Chuunibyou (中二病), or "Middle-school 2nd Year Syndrome", is a colloquial and rather derisive term in Japan which describes a person at the age of fourteen would either act like a know-it-all adult, or thinks they have special powers no one else has. Some would even go as far as being obnoxious, arrogant, and often look down on adults or older people. This way of thinking or acting is mostly seen in teenagers during adolescence, however there are people who still act like this even after reaching the adulthood.
Chuunibyou uses the word "病" for "syndrome" or "disease" but it does not actually relate to any medical condition or mental disorder. It can also be written as 厨二病 in Japanese, where "厨" means "-fag" in net slang. In English it is often abbreviated as chuu2.
Hikaru Ijuin (hikaruijuin@twitter) is said to be the first person to use this word as it was heard in his radio programme Hikaru Ijuin's UP'S (伊集院光のUP'S). During an episode which aired on 11 November 1999, Ijuin mentioned, "I'm still contracting 'chuunibyou' myself". In the following week, Ijuin started a corner called "Am I sick? Oh, it's just Chuunibyou." in which Ijuin reads "cases" contributed by his radio listeners in his radio.
Ijuin originally described chuunibyou as the things people normally do during their 2nd year in middle school. As the term grew more popular, it became a slang term among Japanese internet users. Other derogatory terms such as "High School 2nd year Syndrome" (高二病, kounibyou), "Elementary School 2nd year Syndrome" (小二病, shounibyou), and other similar derivatives started appearing and also became Internet memes.
It was then that Ijuin himself tweeted a message regarding this issue by saying, "I have no interest in this word anymore because it has lost its original meaning from when I first described it.".
Masakazu Amahisa and Katsuki Tanaka's "Bakadrill" featured an article related to chuunibyou while Boushi Chino of Kadokawa's "Yomazugirai" (『角川書店』 読まず嫌い "Didn't Read It. Hated It.") mentioned that this "vicious circle" makes him want to add "Chuunibyou after Fifty" as a sub-header on the novel Don Quixote for the following quote:
"The protagonist perceived the world through coloured glasses. When people talk to him, they will not deny his delusions and play along, but that makes him go deeper into his fantasies."
The Three types of Chuunibyou
According to the "Chuunibyou User Manual" (中二病取扱説明書, Chuunibyou toriatsukai setsumei sho), there are three types of people who have chuunibyou traits:
DQN (DQN系, dokyun-kei)
Pretends to be anti-social or acts like a delinquent when in fact he or she is not or cannot become like either one. Tells made up stories about gang fights or crimes, or boasts and pretends to know about that subculture. "DQN" is slang for "antisocial person" or "annoying delinquent".
Subcultural/Hipster (サブカル系, sabukaru-kei)
Prefers non-mainstream or minor trends and establishes themselves as being special. People of this type do not really love the subculture itself but rather strive to obtain the "cool" factor by not having the same interests as others.
Evil Eye (邪気眼系, jakigan-kei)
Admires mystical powers and thinks that he or she has a hidden power within them as well. It is this trait that they create an alias specifically for said power. This is also known as the delusional type. See here for some science on this.
The following examples are provided from the "Fundamentals of Otaku Terminology" (オタク用語の基礎知識, otaku yougo no kiso chishiki):
- One starts listening to Western music (classic/baroque/etc) to be unique.
- One starts drinking coffee even though it is unnecessary or they dislike the taste.
- Desperately insists on having known a band before they went gold or became mainstream.
- One thinks one could do anything but do not feel like putting in the effort.
- Becoming enraged at one's mother and saying, "Respect my privacy!"
- Just reading about society makes one believe to be fully aware of history, leading to generalizations like, "The USA is horrible."
If someone admires idols, celebrities, foreign cultures, or starts acting like one of these, it might be labelled as a variation of chuunibyou. In psychology, it is actually called "identification". This means that they exhibit a defence mechanism (a psychological reaction trying to stabilise one's mentality at least temporarily) of the same kind as when someone subliminally intakes an admired person's definite skills or achievements. Things like clothes of popular people becoming fashion and variants of this are the same.