Tag Archives: hikikomori

WataMote 4: You Can (Not) Be Touched

watamote4-1

Summary

After surfing the web for too long one night, Tomoko, knowing deep down that she won’t be getting skinship with a real boy anytime soon, tries other means to get into sexual situations: first by trying to induce wet dreams–which don’t come, except at the worst possible moment; second, by wishing that someone would at least molest her–which does not have the outcome she expected or wanted; third, buying sexy panties with help from her now-fashionable friend Yuu–which are exposed in the most humiliating, and unusual, way; and finally by buying a BL game and a “massager”–which is discovered by her father. It seems that Tomoko is destined to be “pure,” and not voluntarily either.

Tomoko: stalker in training
Tomoko: stalker in training

Thoughts

The episode opens with a scene that I can relate to wholeheartedly: spending hours into the night surfing the web, reading one random article after another long past your bedtime. Tomoko is a hikki in training! But the bulk of the episode is about sex, sex, sex, and unlike Nakamura’s railing about it in Aku no Hana, it’s not boring.

Let’s be honest: for a lot of nerds/geeks in high school, one of the most frustrating things is feeling like there’s no outlet for all those hormones rushing through your body. You’re not handsome/pretty enough, you’re not popular enough, no one will go on a date with you, and so while all those other people are making out and learning all about their bodies, you’re just left standing there with only sad fantasies to keep you going. And I can tell you that this is even true, perhaps doubly true, if you have a religious upbringing.

There’s both a refreshing and a troubling level to the things that happen to Tomoko in this episode: it’s refreshing in the sense that Tomoko is not the “virginal pure” type of high school girl that we often see in otaku-oriented anime. Her lustfulness, which gets taken to deliberately absurd heights, is much more believable on a human level, and all the more sad in that we know her efforts are going to be thwarted. (It doesn’t help that she comes off as creepy, even to Yuu.) Her unhappiness over being undateable and untouchable is easy to relate to for some of us.

Does anyone really think this way?
Does anyone really think this way?

That feeling is tied to the troubling aspect, particularly in the molestation storyline, where the story seems to make light of harassment and even rape by the end. Yes, we get that Tomoko is desperate, though part of her does seem to get that this is no picnic; and yes, perhaps the point is that she so starved of validation that her lonely mind can think that this is fine. But it’s not fine, and the show’s ambiguity on the point breaks the tension between comedy and tragedy that the show had negotiated so well. It wants us to laugh at her mindset, but I found it more depressing than funny, and so I couldn’t laugh at that segment at all. Can someone be so starved for touch that she’d think being molested is preferable to nothing?

(Note: I’d be interested to hear whether there are people who can answer that question, or if this episode is a fanciful projection, which is what I suspect it is. And if it is, that’s not a good reflection on the mind of the creators.) 

watamote4-3

We are still treated to the same incredible facial expressions as before, fortunately, and the same genius comic timing/cringe humor, particularly by the third part when she discovers the BL game and the vibrator. (Come now, that’s what we are supposed to think it is and is the basis of the scene’s humor.) Those parts did make me laugh, though the pain vs humor ratio is a lot higher overall. You begin to think, “so this is why Japan’s birthrate is so low…” and why surveys show that the Japanese are the least sexually satisfied out of major developed nations. Combined with the hikikomori phenomenon–and Tomoko is well on her way toward being one–the humor of WataMote might be a reflection of the sad state of affairs that many of the “less desirable” people, men and women, face for relationships. It’s not pretty.

The raunchiness of this episode, is, admittedly, sometimes both fun and funny. But it’s a mask for Tomoko’s humiliation and loneliness. There is one ray of light: we see her dad gently, non-judgmentally carry her to bed after she’s fallen asleep in front of the game with the massager still turned on. Despite her callous treatment of her brother and his reciprocal disdain, Tomoko at least still has a family and a real home. Right now, it’s the only place she really has where she can more or less be herself. Let’s hope she’ll be able to move forward even further.

