Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Welcome to the NHK Season One Part One|
Genres: Action & Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Anime & Manga, Animation
Sato's life is going down the drain. A college dropout, he rarely goes outside and sleeps sixteen hours a day. Amidst his internet porn sites, he finds himself falling further into a pit of despair. Sato has now decided th... more »
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Welcome to the Insanity!
Aion | England | 10/31/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Note: This review is for the entire series; not just the first half.
"The journey is more important than the destination."
NHK delves deep into the mind of a reclusive 22 year old called Tatsuhiro Satou. Poor Tatsuhiro has no friends, no money aside from the allowance his parents give him, has dropped out of the university he was attending and doesn't appear to have any future. By the time the story gets going, he's already spent three years living the life of a recluse, only going out at night (when there are few people around) to fetch food.
The anime gets going with a bizarre dream sequence where the word 'conspiracy' gets thrown around a lot. Then, even more bizarrely, another dream like sequence occurs shortly afterwards, showing his household appliances speaking to him, voicing the negative thoughts that lurk in the back of his mind. These dreams/visualizations are far from unusual in NHK - they're used to show the world from the colourful viewpoint of Tatsuhiro, and they do a bloody good job of doing so if I do say so myself. You get a clear view of Tatsuhiro's imagination early on when he imagines a character in a nun outfit doing...an unholy thing with her hand.
Tatsuhiro believes there's some sort of conspiracy against him; a conspiracy that's made him into the recluse he is. He picked this up from his weird, overly-medicated high school friend, taking her views as his own once his life started to really go down south. Whenever something bad happens he blames those conspiring against him in the shadows, and whenever anything good happens he wonders if it's too good to be true. It's easier to blame someone or something else for your failings, and that's exactly what Tatsuhiro does.
Thankfully (for him), however, things start turning around after a 17-18 year old girl called Misaki Nakahara takes an interest in him, deciding to turn him into her project. She writes down an agreement she created to help cure him, gets him to sign it and sees him for counselling sessions every evening. Of course, it's totally unbelievable that an attractive 17-18 year old would decide to help a 22 year old loser, but there's more to her than meets the eye...
Things start to improve further once he gets to know his neighbour; an old otaku acquaintance called Kaoru Yamazaki. The two quickly become friendly and Tatsuhiro is pulled into the world of anime - he's taken to buy anime goodies, he's taken to a maid cafe and he even attempts to create an eroge [...] game. Oddly, it's thanks to anime and pornography that Tatsuhiro starts to take his first steps towards recovery!!!
After reading the above, you might be thinking that NHK is an overly depressing series, but that's not really the case - it actually has more in the way of comedy than tears. With Tatsuhiro having an otaku as his best friend, the comedy flows as Tatsuhiro enters the world of erotic games, hentai/doujins and general anime madness. And even the serious, more meaningful parts of the story can be hilarious: for example (there has to be light spoilers - sorry!), a suicide plan is amusing due to the character involved getting involved unwittingly, ending up almost getting pushed over the edge (verbally) by the person who is supposed to be stopping him. It's the sort of show where, at times, the serious parts are highly amusing.
But, having said the above, there's one thing NHK managed to do that very few stories ever accomplish: it got an emotional reaction out of me. I'm a little unsure exactly why such a simple thing made me teary-eyed but...
...Tatsuhiro not expressing his feelings for Hitomi, allowing her to drive off in episode 14, made me want to cry. I thought Tatsuhiro was going to put right the wrongs of his past by confessing to Hitomi after he found the determination to attempt to do so, but all he actually ended up doing was going on a suicide trip and not saying a word against it. Ever since the early flashback sequences I've wanted to see the two get together in the end, so to see their relationship end without even a discussion about their feelings made me very frustrated. So close yet so far - that pretty much sums up their relationship.
