DVD Review: Welcome To The NHK
Have your obsessions taken over your reality?
Based on the popular Japanese novel by Tatsuhiko Takimoto (Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge) and its subsequent manga adaptation written by Takimoto and illustrated by Kendi Oiwa (Goth; Tsukumo Happy Soul), Welcome To The N.H.K. is a 24- episode anime series produced by Gonzo and directed by Yusuke Yamamoto (Aquarion Evol; Sakura Taisen: Le Nouveau Paris).
Sato Tatsuhiro is a 20-something NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training), a miserable failure, and a reclusive loner suffering from acute social withdrawal. A paranoid mess of deep-rooted anxieties and a true believer of conspiracy theories, he is also under the delusion that a secret organization known as the Nihon Hikikomori Kyokai (Japan Social Withdrawal Association) is trying to produce a world filled with brainwashed, jobless recluses just like him.
Unexpectedly, into Sato’s world comes Misaki, a mysterious young girl who could be his last chance at beating his demons, overcoming his phobias and venturing out into the world as a relatively balanced person. Unfortunately, Sato is committed to hiding in his garbage-strewn apartment and pretending to work on the creation of a “hentai” video game that he thinks will make him a fortune – if he ever completes it. Eventually, Misaki’s charm, persistence and desire to fix the problems of a total stranger begin to take effect and, slowly but surely, she begins to open Sato’s eyes to the possibility of a new future.
Welcome to the N.H.K is proof, if proof was needed, that animé can be much more than electric mice or fighting super children. It is a very human tale and deals with all the problems of not fitting into society. It looks at the choices we take whether to fit in or not and all the problems that come with those decisions.
We are introduced to Sato and we are shown his world as a NEET, which is basically a recluse, who believes in conspiracies and that he is smack bang in the middle of one. The NEET problem is growing in Japan, a growing number of people have dropped out of college and have chose a life of solitude. However Sato has discovered what he believes is a conspiracy orchestrated by a Japanese broadcasting company, the NHK. The NHK, he believes is keeping these people indoors by using TV to brainwash them with animé and pretty girls.
Sato has a chance meeting with a girl called Misaki and she offers him a way out of his problem and promises to cure him, Misaki is also more than meets the eye and proves just the catalyst Sato needs. Sato also interacts with an old friend, Yamazaki, who he finds living next door to him and although they both try and help Sato it proves hard to rid him of his NEET ways. As the series continues it becomes clear that all the characters that we are introduced to have their own crosses to bear and in this way it does a good job highlighting that sometimes we all feel a little lost and in the slightly depressing overall feel it is a welcome ray of light.
Having said the mood is depressing there are a lot of situations and segments which are genuinely funny including the daydreams Sato imagines which are animated totally differently to the more realistic way the rest of the series is. This gives the dream sequences involving blue monkeys and conspiracies a wonderful surreal emotion which is a welcome break from the bleak world Sato tends in inhabit.
The fact that NHK is split up in 24 episodes means that this is not a series you could watch in one sitting but in 2-3 episodes chunks it is manageable. We are clearly supposed to see Sato as a lost character trying to find his way in society and this is why he finds himself in the crazy situations he does but it does feel a little overplayed and could have done with being streamlined. The point is well made then hammered home a few more times. What doesn’t seem to get old is the choice of music, throughout the series the music is spot on in both reflecting the emotions of the characters and not detracting from the story and you will be humming a few of them for a few days after.
Overall NHK is a perfect example of what can be done with animé, it is a wholly effecting human story which the viewer will identify with. It deals with a number of issues in a adult and looks at society in a uncomfortable but funny way, it can be hard going sometimes when the humour form the early episodes dies down but well worth your time and money.
Episodes: Welcome To The Project; Welcome To The Creator; Welcome To The Beautiful Girls; Welcome To The New World; Welcome To The Counselling; Welcome To The Classroom; Welcome To The Moratorium; Welcome To China Town; Welcome To A Summer Day; Welcome To The Dark Side; Welcome To The Conspiracy; Welcome To The “Off” Meeting; Welcome To Paradise; Welcome To Reality; Welcome To The Fantasy; Welcome To Game Over; Welcome To Happiness; Welcome To No Future; Welcome To The Blue Bird; Welcome To The Winter Days; Welcome To Reset; Welcome To The God; Welcome To The Misaki; Welcome To The N.H.K.
Label: MVM Entertainment
Release date: 9th January 2012
Director: Yusuke Yamamoto
Review written by Dean Hilliam.