Book Review: I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flasar

I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flašar

Title: I Called Him Necktie

Author: Milina Michiko Flasar

Genre: Japanese Literary Fiction

Number of Pages: 133

Rating: B

Recommended?: Yes



    They Called Me Necktie is a sometimes overwrought but emotionally engaging novella that explores a variety of social issues that affect contemporary Japan. Taguchi Hiro is a hikikomori  who’s just started venturing into society again after spending several years as a complete shut-in. He suffered a lot of emotional trauma growing up and immediately he begins having physical symptoms to being outdoors, the results of a severe undiagnosed social anxiety disorder.


One day he shares a park bench with a withdrawn middle-aged businessman and after a long time of eating in companionable silence they tentatively form an unlikely friendship, and confide in each other about the heartbreaks they’ve experienced over the course of their lives.


I tend to think of the hikikomori lifestyle as being incredibly selfish to the point of almost being comical, and I still feel that way to an extent. However, this book made me think about some of the reasons more and more young people in Japan are choosing to live this way and in many cases, essentially force their parents to provide for them.


     I Called Him Necktie is a very easy read with many chapters that are less than a paragraph in length. It’s a somber and thoughtful study of a variety of the struggles many people have with the uncertainty and lack of purpose that permeates their lives, even though a lot of the dialogue was too philosophical to feel entirely realistic.


Even though I don’t know a lot about Japanese culture I felt this book was very much a critique of their cultural values, with the two main characters feeling alienated by social expectations but also internalizing harmful thinking and betraying those closest to them. I didn’t like the storyline about the girl from the poor family who the protagonist played with growing up, she was portrayed way too much as a martyr and an object of pity for my taste.


The other subplots (including the businessman’s rejection of his severely disabled son) were better but the moral weaknesses of the two main characters leave you torn between sympathizing with them and just feeling like they’re part of the problem.


I actually liked that element of the book because nothing was totally black-and-white, these two guys might be outcasts but they also made decisions that had catastrophic effects on other vulnerable people. If you can accept the parts of the story that veer dangerously into melodrama, I Called Him Necktie is an unusual and tender story that explores human connection and what makes life worth living.

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