During a meeting at a High School Literature Club, the four members of the club, along with the niece of the club’s faculty advisor, find themselves suddenly granted supernatural abilities. Resident chuunibyou Jurai Andou is thrilled about the club’s newfound talents, including his own power to summon black flames from his hand, but is hopelessly outclassed by his peers: Tomoyo manipulates time, Andou’s childhood friend Hatako controls the elements, club president Sayumi can repair both objects and living things back to their original form and their advisor’s niece Chifuyu is able to create objects from thin air. Despite the fact that the origins of these powers remain a mystery, very little has changed for the club, with the everyday activities continuing, albeit tinged with the supernatural.
The first thing I feel the need to get out of the way about When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace, the 2014 Trigger adaptation of the light novels by artist 029 and author Nozomi Kota, is that it has potentially one of the most misleading titles I’ve ever seen for an anime. It’s incredibly easy to look at an anime from Trigger, behind the madcap action shows Kill La Kill and Ninja Slayer: From Animation, with the words ‘Supernatural Battles’ in the title, and assume it’s going to be another crazy, over-the-top action anime in the same vein as their other shows. This would be wrong though, and if you’re looking for a supernatural action show, you’re going to be very disappointed. However, if you are looking for a brilliant slice-of-life comedy with a super-powered twist, you’re probably not going to get much better than this.
Ever since I first watched it whilst it was simulcasting back in 2014, Supernatural Battles has always had a special place in my heart. To me, it’s an overlooked gem, and whilst it’s not exactly one of my all-time favourite shows, it is still one that I reckon deserves way more attention than it ever got. A large reason why I think it’s a cut above your average slice-of-life fare does come down to the animation by Trigger. Despite being relatively new, Trigger has quickly become one of my favourite studios and I absolutely adore their energetic style, so to see them do a slice-of-life anime, a personal favourite genre of mine, is wonderful, and definitely makes it stand out from the crowd.
The high energy animation not only makes it a delight to watch, but it also lends itself well to the comedy aspect too, which is another reason why I love Supernatural Battles so much; it’s hysterical. Comedy being subjective and all, it may not be for everyone, but I found the majority of jokes got at least a small laugh out of me, and a lot of the time, I’d be in a fit of giggles. The comedy is definitely stronger in the first half, before it decides to focus more on the romance and character relationships, but even then, there are laughs to be had throughout.
Of course, Supernatural Battles being a slice-of-life anime, the heart of the show very much lies in its cast of characters, which I really grew to love. They’re not necessarily the most complex or deep characters in the world, with each one getting an episode of focus and not much more. However, they make up one of the most instantly likable groups I’ve seen and are very fun to watch on screen. The male lead Andou might be a a little bit contentious, as I can see his chuunibyou shtick perhaps grating on some people after a while, but other than that, whether it be the adorable Chifuyu, the air-headed Hatoko or the somewhat tsundere Tomoyo, there isn’t really a character among the bunch that I didn’t enjoy watching immensely. If I did have to pick one weak link, it would be Sayumi, who can’t help but come across as a little bland and was certainly the weakest of the girls, and I’d have definitely have liked to have seen a bit more development for her. By far the best use of the characters comes when the show decides to introduce romance into the mix, with some great results. Whilst I can’t say I was a huge fan of having literally every single female character fall head over heels for Andou, I did find the love triangle between Andou, Hatako and Tomoyo to be really well done, and because I really liked both characters, it was a rare scenario where I actually didn’t know which girl I wanted to win.
The only real weakness of Supernatural Battles comes in the form of its story, which is to say, it tries to have one. Not that it’s impossible to have an anime that balances slice-of-life antics as well as a story too, and there are certainly some examples of it working, such as the first season of Full Metal Panic!, which has a great military action story as well as high school comedy shenanigans. However, the execution in Supernatural Battles leaves a lot to be desired. For a start, they only introduce the plot in Episode 8 of 12, and that whole episode feels incredibly out of place, almost as if it’s from a whole other anime entirely. Then, instead of expanding upon this story in later episodes, it’s immediately sidelined and almost entirely forgotten about, save for one or two throwaway scenes. I get that in the novels, the story is probably far better, but because of the restraints of only having 12 episodes to work with in the anime, if they knew they weren’t going to be able to do a sequel to expand upon the bits of story here, they would have been far better just dropping the plot altogether to put more focus on the characters, and flesh them out a bit more, rather than squandering screen time on a half-baked story.
Manga’s release of When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace features both an English dub and the original Japanese audio with English subtitles, and I’d definitely recommend sticking to the Japanese for this one. The dub really doesn’t work too well, and this is in large part to the lead, Andou. Not to discredit Mateo Mpinduzi-Mott, his English voice actor, but much like Love, Chuunibyou & Other Delusions, I just think that it’s very difficult to make a chuunibyou character work in an English dub. The only example I can really think of is Michael J. Tatum as Okabe in Steins;Gate, but he’s such a great, seasoned voice actor, it would be almost unfair to compare him to a new talent such as Mpinduzi-Mott. I also didn’t think that Chifuyu’s English voice actor, Sasha Paysinger, was the right choice for her role, as she really couldn’t pull off a voice that sounded like an Elementary School child should, so you end up with this weird, distracting dissonance when she speaks and a woman’s voice comes out instead of a child’s.
By far the biggest crime committed by the dub, though, is that it censors. I’ll admit, I only sampled the dub in places, so I don’t know how common it is, however, one scene I did watch featured the dub going for a totally different gag than in the Japanese. Admittedly, I can see why they changed it, the joke was about a character being a lolicon, which could be a potentially touchy subject, but the joke was definitely changed for the worse. Personally, I thought the scene was one of the funniest in the whole show, yet in the dub it totally fell flat, not only making the joke far less funny, but also make a lot less sense. I am very much against dubs changing the intent of the source, a little interpretation here and there is fine to make things flow a bit better in English than they might have otherwise, but to totally change something like that is reprehensible.
In contrast to the dub, the Japanese voice cast is fantastic all around. Nobuhiko Okamoto (Blue Exorcist, Monthly Girls Nozaki Kun) is excellent as Andou, making for a convincing chuunibyou but the highlight is certainly Saori Hayami (Buddy Complex, Sound! Euphonium) as Hatako, who steals the show with an amazing performance in the now infamous Hatako breakdown scene, which might genuinely be one the best moments of voice acting I’ve heard in any show.
Music for the series is handled by Elements Garden, who also provided music for series such as Bodacious Space Pirates and Love, Election and Chocolate, and whilst the music is nothing memorable or special, it gets the job done. Whilst the score might be pretty forgettable, I have a lot of love for both the opening and the ending of Supernatural Battles. The OP, OVERLAPPERS by Qverktett, and the ED, You Gotta Love Me by Kato Fuku, are relentlessly upbeat J-Pop songs that firmly lodged themselves into both my brain and iTunes playlist and are some of my favourite OP and EDs of any anime. I’ve adored the ED since the first time I heard it, and having it paired with some adorable chibi visuals make it an ending I rarely want to skip.
If you disregard the half-hearted attempt at a story, When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace is a really great show. Not only is it immensely funny but you’ll also quickly find yourself endeared by its cast of characters and falling in love with Trigger’s marvelous visuals. This is a show that often gets overshadowed by the likes of Trigger’s bigger hits like Kill la Kill or Kiznaiver, but it is just as deserving of praise as either of those, and definitely deserves a watch.