OWLS October “Fantasy” Post: Chuunibyou and Fantasy as a Means of Coping
Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations
Thank you all for joining me once again for my OWLS post this month. The theme for this month is Fantasy. Here is the full prompt:
In the month of October, we will be exploring the world of fantasy in pop culture. The genre of fantasy focuses on telling stories about our external and internal environments. There are many ways we can interpret the word, fantasy. For example, we can talk about how a fantastical place could glorify what reality should be or the dangers of ideal expectations. Fantasy could also be seen as taking a “wild journey” or a “hallucination” and how that can affect our psyche and well-being. Fantasy can also focus on our personal dreams and expectations and how those expectations do not align with our reality. Overall, our posts will reflect on how we view the fantasy genre and what we can learn about these pop culture mediums.
Now, for this month’s topic, I decided to do something a little different, as you might have gleaned from the title. I just so happened to be re-watching Chuunibyou, and since the show has plenty of fantasy elements in it without specifically being fantasy, I figured it would be a good enough fit.
Now, onto the post.
Life is hard. I know that might not seem like a bold, ground-breaking discover, but it is worth reminding ourselves. The world is filled with tragedy, from big events like 9/11 and the Kyoto Animation fire that happened just a few months ago to smaller things, like a family member passing a way. It is pretty much inevitable that people will experience some kind of tragedy in their lifetimes. However, what is often more important than the tragedy itself is how those affected by it respond.
Fantasy, as genre in fiction, dominated by many things: the myths of old, dangerous adventures, and tales of legendary heroes. One thing that Chuunibyou explores quite well is what happens when those types of stories become a mechanism for avoiding reality.
Chuunibyou’s story follows Yuta, who has just entered high school far away from where he went to middle school. The reason? Chuunibyou. Chuunibyou is a condition where middle schoolers fall into fantastical delusions, perceiving a different reality entirely, often times one in which they have magical powers, and fight against forces of darkness or light. Embarrassed by his persona as the “Dark Flame Master,” Yuta vows to leave his past behind him and start again as a normal teenager. Unfortunately, Rika Takanashi, does not make that easy for him.
Rika is also a Chuunibyou, except she has not gotten over hers. During their first day of school, she finds Yuta pretending to be the Dark Flame Master one last time. Later, she confronts him about it while the two are in the nurses office. Rika wants him to become his old self once again. Of course, Yuta, still wanting nothing to do with his old Persona, tells her no, and from there the two begin hanging out, with Rika trying her hardest to get the Dark Flame Master to come back.
The show starts out innocently enough. Rika drags Yuta into starting a club, recruits her “servant” Dekomori, and even invites Yuta to come to her grandparents home during the summer. All of this is for her ultimate goal of finding what she calls the “Invisible Boundary Lines.” Of course, Yuta remains clueless about what she means for most of the show. However, around the time episode seven comes around, it is revealed why Rika continues to believe her Chuunibyou delusions and the Invisible Boundary Lines.
When Rika was younger, her dad got became terribly ill, to the point of not being able to recover. Not wanting to her to be sad, Rika’s sister Toka and her mother hid it from her, until the day he passed away. As a result, her father’s death came out of nowhere, and Rika was devastated. While living with her sister for a while, Rika saw Yuta, concealed from the world in his Chuunibyou, unhurt and happy. She then made the decision to cope with her father’s death by pretending it did not happen, and began her own Chuunibyou. Her search for the Invisble Boundary Lines is, in reality, just a way of prolonging the task of accepting the truth.
Of course, Yuta is unaware that he is the source of all this until the show’s final episode of the first season, only that Rika remains unable to come to terms with her father’s passing. It is clear to Yuta after his visit to her grandparents home that Rika is suffering. He tries in his own way to help, but it simply does not work. What he is left with at that point is a feeling of uselessness, one where he wants to help but cannot.
What started as a sweet and innocent show about a somewhat strange high school girl and teens trying to leave the past behind turns out to be a tale of using the world of fantasy to deal with her own tragedy.
However, it also becomes a tale of how one chooses to cope with said tragedy. Near the end of the show, Rika’s sister asks Yuta to get Rika to stop being a Chuunibyou. Initially, Yuta somewhat agreed with Toka, thinking that breaking Rika out of her delusion would be best.
However, after going back to being normal, Rika decides to move away, and live with her grandparents again. She ultimately decides that, after years of being a Chuunibyou, she wants to do whatever will make her mother happy. Yuta, who thought he was okay with her living a normal life, realizes Rika is suffering even more now than she was before. The show ends after he comes to rescue Rika from her normal life and encourages her to be herself.
The message is clear: coping with tragedy is something people do in their own ways, and while it may not always be the healthiest way, embracing a world of fantasy might be better than simply living in a tragic reality.
How do you all feel about Chuunibyou? Let me know in the comments
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