Fiction lies in the heart, a source of courage and a guide for finding where you stand in real life. So it makes a surprising amount of sense that when Senkou High’s Literature Club – Jurai, Tomoyo, Hatoko, Sayumi and Chifuyu – gain superpowers seemingly from nowhere, their lives continue as normal. Except for training sessions and keeping their abilities hidden from all the normal students, of course.
There’s not much new to be found here. As ever, a supernatural injection into an average high school is a metaphor for the rattling course of the early teens, and finding where you belong with those who see and accept you for who you are. In many ways, this motif is led along by the usual flat male character with the incidental spark of something special. But in his chuunibyou tendencies, there’s something I remember clearly. He wants to be exceptional, but also to be accepted, living in an existential paradox many of us will have gone through.
Because of this, I can forgive Jurai his cardboard standee smile and immovability. He channels his longing into going out of his way to help his friends, especially charming with Chifuyu as he patches up a falling out with her best friend Cookie. For all his raucous fandom and spouting off with his obviously Wikied knowledge of the occult, he’s quite the respectable young gent. When he treats little Chifuyu like a princess, it’s hard to suppress a kind of motherly blush. And thankfully, his girlfriends love to point out that that he’s not all-heroic when he’s been on his high horse a bit too long.
He needs his friends around to ground him, because he can and does screw things up. Pushing his chuuni pretentions with his devoted, non-otaku friend Hatoko forces her to play along and pretend to understand, just because she’s afraid to lose him. When she finally snaps from the strain he’s dumbfounded, unsure how to handle the situation. In Jurai and Tomoyo’s companionship, just letting in the flickerings of love, and Sayumi’s remembered lessons in etiquette from her grandmother, Supernatural Battles is scattered with these little messages couched in studio TRIGGER’s wacky humour, saying it’s alright as long as you tried your best, to be the best version of the true you there could be.
In fact, there’s no justification at all for the conflict between hero and villain shoved into any tiny space. The war the kids are involved in unawares is barely a blip but for the last episode, and makes life with the Literature Club feel like it was only meant as a long stretch of circumstantial filler. If only it could have just been a story of the heightened emotions of their everyday, a bright and wounded nostalgia accentuated with childhood flashbacks in soft, subdued colours. The forced war is crushed by the significance and partly lost potential of their time together. As Jurai says himself, their powers are cool, and that’s all they needed to be.
Extras: English dub; clean opening/closing animation; also available from Sentai Filmworks.