Eden of the East #05-#06: The Plight of the Sugo-Ude NEETs

Episode #06 is probably the one that I can relate to the most. I studied computer science in college, and have been fascinated with the success of Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Paul Graham, Mark Zuckerberg, etc. These people, well, made big business with innovation and basically changed how we interact with information to some degree. So what the Eden of the East circle have in their hands here? Rather, what wouldn’t Eric Schmidt or Steve Ballmer give to acquire EotE?

So here comes a sad part. Despite having one of the most awesome technologies in the IT world, EotE’s business doesn’t fly. They get bogged down by trivial issues like Saki’s getting emo or one user’s dropping out of college because EotE doesn’t seem to work to well for her as an online matchmaking tool. This is kind of understandable because, at first, they didn’t have any other use of the search engine besides tagging recycled goods. Moreover, only Hirasawa is serious in making the struggling EotE a real business before they all met Akira. I have to admit that I’m disappointed with Hirasawa though: despite having studied economics for 4 years, he doesn’t even know that venture capitalists do exist to help make this very kind of business possible.

Notice the career paths of the new graduates choose and how they perceive themselves. Saki and Ohsugi supposedly left the club to search for jobs like other “respected members of the society.” On the other hand, Hirasawa who decides to stay another year to see the business through labels himself as a “NEET.” Episode #05 basically tells us that being a NEET like Hirasawa is definitely better than working for someone who would drop gyuudon on your skirt.

The writer, though, distinguishes two kinds of NEETs: those “loser NEETs” Akira sent to Dubai and those Hirasawa calls “sugo-ude NEETs” (すご腕ニート, lit: NEET with great ability). It seems that the writer sees the loser NEETs as not willing to engage with society out of their own ignorance. He just wants them to just come out of their rooms to experience the real world, and believes that things are going to go well beyond expectation, like how one of the NEET found himself a bride in just 3 months.

Sugo-ude NEETs are those like Saki and Hirasawa. They are capable and resourceful, but refuses to go to the job marker for some reasons. Saki has a talent of seeing values of seemingly useless things. Moreover, she was successful at job hunting once, but rejected the offer just because she’s disgusted by how the company exploits young people. Hirasawa got six job offers, but rejected all of them to figure out how to start his own business.

I think the writer wants to tell the Japanese society that the system does not work well for creative individuals. There is a constant pressure that forces everyone to a mold of a typical “shakaijin”: having a respectable job at a company and working your ass off for it. And this is what being “socially responsible” is about. Saki went for an interview again, though she didn’t really want to, because she didn’t want to be a burden to her family. Yet, the system confines individuals’ potential and does not give the proper respect and compensation to young people. On the contrary, not joining the workforce is, as Ohsugi puts it, only possible if your family is rich. All in all, people who chose to be like Hirasawa are labeled as NEETs, a burden to society, regardless of what their reasons are.

The subtitle of East of Eden reads 「この国の”空気”に戦いを挑んだひとりの男の子と、彼を見守った女の子のたって11日間の物語」 (lit: an 11 days long story of a boy who picks fight with this country’s “atmosphere” and the girl who watches after him.) It would seem that “atmosphere” that Akira tries to fight is the corporate culture and the overall attitude that don’t give young people a say on how to start their career, forcing them to be sugo-ude NEETs rather than respectable shakaijin. A nobel goal indeed. I wonder how he’s going to do it because funding EotE is just helping just one group of sugo-ude NEETs realize their dream. Certainly, this will look impressive to neither the Supporter nor Mr.Outside. But, hey, who knows what’s going to happen next? Perhaps Akira has some outrageous plan in his head already.

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