I tried to fit this all in a paragraph for my highlights of the week. I couldn’t do it. The pain of watching good cartoons is real, guys. I’ll try and keep it as short as I can.
You have to give Trigger some credit: they may not have the budget to make this show super pretty or cool to watch all the time, but they picked an adaptation that has some real gems hidden inside. Truly, Inou Battle has a surprisingly good grip on the realism of human relationships and conversations. It shows up all the time in little lines that capture true moments, but is featured best in Andou’s relationship with Tomoyo to this point and, now, with Hatoko.
I mean, seriously, guys! This is a freaking light novel adaptation that acts like it actually understands how human beings interact and exist in relationship to each other. Andou, despite being a chunnibyou, has a beautiful sensitivity to the feelings of others and just enough forwardness to not beat around the push like a normal harem protagonist would. That’s not to say he’s tactless or perfect, but that he has a human balance of understanding and obliviousness.
This crops up first in Andou noticing and wanting to talk to Tomoyo about her participation in the literature club’s activity for the day. He takes the information he knows about her already, and asks to talk to her. Now, the way he perfectly analyzes her reservations about writing with the club struck me as a little too convenient, but it’s not inconceivable that he would come to the conclusion he did. The more important thing is that he remembered. In trainings that teach people how to be good listeners, one of the things they often tell you is to remember things about the other person and bring them up later. It shows that you’ve really, actually invested in that person.
I don’t think its a coincidence that Andou lapses into his chunni voice as he compliments Tomoyo after her admirable determination not to use her lack of “talent” (I think skill might be a better translation for the situation)—despite his directness sometimes, he still is using the chunni persona to hide somethings, and it seems confessing the significance of the impression Tomoyo is making on him as she struggles with her dreams is a little too much for him. It’s really smart that this particular hint of hiding things crops up in this episode, because it’s about to break open.
As Inou Battle nails the exchange between one person busy texting (super short answers) and another trying to have an actual conversation (repeated rephrased questions), Andou says the same insensitive thing to Hatoko that he said in the classroom: “You wouldn’t understand.” And she snaps.
It’s a chilling, stunning, and sad rant that Hatoko launches into as she deconstructs piece after piece after piece after piece of Andou’s chunni habits and sayings. As Andou stands, stunned, Hatoko reveals just how much she remembers of everything he’s told her and just how far away that mass of nonsensical imagination has made her feel from him. You want to know what Inou Battle really thinks about chunnibyou? There’s your answer. It’s a game that distances people from you because they can’t understand what’s going on in your head. It’s layers and layers of pretending that makes people doubt that they really know you at all.
And it’s not funny.
But Andou doesn’t really understand himself why Hatoko was so upset. It takes an outsider to tell him just how strange and almost dysfunctional their relationship has been. Yes, Hatoko has been bearing the stress of the relationship on her own while Andou projects his own perception of who she is onto her. And while I usually hate it when anime makes the self-satisfied joke, “This isn’t manga or anime,” when a show like Inou Battle, which has been so good about portraying realistic human relationships, says it…I buy it. It’s like the show is waving a flag in front of the audience, saying, “Hey! This is an anime, but what we’re talking about here is real.”
Andou’s phone call with Tomoyo is excellent, too—and the fact that she calls him back after he hangs up on her was perfect. Of course she would! That’s the boy she likes calling her about one of her close friend’s locations! And when she shows up, she pushes him enough to reveal his own feelings about his relationship with Hatoko. Turns out, Andou might have been just as hurt by Hatoko’s lack of understanding as she was by not understanding him. Which I totally get! When you like something, or find it cool, or are impacted by something, you want to share it with the people you’re close to. And when they don’t appreciate it the way you do, it hurts.
Fortunately, Tomoyo’s there to keep Andou from completely collapsing. She speaks his language, the chunnibyou name that indicates her acceptance of him, and picks him back up.
For all this, I don’t really put a whole lot of stock in the eyepatch stranger’s explanation to Hatoko about chunni’s both needing to be understood and not needing to be understood. I think it’s actually about acceptance, which the stranger alludes to, but never really states. And the episode ends with a kidnapping, but really that’s the least interesting bit of everything that happened.
Best episode of the season for this show; looking forward to next week.