Tatsuhiro Sato (N.H.K. ni Youkoso!) and the hikikomori phenomenon

Tatsuhiro Sato is the reclusive protagonist of the anime N.H.K. ni Youkoso!. He is highly unstable, easily manipulated, obsessive, afraid of rejection and blames a imaginary conspiracy for his shortcomings. He lives in a rented apartment, but depends on his parents allowance to live. Through a friend’s influence, he becomes an otaku. Most importantly, he is a hikikomori and a NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training). Because of the appearance of a girl named Misaki Nakahara in his life, his life takes a turn, but he learns important lessons along the way, culminating in his final lesson of that nobody is really alone in this world.

But Tatsuhiro’s character shows rather a curious reality in Japan and possibly the world over, the Hikikomori phenomenon. What is this phenomenon, what triggers it?

Hikikomori is a Japanese term to refer to the phenomenon of reclusive people who have chosen to withdraw from social life, often seeking extreme degrees of isolation and confinement because of various personal and social factors in their lives. The term hikikomori refers to both the sociological phenomenon in general as well as to people belonging to this societal group. In Western terminology this group may include individuals suffering from social phobia or social anxiety problems.

Though acute social withdrawal in Japan appears to affect both genders equally, because of differing social expectations for maturing boys and girls, the most widely reported cases of hikikomori are from middle and upper middle class families whose sons, typically their eldest, refuse to leave the home, often after experiencing one or more traumatic episodes of social or academic failure.

What kinds of social traumas could young people face? It could be the pressure of society itself, always forcing a young individual to be the best in everything. Studying, memorizing, the fear of failing exams induce heavy amounts of stress in the youth and knowing that upon finishing studies, the job market can be much more competitive, inducing more stress. Simply put, a parent’s heavy expectation on the person to succeed is a unique source of heavy stress.

Also social traumas can be found in the form of harassment of other people on the individual, its most common form is bullying. People can be bullied due to a variety of reasons such as appearance (being obese or severe acne problems), poor academic or athletic performance, low social status or envy.

It could be noted that society itself is a rigid structure and those who can’t keep up are often crushed or left behind by it.

It could be said that the cause of hikikomori is emotional neglectful parenting. The youth who are suffering hikikomori are left to deal with society’s stress on their own with their parents inadvertently adding pressure to the already huge stress.

Tatsuhiro was able to overcome the societal stress and learn valuable lessons thanks to Misaki Nakahara’s help. It just shows that there are other people that we can count on for emotional support if the parents inadvertently don’t provide it and if all else fails, there’s always the psychologist.

Tatsuhiro’s character and the hikikomori phenomenon simply shows us that emotional support from other people, especially from parents is an important part in an individual’s growth and without it, a person may be crushed by huge societal pressure. Its always good to have emotional support from family and friends.

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