Going on a limb to interpret the latest episode of Gargantia, I draw from the form of despair and sense of stress that NEETs have to deal with. Since talking about that episode of Gargantia invariably means spoilers, I’ll talk about what I mean by despair and stress first.
Well, first, read this post and get on the same page, if you haven’t already. I’m just going to take a shot at the next stage of the NEET stimulus package.
The average NEET probably wants a reasonably paying and steady job. I say this because the demand for those jobs are always pretty high; that’s why they are relatively hard to land in today’s economy (Japan and elsewhere). The societal pressure is, as understood by the NEET or freeter, a form of reinforcement of these kinds of cultural norms. And of course if you do have a steady job that brings in good money, staying single means you can go to all the offkais you want, cons, wait in line for goods, whatever. Living the single life, instead of living-with-parents-and-waking-at-odd-hours life.
In 2013 terms, it’s no longer clear if becoming a NEET is really socially unacceptable, because people understand the truth that it’s hard to get a salary job as a young person in Japan, even if it’s one of those “success” indicator. The subsequent problem with NEET-ness is well documented in terms of getting that late start in life, being able to plan for retirement, etc. Not sure if that has much of a bearing on Gargantia’s narrative, but it’s worth noting.
And the way I see it, it’s all in the head anyway. Much like Ledo’s understanding of his predicament by the end of episode 10, being a NEET/freeter can feel stifling, as if you are cornered with no way out. Getting a job NOT as a fresh grad is harder than getting one as someone who’s just out of college. Companies naturally would wonder why you didn’t get a job the first time around, at least in the NEET’s head that’s what goes on. Settling into a strange pace of life trying to make part-time jobs can make it harder, just like doing anything else while working the graveyard shift or simply having to deal with a normal workday. Worst of all, you can fall into a habit, develop a rhythm living the NEET or freeter life, assuming your situation is stable enough. And the longer you fly in that standby pattern, the harder it is to land a permanent job or break out of that funk.
Invariably, unless it’s a planned period of NEET-ness, NEET status tends to continue for a while. Truth is, I think most people, eventually, get back on their feet. And in truth, there’s nothing Gargantia can do to solve the root problems–unemployment, societal expectations, the way employment works in Japan, all that jazz. All it can do is encourage people to feel better about themselves, and show that while they may be victims of the situation, they can do something about it.
In short, I see Ledo’s struggle with his newfound knowledge of the Hideauze the same. On one hand, he is brought up as a deadly weapon against the Hideauze, and it’s all he does. On the other hand, he realizes if he keeps doing it, it is at odds of the reality of the situation. It doesn’t even matter if Chamber is right or not, or partly right, or whatever. This is kind of like the fresh out-of-job grad, who was brought up by Japan’s educational system and the societal expectations and norms surrounding it, and only to find that as they graduate, they’re unprepared to face the reality of the post-bubble economy, job prospects, and what’s required of them to succeed in life. It is as if they were brought up by a system that was lying to them, running on assumptions more proper for a mid-bubble economy and outlook.
And Chamber is the thing–the cold, hard truth that we can never really run away from. As much as NEET-ness is a symptom of systemic problems in Japan’s society, each individual who falls victim also have only themselves to blame. They have to face the reality of the situation, that despite their inability to find proper employment what they learned in school is still quite useful, that their experience in the past 20+ years of their lives still gave them plenty of time to equip themselves for what lies ahead, the best examples being the classmates and friends who did find jobs, that the victims compare themselves to in their minds.
It is between these two “walls” that NEET-ness turns into real despair. And I feel that this is kind of the picture Gargantia’s team want to show us.