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NHK ni Youkoso 5

Tatsuhiro is having another flashback to the Literature Club. It's the last day of high school for the 3rd Year students, and Hitomi is leaving Tatsuhiro with even more advice about conspiracies all around them. Tatsuhiro has bought her a gift (the box looks like it's a pen). She suddenly gets up to turn off the lights and takes off her jacket. Hitomi thanks him for keeping her company for last two years. A kettle clearly begins overboiling in the background. For all that I'm describing it this way, this was a pretty cool scene. These flashbacks always do offer some great eye candy.

In the present, Tatsuhiro is at a cafe with Hitomi. NHK still has a great eye for its scenery, again, I really can't stop saying this. Whether it's trying to show us suburban dreariness or the oddly comforting crush of a city, or even the intimacy of an empty classroom, the scenery is an integral part of the story. Whereas soundtrack is often used to portray the invasion of the outside world (like the Pururin song), the scenery is part of the characters' inner thoughts. In this case, we are in the city, in a virtually empty cafe, and Tatsuhiro seems distracted enough to be at ease with the outside world. It's a great contrast with the last episode's frenetic crowding in maid cafes and anime/manga product shops. For the first time since he decided to go into the open during broad daylight, he has a chance to really let everything sink in.

Hitomi tells him he looks unhappy. She offers to give him her psychiatric medication, and if he's unable to sleep, she has sleeping pills too. She has mood stabilizers, antidepressants -- Tatsuhiro asks her how many hospitals she's actually seeking treatment from. Two mean looking guys from the table behind her seem to be peeking over their shoulders. Hitomi tells Tatsuhiro that she's seeing three different hospitals and stretches. She puts her arms on the table and leans on them, just like she used to at the Literature Club, telling him it's hard being a worker. Tatsuhiro flashes back briefly to when she said the same thing about entrace exams. Hitomi elaborates by saying she works at a municipal office. Tatsuhiro says it's great she works as a public servant. When she asks him what he's doing, and before he can answer, looks at his shopping bags. She comes to the conclusion he must be a freeter (part-timer with irregular jobs), since he's carrying around so much shopping during a weekday.

Tatsuhiro freaks out, and says it'd be great if he were just a freeter. However, he's a hikikomori, and look, these are the galges he bought. Figurines! DVDs! (Dude, what the hell are you trying to do?! Maybe because he sees she's as flawed as him, he's suddenly at ease.) Plus, lots of other anime goods, making him an outright otaku. He tells her he's spent his rent money for the next month too, so he has no idea what to do. (I wonder where his money comes from now, as well.) Hitomi looks very spaced out (I envy the drugs) and doesn't seem to mind, as Tatsuhiro tells her he's a master of hikkomori, having now lived this way for four years. She stirs her drink and says that she sort of guessed he'd be like that all these years.

Tatsuhiro is mildly insulted, but it turns out Hitomi is kidding. Hitomi sometimes thinks about her underclassman from high school, who'd tell her about his friends, even though she'd never see them around. We're taken to a flashback as she says this, showing Hitomi coming upon Tatsuhiro looking bored in the empty Literature Club room. She always remembered that scene, and wonders if they should've really dated each other back then. If they had, maybe they wouldn't have just played cards everyday. If they had built themselves a relationship, maybe Tatsuhiro would never have turned into a hikkomori. We pan over the table, starting at Tatsuhiro's anime goods and reaching her antidepressants. It's a subtly unpleasant reminder that however they grew up, it didn't turn out very well.

(In a side note, I should mention the two characters who refer to Tatsuhiro as "Satou-kun" in this show are Hitomi and Misaki. Tatsuhiro has come after Misaki before for calling him a -kun even though she's about 6 years his junior. Throughout the show, Hitomi, as his senpai, often treats him a little like an elder sister as well as a very close friend.)

