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Welcome to the NHK!

a.k.a. NHK ni Youkoso!

NHK1-1
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Company: Gonzo
Format: 24 episodes
Dates: 7/9/2006 to 12/17/2006

Satou Tatsuhiro is 22, single, a loser, a hikikomori and just a little bit nuts. In his isolated and metally unstable state, he comes to the conclusion that there is a secret organization called the “NHK” that wants to keep him, and turn the rest of the world into, a hikikomori. Although he wants to break free from his ways, he lacks the ability to do so, that is, until he meets Misaki Nakahara who selects Satou to be part of her hikikomori-curing project.

summary by Two-Twenty

 

Reviewed: 07/19/2007 by
Grade: 72% av-Two-Twenty

Highs: Satou; At least one memorable moment an episode; Opening theme

Lows: Animation dips in quality; like it or hate it comedy; wasted potential

For those who don’t know, a “hikikomori” is the Japanese term for a person who withdraws from social interaction to the extent that they isolate themselves from the rest of the world. It’s a serious problem in Japan and one that should lend itself to character-based storytelling well. While it does attempt to create a sympathetic but humorous representation of losers and nutcases, for the most part, Welcome to the NHK! misses the mark.

Firstly though, this anime does have its strong points, the foremost being the main characters; each one is just such an utter failure at life. Saying that this is “entertaining”, however, doesn’t feel right. Instead, the motivation to watch comes more from a morbid curiosity and a nervous dread at seeing them try to figure out and solve the problems of their meagre existence. Satou is a fantastically flawed character. When he’s not being his mentally-unstable hikikomori self, he actually does have an intelligent head on his shoulders, and his moments of introspection make for some of the true high points of the anime. In each episode at least one character has their moment, if only what came in between wasn’t such a waste of time.

Unfortunately, this anime relies too much on cheap, otaku-based jokes. I can see how some people would love this kind of comedy, and it is occasionally funny, but for someone who doesn’t like this kind of thing, I felt the majority of the humor fell flat on its face. Also, too often the writers resorted to the happy alternative to resolve conflict. This anime would’ve been much more memorable if they had the foresight (or guts) to realize that it was at its strongest when it was an emotional train-wreck for both the characters and the viewers.

Aesthetically, it wavers between acceptability and disappointment. One of my most irritating pet peeves in anime is when the quality of a show’s animation will drop off a few episodes in. This happens, quite conspicuously, in episode four, and it never really recovered. Too often the characters where off-model, animated poorly, and sometimes, not even animated at all. The music, on the other hand, was passable and, before it got remixed about halfway through, the opening theme “Puzzle” was quite the catchy number.

While I wanted a “sympathetic but humorous representation of losers and nutcases” I didn’t quite get it, and really, this anime deserved more. But it’s still worth a look if you ever come across it, if only to make you feel a little better about yourself.

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