Saturday, November 25, 2017

中二病, Chuunibyou - Meaning in Japanese

What's a chuuni...? A miserable pile of secrets!!! There are people out there who are chuuni, and because such people exist, there are characters in anime who are also chuuni just like real people. But what does chuuni mean? And what does chuuni mean in Japanese? And what's the difference between chuuni an chuunibyou?!


To begin with, let's understand what chuuni means in English.

A chuuni is an anime character (or person) who likes manga, anime or games, and ends up pretending (or actually thinking) they have super-powers. They fantasize they fight alone against super-secret global criminal organizations aiming for world domination, and so on, because they have become influenced by fiction and shounen manga.

Sometimes, a chuuni will even claim their powers can't be controlled, or that they're being targeted, so it's incredibly dangerous for "normal people" to stay around them, which is why they'd rather be alone (although this is just an excuse for having no friends because nobody wants to hang around the weirdo).

Normally, a chuuni character will attempt to look lame cool by showing off the following features:
  • Bandages sealing some unworldly demon within their right/left arm which may go crazy who knows when.
  • An eye-patch sealing their "evil eye" (jakigan 邪気眼) which let's them see evil things normal people can't see.
  • A magic world, which is either lost forever and beyond hope of recovery, or invisible, or just not very magic at all.
  • Epic cool-sounding names for their super-powers, secret techniques, and evil-fighting organizations, all of which literally nobody has ever heard of and make absolutely no sense (JUSTICE KNIGHTS OF... THUNDERRRRRRRRR!!!)

Now, here are two important things to consider.

First, a chuuni often doesn't have any special powers or fights evil or anything, despite their claims. They're just trying to look cool by copying what they saw on a manga, anime, game. The problem is, as them and other kids get older, it stops being cool (if it ever were) and starts looking lame.

Second, a chuuni is not an otaku オタク. An otaku is someone who spends a lot of time in their hobby (reading manga, watching anime, etc.). In Japan, manga and anime are everyday things, every kid can read or watch, it's common. Just because you read, like, one manga, Naruto, for example, and start saying you can do ninjutsu that doesn't make you an otaku, that just makes you a chuuni.


Examples of chuunibyou characters: The Jet-Black Wings from Saiki Kusuo no Psi-Nan; Dark Flame Master from Chuunibyou demo koi ga Shitai; and Megumin from Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!


So that's what chuuni is in English, but what about chuuni in Japanese?

In order to understand what the word means, let's start by deciphering the kanji of chuuni 中二.
  • chuu
  • ni

So... "middle"... and the Japanese number two. Middle 2. Okay...

That helped nothing.

What does middle two mean?! Did I translate it wrong? Am I missing something here?! Well, actually, yeah.

The term chuu ni 中二 is an abbreviation of an school year. It refers to:
  • chuugaku ninen 中学二年
    Middle school second year.
    Eighth grade. (Japanese elementary has 6 years)

Alright, so now we know that chuuni means "middle school second year," which makes absolutely no sense at all. When you call a character a chuuni, are you saying they're a "year"? What? If you intended to call him a student, the correct word would be:

What exactly is going on here? I mean, even if chuuni means second year student (and not the actual year), what is that supposed to mean? Are all second year students chuuni??? Is chuuni just a way to say someone is in the eighth grade?!

Of course not.

What is missing here is this:
  • byou
    Sickness. Illness. Syndrome.

Added to what we had before:
  • chuunibyou 中二病
    Middle school second year syndrome.
    Eighth grade syndrome.



Chuuni vs. Chuunibyou

It's very simple, really. When people say the word chuuni, they don't mean "eighth grade," even though that's what chuuni means in Japanese. When they say chuuni, they mean chuunibyou. Because chuunibyou can be abbreviated as chuuni.

Furthermore, note that chuuni, or chuunibyou, refers to a "syndrome." That is, when it's used in Japanese, it means "that guy has chuunibyou." In English, however, people generally use it chuuni as if to say "that guy is chuunibyou."

The word chuunibyou being used in manga Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan

(just watch Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! 中二病でも恋がしたい!, "I want to love despite having middle school second year syndrome" to see how the word chuunibyou is used)

Second Year Middle School Syndrome

The horrible disease known as "second year middle school syndrome," or chuunibyou in Japan, was named like this because of the demographic most affected by its abominable symptoms: middle school second year students.

