Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! 12 – Different Perspectives
December 23, 2012 1 Comment
Chuunibyou is a fascinating and complicated idea, one that embodies the surprisingly simply but occasionally complicated notion of imagination. Throughout this series we have been told how ridiculous and embarrassing Chuunibyou is, with repeated examples of the strange and the wondrous shown in the form of Rikka and Dekomori. Chuunibyou is a social Haiku, as a term it is used to condense and concentrate numerous complicated social and cultural situations and attitudes into a single, easily used idea. At its most basic, Chuunibyou is essentially a term used to describe adolescence, a period in everyone’s life where external influences and ideas can have a tremendous impact on how you view yourself and the wider world. It is therefore tremendously difficult to truly label someone as a ‘sufferer’ of Chunnibyou, apart from those who act in the most extreme ways. Rikka, Dekomori, and the past Yuuta are all perfect examples of the more extreme end of Chunnibyou, with each character taking on a new, and altogether different personality. The way they act, speak, and interact with the wider world around them differs tremendously from the social ‘norm’, therefore marking them out as wider, or perhaps dysfunctional.
There are, however, significant problems when looking at Chunnibyou, and labeling others as Chunnibyou sufferers. The term itself is a handy phrase that can be used in numerous situations, but, because of that it has become a catch-all, and is used to describe different people, thus giving the impression that anyone viewed as suffering from Chuunibyou is essentially the same. The term lacks social and cultural context, missing out the impact that surroundings, attitudes and lifestyle has upon the individual. Instead of looking at Rikka and Dekomori or Yuuta as individuals, they are lumped together under the catchall umbrella term of Chunnibyou. Like a Haiku, Chuunibyou has condescend and reified the complexities and subtleties of society, and while it is clearly used to describe an intricate web of ideas and attitudes, it is only the extreme end that gets noticed. It can therefore be argued that Chuunibyou is far too convenient, and like many Haiku, the intricate meanings are lost on many people, with only the most obvious or extreme qualities remaining.
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 that 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.
Nibutani talks about how she and Yuuta attempted to get over their Chuunibyou and the lives of normal high school students with normal friends and doing normal things. But she argues that in doing so they got caught up in the notion of being normal, and were trapped within a small space that gave them no room to manoeuvre. They were stuck with being ‘normal’ and as such were far more constricted than they ever were during their Chuunibyou phase. The stresses and anxiety that comes with being a high school student pushed Nibutani and Yuuta into becoming ‘normal’ or at least what they considered to be normal, even going as far as to deliberately try and destroy any remaining evidence that could point to their Chuunibyou past. In doing so they arguably lost an essential part of who they are and became someone boring and controlled by societies norms and expectations. By telling Rikka to take off her eye patch and get over her Chuunibyou Yuuta effectively told her to grow up and conform, he took away her ability to enjoy life and see things as something different.
When he is told that it is precisely because of his presence as The Dark Flame Master that Rikka was able to get over her fathers death and move on with her life Yuuta finally realises the massive error that he has made in his life. He has become controlled by a desire to be normal and can in effect no longer enjoy life the way he used to; furthermore, he has effectively forced Rikka to give up her imagination for the sake of her families happiness. In a twist of fate Yuuta reads a letter that he sent himself detailing exactly what would happen in the future. This letter describes how Yuuta has given up on the joys of life and instead views everything through the lens of normality without any thought for the wonders that life can hold. In doing so he has become normal, he has become dull, and he has become one of the crowd, rather than the unique and special individual that his personality as the Dark Flame Master allowed him to be. The message in this letter is further reinforced when he meets Kumin and she tells him about why Rikka was so attached to the Dark Flame Master and by extension Yuuta. Yuuta showed Rikka that it is possible to live you life the way you wanted to and enjoy the little things in life without having to bottle everything up and be normal and therefore boring.
His presence gave her hope and the ability to move on with her life, Chuunibyou to Rikka was not an illness but a form of salvation, someone who admired Yuuta’s strength and determination to be different and who tried to copy him. It is not that Rikka was oblivious to the wider world or to her fathers death, she fully understood everything, but through her own imagination she was able to go to a wondrous realm away from the eyes of the world and see things in far more colour than she could have ever imagined before meeting Yuuta. That it takes all of these other characters and their various stories to make Yuuta realise what he has been missing in life and how important his existence is to Rikka further reinforces the notion that in his insistence on being normal Yuuta has become blind to the world. Because of this Yuuta is finally able to confront Rikka and show her what she has always wanted to see, a world beyond the horizon where anything can happen. This scene was particularly powerful since it demonstrated the power of imagination and how important Yuuta and Chuunibyou is to Rikka, thus finally allowing her to let out all the emotions that she had been bottling up inside and accept her current reality as it is. It is a moment of profound emotion that is followed up by the final piece of narration. While the beginning of the series detailed the curious nature of Chuunibyou as it pertains to adolescence, this final piece of narration looks at it from a far broader spectrum.
Chuunibyou is not something that can simply disappear, and while you may grow older and move on from that period in your life, the ability to create these wonderful worlds still exists. It is your imagination that allows Chuunibyou to exist and this doesn’t change no matter how old you may be, it might be embarrassing to high schoolers or more broadly teenagers to think that they used to believe in having super powers, but this is not something that is unique to that point in your life. Writers, film directors, actors, painters and everyone else has the ability to conjure up wonderful worlds in their own minds, and despite the embarrassment that many might feel this ability should never disappear. This simple thought process helps to demonstrate how important a good imagination is to anyone, and how much Rikka and in some respects Yuuta depend upon theirs. By realising and accepting this simple fact we see Rikka, Yuuta, The Dark Flame Master and The Tyrant’s Eye all riding off into the sunset, because in reality they are all the same people, just looking at the world from a different perspective.