Anyway, back on track. The reason I've scored a story that touches upon so many disturbing aspects of life so well is because of some fairly bothersome flaws that effected my enjoyment. The main problem I have is with five episodes that add nothing to the story and could be removed without the story suffering, those episodes being 15-19. I was fully prepared to rate the series 10/10 and put it in my top 5 after going through the episodes 1-14, but I changed my mind after those episodes took the focus away from what's most important - the development of the main characters.
Here are my more detailed thoughts about those episodes, complete with spoiler tags:
Episodes 15-16 focus on a MMORPG story where Tatsuhiro becomes addicted to playing one and ends up not going out at all. I liked the disturbing vision of what a 50 year old Tatsuhiro would look like if he went down the road he planned on walking down, and the trick Yamazaki played on Tatsuhiro was an excellent way of teaching him the harsh reality of internet interactions. But I found myself wondering what the point of these episodes was when there had already been a similar story about Tatsuhiro becoming glued to his PC (on that occasion, porn was his addiction). It was also bothersome how poorly the MMORPG gameplay was depicted; it was way too basic to be realistic.
After episode 16, the series moved onto another pointless story, this one being about poor Tatsuhiro getting scammed. The new character involved in this arc was no more than a filler character really - she appeared very briefly in one of Tatsuhiro's school flashbacks, reappeared for the these episodes and then disappeared from the story. Her character, like the 3 episode story she featured in, served no purpose other than raising the episode count. And the end of the scam story was rather silly, with the younger brother of the new character randomly recovering from a level of reclusion higher than that of Tatsuhiro after hunger made him go out to get food.
If you skipped episodes 15-19 then you wouldn't be missing out on anything important, and that's my issue with these episodes. The story flows much better without them in it.
My other issue with the story is the inconclusive ending that resolved far too little. I questioned the point of it all after I'd finished watching a series where not a lot changed from the beginning to end, and I came to the conclusion that what's most important about the NHK story is the experiences the characters go through and not the end results of those experiences.
The characters are easily the best aspect of NHK. There are four key characters: Tatsuhiro Satou, Misaki Nakahara, Kaoru Yamazaki and Hitomi Kashiwa. The others who feature don't appear in many of the episodes and aren't really worth mentioning. NHK clearly benefited from the focus not constantly switching to secondary characters. It's a shame that certain other series don't have as few important characters and ultimately suffer because of them having an excessive amount of under-developed characters.
Tatsuhiro is the lead character. At the start of NHK, he's become afraid of people due to the small amount of encounters he's had with them in the three years prior to the NHK story starting and he blames everything that's gone wrong in his life on some sort of conspiracy. The series focuses on him as he slowly improves and starts to make friends after Misaki decides to cure him. As you'd expect, he develops a fair bit over the course of the series, although I'm not quite happy with how much he improves from start to finish.
Misaki, the 17-18 year old girl who attempts to lift Tatsuhiro from the darkness he's found himself in at the start of the story (she's the first character that interacts with him), has clearly had bad things happen to her in the past, which ultimately lead her to wanting to help Tatsuhiro. Tatsuhiro wonders if she's an angel sent to save him at first, but his troubled mind also wonders about the possibility of her being an agent sent by the organization he believes to be conspiring against him...
Hitomi, who constantly expresses her belief that everything going wrong is the result of a conspiracy, gets shown early on in numerous interesting flashbacks of her school days with Tatsuhiro and also plays a fairly important role in the story. She's the sort of person who hides her feelings behind a mask of seriousness, only letting her guard down when she's had a little too much to drink or had something bad happen to her, and that made the few occasions where her mask was removed stay in my memory. Hitomi is my favourite character, mainly due to her looks (I am male!!!), but also because she and Tatsuhiro would be a great couple.
Yamazaki, the otaku of the series, has suffered from bullying and rejection, and he gets shown a lot due to him being the first friend (Misaki aside) of the reclusive lead (from the start of the story, that is). He has a bad temper and big mouth, which is what lead to a lot of the bullying he's received. Yamazki is the character that gives the lead a goal to work towards as he offers Tatsuhiro the chance to create the story of an erotic video game, and the two then spend most of the series working on it together.
