I recently watched an anime titled Welcome to the NHK, which is a series based off a famous novel of the same name by author Tatsuhiko Takimoto. Welcome to the NHK is about a 22 year old hikikomori named Satou Tatsuhiro. Hikikomori is a Japanese term used to describe socially reclusive “shut-ins” who are usually 25-35 year old NEETs (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) These hikikomori are usually thought of to have been pushed into their predicament due to societal or parental pressures to do well in school or to get good jobs. Because of these perceived pressures, hikikomori will often shut themselves in their rooms for long periods of time, sometimes even months or years, spending most of their days watching TV and roaming the internet, only coming out of their house for food or other necessities.
Throughout the series, you watch Satou drift between the two extremes of boredom and anxiety. At the beginning, he is also approached by a girl named Misaki who is part of a government program to help NEETs, and although you see several interactions between Satou and his neighbor who makes porno games, his paranoid high school friend, and a few other characters who provide some angsty moments, most of the story is between Satou and this mysterious girl Misaki who tries to “save him” by setting up scheduled meetings with him for counseling.
Eventually, you find out that Misaki is a rather depressed and lonely girl who only helps Satou because she considers him to be worse off than him. She sets up “government contracts” (which aren’t real) for counseling because she believes that as long as Satou needs her to survive, he will never leave her.
The series culminates in Satou saving her from a suicide attempt and ends ambiguously with Misaki having another counseling session with Satou and the two discussing plans for university and high school.
If you haven’t guessed it, Welcome to the NHK is basically an anime FOR people who watch anime. I was both surprised and not surprised at how much people on communities like 4chan loved it. Most people who had seen it had some sort of resonation with the feelings of alienation and loneliness. However, my guess is that part of it had a lot to do with Misaki. As the series goes on, it becomes more and more evident that the sort of imagined relationship where Misaki needs Satou and Satou needs Misaki would become a disfunctional, codependent one.
So what I’m wondering is, are the people who really, really resonate with this wish that a Misaki could come save them, or wish that they could have a Misaki to save? Or is it the same thing, both just slightly different expressions stemming from the same loneliness?
Another thing I found interesting was that the author (who said that much of his influence came from JD Salinger) was and still is a hikikomori. There was a period after writing this that he produced no writing at all and was struggling with the problems of social isolation.