Welcome, one and all, to the penultimate week of Welcome to the NHK! From Sato to Misaki, Yamazaki to Hitomi, NHK is lining up all the dominoes for a grand finale. But is this setup any good? Or does it start to flub it’s lead at the finish line? Let’s dive in and find out.
First up we have episode 21, “Welcome to the Reset!”. This is, at it’s core, Yamazaki’s finale. And you know what? I’m kind of surprised it actually happened. I wasn’t sure that NHK would actually follow through with it, at least not this quickly. NHK jumped right into Winter Comiket when I thought for sure it would be the climax of the episode, not the opening. This leaves the episode feeling almost more like an epilogue for the character rather than a grand finale. The way Yamazaki packs up his room, gives Sato a bunch of his stuff, voices his frustration and puts to words the emotions I mentioned last week regarding his game being his last mark in Tokyo. It’s all very poignant. But… is it an actually good experience for the viewer?
Details after the break.
After being floored every week for the last 10 episodes, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed in this one. Now I want to be clear from the get go, I do NOT think that this is a bad episode. It sets up a lot for episode 22 and, I can only expect, for the series finale itself. In that sense “Welcome to the Reset” did it’s job. Additionally, and we will talk more about this, it allows us to see how Sato deals with the loss of a close friend. This is all good! But the way it does a lot of heavy lifting for other parts of the show left it feeling lacking as an ending for Yamazaki specifically. He left so quietly, it almost feels like an anti-climax. If there is more to come for him, fantastic. I’ll retract it all. For now though? Kinda disappointed.
That said once Yamazaki’s half of the episode had finished NHK managed to pull me back in with Sato. His reaction, and eventual handling, of Yamazaki leaving was fascinating. At first it seems like he’s going to regress. His grief and desperation at Yamazaki leaving, the way he begs and bargains, proclaims himself God and demands he return. This is some of the worst delusion we’ve ever seen from Sato, and it makes sense why. He’s lost most of his connections at this point. Yamazaki, Hitomi, Megumi. The only person left really is Misaki, she’s actually the most recent of these connections. And yet… Sato seems to figure this out. He realizes the futility of it, calms himself down and eventually moves on. He accepts that Yamazaki is gone for now, but not necessarily forever. Overall, this is fantastic progress for Sato! Enough so that maybe… maybe he’s OK now?
At least that’s what Misaki thinks. I’ll save my thoughts on her for later, but NHK decided to put Sato’s newfound mental strength to the test: A New Year shrine visit. In public. Basically alone. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but this ended up being to much for Sato, and I like that. I like that, for all that Sato has improved and is equipped to work through his issues, he still hasn’t been cured of his biggest problem. Namely, his obsession with how other people view him. Comiket was fine, he sat in a booth with Yamazaki and didn’t really move. But here he’s actively traveling and interacting with people. It’s to much, he shuts down! Yet lo and behold, it all goes away when he meets Hitomi again. Like Yamazaki, he’s comfortable enough around her to block it all out. Something he can’t do with Misaki.
This brings me to episode 22, “Welcome to the God”. I really enjoyed this episode, even despite it’s treatment of Hitomi. What treatment you might ask? Just the huge amounts of titillation, like actual straight up titty, the episode subjects her to. Narratively I understand it, NHK wants to show us that Sato still holds a torch for her. That, deep down, he may even love her, or at least is still having fantasies about her. And this pays off in a way later on in the episode when he turns Hitomi down. Because of these scenes we know that Sato wanted to accept. So seeing him turn her down, to acknowledge that having an affair would be wrong and that he cares for her beyond her body, says a lot of good things about him. I just… I wish there was another way, because I love Hitomi’s character.
As for the previously mentioned affair and everything that lead up to it? I thought it was great! I continue to love how comfortable Sato clearly feels around Hitomi, as well as getting to see how much progress both of them have made. They both still have their moments of weakness, depression isn’t something that disappears overnight. Sato had his “grieving” for Yamazaki, Hitomi has hers when she asks Sato for an affair. And while Sato’s daydreams blur the line on when or what exactly happened, I choose to believe that she really did ask him. That, for a moment, she caved and that for once Sato was able to support someone else rather than be supported. It goes a long way to presenting this idea that you aren’t alone and that its natural to need and seek out help at times.
And with that we come to Misaki. Misaki, Misaki, Misaki. I always knew something was wrong here. All the way back when we first started watching NHK together, go and check. I said that something was off. Maybe she was a hallucination, a red herring, a trap for the audience. I didn’t know what yet, but I knew something wasn’t as it should be. Lo and behold, here it comes. Misaki’s own arc and downfall. I’m going to come out and say it: She’s going full Yandere. Maybe she won’t go as far as trying to stab Sato so he can’t be with anyone else, but she’s clearly preying on him emotionally. Just look at her last line of episode 22, where she describes him as her captive. This is the epitome of an unhealthy relationship! And I fear it’s only going to get worse.
We’ve already established that Sato is basically alone now. Yamazaki, Megumi, even Hitomi after that heartbreaking split earlier in the episode. The only person he has is Misaki, and she’s only using him to prescribe value to herself. Now to be fair, she’s doing this because of her own issues with abuse and depression. No doubt she’s been abused, assaulted and belittled until eventually her overly religious Aunt took her in. It makes sense that should would look for solace somewhere, and she found it in being useful to Sato. So I don’t think she’s doing it just to hurt Sato. But after seeing Sato turn down Hitomi and misunderstanding it as leaving a love hotel, after thinking he doesn’t need her anymore, she’s reacting very poorly. I fear where this downward spiral of hers will go, and who she will hurt by the end of it.
All in all a decent pair of episodes for NHK. We’re building up a lot of stuff for the finale and I’m looking forward to where it goes. Sato’s final parting with Hitomi was fantastic, I loved their agreement to meetup again in a few years after they are both in a healthier place and catchup as just good, healthy friends. I liked that Yamazaki, despite having that finale, is still calling Sato and keeping up with him as a friend. That even though they are apart physically, they need not be emotionally or socially. We are seeing the fruits of Sato’s labor, as he now has healthy and active connections with other humans. The only thing left to resolve is Misaki. And while screwing her finale up would be bad, I would be really surprised if NHK dropped the ball this close to the finish line.
So yeah, hopefully the grand finale next week is everything I want it to be. Heads up, I’ll be posting a poll for the next show I will be covering at the end of the post so keep an eye out for that. I’ll announce the winner when I finish writing the final review for NHK the week after that. See you then!