“THE SOUL ON STRIKE THAT STRIKES THROUGH AFFECT”: ALTERNATIVE LIFESTYLES, OLD ANXIETIES, AND NEW BEGINNINGS IN WELCOME TO THE N.H.K.
My project paper examines the Japanese social types of the hikikomori and the otaku within the anime series Welcome to the N.H.K.. Through comparing these two social types through the primary characters of Tatsuhiro Satou and Kaoru Yamazaki, alongside the mediation of a third party in Misaki Nakahara, I explore how the series both satirizes and sympathizes with these types. Tamaki Saitō’s seminal text on hikikomori and Hiroki Azuma’s comprehensive book on otaku form the theoretical basis upon which my analysis of N.H.K.’s portrayal of these social types is founded, along with texts that themselves have built upon Saitō and Azuma’s works. Ultimately, I argue that Welcome to the N.H.K. sees alternative lifestyles like hikikomori and otaku not as socially and societally predestined paths, but dynamic social types that, through interacting with each other, beget a re-emergence into society. Moreover, through incorporating Thomas Lamarre’s “animetic interval” theory and Ian Condry’s “collaborative creativity” regarding anime, I argue that Welcome to the N.H.K. also comments on and criticizes its own medium while simultaneously asserting itself as a story than can only be told in anime. Along the way, I also examine both how the series discusses the modern emergence of virtual relationships through media like anime and computer games and suicide and desperation as catalysts for rebirth. Ultimately, Welcome to the N.H.K. anchors itself around hope, regeneration, and self-acceptance as key for hikikomori, otaku, and those in similar positions to re-emerge into society. This re-emergence must happen in distinctly individualized ways that coalesce into collaboratives processes that, in the end, begin the movement outwards into new developments of self and community.
Anime studies, film studies, contemporary Japanese culture
Master of Arts (M.A.)