angst goes here

Welcome to the NHK! chapter 19: Welcome to the Kimishine! [previous chapter]

serialized 07/26/2005 in Shounen Ace A

A quick Google search confirmed my suspicion that kimishine is short for kimi no tame nara shineru, or “I’d die for you” – an apt title for this chapter, in which Misaki uses the tale woven in chapter 18 to guilt trip Satou into complying with her every capricious whim. When he tries to back out she plays the “it’s just as I thought, I’m a worthless human being! I’m better off dead!” card to egg him on to more ridiculous expenditures for her sake. She’s obviously not interested in any of the things she’s asking for; she derives satisfaction from seeing Satou suffer, as payment for his disinterest in her and her “angelic” attempts to reform him in previous chapters.

Her scheme is derailed, though, when they go to an amusement park together and Satou sees Kashiwa-sempai and her husband through the crowd, smiling happily together. All the life goes out of him, and half-listening he comply’s with Misaki’s request to ride the ferris wheel. Displeased by his apparent inattention, Misaki hands Satou a new contract she’s written up that would place him even further under her thumb, which he signs without even looking at. She wasn’t expecting this, and just when she’s about to fly off the handle again Satou gets up, opens the door of the ferris wheel car (a note in the margin says THIS CAN’T WORK IN REAL LIFE FOLKS) and steps out. Misaki pulls him back in just in time, and the chapter ends.

Welcome to the NHK! chapter 20: Welcome to the Starry Sky!

serialized 08/26/2005 in Shounen Ace A

The chapter opens with a flashback of Satou pondering his childhood fascination of stars and the night sky. This line of thought carries him through to his period in high school, talking with Kashiwa in the club room. She asks him why they’re here on Earth, and he replies “it’s because there are people we like here, too. You have that guy on the soccer team, right?” … Flash forward to the present. Satou leaves the amusement park ahead of Misaki, and by the time she gets to his apartment he’s gone. She frantically alerts Yamazaki to Satou’s absence worried that this time he’s going to kill himself for real. They set out in pursuit.

This time Satou has chosen a high, rocky cliff to jump from and end it all. Misaki and Yamazaki eventually catch up, and in a long conversation rendered difficult by the high winds Satou explains how Misaki was right after all – he really is a worthless human being. But he has life insurance, and he’s left all of the money to her in a will he has with him for the jump. Misaki, meanwhile, mistakenly blames Satou’s sudden breakdown on herself and in desperation plays her final trump card – revealing that she’s been lying to him all along.

Satou snaps after this, wildly casting around for ways to make his imminent suicide meaningful. He starts smashing his head on a rock, trying to get his brain out to donate to “that Alzheimer’s girl on TV”, who Yamazaki informs him has already died (apparently no no relation to their eroge character). Yamazaki hysterically joins in Satou’s lamentations of a meaningless existence, reminding him that he’s being forced to go home to his parent’s place in the country – but counters that even though there’s no meaning to be found, he’s going to show the world up and keep on living. Misaki eventually leads Satou away from the edge and the three of them sit on the grass, staring up at the stars.

If this isn’t Satou at the very most wretched point in his existence, I don’t know what is. If I didn’t know the manga better I’d say that the only way things could go from here is up; of course how they would go up is a different question entirely. NHK will be taking a break in next month’s Ace, so we have a couple of months to ponder the fate of our intrepid band of anti-heroes: will this rare moment of trust between Satou and Misaki become the foundation of something more significant? Will Yamazaki be hauled away to the country? Has Kashiwa actually found happiness with her husband? Will iinchou hoodwink more hikikomori with promises of magical Calorie Mate? Stay tuned.