Episode 6: Welcome to the Classroom

Sato's creepy script

Sato’s creepy script

My God, Welcome to the NHK is a downer, a depressing show with human misery front and center, 24/7. Sato’s misery might be the most obvious and direct, but it also registers less frequently because there is a degree of unattractive self-pity and self-consciousness about it. Sato is quite ready to say, “I can’t do x or y or z, I’m hikikimori”, and so find excuses for his failure. It is like George Orwell once wrote, “A man may take to drink because he feels himself a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks.” The cause becomes the effect becomes the cause.

Because Sato has given in his for his life, he cannot succeed because success would mark him no longer as a hikikimori, and then he becomes nothing. Even his failure becomes a failure.

Weird human baby hikikimori things.

Weird human baby hikikimori things.

That is a recurrent theme throughout the show – better to be a terrible something than a better nothing. This theme becomes more concrete when Sato is confronted with a terrible notion – that Yamazaki might have a girlfriend.

This is inconceivable. Yamazaki is not only a repellent otaku, but he is determinedly angry at females in and outside his life. He has a deep well of hate for these girls who may not exist, but who should, and should be giving him their attention. But Masaki, on their second counseling session, scolds Sato – even Yamazaki has a girlfriend. Nanako, a voice-actress in training at his school.

This sends Sato into a paroxysm of guilt and anger – how is it possible that his underclassmen, whom he has held to a certain judgment of healthy, friendly contempt, could possibly have a girlfriend when Sato is without? It beggars imagination, and Sato can’t even ask about it – Yamazaki might lie.

Sato in college

Sato in college

Preceding this dire turn of events, Masaki was lecturing Sato on confidence, telling him that to be more confident, he should think of other people as less than him, so he can talk to them. “That’s how I can give you these sessions” Masaki sense, insensibly.

While Sato doesn’t like Masaki’s advice, he has been inadvertently following it. He worked with Yamazaki because, as an otaku, he was held in contempt by others. But if the otaku had a girlfriend?

This leads to Sato’s terrifying journey back into the classroom environment, when after following Yamazaki to his school, he is caught staring intently at the class directory on the wall, unsure of where to go. He’s caught by a teacher, who lets him audit his course (coincidentally enough) on writing game scenarios.

Masaki - some kind of angel?

Masaki – some kind of angel?

Then Sato writes a scenario for the class that gives the deepest insight yet into his own character. He doesn’t just plug in the scenario that he is working out with Yamazaki. Instead, he invents something new – the “ambient gal game” where a forest charcoal burner and “the spirit of the mountain” live in harmony. It’s a game that has no interaction. No chance at failure – the player just watches it. This is Sato’s ideal, a weak life for a weak man.

It’s an absurd idea for a game, and the teacher chuckles while reading over his shoulder – which leads to an enormous blow-up from Sato. At first, he’s furious at the teacher for mocking him, then furious that his reaction might have outed him as a hikikimori, then furious at the conspiracy that made him this way. He leaves the room screaming, and while that’s a funny scene, the build-up is intense (and, at once, kind of pathetic.)

Then he finds Yamazaki, talking to Nanako, decides he has to fill Yama then and there…

Until he hears Nanako and her friends making fun of him – “No way I’d go out with him”.

What happens next is a bit of Sato kindness – going along with Yamazaki’s obviously invented relationship, that might not be a real kindness at all, but Sato’s feeling, again, that his friend didn’t have anything better than he did. It’s a dark interpretation of what is, at first blush, a “redemptive” move, but I still think Sato’s a wretched, unhappy, misery spreading human being.

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com