Episode 21: Welcome to the Reset and Episode 22: Welcome to God!

WelcomeToTheNHK_ep21_shot1Tables get turned, who cures who? These two episodes of Welcome to the NHK see all of Sato’s crutches being pulled out from under him, and the surprise revelation of who was curing who the entire time.

In “Welcome to the Reset”, the culmination of all the time, blood, sweat and tears of Sato and Yamazaki’s hard work pays off: the game is done, they go to the winter conference and…

They sell five copies. There’s no miracle ending, no rescue from the heavens. Yamazaki is going, and nothing can keep him there. He spends his last hours in a snowball fight with Sato which goes from quoting cheesy dramas to uncovering heart-felt truths about the world. Yamazaki does not want to be a farmer. He wants to stay in Tokyo, he wants to follow his dreams, but his dreams have deserted him. He made the game, but refuses to take it to his school where he might have found some support. It wasn’t a last chance for him – it was a swan song.

So with Yamazaki gone, Sato has nobody but himself… and Masaki. Masaki is WelcomeToTheNHK_ep21_shot2terrified he’s going to backslide, that’s he’s going to lose all of his progress and so she is determined he has to go out, and prove he’s not all Hikkikimori-ish anymore.

This comes after Sato asks her all her thoughts on God – she doesn’t have a lot to say. Why he asks is questionable, too – it comes out of not much, but lead to the next episode’s dilemma.

Because Misaki decides that Sato has to go into the New Year’s Crowds, but they get WelcomeToTheNHK_ep21_shot3separated in the center of Tokyo. Sato has a low-level panic attack, until he’s found… by Senpai. Hitomi has been left by her fiancé on New Years because his client needed him, and she’s engaged in one of those womanly fits of pique – my man isn’t here when I’m irrationally needy, I’m going to bone my creepy old classmate.

Yep, she decides, after going to three or four places with Sato (PUA’s will recognize the technique) that maybe they should have an illicit affair. Sato has been fantasizing about that all night, but when it comes to actually doing it…

Little Sato remains unsated. Which turns out to be a good thing, since Hitomi reveals she’s pregnant, then disappear out of Sato’s life forever. Unbeknownst to Sato, Misaki saw them leave the hotel and figured that Sato indeed sexed the woman, and so is now distraught and convinced that God is a jerk.

Here’s where the focus of the show shifts. For most of episode 22, Sato is acting like WelcomeToTheNHK_ep22_shot1a normal adult – that is, the opposite of a NEET. He’s going places with a girl, conversing about things, not cringing or being afraid, not acting creepy but with a tacit plan to get in her shorts – normal stuff. And when it comes to seal the deal, he even does a mature thing by passing it up, however he might have dreamed of it.

Sato’s a damaged guy, but there’s some core of normal in him that might resurface. When that threatens to happen, it’s Misaki who reveals herself as an even more damaged individual. She has a Florence Nightingale thing with Sato, because fixing some broken winged bird helps deflect her own deep trauma.

In the novel, this was a point made much sooner and more forcefully – early on Sato sees Misaki covering up scars on her arms from cutting. That hasn’t been the case in the TV series, but the entire show is a cavalcade of modern miseries, and the philosophical case it points to is compelling: what the hell is wrong with Modern Life? Why do genetically normal people have crippling anxiety dealing with other people? Could it be that modern connectivity, urban existence and on-line life is inherently sociopathic, and that it is the non-disordered who freak out when confronted by the modern technologic panoply? The conspiracy, which has been subsumed for many episodes rears its head again here.

WelcomeToTheNHK_ep22_shot2Hitomi reckons that monogamy is a conspiracy, a huge conglomerate calamity. In real world terms, monogamy is an evolutionary practice to restrict violence: left to our animal urges, women would harem up with the strongest males and leave the lesser fellows without outlets for their sexual needs. Genetic science bares this up: 8000 years ago the reproductive ratio was 17 to 1 – 17 women would have a child for every one father. Monogamy is an intelligent response to this inherent dichotomy. The conspiracy is one that reduces violence, jealousy, and murder.

But Hitomi might be right, on some level. Her genetic suitability to be a breeding partner doesn’t match up with a societal malaise about sexual norms. Humanity is friggin weird, and the liberation of abnormality (let your freak flag fly) of late 20th and early 21st century has not, perhaps, let to liberated minds and bodies, but to new forms of self-abuse and mild to terrible madnesses.

But just as Sato seems to be climbing out of this arrested development morass, Misaki is falling back in. She decries God, but what she’s really upset about is that, is Sato is better and doesn’t need her, then the world doesn’t. He was her last life-line, the person she knew who was worse than her. Fixing him (to a degree) broke her.

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com