Komi Can't Communicate is a beloved shojo-style shonen anime starring the silent but earnest heroine Komi Shoko, who is determined to make 100 new friends this year. She has befriended many colorful characters with Tadano Hitohito's help in Season 1, including the eccentric but lovable geek girl, Omoharu Nananaka.
Nakanaka is known for her flair for the dramatic. With an unnecessary eyepatch and a fondness for things such as blood oaths and fantasy princesses, she can be described as having chunibyo, or "8th grader syndrome." This is a common phenomenon, and curiously, even My Hero Academia characters such as Tokoyami Fumikage are chunibyo types as well. What does it mean to be a chunibyo, though?
The Common Traits Of A Chunibyo Character
Unlike terms such as tsundere and kuudere, chunibyo can also be used to describe real-life people; that's how it got started in Japan in the late 1990s. At the time, the term was used to describe second-year middle school students, or 8th graders, who had a flair for the dramatic in an attempt to stand out and look cool. These students often had delusions of grandeur and even suggested that they had supernatural powers and abilities no one else did, which sometimes involved their eyes. Such students might wear eyepatches or claim to be a fantasy prince or princess in disguise, and they could use special powers but chose not to.
Whether in fiction or real life, chunibyo describes someone who is simply going through a phase, and won't necessarily keep up their antics in high school or beyond. It might be roughly compared to Goth kids or "emo" kids who, for a time, dive deep into their chosen subculture and use it to express themselves until they move on to something else or simply outgrow it.
Chunibyo behavior is also an example of a counterculture movement, almost like delinquents or punks, which may be an even bigger deal in a conformist society such as Japan's. Whether or not a chunibyo student is making a statement about society may vary from case to case, however. Some chunibyo people or characters choose this trend simply to look cool or gain validation, or to amuse themselves. More than a few anime characters have embraced the subculture in a variety of genres, including both Komi Can't Communicate's Nakanaka and MHA's Fumikage.
How Nakanaka & Fumikage Try To Stand Out as Chunibyo
Nakanaka and Fumikage are both recent examples of chunibyo characters in anime, and while they express it in similar ways, they seem to have different reasons for it. Nakanana is portrayed as a chunibyo in Komi Can't Communicate mainly for humorous reasons. In fact, much of the Komi cast appear to be gentle parodies of stock characters, from Ren Yamai the yandere to Agari Himiko, the shy library girl. Nakanaka, meanwhile, is Komi's obligatory chunibyo, a dramatic girl who seems to have no deep-seated reason to embrace this counterculture except for the fun of it.
Nakanaka isn't compensating for a lack of love at home or frustration in her life; rather, she's a chunibyo simply in a juvenile attempt to stand out, which is the essence of being one in the first place. Nakanaka may feel too boring or ordinary otherwise, so she embraced this dramatic lifestyle and claims to have a "dragon force" and other mystical powers. She also embraces otaku culture to some degree, such as her extensive manga collection, JRPG posters and her fondness for the Swamp Bros. game, a parody of the Super Smash Bros. games.
Meanwhile, My Hero Academia's Tokoyami Fumikage is a darkness-themed hero in many ways, from his own chunibyo personality to his shadow-based Quirk, Dark Shadow, and his Goth-themed dorm room. Tokoyami doesn't just dream about the chunibyo life, he actually lives it as a costumed hero in training. Fumikage's Goth-themed bedroom and decorative sword reminded the other Class 1-A boys of their own middle school days, the perfect timing for a chunibyo phase. Kirishima Eijiro, for example, saw a cool keychain in Tokoyami's room and noted how he had a similar one in middle school.
Tokoyami's chunibyo tendencies appear more serious than Nakanaka's for one reason: he may have embraced this lifestyle to compensate for discrimination against his heteromorph status. In My Hero Academia, heteromorphs are often looked down on, and having a raven head could make him the target of unfair and cruel disapproval or ostracization. So to compensate, perhaps he embraced the chunibyo lifestyle to reclaim it and prevent anyone from scorning him for being different. He extended that strategy into his pro hero life so he can save the day as a proud chunibyo and heteromorph. For Tokoyami, it's not some cheap 8th grade phase -- it's his entire life.