Endless Eighth (but not really)
For the vast majority of the series, Chuu2 was a happy-go-lucky, feel-good anime about youngsters rebelling against social norms and expressing their individuality in an entertaining fashion. And it did this with excellent visuals, enjoyable fight scenes, and fantastic character interactions.
Yeah, there was drama thrown in every now and then to make it look deep, but we all knew what we were watching was anything but.
Vapid, stupid, brainless, and entirely lovable. I ate it up and it’s safe to say many of you did too.
But Chuu2 strayed from this formula for a bit, starting at the end of episode 10. It switched its tone from “sugoi kawaii desu” to “introspective”. And when that happens, it’s not something you can easily pedal back from.
Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved the change in tone. It made me more invested in the characters than I was before, and I was earnestly hoping that Chuu2 could pull off something interesting. But Chuu2 couldn’t hack it, and that’s why we’re here.
How the series ended
Look Ma, I’m an anime blogger now! (Episode 12 recap)
Here’s what happened, in case your memory’s fucked more than your average child prostitute:
Yuuta goes to school and discovers no one knows where Rikka is. Heading over to the club room, he meets up with Deko who decided to become a normal schoolgirl.
They walk on over to the clubroom and meet up with Kumin, who’s playing the role of Rikka in a stupid anime attempt to get Yuuta to renounce his straight-man ways.
After that fails, Slutmeat (honestly, the best character in the show) lays a decent “so, like, we all have eighth-grade syndrome” argument on Yuuta.
Recoiling from the shock of getting served, Yuuta goes back home and learns that Rikka moved out without him knowing.
This results in your typical “overreact and then ride to your lover on a bike, regardless of how far away they are” shit that romcom protagonists pull in every fucking series ever.
He then meets up with Rikka, showing her the “Unseen Horizon”…
…and then rides off into night with Rikka by his side.
Cute, right? Heh, sure. We’ll be coming back to this.
The final message
Here’s the narrator’s speech, which is the final thing we’re left with as Rikka and Yuuta ride into the sun(set), and what we’re supposed to use to determine the “meaning” – or less pretentiously, the moral – of the show.
“Eighth-grade syndrome is embarrassing.”
Anyone would tell you that.
“I don’t want to remember my past.”
“I’d erase it if I could.”
But would the part of you that caused the whole affair really disappear?
The part of you that imagines you’re being watched,
the part that pretends to be a made-up character…
Could that disappear?
Sometimes people say certain things,
imagine a world different from our own,
think of the distant future,
and write epics of love in their minds.
From the moment they’re born to the moment they die,
people will repeat this, time and again,
without any hope of stopping.
Something sad and embarrassing, yet charming.
A disease called self-consciousness.
An unavoidable part of life called being true to yourself.
Indeed, everyone has eighth-grade syndrome all their lives.
But at any rate…
Eighth-grade syndrome is still embarrassing.
gg (yes, gg had a better script here):
People always say they feel awkward about having eighth-grader syndrome.
They say that they don’t want to talk about it, that they want to forget about it for good.
But does that really get rid of our crazy old selves and their wild fantasies…
back when we thought we were special, when we thought something greater watched over us?
People sometimes tell lies, imagine a completely different fantasy world, dream about the distant future,
or invent a lover’s relationship that only exists inside their heads.
This process repeats from the day we are born until the day we die. Forever and ever.
It is depressing.
It is shameful.
But it is dear to us.
It is an illness known as self-consciousness.
It is something we must all face known as “ourselves.”
Indeed, we carry our eighth-grader syndrome throughout all of our lives.
But to be honest, it’s an embarrassing thing to have.
I hate literature analyses, so I’m gonna spare you the line-by-line breakdown, but essentially what this boils down to is:
“Our imaginations can never disappear even though they sometimes result in things which we consider embarrassing.”
That breakdown reads like shit, but you get the gist. However you wanna interpret it, it’s a generic “imagination is good” message.
While that’s fine in itself, and while it’s definitely what I got out of the show from the first ten episodes, I don’t think that’s all Chuu2 could have said here.
Chuu2 was going somewhere once
The end of episode 10, all of episode 11, and part of episode 12 gave a glimpse into a Chuu2 that few people were expecting KyoAni would have the balls to show us. Yes, Chuu2 turned the happy lights off and went into dark mode.
And I don’t mean “dark” in the sense of brooding characters who angst over every little thing they can while the camera spins around a dirty city, screaming “this is so fucking deep”.
No, I mean the show narrows its vision and starts to point toward a little thing called “the real world”.
In the real world, you have to grow up.
Now, I’m not saying that’s the show’s only message. To do so would be forgetting everything that happened up until this point, and I don’t feel those first ten episodes meant nothing. But for Chuu2 to not even address this aspect of the show in the ending of the series is an absurdly idiotic decision and one that calls into question just why they bothered to show us these scenes in the first place.
It’s the same as writing a research paper and then neglecting to include any mention of your results in the conclusion. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
Why this was a poor ending
Contrive me a plot
Bitching about plot holes in anime is like bitching that water is wet. But goddamn do I hate how wet it is.
Rikka moving into her grandparents’ house without letting anyone know is probably the biggest issue I had with this episode’s plot.
