In the opening monologue, a thoroughly misplaced narrator explains Chuunibyou, a Japanese slang term for “Eighth-Graders’ Syndrome”, an affliction suffered (or rather, enjoyed) by the main cast at some point in their lives. In essence, Chuunibyou is a mental “disease” that’s not in the DSM, but as the monotonous monologue clarifies, can refer to any self-delusions that the onset of puberty so cruelly creates. Delusions that causes everything from subtle taste changes to emulate one’s perceived notion of sophistication, to more umm… severe cases…
Severe cases have traits reminiscent to delusions of grandeur, fantasy prone personalities, and hebephrenia, while the level of exaggeration enjoyed by the main casts’ Chuunibyou seem to point to mental illness. However, it might be misleading to think that having Chuunibyou, means needing to have any of these afflictions. Instead, it’s probably the result of the unholy alliance between defense mechanisms, biases and ignorance during the dark ages of early adolescence, that even mentally healthy people are subject to. And yes, you probably had it before.
As a subject, both past and present, to the mental hell that is youthful development, I can personally vouch for my case of Chuunibyou. The painful culmination of the ignorance of youth, the need for identity that doesn’t stop at 20, and a lethal dosage of a hormonal cocktail forced down our throats, we’re all too familiar with, is what Chuunibyou essentially is after all.
The main cause of Chuunibyou seems to be a particular strain of defense mechanisms, fantasy. Now wait, fantasy doesn’t just refer to “ethereal horizons”, “overseers”, and “wicked eyes”, in fact it’s almost anything that your mind conjures up as imaginary scenarios, best summed up by the aforementioned narrator, it consists of (but not limited to) “distant [futures]”, and “lover’s relationships that only exist inside their head”.
In the words of the great Sigmund Freud, “We simply cannot do without auxiliary constructions”. Fantasy provides sanctuary to resolve external and internal conflicts, and constitutes a very useful defense mechanism. But what’s there to defend from at that age remains a question. Though, perhaps the question should really be, “what’s there not to defend from at that age”. Classroom politics, that make Washington look like Kindergarten, complex social structures and hierarchal orders that would make 16th century Europe blush, and to top off the sundae, puberty, so bad that I can’t even think of an analogy, all add up to make even the most self-confident person cry “uncle” for another reality. It’s how much that reality differs from actuality that differentiates the severity of the cases.
But while the need for a different reality might peak at adolescence, it never actually stops, as pointed out again by the narrator. Yet, it’s still called “Chuunibyou” for a reason- it’s when these new realities actually start to creep into actual perceived reality. This tends to happen most often when these fantasies first appear, at the onset of puberty, hence the name. But the timing is no coincidence, but rather, a symptom of ignorance, the unscrupulous Dunning-Kruger effect.
Think about any specific skill that is to be prized by modern society, it could be anything from playing a video game, to writing poetry, but pick one where you, and most everybody else, are barely inducted into the realm of a novice. Now think about how good the professionals are. Chances are that you, like the bronze league player who gives advice to professional starcraft player on his stream, or the Chuunibyou-afflicted teenager who thinks he’s the new shakespeare, underestimated just how good the professionals really are. That’s the Dunning-Kruger effect, in… well… effect.
You, the amateur, don’t know much about the field that you want to become an expert in. And you probably don’t know how good an expert is as a result. You therefore fall into the danger of thinking that you are almost, or heaven forbid, as good as them. This ignorance is acceptable, if not essential, to being a teenager, being a beginner everything the world has to offer. Consequently, your tendency to slip into the Dunning-Kruger, is infinitely higher at this vulnerable stage.
Slip inside the eye of your mind
Don’t you know you might find
A better place to play
You said that you’ve never been
But all the things that you’ve seen
They slowly fade away
Oasis, Don’t Look Back in Anger
It’s easy to see how Dunning-Kruger could open the floodgates for fantasies to invade reality: how one might think he’s a philosopher by reading the sparknotes for Heidegger’s Being and Time or a writer for getting views on a blog (admittedly, I’m describing myself), you just don’t know enough to persuade yourself out of your delusions. Still, I would be remiss to suggest that it’s always the Dunning-Kruger effect, in Rikka’s case it might be something else (I really don’t know enough about psychology to comment on this one).
Coupled with teenage fantasies, the Dunning-Kruger effect, and the ignorance of adolescence, youth is fertile breeding ground for Chuunibyou. But all these ailments continue beyond those years in high school, for some of us, possibly most of us, if not all of us, until the day that we die. But whatever let’s you keep your sanity…