One of the unique things that the anime medium as a whole has been able to do in both Eastern and Western culture is provide an outlet for those who otherwise would have none. Many fans have made anime their number one hobby and express their passion in a variety of ways, such as cosplay, collecting merchandise, attending conventions, etc. Unfortunately, a fair amount of fans demonstrate obsessive behavior that further worsens other aspects of their lives. One of those aspects revolves around the idea of becoming anti-social, especially to the point of becoming someone known as a hikikomori.
A hikikomori is defined as someone who avoids almost if not all social contact and withdraws from social life. Often a hikikomori will take extreme measures to achieve total isolation and confinement. The people who choose to become hikikomori tend to be adolescent males and have a variety of reasons for choosing to become one, whether it’s not fitting in socially with others, not meeting someone’s expectations, some sort of trauma, or so on. Many hikikomori spend their lives becoming obsessed with certain things, and anime tends to be just one of many. As a result, more and more anime are beginning to focus on these types of people. Here are the top 10 Hikikomori Anime.
10. Denpa Kyoushi (Ultimate Otaku Teacher)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Apr 2015 - Sep 2015
Junichirou Kagami was once a physics genius whose papers would frequently appear in academic juniors. Pretty impressive for a high schooler. However, he undergoes a drastic change after graduating from college; instead of pursuing bigger and better things, he becomes a shut in who spends his days watching anime, collecting figurines, reading manga, and surfing the web. It is only through both the assistance of his younger sister and convenient timing that he finds himself as a substitute at his former high school. Can Kagami actually help out the high school students who still revere him?
As the title of the series implies, Kagami is much more of an otaku (someone focused on certain aspects of pop culture at the expense of their social skills) than a hikikomori. However, he does display some key hikikomori behavior, especially when he’s shut himself in and shut everyone out at the beginning of the series. The show demonstrates that sometimes the best way to get someone out of such a state is to force them into certain situations where they not only can’t rely on their isolation, but also rise to the occasion in order to solve whatever predicament they’re in. Not to mention realizing what they’re missing in the outside world. In this case, as Kagami helps each of the students solve their own problems, he eventually grows out of his stupor (even if his personality more or less remains the same). Definitely a show with a positive outlook to preventing the hikikomori lifestyle.
9. Rozen Maiden
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Oct 2004 - Dec 2004
Sakurada Jun is a young boy who keeps contact with people to a bare minimum due to the psychological trauma he experienced while at school. Jun’s life, however, soon takes a turn for the strange when he mysteriously ends up with an antique doll named Shinku that comes to life and believes him to be her servant. As one thing leads to another, Jun eventually learns to socialize again while at the same time look to Shinku’s protection from her enemies…
Another story of a shut-in who learns to socialize again, this time focusing on someone much younger than the average hikikomori. Hikikomori tend to be around high school/college age for the most part, if not older. For a child to want to isolate themselves early on in life usually suggests psychological trauma of some kind, as demonstrated by Jun. However, once again, sometimes a domineering person who is able to consistently get said person to be out in the open again can do wonders.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Oct 2012 - Dec 2012
Unemployed, alone, and living with his mother, Ryouta Sakamoto’s only success in life lies in being the best Btooom! player in Japan. When Ryouta suddenly wakes up in the middle of nowhere with no memory of how he got there, he soon comes to realize that someone has placed him (and others) in a real life version of his favorite game. With his skills and some unexpected help, it’s going to take everything Ryouta has if he wants to return home…
While this anime focuses a lot more on the “Hunger Games/Battle Royale” aspect in terms of its plot as opposed to being a hikikomori, the idea of turning to an engrossing video game for entertainment that can last months and even years on end is not lost on someone who is a hikikomori. The series starts with the idea that if given the opportunity, Ryouta would play this game for the rest of his life if he could, and it’s only by playing for real that he begins to change. While the idea of living out your favorite video game that you’ve obsessed over may seem appealing, the reality (as brutal as it may seem) is just that: it will never amount to more than just dreaming.
7. Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken (I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Oct 2014 – Dec 2014
Apart from frequently attending anime conventions, Hajime Tsunashi is an otaku shut-in who is immersed in everything manga and anime. What sets his life apart from many others like him, however, is his marriage to Kaoru Tsunashi, a woman who works in an office, drinks socially with her coworkers, and overall someone who works hard to achieve what she has. Thi begs the questions: how does their relationship work?
Again, we have yet another series that focuses more on the otaku aspect as opposed to the hikikomori aspect. However, the unique take of how someone that lives their life this way achieving success in finding someone that loves them is something that most series with this type of character cannot say they have. With each episode being about 5 minutes long as opposed to the normal length and focusing on humorous aspects as well as the emotional ones, it’s worth checking out this series.
