standstill regarding their relationship. Sure enough, they’re co-habiting with each other, living as roomates rather than lovers and attempting to balance their different viewpoints and priorities together, while the other members of their friend circle attempt to convince them to definitively assert their romance. Initially, Yuuta is hesitant, though he does intend to attend the same college with her, but a visit from Rikka’s sister, Touka, spurs him into action, as she reveals that she is planning to move to Italy to pursue a cooking apprenticeship, and in the process, take Rikka with her, an act which would permanently separate the two of them from each other. After a discussion on what to do, with fellow chuunibyou Shichimiya Satone overseeing, they make the decision to run away from home and start a new life together, to avoid Touka’s threats.

Rikka Takanashi’s Chuunibyou Cell, not coming to a video game console near you any time soon.

The following morning, with Nibutani, Kumin and Dekkomori providing cover, Yuuta and Rikka embark on their great escape to a new life, with only Rikka’s ever-so special “muh Tyrant’s Eye”, Yuuta’s smarts and a suitcase of necessities in their hands. However, as they arrive in Kyoto, Touka, back home, exposes their plan having recorded their meeting from the previous night, and threatens to upload two pictures to the Internet: one of Nibutani’s alter-ego, “Mori Summer”, and another of Dekkomori and her in a compromisingly gay position if the two of them aren’t brought back home. Catching up to them at the Kyoto Tower where the two of them sightseeing, and learning of the expose, they narrowly escape them much to Dekkomori and Nibutani’s chagrin. At a diner in Kobe, Yuuta confronts Touka who, on top of stalking them via a phone-based GPS, reveals that her motive for bringing Rikka to live with her is to de-convert her from her delusional ways, and vows to make that happen. Despite that, she allows Rikka and Yuuta to continue their travels, arriving in Tokyo where they plan to rendezvous with Rikka’s mother up north in Hokkaido.

After successfully avoiding another confrontation with their clumsy pursuants, they arrive in the chilly Hokkaido, where for the first time in a while the two contemplate the status of their relationship – Yuuta, to convince Rikka of how serious he is, gifts her with a silver butterfly-cross ring. He reveals his intention to talk with Rikka’s mother and obtain approval for their being-together, and start anew; but alas, she is at another city to which they take another train towards. Unfortunately, Rikka is too ashamed to admit her feelings, under the guise that she would “lose her powers” and fall back to her mundane, non-escapist world that is reality. Unable to come to terms with that, she leaves him one night to contemplate her own insecurities. She meets with her mother, where she details her worries about Yuuta and what it would mean for her chuunibyou days, who then relays it to him when he arrives.

The two reunite with each other at a bridge, joined with the four other girls, including Nibutani and Dekkomori who are no longer interested in chasing them, and witness Rikka’s identity crisis as a cause of her romantic dilemma. She is prepared to abandon it with Shichimiya’s help, but Kumin encourages her to talk with Yuuta about her dilemma, and propose a solution rather than running away from it. Reuniting with Yuuta, thanks to Nibutani’s informing, they route themselves back home on a ferry. There they finally confess their love for each other, with Yuuta assuring her that no matter what – even if she does mature or become different than the one he fell in love with all those years ago, his love for her won’t change. With that they finally share their first kiss, make their coupling official, and are last seen witnessing Touka’s marriage in Italy, where they realize there was no plan to separate Yuuta and Rikka at all. It was all just in their heads. And thus, everyone lived happily ever after.

I feel like I’ve seen this scene more than once. Oh yeah, it’s just like when they did the exact same thing under the bridge.

