Alright, so for September I mentioned that I would be examining a common theme. It is based around Chuunibyou, a subject that I have explored back in 2015 with my review of Love, Chuunibyou and Other Delusions. I figured that it be good to come back and look at this phenomenon again, this time with 2 other entries. The first is a movie that I only recently came across and I find to offer an interesting perspective when it comes to Chuunibyou…..
“Reality is nothing but the mirrored half of fantasy”
Aura: Koga Maryuin’s Last War (2013 movie)
Director: Seiji Kishi
Writers: Makoto Uezu and Jun Kumagai
Studio: AIC ASTA
Ichiro Sato is a freshman in high school, dealing with life as normally as he can. But one day, he finds out about Ryoko Satou a new student who’s usually absent from time to time. However, one night venture to school ends up being a meeting with a mysterious girl. It turns out she is a ‘Researcher’ on a quest to locate Dragon Terminals for some vaguely explained reason. She refers to reality as the Phenomenal World. Of course, Ichiro receives a surprise the next day when he finds out the mysterious girl is none other than Ryoko Satou, who is viewed as a bit of a weirdo by members of the class or a person who needs help by the sensei Dorisen. Dorisen who then tasks Ichiro to keep an eye on Ryoko, and see if he can help her out in some way, despite Ichiro’s reluctance. But it is revealed that Ichiro and Ryoko might have more in common than at first glance.
What I like about Aura is the way it tackles the subject of the Chuunibyou phenomenon. For a quick recap, Chuunibyou is ‘8th grader syndrome’, where young kids develop delusions of grandeur, where they perceive reality just a bit differently than normal. This is telling as chuuni is roughly translated as ‘childish’. Of course, it’s recently shown up as a subject in anime and manga, either with shows containing side/supporting characters or having the main character with it. Although, it tends to be presented as some perceived mental sickness or a case of children with very active imaginations. Aura clearly presents itself in the camp of the former mostly, considering the way that Ryoko is treated at school, either as a target for some rather petty bulling by other students or viewed by the homeroom teacher Dorisen with a problem that needs fixing, whether that’s needed or not. But it is evident that she does exhibit an active imagination and might be acting out to some past unknown trauma. But Aura works in part due illustrating both points without giving up ground on either.
The main thrust of the movie is Ichiro seeing Ryoko as a kindred spirit and learning that while he might have issue with her condition, he will still help her out even when it seems at one point she seems content to just let it end. Oh yeah this movie goes there, albeit in a veiled manner, touching upon subjects of suicide and teen bullying as well as delicate family matters particularly when it comes to Ichiro and his family. Aura can be quite the unsettling experience at points. That being said, Aura ends on a cautiously optimistic note for both Ichiro and Ryoko, if not necessarily a happy ending.
Though, the production is a bit of a mixed bag. I have some ambivalent feelings toward director Seiji Kishi and co-writer Makoto Uezu, who seem joined at the hip considering the amount of work they have done together over the past few years. The two have struck gold with Yuki Yuna recently, but with this it is a bit more boilerplate. Scenes and moments play out in rather conventional manners, with a few times where the production does shine (a moment early on between Ichiro and Ryoko, the climax) the rest of it is just adequate, just enough for the story but never really tries to strive for more. Thankfully the music by Michiru Oshima (FullMetal Alchemist, Xam’d, Sound of the Sky, etc) makes up for the lackluster animation production. I must say it is always a treat to hear full-on orchestral soundtracks in anime, and here she delivers in spades a lot of the emotional punch and energy the story requires.
The English Dub, as expected for the more current Sentai Filmworks dubs, is pretty good. David Wald, a Sentai Filmworks regular, directed this and co-wrote the dub script with RL Terrell. He seems to be drawing from the same cloth as Christopher Ayres in terms of faithful adaptive writing and versatile casting. And while there aren’t that many regulars in this dub (Andrew Love, Blake Shepard and Carli Mosier are in small supporting roles), Corey Hartzog and Juliet Simmons serve as the standouts in this dub as Ichiro and Ryoko, respectively. They carry the movie in terms of the English dub, and I appreciate that David Wald was able to take a chance casting two relative unknowns in those parts and have it actually work. Also it helps that some of the supporting cast members do a good job, and I hope to hear some of them in future dubs.
When I brought this set of reviews to the attention of my colleagues, they advised to approach the subject of Chuunibyou with some discretion, as it is a heady subject in this subculture. I find that I have treaded lightly enough so as to avoid offense. But then again, Aura’s point is being confrontational, to drive home a point that yes we all got problems and we all have our own ways to deal with it. That is perfectly acceptable, and anyone who says otherwise is a narrow-minded fool. But yeah, Aura” Koga Maryuin’s Last War is a good movie that tackles issues that our subculture is still dealing with.
So, in the next 8 days, I got my other review up for this month. Yeah it has been some time since I have done reviews practically back to back. And since we are dealing with Chuunibyou, let’s go back to take a look at something a bit more well-known……
Ah, this might prove to be a futile exercise.
‘Til next time, dear readers.