All of the main cast are likeable, all of them are interesting and, most importantly, all of them have depth. It's rare to see realistic characters in anime, and it's hard not to view the main four as realistic when you see all the hardships they go through. NHK isn't the sort of series where happy things happen to prevent the story from scaring viewers away, so it's only right that characters that play prominent roles aren't lucky enough to see effort always be rewarded.
What's prevented me from giving the characters top marks is the inconclusive endings to the stories of Tatsuhiro and Misaki. If some sort of hint was given about what happens to them in the future I would've been happy, but the series ended without Tatsuhiro having improved a huge amount and with the relationship of the two being unclear. I'm hoping the manga and/or novel provides a more satisfying conclusion...
Art / Animation: 7.5/10
I'll admit it: I'm far from an observant person and have an awful memory. I don't take in minor visual details, nor do I see minor art/animation issues. Unless an anime looks either visually amazing or horrific I don't have a lot to say.
I do happen to have something to say about the animation of NHK, and it isn't good. For the most part I was happy with the animation of NHK; it's a non-action series, meaning I'm fine as long as the animation flows without issue. Sadly, one episode of NHK (19) had some of the worst animation I've seen from one of the more recent series, the animation being so bad that panning shots were jerky, as if there was less than 8 FPS. I actually wondered if my graphic card had finally decided it didn't want to be used for any more anime viewing, but it turned out that Gonzo had actually released an episode with some of the worst animation ever. I now see why Gonzo aren't the most popular animation studio around...
As for the art, I was happy with it, with only the poor art in episode 19 catching my eyes. I have seen other viewers complain a little about the art, so it's possible that those more observant than myself have seen lots of things I haven't, but all I can say is that very little stood out as poor. If you're like me (I feel for you!) then I promise you won't go into an internet rage over the artwork.
Bright colours were used by Gonzo instead of gloomy ones, which was a smart thing for them to do when NHK has a lot of comedy. The colours are eye-catching and pleased me.
The opening and ending animations are a little...different. The OP is great, playing out like a stylish dream sequence of sorts, and it fits well with the song, which is called 'Puzzle'. During the opening Misaki is seen with a puzzle piece, representing the missing piece of Tatsuhiro, and it obviously fits in well with the song.
The first ending animation defines crazy: it shows the tiny, imaginary, alien creatures that Tatsuhiro sees dancing around (including shacking their arse!). I'm not sure what to say about it really; it's something you just have to see for yourself. The second ending animation is more on the normal side, but it's also completely forgettable.
The music didn't blow me away for the most part, but there were a few songs that have stuck in my memory, one being a vocal song about loneliness that played during episode 14 - perfect for the scene it played during. There was also a decent range of non-vocal music, one guitar theme that played during the more depressing scenes being quite memorable. Overall, the soundtrack fitted well with the story, didn't distract and was pleasing on my ears.
The voice acting was up to the usual high Japanese standard. It's hard for me to say much when it's very rare I have issues with Japanese voice acting, and this was no exception. When I have something interesting to add it'll be when a voice annoys me to the point I feel the need to moan, but until then...
I'm very fond of the first opening theme; I've watched the opening animation quite a bit just to listen to it. It doesn't really sound like it fits in the series content a lot of the time since it sounds a little too uplifting, but the quality of it makes me ignore that. The first ending theme goes brilliantly with the insanity of the dancing alien animation - like I said before, you have to watch to understand. The second ending theme, like the animation, wasn't memorable.
If the quality had been as a consistent throughout the series as it was during the first 14 episodes, I'd be giving it 10/10. But, as it stands, I can't bring myself to give top marks to a series with 5 disappointing episodes and an inconclusive ending.
All in all, I enjoyed the ride a lot, watching all 24 episodes in 48-72 hours. I'll be buying both the manga and novel at some point, and also the anime itself. I can't recommend the series enough to those looking for an escape from the usual kiddy rubbish that plagues anime and/or those looking for an anime superior to Genshiken in the battle of the otaku anime representations. But, really, every anime fan should watch this at least once."
