[Editorial Tuesday] Differences between NEET, YD and Hikikomori

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NEET, Hikikomori, YD. If you watch any amount of anime, you are bound to have run into at least one or two of these terms. Actually, NEET and Hikikomori have been around for quite some time now. And while some people may think that these terms are interchangeable or that the people they describe are pretty much the same, the truth is they are different. Though one could be classified as two or more of them at the same time.

While YD originated from a recent anime, Dempa Kyoushi, NEET and Hikikomori are both real terms that have been in use for over a decade and are actually considered as an important social issue. Because of its use in the series, though, I believe the term YD may actually pick up. All of these terms and the people they describe are clear manifestations of our modern society and the direction in which human psychology and human interactions are heading. So to get things started let’s find out…

What Does It Mean?

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NEET: (Oxford Dictionary) British. A young person who is no longer in the education system and who is not working or being trained for work. Acronym of Not in Education, Employment, or Training. Origin: Early 21st century.

It is important to note that NEETs are young people usually under the age of 30 and are officially not involved in any of the aforementioned occupations. The reasons can be anything from laziness, a bad economy or job market or they are recent graduates. They usually live off of welfare programs, unemployment check or allowances from their parents. This last one is most common in Japan. Eikichi Onizuka from Great Teacher Onizuka is technically a NEET before deciding to be a teacher. A punk, but still a NEET.

Hikikomori: (Oxford Dictionary) In Japan, the abnormal avoidance of social contact, typically by adolescent males. A person who avoids social contact. Origin: Japanese. Literally meaning “staying indoors, (social) withdrawal”. There are almost 1 million hikikomori in Japan between the ages of 20 and 40.

Unlike NEETs, Hikikomori started as a definition for socially withdrawn young people about 20 years ago in Japan. However, this first generation of Hikikomori continues to live in isolation and is now in their 40s. Hikikomori are people who refuse to leave their house for more than 6 months. They tend to live with their parents who cover their expenses or if they live on their own, they also receive some sort of allowance from their family.

However, the definition of Hikikomori does not include a lack of employment. And with the existence of online work, they could very well make a living on their own. Hakua Shiodome from Shomin Sample is most definitely a hikikomori. Isolating herself from everybody but still working and studying, until Kimito comes along.

YD: (Denpa Kyoushi / Ultimate Otaku Teacher manga and anime) Abbreviated form of the Japanese phrase “Yaritai koto shika Dekinai” or “only Able to Do what he Wants” (ADW) in English. It is a self-diagnosed condition the main character Junichirou Kagami claims to suffer from which only allows him to do what he wants to do. In the anime, when put in situations where he must do something he doesn’t want to do, he makes sure to add something into the mix that he desires to do, is interested in or simply, will entertain him.

Another example of a YD character would be Luffy from One Piece. He only does what he wants, but then again, he is a pirate. He hand-picks his crew members, eats what he wants, goes where he wants and chases whatever dream he wishes. As he states at one point, his ideal of being Pirate King is not to be important, but to be free. That sounds pretty YD to me!

So now that we have the definitions down, let’s break apart the differences.

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To Work or Not to Work?t

This is the question. While NEETs by definition have no job, hikikomori usually go to school and / or work until their social anxiety gets the best of them or something happens which makes them decide to become reclusive. However, with the way the world works nowadays, with so many online job opportunities, hikikomori can fulfill their need for privacy and avoid human interaction without having to sacrifice financial independence. As such this is one main difference between the two.

However, not every hikikomori will have the motivation to find a job, so there is quite an overlap between NEETs and hikikomori, more so in Japan where parents are more likely to keep sustaining their children well into adulthood.

Himawari Shinomiya from Vivid Red Operation, for example, is a hikikomori who is not a NEET. After a certain event takes place at school, she becomes a shut-in and avoids contact with the outside as much as possible. However, she’s still a student at her school, though she takes classes via a binocular camera she constructed.

As for NEETs, they’re everywhere in anime. Hazegawa Taizou from Gintama becomes a NEET (or MADAO in the show) after he loses his government position. He has no job but he is out and about, so definitely not a hikikomori. And of course, Junichiro Kagami, from Denpa Kyoushi is a NEET at the beginning, as well as YD.

As far as YDs working, well, it would really depend on whether they want to work or if the job they’re doing is something they want to do. Some YDs that come to mind are, of course, Junichiro Kagami and Haruhi Suzumiya from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

Junichiro was originally a YD NEET. Once his sister gets him the teaching job, he ceases to be a NEET by definition but stays true to his YD self by always making it so that there is something he wants to experience or get from any lesson he has to teach. And when he was a NEET, he wouldn’t be considered a hikikomori since he doesn’t seem to have trouble interacting with others, went out to buy manga and such, and is in fact, pretty self-confident.

The other YD, Haruhi Suzumiya, still goes to school like she’s supposed to but she really only does what she wants to! The fact that she even attends school means she wants to attend. She starts her own club, comes up with activities and makes her club members do as she says. Thus also proving that YDs can also work / go to school as long as there is something they want involved.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya dvd

Social Interactions

As mentioned before, this is another major difference, at least between NEETs and hikikomori. NEETs can be social and spend time outside their home, but hikikomori are by definition reclusive. Hikikomori usually decide to shut themselves away from society after an occurrence that affects them in a social setting. This can be a humiliating moment, a frightening experience, or simply a small social phobia that grows worse and worse over time. They sometimes spend time outside of their home, but this usually makes them uncomfortable. Depending on the degree of their anxiety, misanthropy or anthropophobia, they can range from being quiet and isolated students to completely disappearing from school.

