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The World God Only Knows and Hikikomori

Sunday 7th October 2012

Matt Kamen on the problems of a shut-in society

The World God Only Knows

This week sees us travel to The World God Only Knows – director Shigehito Takayanagi’s adaptation of Tamiki Wakaki’s comedy fantasy manga. The series centres on Keima Katsuragi, an expert player of dating sims. While his ability to ‘conquer’ any virtual girl he encounters has earned him the online nickname “God of Conquests”, his luck with women in reality is the exact opposite. When he accidentally forms a contract with the demon Elise, Keima finds himself forced to confront his own shortcomings, having to charm the pants off an assortment of girls in order to exorcise them of runaway spirits.

However, in reality, the kinds of young men like Keima addicted to dating sims have had government officials and social scientists in Japan scratching their heads. Known as ‘hikikomori’, which translates as ‘withdrawal’, this new breed of reclusive citizenry are known for living almost completely secluded lives. The term was coined by psychologist Tamaki Saito in the late 1980s, after he identified a rising number of patients – mostly male – who exhibited signs of lethargy and isolationist tendencies, but who could not otherwise be described as suffering depression or other mental health problems.

Abandoning education, training or work, most hikikomori either live alone in tiny apartments or never move out of the family home, where they typically stay in their own room. Unlike agoraphobics, who fear the outdoors, hikikomori are more addicted to the indoors. Most are supported by family members, who in turn are often shamed by social pressures into silence about the problem. Mental health disorders are notoriously difficult to identify and treat even in the more open west, let alone the ever-stoic Japan.

Saito laid the blame for the rise in hikikomori – government figures estimate there to be 700,000 people suffering from the illness by 2010, with an additional 1.55m exhibiting extreme shut-in tendencies; borderline hikikomori on the verge of being ‘lost’ – on the intense pressure placed on Japanese children, particularly first-born boys. Parents push their progeny to excel through stringent study schedules and evening cram schools, with further demands to then progress into successful business careers. Starved of non-academic social interactions and burdened to conform to everyone else’s expectations, sufferers begin to eschew real interpersonal contact in favour of virtual people, their pre-programmed responses easier to navigate than the comparative chaos of actual humans and their pesky emotions. Online communities are often the only avenue for actual communication.

As such, there’s a lot of overlap between people categorised as hikikomori and those with typical otaku interests – keep in mind, ‘otaku’ is generally a pejorative in Japan, and not something people glorify or aspire to. Locked away in their rooms or apartments, hikikomori can control every aspect of their lives without ever truly realising that they’re largely wasting them . It’s interesting to observe that, as Saito was identifying the curious behaviour, dating sims were gaining prominence; the games perhaps creating an outlet for a problem bubbling under the Japanese culture for years.

However, the shut-ins are becoming a time bomb for Japanese society – at least two identifiable generations who will be unable to care for themselves or reintegrate into the wider world when their carers pass away. While there are some support agencies to help hikikomori reintegrate (the non-profit organisation New Start being the most prominent), it’s an uphill battle and one that will only realistically be won with sweeping changes to attitudes and social demands in the country.

The World God Only Knows is out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment, if you can bring yourself to go down to the shops...alternatively, thanks to the internet, you can...

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The World God Only Knows and Hikikomori


The World God Only Knows - Complete Season 1 Collection

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The God of Gaming has arrived!
Keima is a dating sim champion. Cute girls are rendered powerless by his irresistible game playing techniques. Too bad things aren't that way in the real world... that is, until his tempting game playing causes a real live - and very bubbly - cute demon hunter named Elsie to materialize! Now Elsie wants Keima to help her free hot girls from sneaky demons who secretly possess them.



Naruto: Now & Then

Matt Kamen weighs the difference between the original series and the newer Shippuden episodes of Naruto.
With hundreds of episodes under Naruto’s belt, it can be easy to forget just how far the world’s favourite orange ninja cadet and friends have come since their first days at school. The release of the complete first season of Naruto Shippuden seems the perfect time to look back at some of the key players in the saga, and see where the new series finds them – and haven’t they grown…?

Naruto music: NICO Touches the Walls

Tom Smith dives in to the band behind Naruto Shippuden Box 15
Who’s NICO, and what’s their obsession with walls? It’s a question you may ask yourself upon discovering the artist name behind Naruto Shippuden’s eighth opening theme. They call themselves NICO Touches the Walls and, despite the ridiculous name, they are a pretty big deal in Japan right now.

Out Now: Naruto Shippuden 16

Ninja action sneaking to a store near you
Naruto Shippuden box 16 is out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

Time Travel in Anime

Paul Browne rewinds from Naruto Shippuden: The Lost Tower into the past
In the latest Naruto film The Lost Tower, the title character and his comrades embark on a mission to capture Mukade – a missing ninja who has the ability to travel through time. Mukade’s plan is to travel into the past and take control of the Five Great Shinobi Countries. During the battle with Mukade, Naruto and Yamato find themselves hurled back twenty years in time. Will Naruto and his friends be able to return to his own time? And will their actions in the past save the future?


Bleach Music: Miwa

Tom Smith rings the ch-ch-changes…
Bleach series 13 continues the clash between Soul Society’s Shinigami and Sousuke Aizen’s Arrancar army. It also brings with it a new talent in Japanese pop-rock: miwa. This fresh-faced female, armed with a guitar and an arsenal of upbeat pop-rock songs, provides the series’ twelfth opening theme, ‘chAngE’.
Some of you may have heard that the US release of the hotly anticipated Evangelion 3.33: You Can (Not) Redo has been delayed. Unfortunately we can now confirm that this has had a knock-on effect for the UK DVD and Blu-ray release and as a result we have been forced to amend the release date. We are very sorry for this but it is beyond our control.

Robocop vs Anime Cyborgs

Andrew Osmond on the history of man-machine interfaces
RoboCop is thrown into interesting perspective by looking at his anime cousins. In Japan, RoboCop is one of a crowd. Two of anime’s greatest poster icons – Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell and Tetsuo in Akira – are or become cyborgs. Moreover, a man-turned-robot was an anime hero back in 1963. We’re talking about 8th Man, shown in America as Tobor the Eighth Man. It’s a policeman who, yes, gets murdered by a crime gang, then resurrected in a robot body.

Fairy Tail Music: Daisy x Daisy

Tom Smith on Fairy Tail Part 7’s opening theme
Little Mika still has a long way to go, but since signing to Pony Canyon she has managed to have a crack at the anime universe, featuring heavily in one series in particular; Fairy Tail.

Last Exile versus Fam, the Silver Wing

A Versus feature with a difference: Last Exile against Last Exile!
With the first part of Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing now available in the U.K., we can finally compare it with its predecessor, Gonzo’s 10th and 20th anniversary specials pitted against each other. What do they tell us about the industry then and now?


Tom Smith on the band behind Be As One
Unlike a number of the bands featured on the Manga UK blog, W-inds haven’t had much of a history with anime tie-ins despite their massive success. In fact, in 14 years they’ve only ever done two anime themes; their first in Akira Amano’s Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, and more recently with Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail, where their 29th single Be as One became its sixth ending.

Wolf Children Tweet-a-long

Join us on Wednesday for Mamoru Oshii's anime masterpiece
Join us on Wednesday 8th January to watch Wolf Children and tweet our own commentary.

Comicon Pics

Just some of the Comicon cosplays, photographed by Paul Jacques
As promised, here are just a few of the pictures taken by our photographer Paul Jacques at the MCM Comicon this May. Some pretty amazing stuff on offer behind the LINK.
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