Chuunibyou is a Japanese word that mocks stories of grandeur from both male and female adolescents. It has a very derogatory tone against imaginative individuals. The particular age group described by the term is second-year students in middle school. A person who has chuunibyou would describe themselves as a special person with unique powers. They would try to make themselves stand out from the rest. Their juvenile act of pretending to be cool is a rebellion against the conformist culture of Japan.
Light novel author Saegami Hyouya describes three main types of chuunibyou in his novel Chuunibyou Toriatsukai Setsumei Sho (中二病取扱説明書) or “Chuunibyou User Manual”: DQN, Subculture, and Evil Eye. The DQN (pronounced “dokyun”) pretend to be actual delinquents, the Subculture kids latch onto alternative subcultures and Evil Eye daydreams of possessing unfathomable powers. Some examples of fictional characters in Japanese media include Yuuta Togashi and Rikka Takanashi from Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!, Ranko Kanzaki from The Idolmaster Cinderella Girls, Yoshiko Tsushima from Love Live! Sunshine!!, Gundham Tanaka from the Danganronpa series, and Shun Kaidou from The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.
Chuunibyou (中二病) is comprised of two words: chuugakkou ni nen (中学校二年) or “second year of middle school”, and byou (病) or “illness”. It literally means “second-year middle school syndrome”. The word can also be written as 厨二病; this is more commonly used as Japanese internet slang, and came about because the words for “middle-school kid” (中坊) and “kitchen” (厨房) are both pronounced as chuubou.
A Brief History
The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha is regarded as one of the earliest examples of chuunibyou in western literature. Don Quixote was written by Miguel de Cervantes around 1600 in two parts. The novel is about a disillusioned noble named Alonso Quixano who wanted to relive the glorious days of knights and chivalry. The citizens, either mocking or taking pity on him, played along with Don Quixote’s magnificent misadventures. Their intention of keeping the senile nobleman immersed in his fantasy world caused him to lose grip on reality.
According to literary critic Boshi Chino, Don Quixote has a fantastical perception of the world. He even suggested a fitting and contemporary subtitle for Don Quixote: “Chuunibyou Starting from 50 Years Old”.
Radio personality Hikaru Ijuuin used the word chuunibyou on the radio program Hikaru Ijuuin’s UP’S (伊集院光のUP’S) in 1999; while on-air, he remarked that he was once “infected” with middle-school students’ flight of fancy. He later added the segment Kakatta Ka Na? To Omottara Chuunibyou (かかったかな? と思ったら中二病) or “I Wondered If I Had Chuunibyou” on his radio program. Ijuuin collected accounts of individuals manifesting with the same traits. He later distanced himself from using the word in 2009 since he believed the original meaning got lost in translation.
The term also gained attention to popular culture in 2011 with the series Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! (中二病でも恋がしたい!) or “Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions”. The story follows the relationship between former chuunibyou Yuuta Togashi and proud current chuunibyou Rikka Takanashi. The two eventually formed a club and befriended other classmates with chuunibyou.
Fortunately, chuunibyou is not considered to be a severe mental illness. Teenagers are still in the early stage of mental development, and their goal of making their own identity is in fact normal. Teenagers only emulate traits that they admire the most. These traits could come from manga, anime, television series, film, or video games. On the other hand, it is important for parents and teachers to guide them. A real-life chuunibyou may push away peers due to their eccentricity, and their escapism might hinder them from maturing into responsible adults. Chuunibyou at first glance looks comical but getting lost in fantasy is a symptom of mental health issues. Addressing the teenagers’ needs and issues would ease real-life chuunibyou syndrome.
Pixiv Encyclopedia, https://dic.pixiv.net/a/中二病, Retrieved 24 December 2020.
Pixiv Encyclopedia, https://dic.pixiv.net/a/厨二病, Retrieved 24 December 2020.
中二病も才能のうち！？ 500人に訊いた！ マンガ家志望の”中二あるある”ランキング – ダ・ヴィンチニュース”. ddnavi.com., 30 July 2014, Retrieved 24 December 2020.
Bloom Harold, The knight in the mirror, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2003/dec/13/classics.miguelcervantes, 13 December 2003, Retrieved 24 December 2020.
Chino, Boshi,千野帽子 (2009). 読まず嫌い. Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten. pp. 30–31.
Nagareboshi, Chuunibyou: Funny or Something Darker?, Honey’s Anime, https://honeysanime.com/chuunibyou-funny-or-something-darker/, 25 April 2017, Retrieved 24 December 2020.
John, Ask John: What Makes a Character a Chuunibyou? AnimeNation Anime News Blog, https://www.animenation.net/blog/ask-john-what-makes-a-character-a-chuunibyou/, 6 December 2013, Retrieved 24 December 2020
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