Now you might be asking: how is that even possible? Is there really a syndrome that targets specifically second year students of a middle school? Are viruses and bacteria becoming socially aware?!

Well, no. I mean, maybe, just look at Hataraku Saibou はたらく細胞. But that's not the case here.

Internet Slang

The term chuunibyou is an internet slang in Japan, it's not an actual medical term. It simply implies that it's a condition that should be cured (a syndrome, disease), and it generally has nothing to do with the mental health of the chuuni in question.

Why Second Year?

The reason it's called second year middle school syndrome (or eighth grade syndrome) is pretty obvious: that school year maps to the age of 13–14 years old, the very middle of puberty.

Why is that important? Because of what chuunibyou really is about.

The Real Problem

If you only watch anime and read manga, you might think chuunibyou is like kids trying to LARP, or maybe missing friends to play D&D, but what's not what chuunibyou is.

That's because anime chuunibyou is based on Real Life™ chuunibyou. And nothing in real life is as pretty as the downplayed anime version of it.

In the case of chuunibyou, it's not really about dressing up in fantasy costumes, pretending to be host of a demon, and claiming to have dark super powers and be able to save the world. That's just a way it manifests. The core issue here is that there's a teenager trying really hard to get attention.

That's right: chuunibyou is a self-identity through puberty problem.

Real Chuunibyou

Children who go get chuunibyou want to be special and unique. Different. And, obviously, they are not. But they want to be. Because who doesn't? So they start pretending they are a thing they are not, do things they do not, and even like things they don't like really, all in an effort to look better than your average Joe, to the average Joe's.

Obviously, pretending to fight evil is an extreme example of chuunibyou. Children who read manga and watch anime end up figuring out that since the fictional protagonists are so cool and superior, if they pretend to be like the fictional characters they'll end up being cool and superior. It's really stupid if you think about it, but for the chuunibyou it makes sense.


Other less extreme examples of chuunibyou include pretty much anything a teenager would do to "look different" from your average person in order to get attention. The degree of this varies, the way it's done varies. Sometimes, a chuunibyou will even look down on everyone who is average.

"You, a normie, listens to pop music, pretty much trash. I, a chuunibyou, listen only to obscure bands, which are much better than your bands. Until they become popular. Then I'll say they suck and sounded better before."

The bandages chuunibyou wear and eye-patches, they are not there for no reason. Thankfully, nobody is injured, but somebody will ask: "what happened? Did you get hurt? Did you break your arm? Is your eye okay?" It's just a way of getting attention. (this is like a far less crazy version of jishou-gata yandere)

Because chuunibyou keep doing stuff that's annoying and weird to get attention, it's no mystery they end up alone. Maybe they were alone before and started doing this stuff to try to get friends. Who knows? The point is they won't back down. Instead of accepting it doesn't work and changing to fit in, the chuunibyou only worsens. The teenager will start claiming he doesn't care that others ignore him and couldn't care less for the opinions and friendship of normies.

Adult Chuunibyou

So, basically, chuunibyou is about trying too hard to be different. So hard you do stuff that doesn't make any sense in an effort to appear interesting or changed, and so hard you won't admit it doesn't work. Surely, this term is used only toward teenagers, but, unfortunately, adults have chuunibyou too. It's just that we don't call it that.

There are many chuunibyou adults who'll start doing stuff to appear different in their social circles. They'll start a weird vegan diet. Or doing crossfit. Or vaping. Or smoking weed. All for no reason other than standing out. (of course there are those who do these things because they want to, they have actual preferences, but with chuunibyou's they only care for the appearances.)

So that's what a chuuni and what chuunibyou means in Japanese.

1 comment:

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  1. Thanks so much for all your hard work on this blog! It has quickly become one of my favorite internet go to haunts for my Japanese learning! You do a really great job of making everything clear and easy to understand all while being funny and relatable. Thanks so much and keep up the good work!

    Btw, I just wanted to say that your English is very good too, your site pretty much reads like it came from a rather well read native speaking internet denizen.