Episode 7: Welcome to the Moratorium

Angel Masaki, dickweed Sato.

Angel Masaki, dickweed Sato.

This episode’s title refers to a two-day period before everything in Sato’s life will be placed under a pressure with which it cannot bare: parental scrutiny. Last episode’s humiliation in the classroom ’caused a relapse in Sato’s hikikimoriness. He fakes an illness so Yamazaki is none the wiser, but spends his time curled up in bed, with dreams of minor social victories suddenly turning into mortified nightmares. The Nhk strikes, again and again and again, keeping our not-quite hero down.

Then his mother calls. She’ll be in Tokyo for a class reunion, and she wants to meet, and see what they can do about Sato’s future. Sato has no future, and he knows it, butthe only outcome from revealing that that he can figure on is to go back to Hokkaido.

The NHK strikes!

The NHK strikes!

Why this is a fate worse than anything he’s currently suffering is a mystery, in the same way the origin (if there is one) of Sato’s isolation is a mystery. It may be that his misery would only be compounded when he finds the small crowds of a town life as fearsome as the Tokyo clutter – that the weakness in him is so strong, even in the best circumstances it beats him.

And so Sato decides to engage in sitcom standard plot actions, and tell his mom everything’s fine. Finally got a job, and have a girl I’m thinking of marrying.

Of course, then she wants to meet her. Anyone who has watched this far into NHK will know that there is no way this meeting will take place in the same episode as it is set up – that would be moving beyond a glacial pace.

WelcometoTheNHK_ep7_shot3I am reviewing these episodes as I see them, and have no clear idea of what happens in the future, but the hidden secret story of Welcome to the NHK is about how the monumental self-absorption of Sato is regularly tested. He is a solipsist, and can only see anything in the world in how it relates directly to him. Of course, Misaki says she’ll pretend to be his girlfriend, and after some funny stuff with Yamazaki (including a disturbing vision of him in drag, both by Masaki and Sato) he takes her up on it – but Masaki has a condition: they have to go out on a real date.

This should set off adult alarm bells in Sato’s head. Older men dating younger woman is the way of the world, and the taboos against men in their 20s going out with late teenagers have actually only been established in the last 30 years or so, at least in American culture. But only someone as self-centered as Sato would not see that this was part of a pattern of Masaki insinuating herself into his life that is not healthy – if she’s trying to help him become a better person, helping him to perpetuate this lie is not the way to do it.

A girl part!

A girl part! Kind of!

But Sato’s freak-out reaction when Masaki wants to hold his arm and walk with him is not about that: “uh-oh, this girl might have issues.” No, its about his own physical reaction to the rather trivial truth that her girl-boobs are touching his man-arm! (through her clothes, but still!) The next shot after his freakout is of her clothes melting away, of naked Masaki pushing her body against his.

Having a physical reaction to female proximity is normal for men. Mature centered men just file it away. Sato’s immaturity, inexperience, and self-absorption turn what is essentially a little hug from a girl playing at being older than she is into a sexual come on.

In the final scene, Sato and Masaki try to find out enough about each other to fool the mom, and while MAsaki has a stalker’s list of info to give out at a moment’s notice, Sato doesn’t even really know her name. For the first time in the episode, he does what he should be doing in every interaction with this creepy-but-sweet girl – find out her deal, and maybe help her, rather than use her to help his own self-absorbed self.

But then the running theme of these reviews, and the show itself, is that however sad Sato’s affliction may be, he’s still kind of a creepy jerk. Is he worth any sweet-but-crazy girl’s time? Maybe not, but he’s lucky to have one that will play along with this ruse – though the fact that she will would be alarming enough, to any normal person.


About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com