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NHK ni Youkoso 3

Gonzo must seriously have settled on their dead earless Cat in the Hat mascot gyrating his ass at us in their ED just to stop us from doing something bad, like lust after the nakedly suggestive girls who look like Lain in this show. Yes. That must be it.

Apparently, the original novel this show was based on (by Tatsuhiko Takimoto) featured artwork by Yoshitoshi ABe, who did the character design for Serial Experiments Lain (that's why Misaki looks like Lain). This is helpful to know. If nothing else, it allows me to not mind my own lechery, because Misaki does in fact look very much like an older Lain. And on purpose too. (Look below.)

I must say that Gonzo has probably found itself an ideal title to tackle. Not only does this show have an actual use for massively inappropriate fanservice and shiny breasts, the story is complete in Japan, well, kind of. They wouldn't have to mutate their own plot to finish this, will they?

Tatsuhiro is still coming to terms with making an eroge. Flashing back to how he promised a surprise for Misaki when she found out what his job was, he's afraid she'll run away if he showed her a something like this. Yamazaki is roundly insulted that anyone would take offense at an eroge. To "help" his new partner, Yamazaki therefore forces Tatsuhiro to play lots of recommended titles to enhance his knowledge. (Note that Yamazaki actually refers to their game as a "galge", so I'll be using this from now on.)

Yamazaki's reasoning has a practical side. He believes making galge is the sort of thing amateurs with no experience can actually run with and succeed at, even become major corporations with. He tells Tatsuhiro about an industry leader he knows that started small, with a low budget doujin galge. According to his plan, they'll hit the convention circuit, going with word of mouth to initially get their game around. Eventually, they'll be popular enough to start a company, work hard at establishing their brand name, and might even go international. Highly motivated, the only thing left is for Tatsuhiro to go play some erotic material.

Many hours later, Yamazaki (his PC is so cool in the semi-darkness) gets a call from Tatsuhiro. He wants to know if any of the games Yamazaki lent him happened to be PG. Yamazaki doesn't believe so, since his samplers were to study the industry. Tatsuhiro then asks why, after playing the game he has for so long, he still hasn't been able to unlock any of the pornographic scenes yet!

[At this point in the story, the Hamster is in a total laughing fit. But, no snuffing these dating sims -- they are bloody hard, or at least, I found them bloody hard. I usually just read cheats or go get actual porn. Since that's easier, and I don't need to go bond with pixel people that way.]

Right, so Yamazaki asks if Tatsuhiro actually tried to hit on every girl in the game, which the guy actually did. Yamazaki tells Tatsuhiro to try playing the game again, this time concentrating on a single girl.

Many more hours later, Yamazaki gets another call. (I really like this guy.) Tatsuhiro tried wooing the girl he wanted (who looks like Misaki, who looks like Lain) at the expense of all the others, but he ended up losing her at the end. Tatsuhiro is also crying because this is very sad. Yamazaki tells Tatsuhiro that he should at least be nice to the other girls, while concentrating on the one he really wanted.

In the morning, poor Yamazaki gets a call of success. Tatsuhiro got to his pornographic scene, and wants to know if he can take a screencap.

[At this point in the story, the Hamster would ditch Tatsuhiro and date the otaku.]

Many, many, many tissues later, Tatsuhiro has discovered the world of dating underaged schoolgirls in video games. Yamazaki pays a visit to his weird friend (but it's all his fault, and he's evil, and I like him!) In fact, Tatsuhiro has actually forgotten he promised to make a galge in a month. Yamazaki now has the trouble of helpfully reminding him.

Tatsuhiro mulls over their game's scenario. I do like the way this series is shot. It's still very beautiful, even gentle, barring the suitably crass fantasy scenes. There is another good flashback as Tatsuhiro realizes he only knows two girls: Misaki and Hitomi (his upperclassman from high school). In the flashback, Tatsuhiro is talking to Hitomi, as he usually does during extracurricular time. Hitomi asks him if he would miss her if she died.

In the present time, Tatsuhiro is awakened from sleep by Yamazaki. Yamazaki pushes him a hush hush CD of "character ideas". When Tatsuhiro actually tries it, he finds uncut screens of all the dating sim girls in their most erotic poses. A lot more masturbation ensues, along with the obligatory firing of brain cells, as Tatsuhiro ponders the implications. I've never thought of it this way before, but it does make sense, as Tatsuhiro appears to be suggesting, that Japanese fans, who would get the pixelated girl bits in their porn over there, would have to prowl the Net for the same uncut skin we enjoy over here. More than that, the unpixelated bits of the middle school to early high school girls they get over there would be, as Tatsuhiro is saying, barely legal, if legal at all anywhere else, and it does make an interesting bit of mid-porn fodder, as it were.

Unfortunately, Yamazaki's stash of porn isn't inspiring enough for Tatsuhiro, who goes forth to Google every kind of lolita shot he can get. Many, many, many more tissues later, Yamazaki arrives at his apartment to save Tatsuhiro's PC from lost system files, because Tatsuhiro deleted them to make room for his newfound porn. Yamazaki scolds Tatsuhiro for spending a week looking up 120GB of porn, not to mention that even he wouldn't do that and Tatsuhiro isn't normal (Yamazaki is, however we look at this, the normaler one). Yamazaki props Tatsuhiro in front of a mirror, pointing out that he is now an unwashed pervert, a failure even to hikkomori.

