By Tatsuhiko Takimoto
Published in the US by TokyoPop
Slugline: Look into the darkness long enough and the darkness may just sit you down and tell you the way of the world.
This is a novel, so I am not going to give it an age rating, but it does have an Parental Advisory for Explicit Content, mostly for drug use and suicide, I suspect. Use your own discretion.
Satou is a hikikomori, the Japanese name for the tendency for people to withdraw from the world and spend most of their time isolated in their homes. While the back cover blurb says that Satou undergoes a hilarious journey out of his shell, the journey is anything but hilarious, filled with pain, confusion and backsliding. I suspect that this is a lot darker than the manga or anime, neither of which I admittedly have see . But it is a very raw look at depression expressed in several different ways, and the stumbling attempts to both survive and get out from underneath it.
I look at this and see that there is a mirror deep within it. Fortunately, I don't see myself in the mirror, but at times in my life I suspect I came uncomfortably close to doing so. Within fandom, there exists the possibility of self-destructive urges. Not that I believe that fandom is the cause of these urges, but by sinking deep enough into fandom one escape from these self-destructive urges merely at the cost of everything else. This can expressed by the stereotypical view of the comic fan as college age person hiding in his mother's basement surrounded by comics. Before the current rise of manga and anime in the US, back in the 1990s, replace the comics with bootleg tapes of anime and porn manga. But it is no more the fault of comics, manga or anime than it is the fault of the NHK. It is simply because people, and the characters in the novel, have become so hurt, so damaged, that no longer have the strength to face the world on its own terms. But even in their apartments trying to face the world on their own terms, surrounded by anime, religion or in the case of Satou nothing at all, the world still bears down. They are not crazy or weak, but they have made the only rational choice that seems available to them.
Read this if for no other reason to get a view into that world, of the people that seem to not have a life, that are willing to debate the fine points of a manga for weeks at a time and realize that there is more going on that you may be willing to realize.
Welcome to the NHK is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.