Kamisama no Memochou and a depressing outlook on youth

Well, Mathew challenged me to write a post on all the references KamiMemo made simply because I’m supposedly a hardcore litfag. Sorry to say this, but nope.avi. Instead, I watched the show and observed something else: its portrayal of youth.

From the start, we get a monologue by our generic protagonist #1176, Narumi, narrating how he was merely a dot in an image, how dot leads to dot to form an image, and the fact that he had never seen a full image before. Deep , right? Sure. However, he slowly proves himself to be nothing but a dot throughout the length of the episode.

Now, we know that Narumi is your atypical generic highschool protagonist. We know at least that much. We see he’s kind. Helping his classmate take over the ramen store as she gives Alice a bath (tsk.) , helping Alice carry out the detective work despite being a stranger, and helping the NEET brigade carry their leek soup to Alice (use a spoon, damn it). Even when he gets beaten up and tossed around by the NEETs, he doesn’t fight back. What a charming young man.

DAAAAAT. The buzzer goes off. The way I see it, is that he is weak. Not weak character-wise however, but rather, in terms of personality. Narumi is a weak protagonist, giving in to pressure all too easily, living through the motions without giving much thought.

From the get-go we see him being checked by Major to see whether he was the ‘suspect’. Right before seeing his own senior jump out of a window. And after the ruckus, they find the real suspect, explain a little bit, then just leave him. What does Narumi do all this time? Nothing. He just stands and watches. He didn’t exactly retaliate much when he was pushed against the wall either.

A better example would be his errands for Alice. Here is this random stranger, being dragged in to do some stranger’s chores, and ending up doing even more chores for people he didn’t really know. He never seems to question anything. He just does as he is told. No questions, like ‘Why the fuck must I deliver this for you?’, or ‘Who the fuck are you guys?’, or the subtle “Can I please leave now?” He got dragged into the game to decide who delivered the soup to Alice, and he only complains to himself, not doing anything and delivering the soup anyway. Then, he does as he is told yet again, this time to a little girl/ NEET of unconfirmed age. It’s like he has no spine. He can’t respond. He only lives through the motions.

But then again, he wasn’t the only teenager in the show. From episode 1, we see the story of Shouko and Miku, teenage prostitutes. Shouko would be the clearer example of the two. The subtext was that she decided to become a teenage prostitute because she could not deal with the stress and expectations from her peers. Again, someone who cannot cope with stress. These characters simply rolled over when facing stress, with Narumi coming out unharmed as he’s our protagonist, but still. It’s like they’re part of the Strawberry Generation (if you remember that survey), spoiled, weak and unable to cope with pressure.

And what about those NEETs?

Min , the ramen shop owner, tells us how Tetsuo was a drop-out, while he insisted that he quit on his own volition. Even in the game they were playing, it was hinted that they disagree with whatever brochure they named, some being ‘Finding a Job in 2 minutes’. They did not like whatever was written in those brochures. We see Alice as a person sort of lost in time. Her abode is dark, but the screens light. It’s like seeing the world, yet being in one’s own home. We even see how innocent she was portrayed, wearing Pajamas all the time, with all the stuffed animals, not even taking baths. But at least Alice has found her calling. The other 3 NEETs feel as though they don’t really care. (Especially the gigolo. Yes.)

Valence, you’re just describing the youth from KamiMemo, how is this depressing?

Here’s the depressing bit. Perhaps you’re right though, maybe I find it depressing because I’m the Lord of Emoland. But still, what do these 3 groups of people have in common?

Narumi answers this from the start, albeit metaphorically:

“I have never seen a full image before.”

Or in other words, they have no vision of the future.

Think about it. The NEETs celebrate their NEETdom as some kind of superiority, but never pause to think about the consequences (Asian ethics, Confucian beliefs coming into play here). What happens next? Who cares? The girls sacrifice their virginity for simple reasons, to stress and whatnot. And in the end, Shouko supposedly slits her own wrists. And Narumi? He’s just living through the motions, with no idea what he was actually doing. He just does it, because he was told to. No questions, because life has thrown you a hurdle, and you can only cross it, not get around it. No-one has any idea what the future is like. In fact, no-one seems to hold an idea of how the future should be.

