Welcome to the NHK! has been on my favorites list as far as I can remember. However, the reasoning behind that is a bit complicated in comparison to the other shows that garnered the same distinction. I hate Welcome to the NHK! I hate Misaki. I hate Satou Tatsuhiro. And more importantly, I hate its author — Tatsuhiro Takimoto. I hate everything about this show. Well, maybe Misaki is an exception because she’s adorable.
A disclaimer is needed in justifying my statement above: I’ve been there, done that. By which, I mean, I’ve experienced the life of a hikikomori — society’s bottom of the barrel. An otaku, a NEET, and a hikikomori. Cool, right? Just what could go wrong, I wonder. Having said that, this post will be a mix of a first-hand confession and commentary of a former hiki on Welcome to the NHK!, as well as a bit of self-reflection in that regard.
If you’re looking for a review, this is not the place for you.
If you don’t feel like listening to a story of some random dude on the internet running an episodic anime blog, then you’re better off wasting your time elsewhere.
If you’re curious enough to further understand Welcome to the NHK! through the perspective of someone who might as well be its MC, then I thank you for your kind patronage.
Welcome to the Nichi Hikikomori Kindle
4 years ago, I dropped out of college. A month after, I sank deeper into a pit known as anime (read: escapism). That’s how I came to meet Welcome to the NHK! (and a big chunk of anime on my list). By all means, this show helped me get through one of the toughest hurdles in my life. Yet, at the same time, I wasn’t exactly sure what good will come out of immersing myself into this medium. Countless days of recluse was spent — either idly staring at the ceiling tracing the cobwebs with an imaginary finger, or consuming anime by bulk. If you ask me what I did on the 25th of December 2012, I would probably answer with a straight face that I watched Haruhi’s Endless Eight and enjoyed the fuck out of it.
For the record, I’ve only been a hikikomori for a year (I found a good job nearby afterwards). To say that that year has been the most uneventful part of my life is incorrect. Before I knew it, communication between me and my former classmates and “friends” became non-existent. Social activities were reduced to gaming and more anime. We even had to relocate because of the unreasonable rent the apartment we are in asks for. In retrospect, it wasn’t exactly uneventful. That year was full of changes that occurred without me noticing — changes personally, financially, socially, emotionally, psychologically. To call it a clusterfuck doesn’t even come close to an appropriate description. It was a year of silent downward spiral. I was breathing underwater.
Isolation is a terrifying void to be in. Even more so if you are not aware that your sanity is slowly creeping away to the deepest crevice of your mind. Seclusion became a safe haven, a comfort-zone of some sort wherein my distinction of the real world is depicted through a 15.6″ LCD screen. Don’t get me wrong though, unlike Satou or Takimoto, I wasn’t in the influence of any drug. I was, however, addicted to the privilege of being a parasite. Yes, being a hikikomori is possible because one can afford to do so. Everything is guaranteed, you don’t have to work for it — living expenses, food, clothing, allowance, internet, anime, games. Why bother going outside when you don’t need to sweat yourself for any of these? That is probably what my mindset is back then. Fortunately, the said privilege didn’t last long. My mom, now 65, retired from her job and is now supporting herself through her pension. It’s my turn to feed myself.
Fast forward to today, I find it nothing short of a miracle that I was able to break free from that cycle. Finding a job wasn’t really easy, given that I was an undergraduate who didn’t have any prior work experience whatsoever. It’s during that point of my life where I first genuinely wished that I should have taken my studies seriously and earn a scholarship (I had to drop out because of financial issues — we can’t afford the tuition anymore). Of course it was too late. Nothing can be done except surrender and face reality. Waking up at the deep of the night, burning a part of my soul for a couple of bucks, then slumbering at the light of the day. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat. This wasn’t entirely in service of surviving; it was more of a valiant effort to convince myself that I’m a relevant member of society. That I am a normal person. That I am no longer a hikikomori.
Needless to say, I wasn’t drowning on a gutter as deep as NHK!‘s characters and author are. Thinking back on all of these, I start to wonder if I really did manage to escape the grip of my ol’ friend. I rewatched Welcome to the NHK! not out of nostalgia, but rather out of the impulse to find a semblance of an answer — an assurance that I am no longer a face of my old self.