WHAT I LIKED

  • One of the best parts of this movie was that Yuuta and Rikka’s relationship gets major screen-time in this film, and it serves as the only thing the story focuses on. Given how in the second season their romance was pretty much stand-stilled, it was left to this movie to continue that aspect and they accomplished it in a mature and respective way. The two of them slowly begin to increase in their responsibilities towards each other, manage their own life choices, and it’s a far cry from the hit-and-run atmosphere from the episodes. Parts where they get advice from unlikely sources, Yuuta from Rikka’s mother who signs off her approval of his being together with her daughter, and Kumin, the group sleepyhead, encouraging Rikka to choose her own destiny, best demonstrated this theme.
  • They significantly cut down on the amount of Rikka and company’s fantastical “battle” scenes, limiting it to only one brief moment in the Kobe Tower when Dekkomori confronts the duo attempting to get them back so as to not suffer Touka’s wrath. Instead they’re replaced with tactical, Splinter Cell style stealth sequences where the main duo outsmarts their friends-turned-captors. I think this is a step forward for the franchise as it does highlight one major storytelling facet in Rikka’s coming-of-age moment.
  • Nibutani and Dekkomori’s various scenes where they’re spatting with each other, usually over a lunch or two, were quite insatiable and a friendly addition to the flick. It not only highlights their comedic placement but cemented my admiration for the former’s dank way of handling the problems of the latter.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

  • The biggest gripe I had with this film was… despite the linear story, there were so many circumstances that didn’t make sense. For example:
    • Why did Touka have to conceal her true intentions behind an “I’m taking Rikka away from you forever” shtick? Better yet, how come she just let the two of them go after literally cornering them in a restaurant if her intention was to get them back (which means Nibutani and Dekkomori just wasted their time)?
    • How come Yuuta’s parents weren’t informed as to their son’s sudden disappearance?
    • Where were the police when all this was happening – and more over, wouldn’t the smart thing have been for Nibutani and Dekkomori have been to call the police and tell them about the situation rather than chase them across multiple prefectures?
    • Who told Nibutani and Dekkomori they could cease their pursuit of Rikka and Yuuta, and if so, when? It’s never explained or shown which left quite a gap from when we last saw them in the hotel to their eventual final meeting.
    • What will Yuuta and Rikka do next after this to ensure that the two of them go to the same college as was proposed at the beginning?
  • Makoto’s random appearance during the train scene preceding Rikka’s disappearance was useless and contributed nothing essential. Same can be said largely for Kumin’s performance – the least that could have been done was have her work with Nibutani and Dekkomori but instead she stays behind with Shichimiya to do – you guessed it – sleep around.
  • For some reason Yuuta has a weird fixation with depicting God as some kind of viking-like figure whose conscience, as shown in the scene where they’re at the castle-like hotel or asleep on the train, is as fruity as that of heresiarch and former Catholic priest Martin Luther: “Love God and sin boldly.” Which about makes sense as “Be comitted to veganism and eat as much KFC as you please.”
  • In contrast, Rikka openly professes that she’s an atheist; at least she’s not as rabid or deluded as most terminally online ones. Just throwing that in for your consideration.
  • By the way, what the heck does “Take On Me” in the title stand for? It’s so vague and the meaning could take ambiguous terms. I believe that it has something to do with Rikka secretly wanting Yuuta to accept her for who she is, but this isn’t explained well. Something like “Love Journey” or “Escape To Romance” would have made it easier to anticipate what the film could be about.

CHARACTERS

Despite the floppy story elements, I do appreciate a flick that can tell a lesson within a story – and Take On Me succeeds at that. Throughout their journey Yuuta and Rikka’s fondness shows signs of new life, which concludes in them proclaiming their admiration for each other, in part due to their escapist personas; a firm loyalty and faithfulness to each other, sticking to each other’s side and working in tandem to stay within reach and protect the other from threats, such as in turning off Rikka’s phone (so Touka can’t locate her) or trolling Nibutani at the Tokyo airport; a strong trust in each other and their willingness to listen and dialogue. The fact that they are willing to abandon everything to prove to Touka how much they take their relationship seriously, even to brave living on a suitcase rather than be separated, is reminiscent of what St. Francis De Sales describes what true love, especially that in marriage is: a mortification of sorts; the film also succeeds in highlighting some of the signs he marked as indicative of true love like:

  • “The first effect of this love is the indissoluble union of your hearts.”
  • “The second effect of this love should be an inviolable fidelity to one another.”
  • “No failings or infirmities, bodily or mental, in your wife should ever excite any kind of dislike in you, but rather a loving, tender compassion”
  • “If you, husbands, would have your wives faithful, be it yours to set them the example.”

