Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! 02 – Ordinary in an extraordinary way
October 15, 2012 Leave a comment
At the very beginning of the series there is a brief introduction to Chuunibyou, explaining that it is a complex idea that encompasses a variety of behaviour and general social problems. What is interesting is that while there are clearly elements of the fantastical in some of the strange delusions that Yuuta as the Dark Flame Master and Rikka in her present form have to deal with, it is also used to describe a far wider variety of things than you might think. In Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai it is primarily used to explain the bizarre hallucinations and delusions of Rikka, although there are other characters who arguably suffer from it. In fact, the major question of Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai is whether or not Chuunibyou can be considered an illness at all, or whether it is merely a term used to describe a series of (often) interconnected circumstances that make life a little more interesting than it otherwise would be.
One of the most fascinating elements of the introduction for example was its explanation of Chuunibyou, suggesting that there are elements of trying to grow up too fast. For example someone who has never heard of Machiavellian politics, let alone understand what they are takes a sudden interest in Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’. The very same person could start reading ancient Greek epics such as the Iliad or Odyssey, or perhaps get involved with the literature of an entirely different culture altogether. By reading such books these people are suggesting that they are refined people, with the ability and knowledge to read books in another language and understand the messages that they teach. It is about being intellectual, and spreading your mind and wings – metaphorically speaking. Furthermore there is also an element of attempting to seem far more intelligent and even superior to others in the class, as a way of distinguishing yourself from the crowd.
On a more basic level as the introduction once again suggests, those who have no idea what coffee tastes like suddenly decide that they have to drink it black. Here we have examples of people who want to suddenly grow up and mature, despite still being children, at least in societies eyes. By drinking black coffee these people are also imitating elements of American films, or more broadly speaking the move industry in general. Drinking black coffee becomes a statement of maturity and of being a tougher person – it also brings with it a set of implied ideals and attitudes towards life that many people buy into or at least dream of imitating. Road movies for example often heavily feature black coffee or even smoking cigarettes as an example of ‘rugged cool’. By imitating these specific actions and attitudes we as individuals are in some respects attempting to gain some of that cool, grown-up vibe that such films bring with them. Like reading foreign books, by drinking black coffee it is implied that you are mature, maybe rugged, and also cool.
Such actions may seem mundane when compared to the vast flights of fancy that take place with Rikka and her extraordinary delusions, but they are all a part of the same socially and culturally awkward time in people’s lives. People want to be different or unique from their classmates – if we look at aspects of fashion in Japan, particularly the fashion that is focussed towards junior-high and high school kids there are two distinct elements to it. There is the mature fashion that is mimicking the kinds of clothes those who are considered ‘adults’ where, along with the more childish, and often garish fashions. But, let us not forget the underground fashions, or sub-cultures that surround fashions such as Visual Kei, Lolita fashion and general gothic fashion. They all have specific categories designed to fit certain age ranges so that people can maintain their fashion and their sense of identity throughout their lives, often starting at a very young age (in come cases 10 or younger).
All of these elements are used in attempts to be unique, while simultaneously creating a specific image that fits with your desired sub-culture or social group. In the case of Yuuta his incarnation as the Dark Flame Master seems to be a reaction to changing circumstances and what is expected of Junior High students. He had high school entrance exams, so in many ways he was expected to become a mature grown-up student while still essentially being a child who wanted to have fun and enjoy himself. His delusions as the Dark Flame Master were clearly more extreme than most, with Yuuta creating an entire alter ego that took over his life and essentially left him as a social outcast or recluse. But his dreams were no more abnormal than any others, with dreams of super powers, of vanquishing dragons and somehow becoming something far greater than his current lifestyle would allow him to be. While this may sound fine there were clearly consequences of his alter ego as the Dark Flame Master, something that Yuuta is putting an inordinate amount of energy into burying.
