Jurai Ando has a major case of chunibyo. Most readers of this blog will probably know what that means, but for the benefit of newcomers to anime, he is obsessed with fantasy-based fiction and anime, and pretends to have superpowers himself, much to the annoyance of the other members of the Senko High School Literature Club. One day, all the members of the club suddenly develop real superpowers, for reasons that are never explained in the anime. This is Ando’s dream come true, although his own power is apparently useless, a small dark flame that appears in the palm of his hand. But he now has a real power, so he’s happy. Much humour throughout the series comes from the other club members making fun of his lame power, but I found this a very refreshing change from the usual nerd-gets-powers genre of anime. Instead, Ando has to earn the respect of his friends by showing them what a decent guy he is, and their gradual realisation that there is more to him than his chunibyo silliness is the main theme of the series. This being an anime, the other club members are of course all female and all fall in love with him.
Tomoyo Kanzaki will probably be the fan’s favourite, and the series concentrates a little more on her than the other girls. In fact, I’ll talk about the other characters in what I felt was their order of importance in the series, although they all get their moments. Tomoyo’s power allows her to slow down or stop time. However, the powers aren’t generally the focus of the series, and at times it almost feels like the fantasy element has been thrown in to satisfy a certain demographic, while the writer is really interested in examining teenage issues. That’s what the series does best. Tomoyo has ambitions to be a writer, something she is keeping a secret from the rest of the group. Ando finds out about it and tries to help her, and does that in such a caring and supportive way that Tomoyo starts to develop feelings for him, from a starting point of getting annoyed with him all the time, so she’s very much the tsundere girl of the group. Later in the series we also discover that she has a hidden connection with Ando’s past, which is a great storyline and I won’t spoil it here.
Getting almost equal focus during the series is Hatoko Kushikawa, who has known Ando since they were little. Her power is the manipulation of the elements, but I’m not interested in that stuff. It’s the emotional journeys that make these characters come to life, and Hatoko has the most emotional journey of all the girls. She has played along with Ando’s chunibyo silliness for years because she loves him, but that has led to her feeling desperately frustrated at her constant lack of understanding of what on Earth he is going on about most of the time, and her inability to connect with him on any kind of a meaningful level. In a stunningly dramatic episode all the years of frustration come to a head and she pours out her feelings in a huge rant at Ando, before running away. In that moment all the silliness of the series fades away and things get very real.
Sayumi Takanashi is probably the next most important character, the club president and high-flying student, who predictably also develops feelings for Ando. She made little impression on me, although her power is probably the most interesting one, if a little vague: the ability to return something to its former state.
Much more entertaining is Chifuyu Himeki. She is younger than the others, and shouldn’t even be in the same school, but gets away with hanging around at the club because she is the niece of the club advisor. Her special power is the creation of matter, and very handily she can teleport wherever she wants to go in an instant. The writer was definitely going for the cuteness thing with Chifuyu, and she gets one of the most interesting storylines, her first crush. She struggles to understand her feelings, when she gets her first ever flutterings of the heart when she looks at Ando or even thinks about him, and importantly the series explores what that means for her friendship with her best friend “Cookie” (Madoka Kuki), to whom she turns for advice. Cookie worries that she will lose her friend, and there is a hugely entertaining episode where Cookie tries to find ways to make Chifuyu see that the object of her affections is really a jerk, while failing at every step because Ando is actually a decent guy. It all ends with an adorable heart-to-heart between Ando and Cookie, with Ando opening up to her about his worries for the future, and how Chifuyu will cope when the older members of the group leave school and she is left behind. She will need her best friend, and he wants to make sure Cookie will always be there for her. This kind of storyline illustrates how Ando’s heart is in the right place, and it’s far easier to believe in these kinds of harem anime setups when the main character shows himself to be so worthy of the affections of the girls. So many series get that wrong and show all the girls inexplicably falling for a jerk, but this is so much better than that.
Towards the end of the series another group of characters are brought into the mix as potential enemies, and there is more emphasis on the fantasy elements for a while, with one episode in particular hardly featuring the Lit Club characters at all. I’m sure plenty of viewers will have enjoyed all that, but for me it was an unwelcome distraction from all the emotional journeys, and didn’t really amount to much anyway. A lot of it felt like it was building up to a bigger storyline that would presumably have come to fruition in a second season, but unfortunately we don’t have one of those. That’s a shame, because the 12 episodes flew by and I really wanted to see more of these characters. As per usual, the story continues in the light novels and manga. Being an anime fan often feels like a frustrating journey through unfinished stories, but I suppose that’s a good reflection of life in general: unfinished business… RP