Content Warning: This post contains discussion on self injury.
Thanks to a particular anime series from 2012, the term chunibyo has since become a buzzword among western anime fans. Anyone suffering from chunibyo is easily spotted thanks to the staple accessory of a medical eyepatch. This seemingly random visual trend actually has a decent amount of context behind it.
Eyepatch Accessory Origins
In the 2000s self-injury among teenagers was a becoming a prominent issue in Japan. Studies found that acts such as wrist cutting were trending among young girls in particular. The act of self injury mixed with the popular kawaii fashions worn by school girls made for an unsettling image of a young girls in colorful, cheerful outfits juxtaposed with the darker ideas represented by their bandaged wrists.
The combination of cute and concerning resonated with teenagers and took off in fashion and art styles. An entire sub style of kawaii fashion emerged, menhera (a slang term for someone suffering from mental illness). Menhera is usually designated by pastel colors, seifuku collars and medical imagery.
In 2008, Yoshihiro Nishimura, a filmmaker known for gory thriller and horror stories, parodied the self harm trend among teenage girls in the movie Tokyo Gore Police which featured a fake commercial for the “Wrist Cutter G” a colorful and cute new wrist slitting product, perfect for school girls.
In 2014, artist Ezaki Bisuko created the satire manga Menhera-chan featuring magical girls that must self harm in order to use their magic.
However, the popularity of self harm in the form of a fashion statement meant that the style could be adopted by anyone, even those who were not actually performing self harm or suffering from any kind of mental illness. Wrist bandages could be an accessory regardless of whether there were actual injuries underneath them. Other accessories inspired by medical imagery and illness matched the menhera aesthetic and also became popular.
That’s right, white medical eyepatches began to be used for non-medical fashion in Japan around the mid to late 2000s. This accessory wasn’t just for the menhera sub style either. Fashion cultures love to mix and mesh and overlap and the eyepatch found its way into all kinds of youth fashion.
What does this have to do with chunibyo?
In 2008, a book called the “Chunibyo User’s Manual” by Kotobukiya was published as a comical guide to the phrase being used by middle and high schoolers “chunibyo” (translated as “8th grade syndrome” for American English). According to this guide there are three types of chunibyo: Dokyun kei, SubCul kei and Jyakigan kei.
Dokyun kei (or DNQ kei) accounted for kids who would act tough and pretend to be delinquents or apart of gang, when in reality they aren’t. SubCul kei (or Subculture Kei) describes those who only take interest in obscure media and culture and complain about the mainstream pop culture, inferring they are special for their lack of well known interests. (Basically the Equivalent to the American 2000s Hipster.) Finally, Jyakigan Kei (or Evil Eye kei) is a label for kids who project their interest in fantasy and occult onto themselves by pretending to have supernatural powers.
A school kid suffering from chunibyo is more likely to wear fake bandages around their wrists or take part in the eyepatch fashion trend. A chunibyo could perceive self harm as “edgy” and use it for whatever kind of alter ego they’ve created for themselves for the sake of attention.
But if you aren’t pretending to have depression or any other problems then why else would you by wearing an eyepatch? To cover up your magical evil eye of course!
Jyakigan kei is the one form of chunibyo people apparently find the most endearing and that’s why it ended up the premise for a whole anime series.
Now We Get to the Anime and Moe Part
In 1996 the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion aired and gained immense popularity. Fans adored the character of Rei Ayanami, an aloof and cold school girl who piloted the giant mech, Evangelion Unit 00. The character’s introduction consists of her feebly struggling against injuries from a previous accident and sporting an eyepatch and wrist bandages.
Many fans found Rei cute, attractive and most of all provoking moe, a multifaceted term that can describe a want to adore and protect.
Then in the 2000s characters, in primarily hentai games and visual novels, started cropping up with something in common.
(Games from left to right: My wife and I and Boyne 2006, Soukai no Oujotachi ‘2008, Nurse ni Omakase 2004, Tokidoki Pakucchao! 2004, Chokotto Vampire! 2006, Azrael 2002)
Character designs including a medical eyepatch also cropped up in anime from the 2000s but the visual trope was most popular in games aimed at an adult male audience because the eyepatch was associated with moe thanks to the aforementioned Rei. (It’s also important to note that eyepatchs were not exclusive to female characters but just more popular.)
Now in the 2010s more examples of characters in anime with medical eyepatches have emerged including the 2012 series “Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions”.
By the mid-2000s, the medical eyepatch has been established as a visual trope that’s meant to be cute and associated with moe, but by the late 2000s it has also become associated with real life fashion and the term “Chunibyo” which describes the real life behaviors of adolescents. Chunibyo, Love & Other Delusions, the anime series, simultaneously exploits the cutesy angle of the eyepatch design to successfully appeal to otaku but also solidifies the accessory’s relationship with the idea of immature chunibyo behavior to its viewers.
[This post was originally posted: Feb, 3rd 2016 on the Otaple 1/2 Tumblr]