Editorials · On Themes

Betwixt and Between: Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai and the Use of Liminal Space

2nd best Chu2koi girl, art by  外道 at Pixiv

Lines, lines, lines. Lots and lots of lines.

One of Chuunibyou’s many talents is digging up one’s musty childhood memories and I’ve found myself no exception. Luckily, the exploration of one’s childhood can lead to several interesting revelations about one’s self as a child. After talking to some close friends and perusing the silly compendium of games we used to play (yes, we really did have a game book), I had come to realize that we had been entirely obsessed with lines and tight spaces! The majority of the games my group of friends had conjured up involved traveling along parking lot lines, hiding in crevices or alleyways, or trying to force someone to stay in the middle of two others (monkey in the middle is a slightly more humane alternative to waterboarding). Even games set up by our predecessors such as kickball heavily involved traversing lines. Although I hadn’t realized it at the time, there was something so fascinating, so edgy about being on the periphery of two objects.

In myth, literature, and especially film, liminal space is defined as space between space, the dividing edge in-between two objects or settings. On the periphery of two spaces, writers and directors tend to place key events and important bits of dialogue, sometimes intentionally and sometimes subconsciously. These edges, oftentimes taking several different forms, act as gateways to information, thresholds between two worlds belonging to the knowing and the unknowing. Why? Well, liminal space is heavily attractive to the minds of the viewers. Liminal space is a place of transition, waiting, and ultimately, anticipation for what’s to come. It’s the place between the open door and the closed-door, the day and the night, the heavens and the earth, and the betwixt and between. As crazy as it sounds, liminal space is a journey itself: a story within a story expressed by means of a space within a space.

While the utilization of liminal space can be seen very often in several mediums (Tonari no Kaibutsu also uses it quite frequently), Chu2Koi’s rather deliberate use of the concept is actually quite brilliant. The show’s employment of liminal space serves a two-fold purpose: it serves as both a stamp for important events and also as a recurring symbol for one of Chu2Koi’s main themes, superposition. The show thrives on the idea of living on the median and on the overlaps between fiction and real life. The characters of Chuunibyou live their lives on the edge of reality and the surreal, trying to tilt one way or another despite being glued into their positions. The characters who are plagued with Chuunibyou are all suffering a severe identity crisis, either using their false personas as a means to escape reality or attempting to make the switch towards normality. They lie in the interim between two personalities and two worlds, expressed both by the story itself and the animation.

Then again, I guess it’s much easier to actually show this in action. So without further adieu:

Exhibit A; sort of the obvious one of the bunch.

The OP itself is actually very direct clue towards the heavily prevalent use of liminal space within the show. Although KyoAni changed the OP supposedly to stop it from being so seizure inducing (KyoAni cares about you, epileptics!), several of the shots in particular draw attention to the intersection of the two shots when shown side by side. In this specific screenshot it’s also important to note the location of the characters next to the shore, and the sunset sky. Both lie in the median of each of their vicinities: both land and sea, and day and night.

Another example. The focus on the in-between space on the door is sublime.
Episode seven gives significant focus to the liminal space and frequently situates Rikka and Yuuta alongside the border of two objects. A lot of the camera shots involving the two throughout the episode tend to be rather wide and slightly zoomed out, especially in some of the more intimate scenes between the two. Also, the body language in this scene is absolutely fantastic, with Yuuta and Rikka taking the positions similar to a father figure kindly leveling with a child in order to communicate. It’s a small detail really, but it really helps convey that Yuuta is slowly patching up the hole left behind by the death of Rikka’s father.

The show also draws parallel shots to make certain objects stand out. Feel free to click for a better view.

These were two shots which definitely stood out to me over the last couple of weeks due to the interesting use of parallel imagery and again, liminal space. Not only do both shots give off a glimpse of Rikka’s Ethereal Horizon, but they also separate the screen into three distinct sectors, each with its own use focus. While the similarity in both shots is rather shocking, right down to the Rikka’s dress, on the left-hand shot passes the screen through much lighter lens while showing that Rikka is no longer trapped while with Yuuta. Also, I got major Honey and Clover ‘Takemoto bike ride’ vibes from the left shot. I mean, c’mooooooon.

The use of lighting usually tends to favor Rikka, and here it really shows.

Another common technique used by the show’s art directors is to have Rikka centered in the middle on a piece of land which really stands out and in-between several pieces of land to further suggest feelings of loneliness within the heroine.  And although the lone lamp takes precedence over the scene, the recurring line motif still boxes her in and blocks her path, always traveling towards the same direction.


Pffffffffffft, Kumin is a joke

The use of liminal space in the artwork works especially well given the context of the show and its (made-up) mythology, since Chuu2Koi takes a note from  Schrödinger’s cat and puts everything, including the self-awareness of the characters, in question and in a state of superposition. After all, the main goal of Rikka, a girl stuck in a superposition between imaginary and reality, is to seek out and find the Ethereal Horizon, which, you guessed it, is yet another superposition between the living and the dead in order to connect to her dead father. On top of this, the show also uses repeated hints at the liminal nature of the show by stating several hints to the audience, at one point referencing the tale of Icarus, a story about balance and in-between space, and even blatantly has the ED invite the viewer to ask “where the true identity” of the characters lies.

Chuu2Koi effectively uses transitional space to put emphasis on specific scenes and draw parallels while successfully using it to promote the recurring motif of liminality. As of now right now, the characters are living on the edge of transition, the edge of genuine character growth. They sit on the periphery of fiction and nonfiction, bringing the imaginary into the real world, and it is ultimately up to they themselves on whether to move past their Chuunibyou ambitions or to fully embrace them. In the end, liminal space is about the journey, the transition itself. It’s the crossing of one side to another, hoping for the better, while fully prepared for the worst.

Stray Snippets

  • Nibutani > Dekomori > Rikka > Tooka > Kumin. These are facts; deal with it. Come at me bros!
  • This is more of an experimental type of post, if anything, when it comes to the formatting. I doubt I’ll stick with it.
  • Gotta love my tin foil hat theories.
  • Seriously, Nibutani is the best girl, by far. None of the girls can even compete.

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