Type: Character Cliché
What made it popular: The real life “syndrome” of the same name and further popularized due to the success of Kyoani’s Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai
Cliché Level: Negligible
Where can you find it: Chuunibyou Demo Koi Ga Shitai (Pretty much everyone), Denpa Onna to Seishuin Otoko (Erio Touwa), Konosuba (Megumin), Steins Gate (Okabe Rintaro), Umineko no Naku Koro Ni (Ushiromiya Maria), Oreimo (Gokou Ruri), Aura: Maryuuinkouga Saigo no Tatakai (Many characters, including the protag and main female lead)
In real life:
Chuunibyou can be translated to “2nd year middle school disease”, which is an unnecessarily long name, so I shall simply just use Chuuni from now on. According to the internet Chuunibyou syndrome occurs most frequently in the 2nd year of middle school, hence the name, but apparently even some adults have it. People with Chuunibyou “suffer” from strange behaviour that most would consider either to be lame or embarrassing.
This strange behaviour itself can vary greatly, sometimes it manifests as arrogance in highschoolers, who suddenly start speaking in an arrogant “know it all” fashion as if they had the whole world figured out already. Other times it can manifest as the person suddenly developing interest in some strange hobby, like occultism or card collecting. And lastly the most commonly known one, is when their imagination goes overdrive and they start thinking that they are something they are obviously not, such as a wizard, a knight a demon etc And adopt the mannerism or in this case what they think would be the mannerism and proper behavior of such a character.
In anime, Chuunibyou is one of the most recent and still developing clichés within the medium, which means that this article should be updated as the years go on, Chuunibyou characters were popularized and surged in number after the success of Kyoani’s Chuunibyou anime in 2012, but this does not mean that you cannot find Chuunibyou characters in older anime.
The quality that best defines the Chuunibyou Cliché at the moment would be Variety, for the Chuunibyou appearances across anime are so vastly different from each other, that I had a hard time just ordering and categorizing them into groups. But nevertheless I managed to break them down to 5 subgroups: (Note that these are subgroups that actually appear in anime and are observable, I did not list any other on purpose due to the fact that they do not appear in anime)
- Evil Eye Chuuni: A chuunibyou who is pretending to be a wizard, demon, sometimes both. Typically speaks in an erratic manner, often adopting archaic Japanese and starts refering to herself with pronouns like Warawa (signifies nobility or royalty amongst females). The Evil Eye Chuuni frequently talks about “unleashing her power” or “removing her seal” on her “evil eye” which she usually covers with an eyepatch. Heterochromia via eye contacts is a common element here. Takanashi Rikka and Megumin fall into this category.
- Strange Chuuni: All Chuuni’s by definition are strange, but the “Strange” Chuuni are odd even amongst other Chuuni. They often stare blankly into space, utter mumbles and make weird sound effects. They typically imagine themselves as aliens or other scifi characters rather than fantasy ones like the Evil Eye. If they are not an airhead cookoolander then they might speak entirely in techno-babble, which is highly confusing to the both normal characters, as well as to the viewer. Touwa Erio and Satou Ryouko fall into this category.
- Mad Scientist: The chuuni pretends or thinks that he is a Mad Scientist, they also dress and speak like one and frequently try to create “inventions”. Okabe Rintaro and Shiguma Rika fall into this category.
- Arrogant Chuuni: A chuuni character who sees him or herself in a superior light compared to other characters and does not mind pointing out this fact to the others. This may be entirely unfounded and played for comedic effects or the chuuni might actually be a genius or powerful enough to be an actual superior. This subcliché can be freely combined with the other groups.
The combination of an Evil Eye Chuuni and an Arrogant Chuuni would result in a character who speaks like this:
“The dark powers that be have brought my great self before you to mock your feebleness. Bow before the greatness bestowed upon me by the dark powers!”
“I see that you have been blessed by the dark powers! Not as much as they have blessed my great self, however still blessed nonetheless. How about we work together to serve the dark powers that be, so that we may relish their dark gifts even more?
You get the idea.
5. Emo Chuuni: Not a normal chuuni archetype, but a state instead that Chuunibyou characters reach when they come face to face with their own existence and their delusions. Shock, Trauma, Depression as well as Bullying can be factors which put a regular Chuuni into the Emo Chuuni mode. An Emo Chuuni is noticeably more brooding than a regular Chuuni and way less talkative. If they reach such a state in a serious show, then they might be close to suicide or snapping.
These are the chuuni types that are most common in anime, but there are even more types in the mediums of manga and visuals novels.
Chuuni also greatly vary in terms of personality depending on the genre and seriousness of the work they are inside. They can be played simply for comedic effect, where not even the chuuni character takes their own chuuni-ness seriously and can switch between “chuuni” and normal mode at will. Others might only pretend to be Chuuni because they think it’s cool or because the story might demand it due to the presence of other Chuunis. (Take protagonist of Chuunibyou Demo for example)
Some characters might have had some trouble or issue in their past that caused them to become Chuuni or remain in such a state despite getting older, but this information is usually not revealed until the character is broken out of her Chuuniness. Or they can just simply have the syndrome without any further reason or explanation, which is how the more comedic and light hearted shows featuring Chuunis tend to roll.
Several sites include in the definition of Chuunibyou that the characters must not possess any real supernatural powers. However I am forced to disagree on this definition due to the fact that I have encountered several characters who speak and act like a Chuunibyou yet clearly have supernatural powers. Although it should be noted that they usually either have weak, inconveniencing or otherwise rarely used powers, but they are still powers non the less.
Just take this character, Ascension Sur Barbankur also known as Beelzebub from the visual novel Maou no Kuse ni Namaiki Da! She dresses, speaks and acts like a Chuunibyou character plus she even has her “Evil Eye” sealed with an eyepatch, yet Vndb refuses to recognize this character’s existence as a chuunibyou due to the fact that she has actual powers due to being an actual devil. Even though its obvious to everyone who has ever played that game that she is a Chuunibyou through and through, it matters little if she is devil or human.
Why its bad:
As I mentioned earlier, Chuunibyou is still an evolving cliché and the amount of anime it affects are but a few dozen, in addition, due to their great variety this cliché is nowhere as annoying or bad as any cliché that I have listed previously. Unless you have a personal hatred or dislike towards Chuunis then I find it unlikely for them to be boring or annoying at the moment. Thus I ranked this cliché as Negligible.
The situation is relatively fine at the moment, but if it continues to grow and gets another large surge in popularity, then it will be cemented as a cliché and rise to low, and eventually medium cliché levels according to my classifications.
Once that happens I can already tell you why they will be bad. Repetition breeds contempt as always, if Chuunibyou’s become overused they will stop being funny and interesting, which is currently still halted by the fact that they have a lot of variety amongst them. Also in serious works their potentially sad/depressing backstory will become stale and predictable like many other cliché characters that tend to have a past that causes their current behaviour.