A good example of a hikikomori is Ito Hikiotani from Punch Line. She used to go to school until a traumatizing bully experience led her to drop out of school and avoid human interaction as much as possible. Once at the Korai House, she rarely leaves her room and she has no job so she is also a NEET. In fact, Ito’s name (read in Japanese Hikiotani Ito) is actually a play on the words Hikikomori, otaku and niito (NEET).

Sora and Shiro from No Game No Life are two more hikikomori who cut their ties to society when they lose their parents. And while Yuuko Shionji from Kami-sama no Memo-chou is referred to as a NEET Detective, she’s really more of a hikikomori since she does all her investigating from her laptop in her room by herself, but technically she isn’t unemployed as she is a detective.

YDs will basically be social whenever and with whomever they want at any given time. Our aforementioned Haruhi Suzumiya hand-picks her club members / friends and the times they interact. Luffy also chooses his friends / crew members and, much like Haruhi, makes them join him. And as for those he doesn’t want to socialize with, he just walks away or blatantly ignores them.

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But, Why?

In the real world, the reasons why people may become NEETs or hikikomori are usually modern social issues. While some NEETs end up in that role because of a layoff or a failed university entrance exam (the latter most common in Japan). Some choose to join the NEET population because they don’t agree with the social mold they are expected to fit into. Onizuka from GTO is an example of this, as well as Ryota Sakamoto from Btooom! and most NEETs in Eden of the East.

Especially in Japan, more and more young people refuse to fall into the salaryman role and join the rest of the suits working 10+ hours a day. This leads them to avoid continuing their education or searching for work. However, Japan isn’t the only country with a high population of NEETs, it’s simply more noticeable as doing something that’s out of the norm is not as accepted there as it is in countries like the UK, Canada, Ireland or the USA, which have similar NEET percentages (12-16% of young people).
While hikikomori exist in some number in other societies, the term was coined in Japan because this type of person is found in high numbers there. Over 700,000 in 2010, in fact. Hikikomori aren’t reclusive from the beginning; they usually withdraw from society gradually, though they are commonly shy and insecure to begin with or naturally feel a certain level of anxiety. This is a serious pathology that can eventually be linked to depression and other serious issues.

The reasons for this anxiety or discontent, which later lead to social withdrawal, can be many. One is social pressure that becomes too demanding, including pressure to enter a university, to be in a school club, or the pressure of being bullied like Ito’s case in Punch Line or Akira Renbokoji from Kakumeiki Valvrave. Both of these characters are forced into hiding by the social anxiety caused by bullying.

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Another reason is that in Japan there are countless social norms, rules and expectations which, until recently, were followed by everybody without question. Nobody really wanted to stand out and / or be different. However, more and more people have discovered individuality and while there are those who embrace it, let their unique flag fly and don’t care about what others think, some dislike being judged and feel they don’t agree with the way Japanese society works, so they decide to retract from it. Itami’s wife, Risa from GATE, for example is a doujinshi artist and a major otaku so she lives as a hikikomori, as neither of her interests are very socially acceptable in Japan.

As for YD, this seems to be a very real thing. It just hasn’t been given a name until now. And, I believe it is most prevalent among millennials, and now, their children. A YD personality like Junichiro’s, Haruhi’s or Luffy’s is all about just doing what you want and not really caring about others’ expectations of you or what people think of you. This is a mentality that has grown and spread over the last decade or so and it makes some people uncomfortable. This is often shown in anime when the aforementioned characters are criticized for being so free-spirited.

In Conclusion

The main differences are: 1. hikikomori are always reclusive but could have a job. 2. NEETs don’t have a job or go to school and may be sociable or antisocial. 3. YDs do whatever they very well please, work-wise, socially or otherwise. 4. One can be both a hikikomori and a NEET at the same time. 5. One can also be a NEET and YD at the same time. 6. Not sure whether a hikikomori can be YD, since this is the most pathological of the conditions. I suppose if the reason to withdraw isn't negative, and is truly what all they desire, they could be YD too.

Kamisama no Memochou

Some see the YD way of life as irresponsible and selfish, but those who follow it are most likely happier than those who do things they don’t want to simply because “they have to” or because society dictates it. Young entrepreneurs, successful YouTubers, parents who home-school and permaculturers are just some examples of real-world YDs. They make their own path without following the rules and expectations of society. They follow their dreams, they do what they want.

However, I also believe the NEET phenomenon is a side-effect of this YD “condition” as Junichiro calls it. The NEETs who stay as such by choice, also do what they want. They don’t want to do what they’re expected to, they wish to be free, play video games, loaf around, or what-have-you (not everyone wants to start a business!). While this seems lazy, they are simply pursuing their own happiness. So in a way, some NEETs are also YDs!

And lastly, if hikikomori were able to embrace the YD lifestyle, they would likely be able to leave their homes and be a part of society. However, this depends mostly on the society that made them withdraw in the first place. Hopefully Japan will open up more and more to the idea of individuality and allow people to be who they want to be without making them feel like they don’t want to be a part of that society anymore.

Are you a NEET? A hikikomori? YD? Do you know any people like this? If you had to be one, which one would you choose?
Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Nya~!

Lizzy Nyanko

Translator/Writer

Author: Lizzy Nyanko

I’m a Mexican-American gypsy cat-girl living in Tokyo. I love all kinds of anime, all things Japanese, photography, cats, food and I live for new experiences! When I’m not writing or watching anime, you’ll find me in thrift shops, roaming around Tokyo, hiking, festivals or at an izakaya. I’m always busy doing something, but I answer comments as soon as I see them, so let me hear what you have to say! Nya~!

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