Besides, Tatsuhiro adds, it's all a conspiracy, as they look outside at the city, which has just begun to grow dark. We catch glimpses of Akihabara at work, with a giant poster of a girl who has a bird's beak and wings, anime-related stores and a maid cafe with the waitresses outside greeting customers. Tatsuhiro gets a phone call from Yamazaki, who is angry because he's been waiting for him awhile. As he shuts his cell phone after the call, Tatsuhiro apologizes to him in absentia. Hitomi is storing away her drugs. When Tatsuhiro returns to Hitomi, he asks if she remembers that middle school student he saved in their student days. He tells her Yamazaki is his neighbour now. Hitomi asks for his phone number. Tatsuhiro calls up her phone, and as she records his number, she asks if his first name was indeed Tatsuhiro. She then asks him if he remembers her given name. He says, of course he does, as we see his cell phone listing, "Hitomi". Hitomi tells him the world has gotten a lot more convenient, since cell phones are sold everywhere, but you can't buy relationships that easily. (There's a shot of her face as she says this, and she has lovely purple eyes.) She asks to see him again.

On the train home, Yamazaki seems appeased because he found a store with rare goods while waiting for Tatsuhiro. Tatsuhiro wears a cap that covers most of his face on the train -- he wore that on the journey to Tokyo as well, but he took it off shortly after seeing the Misao figurine. It's an interesting turn of his character, as it shows that he can forget his surroundings enough to relax in it. Unlike with Misaki, he is relaxed around Hitomi. And the friendship with Yamazaki has grown quite close. So the idea at hand seems to be, if he has enough people who reaffirm his worth as an individual, and what similarities he shares with them, than Tatsuhiro can, again, be quite a cool guy. The other interesting point is that Hitomi is a much more flawed person compared to Misaki's apparently pure personality. That Tatsuhiro is perfectly confident to admit his hikikomori status to her, the person who believes in conspiracies, suggests that he feels a connection to that flawed state. They definitely make an interesting pair. On top of that, Hitomi is his upperclassman, at least a year his senior. Perhaps a combination of flaws, old friendship and some latent need for someone to care (unlike Misaki's bizarre albeit genuinely creepy style) will offer him at least a chance at a mature relationship with another person.

Once home, Yamazaki tells Tatsuhiro they should apply everything they learnt in the holy land for their game (as he smothers his PIrin-chan pillow in hugs). Tatsuhiro's mind is on Hitomi asking to see him again. Back then, Tatsuhiro stumbled on an answer, so Hitomi completed his thought for him: how could he see someone if he's a hikikomori? Hitomi makes ready to leave. As she turns away, Tatsuhiro asks her if he could see her again, to which she smiles.

Yamazaki, lost in his adoration of PIrin-chan, tells Tatsuhiro he had a revelation in the holy land. There's a very interesting comparison between Yamazaki, whose relationships with women are only in fantasy (the Dutch wife) and Tatsuhiro, a hikikomori who has had and is on the cusp of having a real relationship, with real emotional dilemmas. Yamazaki's latest idea is that freckles are going to be next fad, as he draws a character in a high collar with freckles. Tatsuhiro suddenly remembers that they have only ten days left to finish the game -- anything they create now will be far from great. The mental image he gets as he thinks this is a sink with a circle of those dead earless Cat in the Hats in kamasutra positions slowly headed for the drain pipe. (I'll never be able to get this image out of my head.) Tatsuhiro thinks if he hands this game to Misaki, he will be able to keep his promise to her, but at the cost of never seeing her again. (Cue image of Misaki in her Catholic-girl dress and parasol walking off into the sunset holding the hand of one of the Cat in the Hats.) If that happens, he'll be a lonely hikikomori again.

There's a shot of Yamazaki's ceiling here, plastered with magic girls and maids. One of the girls includes a very cute witch with a black cat. This is followed by a shot of Tatsuhiro and Hitomi at the cafe again, when Hitomi asked to see him.