Tatsuhiro breaks down and screams.

Flashback to Tatsuhiro's childhood. He tells us he originally wanted to be a scientist and contribute to humankind, over a scene of him looking into a telescope, watched by his parents. Running out of the bathroom, he rifles through his things and hands Yamazaki a camera. He then demands that Yamazaki take a photo of him in his disheveled state, to remind him of what he looks like a filthy pervert. Tatsuhiro's logic tells him this is the only way he can face reality and be reminded of his purpose as a human being.

They go to a middle school and wait behind some bushes at the gates. Tatsuhiro orders Yamazaki to take pictures of him photographic the girls as they come out. If he can develop enough self-hatred for his current state, he will definitely be able to change himself. Yamazaki freaks out and runs away the moment Tatsuhiro turns his back on him. Tatsuhiro is still bemoaning his fate as the school bell rings. A familiar girl with a lacy parasol appears behind him.

Misaki asks him what he's doing, and Tatsuhiro simply replies that he's taking pictures of cute little girls.

[At this point in the story, Hamp is not sure whether to pity the poor guy or laugh merrily at him.]

Tatsuhiro realizes who it is talking to him, and immediately begins whispering out for Yamazaki in really hilarious fashion. Misaki shrugs it off by telling him if he's referring to the guy who was here, he's already run off covering his face. A horrified Tatsuhiro starts moving off as well. To his back, Misaki adds that she could still save him. Things are going reasonably well, until a sudden breeze comes along and blows up the skirts of all schoolgirls present. Tatsuhiro's reflex is to get down and photograph like an idiot. Misaki asks him if he really is this kind of person. Before Tatsuhiro can answer, she tells him it's probably for the best, because that makes him perfect for her project. Her version of goodbye is to tell him that she wants to see him again, so therefore, he should probably not try to do anything that lands him in the news.

Tatsuhiro runs off screaming. Misaki smiles.

The ED is seriously starting to grow on me. It's a really cool song, with snarky things to say about the state of mankind in general. "The Dance of the Adult Baby" is just begging to be some kind of bizarre hit. Even the actual ending sequence's animation has won me over at this point. There are very cool shots of both Tatsuhiro smoking and Yamazaki walking before we're hit with naked shots of Hitomi and Misaki, and of course, the dead earless Cat in the Hat waving his little grey ass in our faces. A lot. Oh, hell, it's cute.

There's something interesting afoot about a hikkomori trying to write a game to create other hikkomori (according to Tatsuhiro's theory of the media creating hikkomori as a captive market). I liked this juxtaposition, and Tatsuhiro has yet to actually realize the impact of his decision to make the game. How, by doing so, he has to cater to the needs of the same group he is trying to run away from. I'm not sure I necessarily agree with bundling up hikkomori and otaku in the same boat, since they are basically different ideas, and Tatsuhiro himself proved this at the start. Before he went full tilt into lolicon-dom, he was an otherwise normal guy with no interest in anime or manga, if extremely shut-in. But it is a very interesting rewriting of Tatsuhiro's conspiracy game by his own hand. I look forward to seeing how he eventually copes, if he begins to realize what he's actually doing.

The other point of interest is Tatsuhiro's development as a character. He's a pretty easily distracted sort of guy, but as the last few episodes have shown, essentially much more stable than he realizes. In spite of his own problems, he's quite willing to help others when he gets the chance. The way he took the reigns and comforted Yamazaki and Hitomi suggests he has the capacity to give to others. It's just that he often lacks the ability to see his own worth. When he doesn't think about it, he's actually a cool guy.

Yamazaki becomes the perfect foil for Tatsuhiro. He's obsessive about his passions, but he's still got enough roots in the practical world to stay grounded. This makes him a better link towards Tatsuhiro's redemption than Misaki at times. Unlike with Misaki, Tatsuhiro doesn't have to hide aspects of himself, as per the contract he was meant to sign with her. Yamazaki also works as a taskmaster, setting the goals for Tatsuhiro's attempts to leave the hikkomori lifestyle. These are all things Misaki aspired to do, but was ultimately robbed of the chance to pursue. The way this episode ended suggests that while she is the big picture in terms of "saving" Tatsuhiro, the real nitpicker in that regard is Yamazaki. So in a relatively short span of time, Tatsuhiro has gained both a friend and a love interest, taking steps towards rejoining society without meaning to.

Great animation throughout this episode. While it's not going to beat the floating pudding girls from Episode 1, NHK ni Youkoso's approach to narrative is starting to recognizably mimic the dating game-style it discusses. It's fascinating to study, and the use of flashbacks (you might've noticed there's quite a number of them within three episodes) to put present thoughts into perspective is nice. Flashbacks can get overused in some shows, being largely to show off some tragic instance of a person's life, or some essential bit of training in Master vs. Student clips. Here, flashbacks are part of the character's running thoughts, and form part of that complete thought. Like, the realization of his turning into a pervert came off the memory of Hitomi worrying no one would remember her if she died, and ran off into his dreams as a child of being someone useful. It's three different scenes but a single thought, and is a fascinating way of looking at Tatsuhiro's own fear of being unremembered like any other human being, in spite of his outward stance of squirreling himself away. The question worth asking here is, would it therefore mean that he's shut himself in his house not just because he feared being different from other people, but also because it's his way of establishing his invidual identity, in a safe haven?

Strange thoughts. Next episode.

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