Then again, he could be thinking: she's going to be living here into her adulthood, isn't she?
Then again, he could be thinking: she’s going to be living here into her adulthood, isn’t she?

Secret Santa Survival Guide: Part Hikikomori

safety is an illusion

You draw a name from the hat, choosing your secret santa for the season.

Who IS this person you chose? You know nothing about them except that you don’t see them much. You think they have a job, working somewhere, doing something. You believe they exist, as occasionally you see a message posted under one of their million aliases on some forum in the vast interwebs.

You have to get a gift for the recluse: the hikikomori.
Don’t worry, I’m here to help you out!
Great gifts for the hikikomori;
Continue reading Secret Santa Survival Guide: Part Hikikomori

Otaku In The Mirror/watashi no kare wa hikikomori

Kyun Kyun, Kyun Kyun, watashi no kare wa hikikomori!

Continue reading Otaku In The Mirror/watashi no kare wa hikikomori

Rozen Maiden, Vol. 1–Some Short Observations in Bullet Point Form (Again)

Having seen the anime series a good number of years ago (before this website began), and thus knowing at least the eventual outcome of the first season, this is a tough volume to review in the usual way. For the most part, it’s very similar to the first few episodes of the series, so here are some thoughts about what stood out for me on experiencing the story for the second time.

  • The hikikomori allegory aspects stood out much more strongly this time around: the hub world with the many possible entrances, the idea of talking to dolls as a form of therapy even–see Lars and the Real Girl for a much more positive take on the idea in American cinema, of all places. Reading this postWelcome to the NHK! is instructive; the situation is somewhat reminiscent for one of the sister with the MMORPG-addict brother though Nori is much more domestic, much more motherly. (And less interesting, alas.)
  • That contrast between Jun and Nori makes Jun that much more unsympathetic in this instance too. For some reason I don’t remember being as irritated with him when I saw the anime than when I read this manga. He really is a bit of a jerk, though of course the point of the series is watching him come out of his shell.
  • The line work is lavish and attractive. I was not all that taken by the dolls in the anime for some reason, and I found many of the voice actresses annoying. There are some wide panels in the manga that show off the fine detail of the hair and the dresses and I can recognize the artistry in them now. Kudos to Peach Pit.
  • It’s interesting we are barely told anything about the Alice Game so far. Most of the time spent in the in-between world was devoted, Evangelion-style, to the internal and real-life world of Jun and what he’s missing. As I mentioned before the hikikomori aspects are clearer to me now and so the story seems more character-driven as a result.
  • Why did I also feel that the conversation Shinku and Nori have about the right temperature for tea leaves was a thinly veiled allegory about Jun? It reminded me very much of the conversation about pinot noir grapes in the movie Sideways, in which different kinds of grapes = different kinds of people.

Will I continue the manga? I’d actually be curious in knowing a little bit about how it differs from the anime from all of you who’ve read it, so feel free to give some general hints in that direction. (No outright spoilers, please.)

Aversion and hikikomori

Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei makes the argument that the hikikomori complex is an elaborate form of aversion. In fact, all the people portrayed in the show are slightly dysfunctional and avoid facing reality in certain ways, and it is this backdrop which forms an excellent basis for equating the two. The title character continually reacts to life by fantasizing about suicide, relentlessly genki girl Kakufa Fuura reacts to everything negative by reimagining it as something bizarrely and improbably “positive,” the counselor hates helping people and does not willingly give of herself despite her job as school counselor, and so on.

The show deals directly with hikikomori in episode two, wherein they visit the house of Komori Kiri, the shut-in. Like all names in Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, this is a play on words: Hikikomori is the Japanese term used to designate people who shut themselves in their rooms and avoid social contact. True to form, Komori is shown in her room watching anime, with tankobon and DVDs piled up all around her.

If you think about it, hikikomori are kind of like old men:

Continue reading Aversion and hikikomori