Yamazaki is still going on about the game. He's peppered his sketch with so many dots, it's a beard. Yamazaki says he doesn't mind if Tatsuhiro hands in his script in batches, so long it gets done. Tatsuhiro apologizes and walks home. In his apartment, he puts his bags down and sits in the middle of them to smoke. Thinking over Misaki's offer, he still finds her suspicious, but he finally signs the contract. He heads to the park and waits for Misaki. Although he doesn't know if she'll show up, he believes that if she really is a goddess who's come to save him, she will. And she does. Tatsuhiro tells her the galge they're making might be postponed. Misaki asks what a galge even is. Tatsuhiro immediately goes into defensive mode, telling her a galge stands for avant garde methods employing experimental imagery and programming techniques to make his game.

The, um, goddess cuts the crap and asks him if this is a lie. He says yes. So the creator thing is also a lie, isn't it? Yep. Therefore, he's an unemployed hikikomori, isn't he? Tatsuhiro just hands her the contract. Misaki is over the moon, telling him counselling begins tomorrow. He asks to know who she really is. Misaki fobs him off with the same thing she said before, that she's a nice young girl trying to help a struggling young man. (This is the part where I start betting she's a crazy stalker shoujo manga fangirl who's fallen in love with this sullen, and actually not bad looking, guy in the park. Gads, y'know, my tolerance for sulky, not bad looking guys of any stripe is starting to really work overtime here.)

When Tatsuhiro gets home, he unwraps the Misao figurine and tilts it so he can look between its legs. (Can't blame him there -- it's what I'd do...) He gets ridiculously happy about taking off the skirt. It hits him that he should at least call up Yamazaki to apologize for walking out, figuring the guy must be really pissed with him by now. There's a thud against his wall as he opens his cell phone. Yamazaki is yelling at someone on his phone on the other side of the wall. Tatsuhiro listens in as Yamazaki argues with his parents about him succeeding their farm, and realizes Yamazaki has his own problems to handle too.

The next night, Tatsuhiro meets the goddess in the park. They sit at a gazebo for her "lecture". Tatsuhiro asks her what she's reading from, and she tells him it's a "Secret Notebook." What's that? "A secret notebook." Misaki's studies have told her that a hikikomori is a person who has incompatibility with the outside world, rendering them unable to fit in with this world. Sort of like gods. (Like a whinging disembodied spirit of a long-bearded immortal -- eek!) Since ancient times, people worshipped gods to release their frustrations with the world safely. In Japan, for example, this has led to a form of polytheism with 8 million deities. Misaki wonders why there seem to be so many; Tatsuhiro corrects her by saying, shouldn't it be "a variety of deities", as the term for 8 million and "myriad" are written with the same characters? Her mild incompetence kind of gets to the guy. Misaki continues, saying that although many people were able to gain deliverance from their gods, those who couldn't had to seek other means, like philosophy. Misaki would like to give Tatsuhiro a psychoanalytical test. She pulls out a book called "Dr. Freud's Illustrated Comic Psychology", which she claims was popular in the 19th century, except the title says it was written by a guy called Matsuoka Ryuujin. This is because she said a high school dropout like Tatsuhiro couldn't possibly understand the complex theories she'd just mentioned. Tatsuhiro is merely beyond words, not to mention, he finds it amusing she thinks he doesn't know about Freud, and thinks it'd be a good way to play with her.

Misaki wants to analyze his dreams. Tatsuhiro tells her a huge serpent appeared. It dived into the sea, and stabbed an apple with a sword. Whatever Misaki looked up made her beetroot red. She immediately says they should conclude their dream analysis, but Tatsuhiro pokes her for the answer. She tries to read from Jung (the title of the book is "Jung Made Easy" -- this kid's a trip and a half). Tatsuhiro demands to know what his dream meant, with his horny onii-san face. (The Hamp is officially laughing way too hard. Nice to see Tatsuhiro has a sense of humour.) Misaki leaves in a huff. Tatsuhiro concedes even though his expectations weren't very high, he'll play along for a while, seeing as how the fine for a breach of the contract was 1 million yen. He looks at his semi-undressed Misao figurine and thinks about Hitomi. He does have one thing to thank Misaki for, and that's hope. Even though he's shut himself in his room for so long, he's not a hikkomori if he's striving for something. Tatsuhiro breaks out his scenario and starts typing.