Although I’m turning 97 next year, I think I still belong to this group of youth, as I , too, have no idea what the future holds in store. Not in a positive sense either: rather, I have no idea what I need to do in the future. I’m just living through the motions, as with most youth. Which person you know actually plans ahead? We crash head-on into matters, into exams and challenges, hoping that life would be a series of endless challenges until we die. This way, we wouldn’t need to plan ahead.

This way we could live freely, not shackled down to the expectations of society, and of reality. And so, the NEETs of KamiMemo live, becoming an exception to the typical youth. An exception to the rule. To break free from the cage set by society. It’s the only NEET thing to do. The girls: vice to escape shackles of stress and life.

And Narumi?

Nah, he’s just living through the motions. Probably like you, and definitely like me.

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39 Responses to Kamisama no Memochou and a depressing outlook on youth

  1. trewdys says:

    “Although I’m turning 97 next year”

  2. That is incredibly depressing my friend.

    But, it is sadly true. Most teenagers i see around me in school do seem like Narumi, just going through the motions of life, following their parent’s wishes in education and life. Its quite a pity to see youth squandered in such a manner. However, it is undeniable that more of it will occur.

    Us teenagers need more drive yah?

    • Valence says:

      I mean, living merely for the present seems so meaningless when you think about it.

      • It is indeed meaningless.

        However it’s a sad fact that our youths will be mostly spent in the prison of the education as the demands on intellect within the world increases.

        But yeah, what we need is a drive, an objective in the future we really desire for. Once you’ve got that, no problem seems unsolvable. There is suddenly meaning in your life again ;D

  3. Justin says:

    You’re 96?!?? Geez…you’re 90 years older than me…that means you’ve seen a lot…and know a lot…

    • Valence says:

      But I’m a child inside

      (Now imagine Alice riding a mecha suit that looks like a freaky creep who lurks on the internet)

      • Justin says:

        “Imagine Alice riding a mecha suit that looks…”
        “Imagine Alice riding a mecha suit…”
        “Imagine Alice riding…


  4. Anonomyous says:

    When you get older, it hits you. You had choices when you were young but you never made them. The real cause of the loss of direction is you, not parents, not bosses, not teachers, not anyone else but you.

    For example, you had the choice to study harder to get a better degree or what not but did not do it. Reasons? Because you’re not cut out for studying. Because you know you’re smart and don’t need exams to prove it. Because who really needs all that differentiation/integration in real life. All are really just rationalisations/escapes.

    Now, travel further back in terms of time. You probably had the question asked sometime in childhood or teens. What do you want to do when you grow up? Now think exactly what you actually did to acheive that goal. Odds are, nothing.

    This is not a condemnation but through my personal experience. You really understand what parents mean when they say “don’t work hard when young, get sad when old” and why they overplan for their children including making them take course in subjects they don’t like (it’ll get you a stable job).

    Youth is the time to think through what is your dream and work on getting it because you still have time to fail and still recover. Compare on someone who wants to chase their dream when they are middle aged. The cost of failure and its impact is much much higher. If a youth had a dream, took concrete steps and had a actual plan including a fall back plan if he or she failed, i truly believe (as see actual RL examples) that their parents would not object and most would support them

  5. ~xxx says:

    so you’re 96…

    but hey isn’t it nice to sit and watch few things pass by?
    Well, it’s kinda depressing.

    the truth is, many of teenagers nowadays are rather having no direction in life and they just go with the flow.

    and for most of the people they want to go to the road everyone had traveled.

  6. Azure says:

    You’re 96 and I just turned 16~ And I’m probably more spineless than Narumi.

    I wouldn’t say that most teenagers have no direction in life. I want to believe that most of them did, but society expects you to conform. Most of us teenagers will probably end up with some boring job in an office just because we are, as you say living through the motions. None has the guts to do something that isn’t expected of them. I don’t think I would too. It IS rather depressing if you think about it, no matter how much the ministry tries to encourage students to take different paths in life, it really only applies when you can afford to.
    With regards to becoming exceptions though… We always hear how people try to be different just for the sake of being different. I think that is just as pathetic as following what you’ve been told. When can we finally find the guts do something that comes from our heart?

