Chuunibyou has some bizarre themes; over-imaginative 16 year olds, romance, defense mechanisms, and defense mechanisms. For the most part, the key element of the main casts’ case of Chuunibyou, is regarded blamelessly, almost mockingly, with allusions to the “ethereal horizon” being central to the comic relief. But, as the awkward interjection of a misplaced narrator points out, there is certainly more than meets the eye when it comes to this otherwise innocent affliction. With talk about how we all might have delusions, and how we “cherish” them, you’d be forgiven to find the monologue a little more than odd. And questions start to rise on what exactly would’ve been in Rikka’s best interests, and the merits of having a delusion.
The conclusion that Chuunibyou comes up with is rather straightforward- it’s ok to have these delusions, everyone is subject to it one way or another. The latter of these statements is quite hard to refute, fantasies do comprise an important part of a person’s defense mechanisms. Having an imaginary world stored somewhere at the ready is integral to resolving problems both internal and external, something almost everyone is subject to. Yet, most of us show some restraint in acting it out. We might imagine ourselves as an astronaut, the ruler of the world, or the protagonist of a harem anime, but we find some degree of embarrassment in admitting it.
As for Rikka, she doesn’t just admit to having fantasies, she lives them out. Understandably, a severe case of Chuunibyou, calls for an equally compelling reason to have it. For Rikka, her delusions are the way she deals with the lost her father. Fair enough. Her Chuunibyou allows her to come to terms with reality, albeit one that she created for herself; a useful if not dangerous remedy to the inevitable trauma of a lost. The only drawback that appears on the surface is that, while Chuunibyou might offer her the promise of escapism, it comes with the price of some deal of isolation. But let’s ignore that for the time being. What if there were no problems imposed by her belief? Everything around her is hunky-dory, but the fact remains that the reality that Rikka inhabits is not real. And if that’s the case would it really be better off for her to live in this world of make-belief?
For William James, the American philosopher and psychologist, it certainly is.
James championed a philosophy tradition known as pragmatism. Condensed ad nauseam, James’ version of pragmatism can be summarized as follows, “the truth is whatever’s useful”. Considering the question of the existence of God, James thought that God exists because believing that he exists was useful. Whether or not such a belief is truly useful is open to debate, but note that James doesn’t commit himself to a specifically Christian deity. In fact, for James, “[anything] larger will do”. So Rikka’s eye, overseers, and the ethereal horizon would probably count as true in so much that they produce desirable consequences. However, if we were to consider something’s value of truth based on the consequences that it creates, does that mean that Santa Claus exists as well because it’s useful to believe in him? Not to mention, what counts as desirable also needs to be established properly.
In Chuunibyou, Rikka is having a hard time, getting pressured into letting go of her delusions and they do give her a bad rep in school, but that’s not that bad. Especially with the way that the anime ends, Chuunibyou is portrayed innocently, but mind you, it could have very easily been shown as a destructive ailment that ruins the lives of Rikka and her loved ones, but that would’ve been far too depressing. If Rikka’s Chuunibyou is not based on reality, and if it no longer proved useful, why keep it? Your answer to what’s in Rikka’s best interests might ultimately rest on whether or not you think the implications of Rikka’s condition lead to good or bad consequences.
You might be delighted, or perhaps chagrined, that James might have still defended Rikka in her beliefs even if some negative results were observed. In his lecture, “The Will to Believe”, James articulated that “[we have the] right to believe anything that is live enough to tempt our will”, including the existence of a wielder of the mjolnir. Perhaps we shouldn’t even consider what Rikka’s believes at face value. Many have argued that Religious language needs to be understood differently than what comes usually. Similarly, we can imagine that Rikka refers to the acceptance and memory of her deceased father when she refers to the “ethereal horizon”, the eyepatch might refer to how Rikka has purposely partially-blinded herself from part of reality, etc. And if that’s the case, what’s so bad about hanging on to delusions.