Sumire MorohoshiRie MurakawaKaori FukuharaSayuri Hara
When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2014: U-W
Also known as: Inou Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2014
Director: Masahiko Otsuka
Original creator: Kota Nozomi
Actor: Haruka Yamazaki, Nanami Yamashita, Nobuhiko Okamoto, Risa Taneda, Saori Hayami, Ayumi Fujimura, Emiri Kato, Kaori Fukuhara, Kaori Nazuka, Masumi Asano, Miyu Takagi, Rie Murakawa, Ryota Takeuchi, Sayuri Hara, Sumire Morohoshi, Takuma Terashima, Yoshimasa Hosoya, Yu Serizawa, Yuichi Iguchi
Keywords: superhero, anime, comedy, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Website category: Anime 2014
Review date: 8 October 2015
Inou Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de
It's all over the place. I'm modestly fond of it anyway, but it's a mess. The show's different elements include:
(a) Ordinary school life. The characters are in the literature club. They do their homework, have romantic misunderstandings and wonder where they'll be in five or ten years' time.
(b) Magical superpowers. This has less effect on the series than you'd think. Sometimes you almost forget that they have them. Very occasionally the spotlight moves on to another superpowered fighting group doing more serious stuff, but this hardly interacts with the main story. Basically it's a high school series, doing high school things.
(c) Chuunibyou. The main character, Jurai Ando, is a fantasist who thinks calling himself Guiltia Sin Jurai sounds awesome. He loves ranting about his dark, forbidden powers. In fact he's a dork. This actually combines very entertainingly with the magical superpowers, since the joke is that Ando's uncontrolled dribble is capable of being true. There's a cool delayed-effect gag in ep.6, in which we have to reevaluate something from ep.3.
(d) Harem comedy and other character-based stories. Ando is the only boy and all the girls will fall in love with him, even if they're still at elementary school.
(e) Pure silliness with no story value, i.e. just a comedy routine to pad out the running time. See the nickname-assigning in ep.2 or the cosplay in ep.4, for instance.
There's good material in all of this, but it's been shoved together without focus or consistency of tone. Sometimes the characters are being taken seriously and work rather well. At other times it's wilfully silly. Ep.2, for instance, has a supporting character thinking she's received a love letter from Ando and glomping on to him so immediately and fervently that the story loses all reality. It's just random goofy comedy... but then her reaction when he explains the truth to her is emotional, up to the point where it becomes goofy comedy again.
Often the show's silliness works, mind you. Ando pretending to be a lolicon in ep.4 to protect Chifuyu is ludicrous and in appalling taste, but also killingly funny.
Over time, though, I became fond of the cast. The turning point is at the halfway point, when Ando's been treating Hatako badly enough that she explodes at him with a breathtaking three-minute speech deconstructing his chuunibyou tendencies. (Apparently some Western anime fans have misinterpreted this speech, taking it as an attack on nerd culture even though the show's sympathetic to all things chuunibyou and in any case what Hatako's really reacting to is something more immediate.)
That episode actually hurts, a bit. I eventually got attached enough to the characters that I was annoyed to see them shoehorned back into harem roles from ep.10 onwards. Do we need a story about elementary school children in love with Ando? It's harmless fluff, but the lack of focus means that nothing's as well developed as it should have been.
1. Tomoyo Kanzaki (red hair, superpower: stop time) - the girl Ando's clearly destined to end up with. She's likeable and has a reasonable amount of characterisation, with her own suppressed chuunibyou tendencies and her ambition to be a novelist, but she never gets any strong emotional material. Her spotlight episode doesn't have enough meat. She suffers in comparison with...
2. Hatoko Kushikawa (pink hair, superpower: mastery of elements) - Ando's oldest friend. Super-nice and sincerely attached to Ando, but she doesn't understand any of the nonsense he says and he's capable of shutting her out in a way that can be hurtful. (That only happens in one episode, though, and they soon make up.) Easily the character with the most emotional depth.
3. Sayumi Takanashi (dark blue hair, superpower: heal any/all damage to anything) - the mature one. At one point a smart-arse genie-like character shows up and tells her that she's "the least popular heroine" and the type who never gets the boy. He's right, too. She's quite an interesting, sympathetic character, but the race is clearly between Tomoyo and Hatako.
4. Chifuyu Himeki (pale blonde hair, superpower: create anything from nothing) - a ten-year-old who doesn't belong in a High School club, but got dumped there by her aunt, a teacher, who didn't have time to babysit. She's my favourite character (and underused, but so is everyone). She's liable to agree with Ando when no one else has time for his daft suggestions, because she'll think they sound fun. She's smart and cunning. She has a best friend of the same age, with whom she has a relationship that's one of the more important in the show. She also has the best, most straightforward relationship with Ando, for obvious reasons.
You might have noticed that the girls' superpowers are off the scale. (Ando's, though, is useless.) The reason the show never puts them into serious fights is perhaps because they'd wipe the floor with anyone, up to and including a full alien invasion. Chifuyu alone can probably create worlds.
There are hints of more serious themes, or at least the potential for them. Half the girls' fathers are no longer married to their mothers, with the implication in Chifuyu's case being that the split wasn't pleasant. (It's played for laughs, but still.) The characters also occasionally wonder what the future will hold for them, at one point even making this the focus of a key conversation about Chifuyu. Presumably there's lots of material in the unadapted novels waiting to be used, not least with the other magic-users, although to be honest I'd be surprised if this anime got a second season.
The animation's only deranged occasionally, surprisingly for a Studio Trigger show. I'm looking forward to Kill la Kill, in which it's deranged much more.
I enjoyed this show. It's funny. I like the characters. I blasted through all the episodes and would happily have watched more. However it's almost wilfully in need of an editor, wastes much of the potential of its characters and doesn't do anything consistently enough to be particularly good at it.