Hating a favorite anime
The first time I watched Welcome to the NHK! was a fun and enlightening experience. It wasn’t as acerbic as viewers claim it to be — which is weird because of all the people who watched the show I, a hikikomori on full swing, found the experience rather pleasant. And no, I’m not into /that/ kind of thing. Maybe the reason for such reaction is partly due to the thought that I didn’t care what my situation looks like to other people. Whatever Satou did, it was perfectly normal; whatever his sempai did, it was reasonable. There was nothing new to experience, because everything NHK! throws at me is within the bounds of my reasoning. It’s like seeing myself in a mirror, staring into an abomination, and not even flinching once. It was simply… fascinating.
Now, my initial distinction for Welcome to the NHK! has certainly changed after I rewatched it (marathoned it weeks ago). The difference between then and now is enough to warrant writing a post about it to say the least. I loved Welcome to the NHK! 4 years ago for being a great anime, now I hate it for existing in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong. My tastes didn’t really change that much. In fact, I’d even recommend NHK! for aging well — it’s still the great anime that it is. What brought the change in my perception of it is through how I comprehend it with these eyes of a 22-year old who has gone through the same woes as its characters. I no longer am in the same trainwreck as them. It’s kinda like being on top of things and having a full grasp of everything. It only took me 1 episode to decide that I am seriously going to hate this show to the very core of my being.
I hate it not only because it’s a raw realization of how stupid I was before, but also because of another matter.
I feel like Welcome to the NHK! is less than about the nature of a hikikomori, and more on an author’s desperate cry for help. How the story of this show pans out translates to me as someone who’s clinging to something to stay sane, and this manifests itself through the introduction of Misaki. Welcome to the NHK!‘s first 15 or so minutes had been my favorite part of the show, until Satou inadvertently meet the enigmatic “girl of his dreams”. The obvious truth is Misaki will never exist, and this absolute fact robs NHK! of being a sardonic and realistic perspective on a hikikomori’s life. It isn’t about the hijinks of a trash person anymore, we’re watching what goes on the author’s mind as he claws his way out off teetering insanity. I know, because I’ve been there. I’ve done that.
No hiki in the history of the known universe will come upon a chance of being saved by a cute, teenage girl. Her creation is merely a pathetic whimper to pat himself in the back and comfort himself thinking that I can’t do this alone. The worse part of it is that Tatsuhiko Takimoto is finding other alleys for escape through his depiction of a lover’s suicide, MMORPG, pyramiding scham, porn, half-assed self-employment… all of which, of course, never succeeded as we saw in the anime.
I hated what I am seeing, simply because it reminded of me my old self. Someone who believes that by going to work everyday means escaping the harsh reality of being a hikikomori. To tell you the truth, I don’t feel like I’ve gone past that stage in my life. Even though I now have months of exposure under my belt, the disease that plagued me years ago is still lingering as a shadow. Sure, I’m exponentially richer now and more capable than before, but… it never really cured me of my social anxieties — and that’s scary, because I don’t plan on staying an undergraduate forever now that I found where my passion lies. Do I have it in me?
Not to my surprise, Tatsuhiko Takimoto is still riding the waves of being a hikikomori. Even amidst the success with his light novel publication, it never really brought him out of his slump. Then again, it wasn’t in service of the money nor fame — he simply didn’t get what he wanted and what he needed. Does he have it in him?
We remember love
I hate it. I hated that I came to a conclusion I wasn’t entirely expecting. But, at the same time, I grew to love that disgusting part of myself. I love Welcome to the NHK! with the same measure of how I hate it. Perhaps loving it despite of how ugly and inescapable the truth is is more fitting in this regard. It taught me that amidst the crappy situation we find ourselves in, we still strive to be a better person. It’s perhaps the same realization Takimoto reached seeing as how he tried various avenues to define himself. I will never know, but a part of me is saying that I would’ve done the same.
With that said, I truly hope I got my point across with this post. It’s not evident but writing this wasn’t easy, and it demanded a lot of introspection on my end. It was difficult to put my emotions into writing, yet by doing so I was able to understand myself further and I came to appreciate Welcome to the NHK! and its author even more.
I hate and I love whatever is a part of me.