    Someone should facebook the education minister on that.

      • Valence says:

        ….to remind you about the importance of fullstops. For a moment I thought you didn’t finish writing your comment 😀

    • Valence says:

      >Facebook education minister

      I doubt he knows what to know either.

      Listen, me, you, and all the Sec 4s in Singapore all feel this dread: of being led down a path by the MOE. I suppose that’s life though. We don’t do things that come from our heart simply because in the Singaporean mindset they are impractical. I told my teacher I didn’t want to work in an office, but he just told me that it wasn’t realistic. And that’s the sad truth of Singaporean society.

      • Azure says:

        Life IS depressing. I always answer questions about what I want to be when when I grow up with “I just wanna be rich”
        Guess thats the mindset of most SIngaporeans too. Or it could just be mine.

        • Most Singaporean parents instill the mindset that the ultimate goal in life is to get rich to their children. Whatever happened to finding meaning, purpose or happiness?

          They’re all gone.

          We’re gonna leave Uni, get a job, trudge through it for 30 yrs, earn money, get a family in the process. lose the love in the marriage, then retire and die rich but feeling absolutely empty.

          That’s why im hipster. Screw all that. I’m gonna find happiness in life no matter the cost bitches. So take THAT parents.

        • Valence says:

          Singapore is like that. The belief of money=success has been instilled in us from birth. From speeches to the limited area the media covers we are nudged , and inevitably make this link ourselves.

  7. Nopy says:

    I don’t think going through the motions is that bad. My life was planned for me: get born, learn enough to act and communicate, go to kindergarten, go to elementary school, go to jr. high, go to high school, go to university, get a job, get married, have kids, grow old, die. The getting married part may be a bit troublesome considering I’ve never had a girlfriend and it’s the next step in my life. Oh well, maybe I’ll just ask my parents for an arranged marriage 🙂

  8. Massd95 says:

    Lol, 96. But I think you could have talked about Alice more. I mean, you gave attention to Harumi and the NEETs, but Alice barely got a passing mention. Here, I’ll do it for you:

    I think you could have elaborated on how Alice seems to straddle the line between the unexceptional and the deviant. If you think about it, she is exempt from the rule of “going through the motions” as she has a clear view of what she wishes to do, and also has a clear set of values which she stands by, as seen in her guarantee of trust towards Meo in episode 2, while also being part of the unexceptional in that she has no clear vision of the future. Her desire to be a NEET Detective is born of her feeling of helplessness and her sense of being “lost” in the world, as she does it to give herself a purpose. In that sense, she is just as helpless and weak as Harumi, but she takes steps to conceal or even bypass her insignificance, by assuming the role of a NEET Detective. Hence, she can be said to be unexceptional as Harumi is, yet capable of breaking the mold through sheer will and determination.

    Furthermore, Alice’s presence as a bridge between the two worlds of orthodoxy is mirrored by her role as a bridge of youth and age, of freedom and confinement. While she is undoubtedly the most youthful character in the main cast, having a child-like appearance and child-like temperament and desires, she demonstrates immense wisdom and knowledge, and speaks like one who has lived thrice as long as she appears. This stark contrast of the wisdom of age as well as the innocence of youth is made shockingly obvious in how she goes from being very serious and talking about her inadequacy in aiding the world to crying over a broken stuffed toy in the short span of a few minutes. This contrast establishes her as a unique character who does not fit into any category. She is too wise to be a child, but too childish in mannerism to be an adult. Even among misfits, she is a misfit. She proclaims herself a NEET, but in reality, she defies expectations of what a NEET should be like and willingly takes on the role of detective, which runs counter to the nature of NEETs. This contrasting nature further reveals itself in her room. She has access to a virtually endless stream of information, and can be said to have an omniscient view of the world, able to observe the entire world at once, yet she is confined to her room by self-imposed boundaries. She experiences the freedom of having no boundaries between her and all the information in the world, yet she is imprisoned by her own hand, denying herself the freedom of the outside world.

