On Napping, Living Wholeheartedly, and the Secondary School Setting

kumin tsuyuri, love chuunibyou and other delusions, chuunibyou demo koi ga shitai! ren, kumin goddess of napping

“Used to be one of the rotten ones and I liked you for that.

Now you’re all gone, got your makeup on and you’re not coming back.

Can’t you come back?”

-“Anthem for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl,” Broken Social Scene

There are many unspoken rules involved with being “an adult.” One of the more universally accepted of these is that adulthood is far less fun than being a child.

While in secondary schooling – and to some extent, university – we are taught that growing up will give us the agency that we desperately seek as children. As we age, we are expected to give up the magic of our childish dreams in favor of more lucrative avenues. In acquiescing our childhood, we also accept that adulthood is stodgy and serious, but “real” in comparison.  The space between the two, magical and real, is the cozy home of Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! and its second season, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren.

shinka nibutani, morisummer, love chuunibyou and other delusions, chuunibyou demo koi ga shitai!

Pictured above is Shinka Nibutani campaigning to become the student council president. The first words she speaks to a class of first-years, in her attempt to garner votes, are of now nostalgic being in a first-year classroom is. The implication behind these words is that Nibutani is already on her way to being an adult. It is this position that will make her a serious and reliable candidate. As an audience, we are called upon to identify with Rikka, knowing that she’ll eventually be forced to “grow up.” Within the series, Rikka is coddled by nearly everyone – and therefore allowed to extend her childhood that much longer – but rarely is she taken seriously. In order to be seen as serious by others, one must adopt an air of responsibility like Nibutani, even if those airs are more of a performance than anything else.

“And I know nobody really gets this about her, but she’s very wholehearted and serious about what she does, just like a napping club. In our Far-East Magical Napping Society – Of Summer, we nap hard, we play hard, and we banish hard.”

-Kumin Tsuyuri, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren, episode 5

The fifth episode of Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren finds the core cast scrambling to save their after-school club from being disbanded. It is, for the most part, entirely filler, allowing the series to focus on the tertiary character of Kumin Tsuyuri instead of exploring the progression of Rikka Takanashi and Yuuta Togashi’s relationship. However, it also encapsulates the energy of secondary schooling, with Kumin’s pep-talk marking the rare instance that Rikka is taken seriously.

To Kumin’s point, secondary school is one of the few places where one has just enough agency to do what they want to without the presumed burden of a job, or making enough money to keep themselves alive. They are allowed to do what they love to do wholeheartedly, even if that love is for something presumably unproductive, like imaginary magic battles or napping. One of the reasons that secondary school is such a common setting is directly tied to the amount of focus that one is able to have at that age.

For another example, both the anime and manga of Chihayafuru follow Chihaya Ayase’s love of karuta, an insular card game that, while not as isolated as a napping competition, offers very little in the way of a career or future. While Chihaya has a laser-like focus on being the best karuta player she can be, her sister, Chitoge Ayase, attempts to be a successful model. Modeling is a volatile career choice, but it is also shown to be lucrative. Chitoge inevitably draws strength from her younger sister’s devotion to karuta, but there is the unspoken sentiment that Chihaya will eventually have to find something else to do following high school in order to keep herself alive.

This isn’t to deride Chihaya’s efforts in any way. In fact, both the manga and anime celebrate her dedication. However, Chihaya is able to be as focused as she is due to her high school setting. Similarly, any manga or anime that is set in secondary school allows for its cast to focus on whatever they want to, be it karuta, baseball, basketball, tennis, becoming an idol, designing clothing, pursing love, or even napping.

chuunibyou, napping society, chuunibyou demo koi ga shitai! ren, kumin tsuyuri, shinka nibutani, yuuta togashi, rikka takanashi, sanae dekomori

Once one crosses the unseen threshold from child to adult, the possibility of keeping up that wholehearted focus diminishes exponentially. Our undiluted love of whatever we chose to pursue in secondary school is replaced by a fractured focus of working a job, keeping ourselves alive, or perhaps raising children of our own and making it as easy as possible for them to seek out their own dreams. We may remember that love in a hobby, but it’s all-too-often something that must be pushed the periphery of our daily lives, as other, “real life” things now take precedent.

In their sleep battle, Kumin’s opponent recognizes her dedication to napping, saying that she could aim for the world napping title if she were serious. Kumin’s simple reply is that she loves “that place,” presumably meaning the figurative and literal space occupied by the Far-East Magical Napping Society – Of Summer. In her final year of secondary school, Kumin will soon have to leave this magical setting where she can wholeheartedly pursue napping, and will have to forge her own way in the world.

Regardless of whether they attempt to embrace it (Shinka Nibutani and her student council run) or eschew it for fantasy (Rikka Takanashi and her titular chuunibyou delusions), the characters of Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren have already accepted that being an adult is the reality that lies before them. In that acceptance, they also follow the unwritten rule of adulthood: being an adult gives you power, but that power replaces the magic we wield as children, where something as casual as napping can occupy the whole of our hearts.

4 comments

  1. Great post–I loved Chuunibyou; though it ran on a pretty simple KyoAni formula it had a cute message throughout and exemplified at the end. I liked how they played with the idea that being ‘grown up’ meant acting like the opposite of a kid, but as they point out at the very end, everyone’s obsessed with something whether it’s their job or their future or their family, so even adults have eighth grader syndrome to some degree.

    I haven’t watched the seond season yet (I find it odd that they’re making one when the first ended on such a rounded note, but whatever) so can you tell me if it’s any good?

    1. I was speaking with a friend the other day, and they put it very succinctly that adulthood grants you the agency to dig your heels in further or attempt to move forward. There are a lot of things that I thought I would worry less about simply from growing older; however, as I’m still myself, I still worry about them. It becomes more about purposefully changing my own outlook rather than a byproduct of aging.

      The second season is okay. It’s primarily fanservice for an audience that fell in love with the cast. If you love the cast/cast dynamics, then you’ll appreciate the second season, as I do. It’s hardly new territory though and, as you said, the first season ended so well that there’s no reason to watch the second beyond a love for the characters.

      Thank you for the comment. ^ ^

  2. Great post as always, aj!!
    If I may add, there’s also Japanese cultural elements at work in regards to high-school centrality in anime/manga works. High school is considered one of the few places where Japanese youth still have the freedom to enjoy their youth before having to conform to Japanese adult society’s rigid, protocol-filled life.( The other place is university.)

    Although (cynically speaking) this could also be a shameless way for the anime/manga industry to make their products more appealling to the target teen/high school/youth-loving demographic.

    Happy Valentine’s/Singles Awareness Day!! (ノ´ヮ´)ノ*:・゚✧

    1. When I was in university, a friend lived with a few Japanese exchange students, and they said that their entire educational career, both primary and secondary schooling, were very regimented with constant pressure to perform to the next entrance exam. It wasn’t until university, they said, that they were allowed to relax and goof off. ^ ^

      For the most part, simply based on marketing, I think that the majority of anime is still focused on the 18-32 male demographic, with a high-school setting playing to their nostalgia.

      If you think about it, a lot of American films/television series are also set in secondary school or university. ^ ^

      Thank you! Hope you had a good one as well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s