There other characters in Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai are also particularly interesting, with the introduction of Tsuyuri Kumin, a character who appears to really enjoy her time with the crazed Rikka and Yuuta. She is supposedly a ‘normal’ student, much like the kind of person that Yuuta is attempting to portray himself as, however, her reactions to the eccentricities of Rikka suggest that while she may appear normal (or at least what Yuuta considers normal), there is a childishness that allows her to enjoy even the strangest of situations regardless of what is happening. Kumin may not have the kind of alter ego that Yuuta had, and neither is she trapped in her own fantasies like Rikka, but she still laughs and enjoys the games that they produce. In this respect we are shown that Chuunibyou is far more subtle than the bizarre and brilliant delusions of Rikka and Yuuta suggest. Nibutani is also a curious character, someone who is almost too mature and serious, her persona as the student representative may be a public front for her. She even suggests that while she may look like a mature student she is only pretending to be responsible.
Rikka is naturally the centre of the series, with her whacky delusions and bizarre take on the world adding colour and adventure to the ordinary life of a high school girl. Her way of talking and general role-playing may bother Yuuta in some ways, but it is curious how both Nibutani and Kumin seem to accept her as a slightly eccentric high school girl. She brings colour and energy to Yuuta’s life, and continues to show him that his attempts to be a ‘normal’ student are in many respects as much an act as when he played the Dark Flame Master. When he and Kumin visit her room, the eccentricities immediately captivate Yuuta, and his utter fascination with all unconventional elements makes him forget about the presence of Kumin. He is completely caught up in his own little world with the Mauser C96 model that Rikka owns, with a wonderfully playful approach to it.
His shock at realising that Kumin has been watching him intently, clearly enjoying his actions and obviously not judging him or thinking less of him shows how much of an impact his time as a social outcast has had on Yuuta.But at the same time, Kumin’s ability to enjoy his display without considering it weird, along with Rikka’s clear willingness to allow people into her room further suggests that the effort Yuuta puts into being normal is wasted. Of course this doesn’t mean that Rikka’s childish and eccentric behaviour don’t cause trouble, with her sister Touka clearly exasperated by Rikka’s continued attempts to bring cats home. Touka recognises that while the delusions of Chuunibyou are potentially harmless they can be potentially damaging on an emotional level. And at least in her case, with Rikka’s constant attempts to adopt a cat as a ‘Chimera’ bringing up her allergies, the whole Chuunibyou business is obviously bothering her.
Curiously enough Touka doesn’t seem to completely hate Rikka’s current delusions and hallucinations. She may be annoyed at the constant cats, but seeing how she acts towards her younger sister there is an element of Touka playing along. She uses the same rope that Rikka set up to escape to chase after her for example, and along with her constant use of a ladle as a weapon further suggests that despite the issues that she has with Rikka’s Chuunibyou she continues to play along with it. By continuing to play the role of Administration Bureau’s Strongest Priestess, Touka plays her part in Rikka’s current lifestyle – so she obviously doesn’t entirely disapprove of it, she just wishes that Rikka would stop trying to adopt every stray cat she comes across. Yuuta acts as a way of balancing out Rikka’s eccentricities, by playing along on the one hand, while also disagreeing with her theories and attitudes towards the world Yuuta creates a balance. At the same time his ever-deepening relationship seems to be making him reassess how he approaches life.
Yuuta may constantly complain about Rikka, but their interactions are far more natural than the front of a normal student that he creates when at school. What Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai demonstrates is that despite everything there is a depth of character in school and society, however, there remain specific attitudes about how people, and especially high schoolers are supposed to act. Rikka and in some ways Yuuta break this trend, but they do it in an extreme way that comes across as just weird. Nibutani appears to be hiding her true self behind the mask of a mature and responsible class representative, whereas Kumin clearly enjoys the madness that ensues whenever Rikka is around although on face value she would be considered normal. In this respect Chuunibyou is far from simple, and is instead an idea used to describe an increasingly complex set of circumstances, attitudes and wayus of viewing the world.