“Ninjas are the ultimate paradox. On the one hand they don’t give a crap, but on the other hand, ninjas are very careful and precise.”
- Robert Hamburger, REAL Ultimate Power
Leave it to the Japanese to devise another term for a nearly ineffable feeling.
Chuunibyou, or “Eighth Grade Syndrome,” encapsulates the power fantasies of adolescence: The longing to be special, mysterious and different from the common people (But surely you remember being fourteen). In anime, it’s the distilled essence of why Light found the Death Note, why Lelouch received the “power of kings,” why Ikebukuro is so crazy and random and has a psychopathic metrosexual pulling all the strings.
You aren’t automatically immature if you happen to like Death Note, Code Geass or Durarara!!, of course. But some stories are just better at drawing down the thunder of the pubescent psyche. They are chuunibyou.
This concept applies to individuals too. After all, what is Kuroneko’s “Dark Childe of the Nyght” act, or Okarin’s obsession with white-coated mad science, if not the effects of chuunibyou turned up to embarrassing levels? It works so well precisely because they’re portrayed as part of the otakusphere, and we’ve seen real people who act this way among our kind. It’s endemic in the fandom.
It wasn’t too long ago in America when “mundane” was the term of choice for non-fans. As in, “Put the D&D books away, guys, there’s a mundane coming tonight.” (The great irony being that in my experience, fandom includes some of the most painfully dull people I’ve ever met.) What is it about the scene that makes people put on such airs? And now that it’s become so acceptable, even chic to be a geek, does that mean we’re going to see more chuunibyou than ever?
Maybe. But it seems to me that the essential ingredient of chuunibyou is compensation for fear. Yes, it’s a bit pathetic to pretend you have special powers. But behind the awkward feigning is always a sincere struggle for grace. Okarin’s mad genius persona is the social armor of a sensitive, self-doubting man who’s in way over his head. Ruri Gokou is shy and bad at making friends, but when she’s Kuroneko the Black Angel, she can be above it all.
And anytime I want to, I can be 2DT. See? Like that.
Omo (on his new blogspace) turned me on to the concept of chuunibyou in context of Type-Moon and the Nasuverse.
Chuunibyou: a comprehensive guide, brought to you by Pixiv.