6. Kamisama no Memochou (Heaven's Memo Pad)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jul 2011 – Sep 2011
Narumi Fujishima is not the first person you would think of if you were to describe the average high school student, as he is someone that grows more and more isolated from his peers every day. That soon changes when he makes the acquaintance of a girl who’s more reclusive than he is and possesses incredible hacking skills. As he is slowly sucked into a world filled with criminals, gangs, and drug dealers, Narumi tries to come to terms with what his life is turning into…
This show focuses more on the idea of characters who are NEET, or someone who is Not Employed, being Educated, or in Training, as opposed to being hikikomori. That being said, the growing isolation that Narumi feels at the beginning and struggles with throughout the show as well as the lifestyle Alice sets up for herself are all familiar hikikomori themes. Even though there’s an interesting conflict in the sense that a NEET is actually working as a detective, this is a good series to watch in terms of seeing how the average hikikomori begins to get their start before the main plot gets underway.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Oct 2008 - Dec 2008
Takumi Nishijou is an extremely reclusive high school student at the Private Suimei Academy who wishes nothing more than to remain engaged in his own world. But when mysterious murders begin happening around the city and strange people begin associating with Takumi, he’ll have to trust people he’s just met in order to figure out what’s real and what’s not…
The unique aspect that comes into play with this series regarding hikikomori is the paranoia and the delusions. Hikikomori have been known to not only have extreme paranoia regarding the world around them, but also fall prey to their own delusions. Even though Takumi is a shut-in and an otaku, the twist that takes place regarding his paranoia and delusions suggests that given time he would have probably become a hikikomori had this have happened in real life. If you’re looking for a good look at the negative side effects an hikikomori can face, Chaos;Head definitely shows them.
4. Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai. (Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day)
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: Apr 2011 – Jun 2011
Jinta Yadomi was spending his days as a hikikomori playing video games until Meiko "Menma" Honma, an old childhood friend who died years ago, suddenly shows up. Slowly believing that what he’s experiencing isn’t a delusion, Jinta sets out to reunite his old childhood friends who all grew apart after her accidental death. But as Jinta slowly reunites the group to help their old friend move on, things might get worse before they get better…
Jinta Yadomi is by definition a hikikomori, but it’s not hard to see why hikikomori can sometimes be used interchangeably with NEET or otaku, as Jinta is mainly seen playing video game alone. Yet the death of Menma at a young age serves as an example of how sometimes trauma to someone young can lead to hikikomori-like behavior, like what happened to Jinta. This series also takes a much more realistic approach to recovering (even though it’s a ghost resulting in former friends reconnecting). If you’re looking for more realism as opposed to wish fulfillment when it comes to this lifestyle, Anohana is one of the more realistic anime touching on this subject.
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Jul 1, 2016 - ongoing
Arata Kaizaki is a normal 27 year old who is single, unemployed, and has just been cut off financially from his parents. In dire straits, Arata accepts the crazy offer given to him by the mysterious Ryou Yoake: take his pill and revert in age by 10 years. Now 17 again, Arata finds himself back at high school with another shot to change things around…
An interesting aspect that this series focuses on is whether someone would change things the 2nd time around if given the chance, and given that Arata has more or less lived his life as someone who isolated himself from others, it’s interesting watching him be faced with certain situations where he can strive to changes things for the better. The sad thing is coming to terms with the truth that (once again) reality does not work that way, and that the only time to change things for the better is now, not back then.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan 2013 - Mar 2013
Sasami Tsukuyomi is a hikikomori who is struggling to complete her 1st year of high school. Luckily she is getting by with help from her older brother as well as viewing the outside world through her computer. But when her brother begins interacting with the 3 Yagami sisters, Sasami begins to notice some strange things happening…
This series takes a turn for the magical pretty quickly and only gets weirder from there. With the number of supernatural events that take place as well as the unique storyline, it’s no wonder why Sasami wonders if she’s losing it at times. That being said, the struggles that Sasami deals with as a hikikomori couldn’t be more real, especially considering the fact that males far outnumber females when it comes to being hikikomori. If you’re looking for an anime that focuses on hikikomori issues with a new twist, then this would be the anime to check out.
1. NHK ni Youkoso! (Welcome to the NHK)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Jul 2006 – Dec 2006
Tatsuhiro Satou is a 22 year old NEET who has been a shut-in for 4 years. As a result, his paranoid belief in conspiracy theories has only gotten stronger over time, especially his belief that an evil organization called the NHK is responsible for spreading hikikomori culture as a whole. When Satou has a chance encounter with the mysterious Misaki Nakahara, he’s soon faced with the chance to not only step foot outside of his apartment regularly and get a job, but also defeat his fear of society once and for all.
Was there ever any doubt what #1 was going to be? This series is primarily focused on the hikikomori lifestyle and nothing else. Therefore, if you wanted to learn anything about what’s it like to live as a hikikomori, this is the go-to anime. With a healthy mix of humor as well as sobering moments, you follow Satou’s struggle as he succeeds and fails to integrate back into society. If there was any anime that serves as the benchmark for a certain subject, Welcome to the NHK for life as a hikikomori would be it.
Being a hikikomori may sound appealing to people who feel as if that they can’t socially interact with anyone, have struggled to be in a relationship, and ultimately have given up on anybody ever understanding them or caring enough to try. However, while it may be OK for the short-term, becoming a hikikomori will ultimately only hurt someone in the long run, as it can only lead to a life of regret once someone has reached the point where their lifestyle can’t be sustained anymore, whether it’s due to health, age, money, or family. Hopefully the people that are tempted to live this way can somehow find a way to balance the hobbies they enjoy doing alone with hobbies they can enjoy with other people, and the people currently living as hikikomori somehow find that spark to start trying to truly live again. But what do you guys think? Are there too many anime in this list that focus on otakus and NEETs? Is there an obvious choice missing from this list? How do you feel about the hikikomori condition as a whole? Post your opinions in the comments!