Episode 8: Welcome to Chinatown

Getting ready for the not date.

Getting ready for the not date.

Sato tries to clean his room. He goes out to lunch with his Mom, Masaki pretending to be his girlfriend. He feels bad. He tries to tell his mom their relationship is a lie, but she leaves and says they should go on a date. He tries to look down Masaki’s shirt, and almost kisses her. Then his cell phone rings.

I have referred, again and again, in these reviews to the glacial pace of this show. Sometimes it is necessary to show how Sato’s mind works: the over analysis of every move and every reaction (combined with his self-absorbed outlook on life) has paralyzed him. He has accomplished literally nothing, and cannot accomplish even the simplest things (like cleaning his apartment) without being pushed – and even then it doesn’t work.

"You read this sort of thing?"

“You read this kind of thing, huh?”

That is the opening gag of this episode – Sato imagines first taking over Yamazaki’s clean, but otakued (and hentaied) apartment, and imagines his mother looking through the magazines – “You read this sort of thing, huh?”

So, he instead enlists Masaki to clean his own apartment – where she finds his own magazines – “You read this kind of thing, huh?” – and they try and try and clean and clean until Sato gives up, and grabs a pile of magazines to throw out – then trips on the stairs, depositing them at the feet of his mother – who looks at them, and says – three guesses.

WelcometoTheNHK_ep8_shot3But the real punchline is when she refuses to go into the apartment. “It’s a bachelor’s apartment. It’s going to be a mess.”

Not a world class joke, but more of a set-up and pay-off than most of NHK’s bon mots. Misaki and the mother-in-law hit it off almost immediately, but Sato is unlucky that she’s not a stupid woman. Sato’s obviously uncomfortable with Misaki, and Misaki is too polite and nice. They have neither chemistry nor intimacy. Mama Sato sees right through it. This leads to a latest paroxysm of guilt and shame from Sato (this time sitting on the toilet, abandoning Masaki to have to deal with his mother on her own).

But when he goes to tell her the truth, his mom deflects, and then sends off the two kids on a date. Just like two episodes ago when Sato enabled Yamazaki’s self-delusion about his girlfriend, his mother picks compassion over confrontation.

WelcometoTheNHK_ep8_shot4As psychologically and emotionally mature adults, you and I know this is not a good thing, but a bad thing. Letting the deluded live in their delusion does not help, but only hurts their maturation. It continues the destructive predilections that have lead to misery for the afflicted. But you don’t have to see them cry, shout, tell them they hate you and then refuse your help while they fall to pieces. Everyone gets to continue the fantasy of normality.

Which makes it sound like NHK is running a kind of addiction parallel with Sato’s Neetness, and I suppose in a way that’s correct: his inability to see the damage he does to himself and others is what keeps him running through the same old patterns of self-destruction. What this episode doesn’t address, though, is where it came from, or where he’s going. A look at his mom gives no answers. She’s understanding, sweet, and perceptive. Where the hell Sato came from is still an open question.


About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com