Episode 4: Welcome to the New World


The author, hard at work

An extension of the previous episode’s depravity, “Welcome to the New World” is like a trip into a weird hell for Sato. It’s a hell he thinks is a heaven – Yamazaki even calls it “The Holy Land” – a shopping section in Tokyo with Maid cafes (that is, cafes where all the waitresses dress up like maids and will even spoon feed the clientele) and Doujinishi shops and other weird, perverse aspects of the subculture.

There’s a funny bit where Yamazaki calls this specific sort of public fetishization “a subculture that Japan prides itself on”. Not being Japanese, I cannot know for sure, but I’ve heard on more than one occasion the freaky, creepy hentai stuff that’s “totally normal in Japan” is regarded, by the normal members of the populace, to be freaky and creepy, and to be only the purview of creepy freaks. Since Sato has been so long without human contact, he doesn’t seem to have the perspective to see how really wrong and weird he is being.

Perfect models. And some dude's hand.

Perfect models. And some dude’s hand.

The plot of the episode is thin (most of the NHK episodes are – there’s a bare situation and enthusiasm from Sato that then fails) In “Welcome to the New World”, Sato can’t come up with a good girl for their eroge. He complains that he doesn’t know any girls, and so has no model to base them on. Reality, Yamazaki schools him, is not where he’s supposed to look. In reality, girls are means and nasty and back-biting and horrible (and, Kent thinks sub textually, they can say no.) Eroge girls are fantasy objects, and there’s typical patterns to these things- old friends, maids, and girl robots. When that doesn’t fuel Sato’s imagination, Yamazaki takes him on a dream/nightmare tour of his “Holy Land”. He buys a body pillow.

Which all culminates in Sato brainstorming the best gal game character ever – an old schoolmate/maid/robot/ghost/invalid/alien/incarnation of a fox. Sato tears up the picture in a rare fit of sanity, and while Yamazaki is running about, being Yamazaki, Sato recalls his real schoolboy friend.

Eroge perfection

Eroge perfection

It’s odd to see high schooler Sato. He’s normal. He’s relatable. Not particularly interesting, but he has a friend who is a girl if not a girl friend. Whatever happened to him, whatever is the crux of his introversive personality disorder (and whatever can get him out of it) has to form the greater arc of the coming series. Again, I hope that it is some form of gradual personality demolition rather than the single dramatic event which explains everything that mars the psychology of so many anime characters.

Rereading this entry, it seems to be little more than a recitation of events. NHK is difficult to discuss in terms of themes, since it is pretty repetitive and slow-moving. That’s not to say boring – it’s amusing to see Sato’s momentary enthusiasms come crashing again and again against the rocks of his apathy/affliction. It makes for a deeply black comic world-view, culminating in the terrible moment when he sees a plastic figurine that looks like his would-be savior, and tries to look up its skirt.

This should be the worst moment in the show, the bleak dark tunnel of madness, where the hero is desperately looking for plastic panties. Then Yamazaki tells him “You know, on that model, the skirt comes off.”

The old pretend to tie your shoe to upskirt a doll routine.

The old pretend to tie your shoe to upskirt a doll routine.

How can we stay with this character, especially when this revelation causes him to buy the figurine, to go on a shopping spree throughout the Holy Land? There’s the hint, I think, that there’s something there, something wounded in Sato that might have been interesting, that makes Sato more palatable than his much angrier friend. Whether Sato will be worthy of this attention in the end remains to be seen.

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com