Episode 11: Welcome to the Conspiracy

Masaki asks her adviser where she went wrong.

Masaki asks her adviser where she went wrong.

Sato and Yamazaki work on the game. Hitomo (old high school flame) has a mild fight with her boyfriend. She takes a shower, takes a pill, goes on an Internet forum. Makes up a forum post about being beaten nearly to death, and imagines Sato is the one doing it. Has a bad day at work, gets yelled at. Ugly guy asks her out, boyfriend cancels on her.

“It’s the conspiracy” she says.

My point in listing blow by blow for this episode was to argue that nothing really happens in this show, but that’s apparently not true. It does in fact have an emotional arc, and takes us step by step through Hitomi’s eventual breakdown, which, when it reaches its lowest point, means she has to reach out to her friend of last resort – Sato.

Hitomi getting even.

Hitomi getting even.

So things do happen. But their emotional pitch is low and slow. The imaginary beatings may be what Hitomi feels like she’s gone through when she has a minor argument with her boyfriend that culminates in a broken promise to vacation and a literally phoned-in apology. She, and Sato, and Yamazaki, and maybe Misaki are all wounded on the inside. Their minor weaknesses and setbacks are deeply felt, like scraping against an exposed nerve.

In fact, of all of them, Sato may be the luckiest. His problems have an obvious external manifestation. Yamazaki just seems a bit off, Hitomi a little quiet. Masaki seems like a normal girl – except a normal girl wouldn’t do what she was doing with Sato’s counseling sessions. Of course, in the previous episode Sato cut those sessions off. Misaki sits in her room, wondering what could have gone wrong. “My project was perfect.”

WelcometoTheNHK_ep11_shot3It’s odd that Sato, the introvert, is the hub between all of these people. He’s not effusive, or compassionate, and he can only imagine that other people’s hopes and dream lie with him… but weirdly enough, they do.

Hitomi was the person who introduced the concept of The Conspiracy to Sato, all those years ago in High School. Happiness was impossible, because the Conspiracy was working against them at all times. The strangest thing about it, for Sato’s sake, is that it is true. Yamazaki bizarrely sees this lazy shut-in as the key to getting a game completed. Misaki, with whatever internal problems she’s fighting against acknowledging, maybe thinks she can fix herself by fixing Sato. His friends conspire to be around Sato, as if he were worth being around.

Then there’s Hitomi. She comes to Sato at the end of the episode, drinking and laughing with him so effortlessly it makes him nervous. He’s only seen her like this once before, when her boyfriend dumped her in high school. When she’s the most hurt, she acts the most outwardly cheerful, blah blah blah. This leads to another Sato fantasy sequence, where new tears fall, and he clasps her hands and lets her know from then on, strong Sato would make her happy.

WelcometoTheNHK_ep11_shot4So, of course, she falls asleep from drinking so much.

Which introduces the only real plot point of the episode. Hitomi has a form in her purse about a meeting for [Off]. This is the same place where she was posting her fake messages on-line about being beaten. The [Off] meeting says something about going to paradise. It’s not explicit, but it seems that the group is one of those group suicide things, and Hitomi is just coming to say goodbye to Sato, like she did one day in high school (where, incidentally, she had the same [Off] meeting to get to.) Whether or not it will take, this time Hitomi has Sato in toe. Clearly not understanding the form, he’s pretty sure they’re off on a fun adventure to paradise. When the truth, most likely, is that they are finally going to fall into the gears of the Conspiracy.


About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com