Welcome to the NHKWelcome to the NHK is an anime TV Series that’s 24 episodes long and aired in Japan in 2006. The anime follows a college drop out-turn hikikomori, Tatsuhiro Sato as he lives his life, deals with depression and how he attempts to once again become a functioning person in society. A hikikomori is a practically a person living as a recluse, shut up in their home, who chooses to separate themselves from society. They are afraid to leave their houses, stay clear of social situations, and often spend long periods of the day sleeping. This is becoming somewhat of a problem in Japan (among other places) with many 20-something year olds, where it is possible for the parents of the person to fully support them. Sato spends his days watching TV, sleeping, and just wasting his life away. He’s even too afraid to step out of his apartment and go next door to complain to his neighbor who has been playing the same annoying anime theme, over and over again, for more then a month now. Sato also is a huge conspiracy nut, something he seems to have picked up from one of his friends from High School, Hitomi (who is seen in flashbacks and becomes an important character). He seems to blame “the NHK” (a Japanese TV cooperation) for all of his problems, including being a hikikomori.
One day out of the blue he meets a mysterious girl named Misaki, who claims to be able to cure him. This starts a chain of events that eventually leads to him getting help from her, taking “lessons” at the park outside his apartment building late at night, one of the few places he feels safe going to. The huge mystery of who Misaki really is, why she is doing this, and what exactly are her feeling toward Sato are a major theme of the anime. And they are slowly teased out throughout the show, but most of the answers are given toward the end. This mystery is very interesting, and makes the viewer care about the show. And the big reveal toward the end works perfectly, and answers everything we need to know. The last few episodes are incredibly dramatic. However the final episode does not end the show well at all. Some romance was hinted at early on, yet after the midpoint this seems to disappear, with hope that it will return to the surface by the end. Yet at the end, it doesn’t come back. Which is a huge letdown. But even besides that point, the ending is a just a bit of a disappointment. After the huge emotional roller coaster, especially of the last few episodes, this just feels like a cop out. It is just not a very satisfying ending. . If the series has one major flaw, it is the very poor ending, in comparison to the rest of the show, which is very well written.
This is a drama/slice of life anime, and although there is some dark humor mixed in there, it’s best to look at it as a drama. It can even become quite depressing; so don’t go into this looking for a fun time. But they use enough comedy relief (and at the perfect time) to prevent it from becoming unbearable. Still it is largely a realistic drama (minus Sato’s surreal hallucinations), and it’s very down to earth. Don’t be surprised if you shed a tear or two while watching it, it can be quite emotional at times. It’s a psychological anime, showing us how hikikomoris live, what they struggle with, and finally a possible way out. But it also deals heavily with Otaku Culture. Sato’s neighbor, turns out to be an old friend of his, Kaoru Yamazaki . Yamazaki is a huge Otaku, and eventually the two end up on a quest to developing a great hentai game, which runs along side Misaki’s attempts to cure Sato. Yamazaki also succeeds in turning Sato into a huge anime nerd, and NHK does not shy away from showing the more risqué and controversial parts of anime fandom. Which I admire in a show. This is a very honest series, and I for one would like to see more anime like this. This is a more mature anime, and so with that comes it’s tendency to get a little perverted on us. There is some fan service, but it’s usually limited to Sato’s imagination. But with this type of content also comes mature storytelling. This is the kind of anime that will hit anyone in their late teens or 20’s perfectly. It seems like a story told especially for them.
Welcome to the NHK has a more realistic art style then many anime series, and yet it still manages to look quite nice most of the time. The color palette is very lively; yet reflect the real world quite well. The character designs are very distinct and look great. I really like the style they are done in here. Characters look realistic, yet attractive. The backgrounds are very well detailed, and everything looks very nice. Sadly a few episodes do seem to look very odd, and there seems to be some small problems here or there, but on the large this is an attractive looking show. The animation is about average, but since there’s not much action, there’s not that much to animate. What action and movement there is all right, but nothing too impressive. Some of Sato’s dreams and hallucinations are very well done, however. The music on the other hand is very well put together. The background music drips with emotion, and the opening theme is very likeable. The background music commonly uses harmonicas and pianos and it sounds very unique. The first ending theme matches the sheer overwhelming craziness and surreal aspect of Sato’s hallucinations, while the second ending theme is more calming and fits the tone of the show better. On the large the soundtrack is a real winner.
The dub, produced by ADV’s studio Amusement Park Media, is without a doubt one of the best English Dubs ever produced. It is perfectly cast, with Chris Patton playing the lead incredibly well. Greg Ayres is very funny as Yamazki, and I cannot imagine anyone else every playing him. Stephanie Wittels plays Misaki, and she has a very genuine and fresh feeling to her voice, and her acting is very impressive. She’s also the perfect person to play Misaki. She has just enough mystery in her voice, and just enough youthfulness that everything comes together perfectly. Perhaps this is why she’s one of my new favorite voice actors. She has made a real impression on me, and I really hope to hear more from her in the future. Luci Christian has played a large number of roles over the years, but I think this is perhaps her best. She sounds a little different here, as Hitomi, then she usually does, but she does an amazing job. Monica Rial plays an important role later on in the series, and she too sounds very different then she normally does, but she also gives a great performance here. Even the many smaller roles impress, with everyone one from one-liners to minor characters do an incredible job. You can tell Amusement Park Media pored a lot of work into this dub and it shows.
The anime brings attention to an important social problem in Japan, the Hikikomori phenomenon, and it also becomes a psychological study. Focusing in on not just Sato, but also Yamazaki (the anime nerd) and Hitomi (the suicidal conspiracy nut). It also deals with Misaki later on. It is quite interesting to note that the characters who reject reality and live in their own little worlds (whatever that may be) only become depressed when faced with reality. Perhaps reality is not what it’s cracked up to be after all? Maybe we’d all be a little bit happier if we didn’t focus on reality as much as we do. The anime also deals with how life is ultimately meaningless, which is quite depressing. On the large this is one of the better dramas out there, despite the weak ending. It’s well written, has great music and it has some nice artwork. It’s an original concept, and although it seems a little contradictory to be dealing with and criticizing anime/anime culture, hentai games, otakus, and hikikomori actually in an anime, I think it fits. This would not work as well in live action; it needs to be an anime. If your looking for something unique, mature, and a little crazy, you can't go wrong with Welcome to the NHK. OK so it's not a masterpeice or anything, but this is worth seeing for sure. The bad ending is easy to overlook.