Sato’s problem, as a character, is that he isn’t that bad a NEET. He can talk to people, and discuss his issues and while he has neither motivation nor the desire to engage with the world, he can on occasion, if forced to. This isn’t the case with actual NEETs, who seem to be entirely disassociative. A movie from 2008, Ima Boku Wa, explores the phenomenon with more realism. However much that main character was approached, whatever roads were built toward him, he could only ever descend back into himself. The only interaction he ever really showed with the outside world was violence against his own mother, blaming her for his condition.
Sato, on the other hand, seems to have identified with being a NEET rather that actually embodied the condition. In that way, Welcome to the NHK may not be a illustrative show about hikikimoris, but it is, always, about human desperation. And it comes to us in a new form with Sato’s former classmate, Megumi Kobayashi. A former class rep who remembered Sato as someone who told her she took life too seriously, she seems to have herself together, and even has a mentor that she wants to take Sato too.
“He has a supercar!” she says. This is something a normal person would find strange as a kind of signal, but Sato is too self-absorbed to pick up on strange, so he goes to meet the mentor. He turns out to be the head of a multi-level marketing scheme, and while Sato sneaks out of their meeting, Megumi catches up with him on the road and gets him to buy in on the promises of riches to come.
It’s garbage, of course, which Misaki and Kaoru tell Sato (Misaki even runs off to her personal oracle, the bookstore, to get some manga explaining how multi-level marketing schemes work and how to break out of them.) But Kobayashi is too clever to let Sato off the hook, and on their meeting even Kaoru and Misaki begin to believe in the power of the products she’s selling. And, after all, if they don’t use them they can sell them to someone else. Right?
Clearly, they’ve all been tricked by Kobayashi’s saleswoman acumen. But when they go to her house to confront her, they see the truth: her apartment is stuffed to the gills with products from the Mouseroad company, the pyramid scheme she’s wrapped up in. She has all the desperation and poverty of Sato, without the excuse of a social disorder. She’s just screwed up, all to help her own NEET brother who lives upstairs, never leaves his room (pure NEET style) but stomps on the ground when he needs his sister to bring food. The intrusion of strangers into his lair makes him scream and hide into the corner. Here, Sato has to look into the face of real disorder, and see, maybe, that he’s not damaged. No more than everyone else.