The first season of Kyoto Animation's Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai was a pleasant surprise that came out of left field, genuinely surprising me with likable characters and a shockingly poignant plot. Considering the last good thing to come out of them prior was The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, it was a welcome return to form for the studio, who had really been going downhill in my personal opinion, with really awful series like Nichijou. They kept on making those types of shows, though, what with the offensively bad Tamako Market, idiotic Free!, and flat-out dull Beyond The Boundary. I was hoping for a post-Christmas miracle with the return of Rikka and company.
What I got, from this first episode at least, was one of the most egregiously insubstantial first episodes I've seen in quite some time.
We kick things off with the sudden realization that Yuuta and Rikka, the charming protagonists of the last season, are now in a relationship and living together alone. There's a little explanation that barely explains anything, before we're whisked away to high school. Old friends get reintroduced, and old rivalries rekindled. Only, this time around, characters are so significantly different without any context or world-building, it feels like we're missing a few episodes that were supposed to explain this shit. Rambunctious token loli Dekomori now has a presentable personality she wears in front of the whole school, now inexplicably curvy and black-haired Nibutani is less of a jerk, and Tsuyuri is... well, she's pretty much the same, other than getting whacked on the head several times in this episode for comedic effect. Spoiler alert: it's never really funny.
Which can be said for the rest of this pitiful first episode, in which I only laughed about once, and even then, it was more of a singular laugh than genuine laughter. The clever, witty dialogue and instantly engaging character dynamics are a thing of the past, if this season opener is any indication, replaced by canned laughs revolving around lazy slapstick and tired sex gags. Yep, they start implementing the latter more heavily in the first episode alone, as if the only way KyoAni knows how to show maturation into high school age is by demonstrating that they, in fact, have hormones. "Hey guys, look, these characters are sexually maturing and are embarrassed by it! Isn't that so funny?!" To which I would flatly answer... no, because it's been done before, and done better. Way, way better.
So has everything else on display here. The imaginary fight sequence in this episode is tepid and dull, flattened by lack of explanation as to why Rikka's pals join in her squabble with her sister, which up until this point was basically a 1v1 affair. Slice-of-life moments can barely be called that, as they are unrealistic and moronically dull, to the point where talking a deaf stranger from behind in real life might be a little more stimulating. Everything about Chu-2 Ren's first episode, really, is uninspired and boring, strictly bottom-of-the-barrel crap from such a talented studio. Hard to believe they once gave us gems like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Lucky Star, and, oh yeah, the first season of Chu-2.
This would be normally be where I'd praise KyoAni's animation and music and every other production aspect, but honestly? I can't do that with a good conscience anymore. Michael Bay movies look and sound good, but they're still fucking terrible pieces of cinematic roadkill. And while roadkill might be harsh, I find it hard to wrack my brain for anything better to call this first episode. It's beautiful, it sounds great, so on, so forth, but ultimately, the rest of it is still awful. Also, the ending credit sequence includes the unwelcome addition of partial nudity and full-on loli "tits", which is just outright uncalled for. So, yeah. This pretty much like that Bodies exhibit. Y'know, the one with skinned corpses on display? It's cool-looking, but still dead as a door nail.
And "dead" is what it looks like Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai Ren is going to be, if this uninspired tripe keeps up. Characters I used to love I now hate, a premise I found intriguing is now being replaced with an utterly shit one, and KyoAni is continuing its trend of creating terrible shows for braindead fans who will lap up anything, so long as it looks pretty and has a cast of "quirky" characters. From the same tired camera angles they use for every show, to the same muted comedy, this almost feels like somebody trying hard to make a KyoAni show, but failing miserably. Alas, that's not the case, and so with a heavy heart, I have to say that this is one of the most disappointing debuts in quite some time. Even that, however, might be too kind.
This is the kind of moeblob runoff that has driven the anime industry into the ground, due largely in part to KyoAni's popularity. Perhaps it's high time somebody put them out of their misery, if this show doesn't improve. "Vanishment, this world," indeed.