    In a sense, Alice can be said to be representative of outright defiance of the social order which you have highlighted, but at the same time is a part of that social order. The duality of her character highlights the conformity and mediocrity which are expressed in the show. She demonstrates how even if one tries to break free of the mold of mediocrity, one is inexplicably entrapped within it, yet at the same time gives the hope that it is possible to break out of this social order, and provides the hope that one day this human condition of mediocrity may be overcome.

    Yeah, that’s it. Kinda repetitive, But I think Alice would have made a nice conclusion to your article. And damn, I feel like a Litfag.

    • Valence says:

      Lol off-topic litfag… I bet you just wanted to write that.

      The point of the article was to illustrate the fact that the characters have no idea what they’re doing, and I dare say Alice , despite being a NEET, actually decided what she wanted to be. Look at her devotion and respect for the profession as proof . I could write more but it’s hard posting from my iPhone.

      • Massd95 says:

        Yes, but while it is clear from her professionalism and respect that she did decide what she chooses to be, that is, a NEET detective, she has no clear vision of her own future. As I have previously stated, her conviction is born of a sense of helplessness, hence she has no idea what she’s doing in another sense, in that she does not have a plan for the future and can be seen to be stuck in a near-stasis state of eternal youth, which is demonstrated by her appearance and mannerisms. Until she decides upon a clear, defined future, she cannot be said to be entirely sure of herself and her role in the world, which illustrates my point that she is an example that both obeys and defies the social order which you have identified.

        • Valence says:

          But wasn’t my point to show how all of them fall into this order without much exception? Remember Cheeeeeeeeeeen’s argument trees , SRQs and expository essays? When being negative, you never quote and agree with something that proves you otherwise. You only write about it if you can disprove it. Writing in depth about Alice would, like I told you earlier, be highly detrimental to my post…


          • Massd95 says:

            But you still have to mention how she is a counter-example to the points you have put forth so as to make a rounded, convincing, well-supported and objective argument. For example, you could mention all I have said, but gone into detail of how Alice is the only one who falls into this category, hence making her the sole exception to the rule. Furthermore, you can stress the fact that she is still contained within the realm of helplessness, which would serve to further illustrate your point that this ailment of youth is something deep-rooted and inescapable.

            • Valence says:

              ….you’re really taking this seriously, aren’t you?


              Anyway, I think I *could* have mentioned all you said. But as you can tell, I chose not to. Writing in length about Alice wasn’t a priority as of yet. I’m still on episode 1. I think it would be better to write about Alice in further detail as the show progresses. So we can see more of their back stories.

  9. Overlord-G says:

    Actually all that mattered to me was:
    A: the 1st episode was 45 minutes, giving the impression that this show’s going to be one of those long 5-13 long episode titles like Katanagatari and Kara no Kyoukai.
    B: the 1st case deals with prostitution.
    C: Alice could very well be the heir to Victorique’s throne, either her or Dalian from dantalian no Shoka.

    As for your analysis of the youth on the show, it was an interesting read. I really don’t have much to say to be honest since the world we know today is too chaotic for me to go full depth on these things. Maybe that’s why I don’t get many views since I only review stuff rather than create interesting topics…then again I honestly don’t have any interesting stuff to talk about.

  10. Mathew says:

    Youth? What youth? Before you talk about SG kids, remember who are doing the talking here. ‘Kids’. Nah, I don’t think we have been as youthful as the characters in kamimemo for quite a long while. It’s actually really uplifting, seeing characters do what they do. Makes you feel like a kid again.

    • Valence says:

      I wasn’t talking about kids. I was talking about the same age group of Singaporeans and the characters from KamiMemo. Ironically, it is the fact that we know they’re fictional characters that their ‘youthfulness’ comes across as depressing to me.

      I mean, think about it. How do we Singaporeans define happiness? Not simply the childish “i-do-what-i-like” ideal that many seem to hold. It seems like a much more complex and unexplained system than just that.

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