I so infrequently use this blog as a blog blog blogtype blog that often, any regular readers I have forget that it is one. It’s simply that for most of my day and existence, my opinions on media are kind of my simulation of a life. Instead of going out and meeting people–lots of people that I get to choose who I want to talk to from later on that evening when I have the friend requests in my inbox–I go out and see movies. I saw Battle Los Angeles alone, and days later, the same girl I was supposed to hang out with that day told me we were texting too much. She found it kind of annoying. So, I’m bad with the friends thing is my point with all of that. When I get a new one I wear them out within a week. I don’t know how that happens, but it’s happened to me all of my life. I once had a girl be introduced to me online on Sunday, met her in person on Monday, arranged to see a movie next Monday, but by the time that had come around, she was insistently sending me a text message about how she couldn’t go. Despite the fact that I was calling her to find out why she hadn’t said a word to me since Thursday. Patrick, I’m glad you gained a friend in that one.
I consume a lot of Japanese media. Not just anime, there’s also music, novels, comics, games. And after a while, you start noticing the things that they have specific words for. You know how some cultures have words that represent entire phrases in any translation? Like some Scandinavian culture has one word for the phrase “one who wears gloves to throw snowballs”, meaning, roughly, “coward”. Though, the localisation would likely be “pussy” or “gigantic pussy”. The Japanese, for those of you who are entirely ignorant to the culture of Japan as I was little more than two years ago (and likely still am now), are work-based. Their primary concern is “are you working?” or “can we get you working?” As such, they have two terms, one of which is a loanword from England, one of which is all Japanese. NEET, the loanword, stands for “Not in Employment, Education or Training”. It refers to any young person who is not in employment, education or training–simple, really. It is very bad to end up as a NEET. For instance, this fate is held over Yui’s head by her friend Nodoka in K-On! and K-On!!, first about not joining any clubs and then not about filling out a future form. They have a form you fill out to decide your future.
The more pressing one, from my point of view, is the Japanese term hikikomori. Hikikomori means, roughly, “shut-in”. But it means oh so much more than that. It refers to a specific condition where young adults will shut themselves away from society, sometimes for years. They decide that it’s altogether too hard to live surrounded by other people and stay in their room for days at a stretch. I don’t recall any stories about this from my parents, which leaves me to assume that it’s a new thing. I think, over and over to myself, that it can’t be new. It can’t be just this last century that’s brought this behaviour out in so many young people–Japanese or not. The young nerdy (depressed) shut-in is now a character type bordering on trope. From memory, we have Marigold from Questionable Content; Satou, the protagonist of Welcome to the NHK!; the narrator of Polysics song “DNA Junction”; the narrator of Pigeon Hole’s song “Hello”; Simon and Garfunkel’s “I Am a Rock”–songwriters really love shut-ins, don’t they.
See, this is of particular concern to me because every time I leave the house and every time I get back and put on a record or try to watch another episode of a good series, all I can see is myself. All I can see is me, in a year or in six months or right now, staring me in the face. Friendless, depressed, paranoid, frightened and overall stuck in horrible crap. I see the mess of Satou’s room, I see him trying to break bottles with his bare hands out of boredom and sleeping sixteen hours a day and I don’t see a fascinating portrait of a pitiable loner abandoned by society. I don’t see someone removed from me like the protagonist of a TV series should be–I see me. I don’t know how much it’s exaggerated, but anyone with me at university could attest to the mess that was my room. Mel, that means you.
But you aren’t reading this, Mel. Neither are you, Dan. Nor are any of you, Dave, Chad or Chris. None of you are here. None of you are available. None of you are anywhere. I get that it’s March, I get that it’s finals time and I get that I’m not the first priority in your life. But I’m not even a high priority in the life of my best friends or a McDonald’s burger flipper. Hell, being honest with myself, I’m not a high priority in my own life. I couldn’t care less about me at the end of the day. All I can really care about is not dying and maybe getting my meager paycheque for being a receptionist every fortnight. I need a better job, but I don’t want one. I need to move out of my parents’ house, but I don’t want to. I need to do something, anything with my life, but I can’t get up the urge to give a damn about it.
And, if there are so many people like that in fiction, how many must there be in life? Fiction is nothing but truth in a false world, so if there’s one shut-in in a bad webcomic, then how many are there among its readers? I meet webcomics artists all the time. Last time I saw David Malki !, I think I angered him. I’m scared to talk to him again. My life blows right now, and I don’t even want to fix it. And I’m not alone. How sad is it that I know I’m not alone in this, but I just feel so very, very cold and lost. You’re supposed to feel better when you find out that it’s a problem that can be solved. You’re supposed to feel better when you find out you’re not the only person feeling like this.
So why the fuck do I still feel alone?