The next morning, Tatsuhiro enters Yamazaki's apartment. It looks like a warzone. (Interestingly, Yamazaki has at least one poster of a clearly full-age woman at the foot of his bed with massive tits, albeit nipple-less tits, never understood how that automatically made stuff kid-safe -- most of the girls we've seen him interested in thus far have been middle schoolers.) Yamazaki talks to Tatsuhiro over his shoulder, saying he won't give up on the game yet, having sketched many ideas and found license-free music. If he'd had a scenario, they'd be able to finish it in ten days. Tatsuhiro admits that he told Misaki his situation. And he hasn't given up either. Because of this, he wants them to take their time and create the best game they can. He hands Satou his scenario. The game is called Sonet ~ (Something I Can't Read Clearly) Moon ~ and it is nothing like any of the products on the market. Tatsuhiro explains that even though he's a failure at the moment, a jobless hikkomori, if they could complete the game, he might prove his worth as a person. Yamazaki reaches out to take his hand. There's a loud crack.

They both look down.

Tatsuhiro's stepped on and broken Yamazaki's PIrin-chan figurine.


Notes (Where I Explain Myself)

The Hikkomori are considered a primarily Japanese psychiatric problem (though if I am not too mistaken, foreign experts tend to disagree with this to a certain extent -- at least in terms of extreme shut-ins not being unique in the medical world, although Japanese cultural influences have shaped the issue of their hikkomori to something unique in their society). Hikkomori have only just begun to be recognized as a valid medical problem in Japan, with appropriate support groups springing up.

The series further branches into exploring different kinds of depression, and lots of Japanese otaku culture, to which our protagonist is connected. Tatsuhiro, our hero in question, personally believes that the Japanese media is responsible for creating hikkomori to have a captive market for their cute anime girls, for example, and this becomes one of the narrative's early frames. It's an interesting and relevant theory, because questions have arisen lately among Japanese otaku, apparently, about how their interest is shaping the anime/manga/game industry, and how this is creating a seriously materialistic and homogenous form of consumerism. The growing lack of originality in that industry is another other idea this show addresses directly, since the majority of the story revolves around the game-creation process.

Yamazaki as the otaku in the picture is shown as a normal, well-dressed young man, not very much different from obsessive fans of any other kind. He supports himself with his own income, and doesn't look so horrifically geeky you couldn't believe him. I appreciated this much, given the recent hype over the Densha Otoko franchise, which I frankly found quite surreal in that regard. It's the exact sort of mass consumerism that Yamazaki criticizes in the show, though it's clear he himself subscribes to some of it. And it's a nice sort of juxtaposition -- it's really not that easy to find a true anarchist in a capitalist state, however we look at it.

PS: I'm totally liking that crazy gyrating Cat in the Hat of a closing sequence now. How can I not do that? The soundtrack's awesomely messed up! Dude, you have not lived until you've seen gyrating, screen-humping Cat in the Hats. Not even living Cat in the Hats. The corpses of earless Cat in the Hats. Bring on the kamasutra Cat in the Hats!



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 26th, 2006 06:37 pm (UTC)
ababa ababa ababa odoru akachan ningen!
Have you seen this? It's a Gundam version of that ending sequence!


Not quite as funny as naked gyrating Cat in the Hat corpses, but I still laughed my ass off. :)
Aug. 27th, 2006 10:00 am (UTC)
Re: ababa ababa ababa odoru akachan ningen!
Wow. There are people out there who have even more spare time than me. *impressed* *beyond words*
Aug. 27th, 2006 05:43 pm (UTC)
Re: ababa ababa ababa odoru akachan ningen!
PS: As I think more and more about it, arranging the gundams alone must've taken a huge amount of patience. That's a lot of hard work!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )