Chuunibyou in the Wild

After living and teaching English to middle schoolers in Japan for two years, I’ve just realized that I haven’t written anything about something that, according to anime, should’ve been fairly common!

And that’s “chuunibyou” (chuuni), known in English as “middle-schooler syndrome”.

While in anime we frequently see the chuuni character in high school, I interacted regularly with the junior high school students where this illness is supposed to originate, at an age where immaturity is still rampant and such behaviour is still accepted…

Naturally, I’m writing this to detail my personal observations of such an affliction, so please read on to learn just how it takes form in reality.

Interestingly, the kanji for this is 中二病, which broken up is 中 “middle” (for middle school), 二 “two” (for 2nd grade), and 病 “sick” (for sick). One of the definitions on is “2nd year of junior high sickness”.

And I have no idea as to the origins of the word, but if I had to guess I’d say that it was created via media / comedy, as opposed to being an actual academic word that’s existed in the Japanese language for a long time. Possibly anime itself, or a comedy skit, or a book, or article, or so on. I could be wrong though,

One more interesting point is that according to the definition on, chuunibyou behaviour is “especially due to being overly self conscious as a result of puberty”. There’s no question that puberty causes the students to become more self conscious – they generally go from very loud and energetic in their first year of JHS to noticeably more quiet and reserved in their third year. Although that wasn’t always the case.

I guess what strikes me here is that the definition seems a little off compared to the image that anime provides; of the outcast student who acts in an almost deluded manner, acting like the main character of a video game (or some form of media) that possesses special traits or abilities.

But then, I guess the idea behind the definition is that the behaviour begins with puberty, and the teenager, becoming more self conscious, decides to adopt an identity that aligns with what they see as “cool”. And then… they just keep it up into high school. Which is where we get our chuuni parody characters in anime, like Kaidou in Saiki Kusuo.

Anyways, let’s get to my personal experience, and how it lines up to what we see in anime, or at least, how the JHS students’ behaviours line up. I didn’t teach high school, so I can’t speak for that.

Okazaki Sunohara

So, I taught at two junior high schools, and over the two years I taught, I’d say I encountered about ~400 students in total.

And of the 400, how many students would I say exhibit something you could say approaches chuuni behaviour?

Just one.

While the boys in particular are always messing around, wrestling, running around, making weapons out of stationery (or their imaginations), and so on, I wouldn’t call any of that chuuni behaviour. That’s just normal teenage boy behaviour! I’d even write off the occasional Naruto running. Doing wacky things is what teenage boys do.

So yeah, when it comes down to it, it’s just the one student.
Like the definition for chuunibyou, he was a second year in junior high school when I taught him.

And he really only did one or two ‘chuuni’ things at that.

First up was one day when I noticed that, using red pen (and black pen to outline), he’d drawn on his left arm to make it look like it was cut at the wrist and blood had dripped down his arm. Then, using this wood knife (not sharp) that he made in art class, he would pretend to cut his hand / wrist, grasp it in pain, and then reveal the “bloody wound”.

And he did this multiple times, to different students. Like, he’d call another guy’s name, and then act out the little skit / reveal his “bloody” hand and arm.

Basically, it was prime entertainment for me to watch him do it maybe 3 or 4 times in a single class.

And he kept that “wound” up for several classes, too, although the acting was really only in the first time. After that he would just look at it occasionally, maybe touch up the details or whatever.

The next thing he did was very similar. He drew a big scar of sorts, like before, only this time on the palm of his hand. He’d go for a high five or a handshake with another boy, and then he’d grimace in pain, grasping his hand, before revealing the “injury”.

Similar to the first one, really, only this time he didn’t need the prop knife.

He actually did this one to me, too, if I remember correctly.

But yeah, aside from those two cases, I’d just say that he was a little more animated in general. More likely to pretend he has a weapon and “fight” whoever is sitting next to him, pretend to be wounded from being “hit” by a friend’s pretend weapon, et cetera. He often drew on his own skin, like outlining his veins, or things like that.

Unlike anime, there was no dark magic, inner dragon, evil eye or anything like that though.

And he wasn’t not an outcast or anything like that, although I guess perhaps acting like a chuuni doesn’t make one a social outcast until they are in high school? I doubt he’d become an outcast though, considering he was one of the most athletic boys in his class, and was also one of the more outspoken ones as well.

That’s really the closest experience I can think of.

While my personal experiences are clearly very limited, and my schools weren’t so big (perhaps in a much larger school a student is more likely to feel outcast / exhibit chuuni behaviour), if I had to guess, I’d say that it’s not really a common thing at all.

Which of course shouldn’t be surprising, given that we only ever really see a chuuni character in comedy anime, where the character is designed to be an extreme representation of the “2nd year of junior high sickness” that carried onto high school.

In the end, it’s an interesting topic, and of course teenagers are going to do things that would fit in the realm of chuunibyou, but after all is said and done I do think it’s just a form of comedy above all else.

Still, I thought it’d be fun to share my own few experiences with something that you could possibly be considered as chuuni behaviour at the source: a 2nd year junior high school boy.

That’s all I have to write about this topic.
Feel free to ask anything in the comments.

Until next time,
Thanks for reading.

12 thoughts on “Chuunibyou in the Wild

  1. Yeah, I guess it’s not that surprising to hear that chuuni aren’t really that common in real life. Though I think it would be pretty funny to teach at a school that was just riddled with chuuni student!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hmmm, sounds like you had the case of a “class clown” here. Sure, his pranks seem a little too extreme with the wound and all (that could be a sign of something more serious, God forbid) but he might have a career as some kind of comedian perhaps.

    As to the origin of the “chuunibyou” portmanteau, I think it came from a radio show talk in 1999 which basically described the scenario you were talking of.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. He wasn’t really a class clown, like he didn’t disrupt class or anything like that. I think he just thought it was cool and wanted to show it off, cause he was pretty artistic.

      Interesting, so it’s a relatively new term all things considered.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah I was pretty surprised at how recent it was.

        Well, at least back in my day, the class clowns I got were the ones that got laughs through little pranks or constantly procuring inside jokes. For example back in Grade 8 there was a girl that definitely fit this trope; who’d write outrageous things in art class to get a teacher’s attention, call her friends “children” and picked a random boy as “dad” to her “mom”, and in another instance, on the health class textbook, one of the characters was named “Sharmala” and for some reason she made that into a running inside joke called “Sharmalallah”. Maybe my expectations for class clown were low because I never formally saw the disruptive types in class…

        By the way… kids in the Japanese schools really did Naruto running? I felt like that has grown old LOL

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I was the class clown who would shout out jokes and so on in class to get them to laugh. I wouldnt pull pranks though, and it wasnt every class, just depended on the atmosphere and teacher.

        And Naruto running will never get old I think!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh that’s dope! Must have been fun to brighten up the mood in class 😉 I was the opposite, basically quiet, confused and mostly aloof waiting for the bell to ring. Over time I grew out of that and am quite extroverted compared to then, and am more inclined to starting conversations.

        Fair enough on the Naruto running hehe, I know in my day that might have been a thing (when anime wasn’t as mainstream as it is now) but I guess since then it’s been softening up. Fun fact: I’ve never seen Naruto before myself LOL

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Neither have I haha.

        And I’m sure many classmates didn’t appreciate me, but maybe others did as I helped lighten up the mood in the class. Same with teachers.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Who knows, maybe down the line they look back fondly at those shenanigans that were pulled. It’s hard to imagine someone who is annoyed looking back at that in retrospect 🙂 You know what they say about looking at life through rose-coloured glasses…


  3. I figured that Chuunibyou anime presented a pretty exaggerated look at those types, though I more or less liked it in the context of that show. It would be a real problem if you had a bunch of middle school students wearing fake eyepatches and revealing their ultimate power and all that stuff in the hallways. Though considering what else they get up to, it might not be that terrible.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha yeah, it’d only be slightly different. Instead of wrestling each other, running around, and so on, they’d be having pretend battles or things like that I imagine.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Pingback: Listening/reading log #30: May 2022 | Everything is bad for you

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