Because of this, not only do the characters enrich the movie, and the overall franchise’s quality, but also, their own expands as well. Slowly but surely they shed the youthful conceptions of life they had, and grow in maturity in view of the joyful moments, bright optimism in tandem with the sacrifices, hardships and the burdens that transpire in the story. While I’m not the first to say that there are better, more heartwarming examples of romantic development in anime, for this film’s case, it works. Now the Chuunibyou franchise can end on a positive note with them resolving to be together and commit themselves to one another, even if they should change out of their phase in the near future.

MUSIC

Like its parent series, the music was basically average. Very ambient, boppity at times, such as the chase scenes in Kobe and Tokyo, and overall not too fancy; sappy at best, if I were to word it. Even when I watched the two seasons, the music was hardly engaging, way too monotonic in musical diversity, and didn’t balance well with the characters’ dialogue; it barely holds a candle compared to the other musical pieces composed at KyoAni, such those from shows like Lucky Star, Hyouka or K-On. Though to its credit it did setup an ambience fitting for romance, it monotonous existence throughout just protruded an unbalanced relationship with the dialogue. Fortunately, the movie introduces us to three vocal singles by ZAQ: introductory song Journey, insert song Take On Me (when they’re travelling across Japan) and ending song Kokoro No Namae. Needless to say, I felt like I was listening to a Christmas pop song out of season just by the bashful opening, electronic melody of the second and the melodramatic tone of the final song. By the end of it all I was asking myself “How do people fall in love with a series whose music lacked any vigor to it?”

FAVOURITES

Favourite scene: After failing the second time at retrieving Yuuta and Rikka in Tokyo, Nibutani and Dekkomori are seen in a scrumptious sushi bar to drown out their worries, turning their lunch into a punishment game where the loser pays. The tricksy results, followed by the two of them fighting and Touka’s sudden appearance made this scene work.

Seriously, I really love this girl. There is no one more gangster than her in this whole series.

Favourite quote: Once more referring to Nibutani, who I still decree as the greatest anime girl from this series, second-best KyoAni girl behind Hyouka‘s best (and only real) waifu Chitanda Eru, and probably ranked somewhere in the top ten overall, and her initial exchange with Dekkomori:

Nibutani: I did it. After all this, I finally made my dream come true. Three years of planning, sweat… all those moments campaigning, and I finally reached school council president! Farewell to my dark middle school days, and all the cringe I’ve done. Hello, ideal high school life! Nibutani Shinka is-

Dekkomori: Oy! Get off my chair, it’s mine homie!

Nibutani: What? Why are you here?

Dekkomori: Are you dense? I, the true school council president, have work to do over spring break. Now do me a favour and get some tea, Vice President – or should I say, rotting fake Mori Summer… If you don’t, I’ll upload this embarrassing monologue of yours online!!

Nibutani: Jeez, how did SHE steal my hopes and dreams?

Dekkomori trolls Nibutani thrice in the span of a minute and half

CONCLUSION

In contrast to the light and imaginatively expansive story of Chuunibyou‘s two seasons, if not for the lack of originality engrossed within it, Take On Me felt like an upgrade in spite of its lackluster music and character roll. The story is more refined, the relationship is progressive and displays growth, the Nibutani/Dekkomori slapstick is cartoony, and the adventure has a free-spirited feel to it, which touches the heart of any youngster who loves travelling and experiencing the unknown. Beyond that, there’s nothing I can really say about it. It’s at best a satisfying conclusion to an otherwise average series, one that lacks anything special or indicatively memorable regardless.

SCORE: 7.2/10

It’s the end of the road for this oft-overrated KyoAni production, thank God.

3 thoughts on “Anime Review #77: Chuunibyou – Take On Me!

  1. Hey, thanks for the review, because I wasn’t about to watch either the second season or this film. It’s nice that the leads had some character growth, though. I still enjoyed the first season well enough, but it didn’t leave me wanting more, especially when the ending of “Yuuta and Rikka end up together” is inevitable anyway. Though I guess that’s true of just about all these romantic comedies (and for those that it’s not true of, they really need a good twist to make that kind of sour or bittersweet ending work for me anyway.)

    It also bothers me a bit when the music in an anime comes off as an afterthought. I guess I can’t expect a top OST from every series, but some of my favorites have excellent soundtracks to match.

    Liked by 1 person

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