Why does Rikka have to move away? Her mother just moved into the apartment with her, and she has a support base of people at the school. Fuck, she has a boyfriend who was the primary factor behind her “recovery”. Leaving this all behind, Rikka moves in with her grandparents and prepares to attend another school, all without telling anyone.
Why? The anime does not offer a single valid reason for this to happen. It’s drama for the sake of having drama. It’s complete bullshit and bad writing even by KyoAni’s standards.
And hold up. Why the fuck is Kumin hanging out on the side of a road at night? What, she just knew that Yuuta was gonna be riding his bike over to Rikka’s? And how exactly does she know Rikka’s entire backstory?
You have to make some really weird leaps for this to make any sense. Yeah, I get it, this is anime. I’ll stop.
But seriously, why was she hanging out by the road? Shit’s dangerous.
Resolution? Is that the name of a band?
Let’s take a look at the final scene.
Here we see Yuuta and Rikka riding off into the sunset, and with this the anime supposedly ends on a good note.
But I say “What good note?” What exactly has been resolved? So Yuuta takes Rikka back to his place, they hook up, and then… Well, uhh… Rikka goes back to her grandparents’ house, forgets about her friends and her lover, and adjusts to life in a new school.
How the fuck can this end well at all? What, you think Rikka’s mother is going to move them back into the apartment above Yuuta’s? That the transfer paperwork is gonna get canceled? That Rikka’s mother is going to rearrange her whole life again just so that Rikka can lock lips with her high school fuckbuddy? She obviously didn’t think much of Rikka’s social life when they moved in the first place.
There’s no reason at all to think everyone’s lives will be filled with sunshine and rainbows as the credits roll.
This is a resolution-less ending that couldn’t leave anyone happy. There’s nothing satisfying about imagining what comes next.
I’d compare this to one of the old Batman episodes where the episode ends with Batman being trapped in some ridiculous situation (like being locked in a steel cage and thrown into an ocean to be eaten by sharks), but instead of ending the episode, that was the series end. And instead of ending on a suspenseful note, there are clouds with smiley faces flying about in the distance and you get a laugh track.
I want to make this absolutely clear for the people who still don’t get it: the ending did not portray any of the more serious aspects it showed us in the past few episodes, nor did it properly handle making a good ending. By both standards, it was ineffective in its goal of providing a satisfactory conclusion to the series.
What a better ending would have been
You want a happy ending? Throw in something – anything – that would lead a reasonable viewer to conclude this story ends well. One frame of “transfer request: canceled” would be the easy mode method, and probably acceptable to most viewers.
I would much prefer something more concrete than that, something which integrates the negative aspects of what happened after Rikka faced the facts. All in all, I don’t want what Chuu2 started going for to be completely ignored.
Throw in a line to the narrator’s moralistic ramblings at the end — have him tell us that embracing reality may be difficult but is something that we have to do. Make your conclusion encompass everything that you’ve fucking shown us and then give us a knowing wink that lets us know it’s all good. That’s how you make an ending that’s satisfactory.
But you know what? I would have loved a darker ending — one where Chuu2 threw it in our face that reality can suck.
Hammer it in that Rikka’s severely depressed from having lost every bit of moral support she ever had (her sister, Yuuta, and her friends). Let Yuuta agonize over completely fucking up his relationship with Rikka in the aim of being a “nice guy”. Show the club members drift apart from one another now that they don’t have an excuse to meet anymore.
In essence, give us something with impact. Something that makes us think “Yes, this show was special. It did something meaningful and I’m glad I watched it.”
I would have loved for this series to take a gamble on the ending. Instead, it folded before it even had a full hand.
Who’s to blame?
While I’d like to say “We’re all to blame!” that’s simply not true. Japan doesn’t give a damn about what anyone whose race isn’t their own thinks. Rather, we should blame the Japanese otaku. Those needy NEETy fuck-ups whose desires dictate the direction of anime. The idiots who throw money hand over fist at tripe like Girls und Panzer, causing it to rocket to the top of sales charts. We can blame them.
They’re the primary consumers of anime, and it’s to their beat that KyoAni marches. Sure, KyoAni could throw in a satisfying and sobering conclusion, but if the otaku saw the characters acting human… well they might not want their images enshrined in gaudy plastic to be displayed in glass cases as trophies of virginity.
Maybe some of you don’t remember the backlash that A-1 got when it came out that Nagi of Kannagi wasn’t actually a virgin, but I’m sure KyoAni does. And it’s likely for this reason that the ending Chuu2 should have had never materialized. Gotta minimize that risk of failing when you’re in a hit-driven business, after all.
Now, I’m obligated to mention that we can only blame the NEETs for Chuu2 not ending on a darker note. It’s completely KyoAni’s fault for making their “good ending” so… not. Maybe KyoAni didn’t want the good end to be all smiles, and that’s fine. But dammit, that doesn’t excuse the half-assed, resolutionless attempt we got.
Chuunibyou’s ending completely ignored the somber developments of its prior episodes, leading to a bland, unsatisfying conclusion for anyone who was conscious throughout the series. By avoiding offense on the part of slobbering Japanese otaku, its resulting ending felt forced, awkward, and entirely noncomprehensive. It was a slap in the face to anyone who legitimately enjoyed the show and a good example of how pandering to trash can result in just that.