"If you have the courage to jump, have the courage to live."
trashcanman | Hanford, CA United States | 04/05/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
""I'm gonna live on a mountain
Way down under in Australia
Its either that or suicide
It's such a strange strain on you..." -Cheap Trick
"Welcome to the NHK" is an anime that peeks into the world of hikikomori and other social illnesses. Hikikomori are NEETs (Not in Education, Employment, or Training ) who often have a pathological aversion to normal human contact. Shut-ins, hermits, agoraphobics, call them what you will, but such disorders are becoming more common in modern Asian subcultures. While this anime starts off as a very comical look at the subject, it winds up in a very dark place and very serious in tone. Getting to know these characters is very fun as we're likely to see aspects of ourselves and others and have a good laugh, but the overall social relevance factor for this series is surprisingly high. The plot meanders at times, but the end result is a one-of-a-kind series that anybody interested in human psychology should thoroughly enjoy.
Sato is the hikikomori protagonist of the story. He's not as far gone as some, but his journey will take him through every extreme and pitfall as he journeys through life. Misaki is an eager and optimistic girl who takes it upon herself to rid him of his antisocial ways and manages to get him to attend sessions with her where she plays at being his personal therapist/psychologist. The resulting dynamic between the two is amusing. Yamazaki is Sato's otaku neighbor who's dream in life is to create hentai games. I'm sad to say I played such a game once out of curiosity about their popularity in Japan and good God there has got to be something wrong with anybody who repeatedly pays good money for those things. Anyhow, Yamazaki recruits Sato for his project and the two become friends. Sato's senpai from his school days, Hitomi, enters the story as a potential love interest. Her deal is conspiracy theories. In fact, her ridiculous paranoia seems to have rubbed off on Sato because he actually hears imaginary voices and even sees little dudes mocking his every step as though every bad thing that has ever happened to him was part of somebody else's design.
So having established the main characters and their different neuroses, the story takes a ton of twists and turns as every part of these cultures is examined. Sato will become addicted to porn (indiscreet piles of crumpled tissues next to his computer tell the tale), get dragged into a pyramid scam, be cut off by his own parents, have an ill-fated romance in an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), unknowingly join a suicide pact, and discover that though he is not nearly as bad off as some of the people he meets, he does at some point in time need to get a damn life. It only takes him 24 episodes to realize it.
One thing I love about "Welcome to the NHK" (you'll know what NHK is when you finish the show) is that it examines the characters rather than ridiculing them. These are all good people, but they are slaves to things they feel they can't control. My favorite twist comes at the end when the story seems to imply that it can be better to isolate yourself and shun human contact altogether then to rate your own worth based on your importance to other people, the lesson being that those who rely on other people's opinions of them to keep themselves happy will be the saddest and most pathetic of all in the end. As somebody who was practically born to be hikikomori but chose to go in another direction, I was shocked to see this portrayed in any medium, let alone anime. I relate strongly to the characters in this show (though I can honestly say I don't equate anime girls with sexuality as these otaku do; that's why God gave us non-anime girls, right?) ) and I think anybody who was called a geek in school or ever felt like they couldn't connect with society at large is likely relate on some level as well. The soundtrack consists of some pretty great instrumental music and scores a ton of points for the show as well.
There's nothing like NHK out there that I'm aware of except for maybe the superior [[ASIN:B000JU8H42 Genshiken], which is a comedy that dissects the otaku (anime geek) subculture. But that one never gets as dark and perverse as this one and at half the length is certainly doesn't go as far into the psychology. NHK is an exceptionally smart anime that meanders a lot, but in the end paints an amazing picture of a side of society that is all too easy to ignore. It's got lots of laughs, but there's some trauma, perversion, and genuine patheticness to this series that makes it more then a typical comedy. It's a little slow for those with short attention spans who are looking for action and slapstick, but check it out if you're looking for something other than your usual anime fare that takes it's time getting to where it's going but is worth the trip."