Title: Welcome to the NHK!
Genre: Dark comedy, Romance
Summary: Satou Tatsuhiro, 22 years old, thinks that everything that happens around him is a conspiracy. He even figured out who is behind it all: The NHK, an evil secret company. In reality, he is nothing more than a NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training), desperately in need of a cure from that “disease”. He wants to break out from the curse, but going out and getting a job is frightening enough for him. That is until he gets selected for a “project”; it is a plan to help hikikomori like him in facing the reality of this world.
Review: Finally a romance that isn’t the typical boy meets girl out of his league and then finds out she has secretly liked him after a couple months of talking to her. Or better yet the typical romance where boy meets girl and they don’t realize they like each other till the very end. No, instead Welcome to the NHK! mixed dark comedy and romance to make a series that was entertaining and heart warming. I laughed, I cried, and I even cringed.
The art style for Welcome to the NHK! is fairly good considering it wasn’t made too long ago (2006). It didn’t have the highest quality, but for what it is worth it did keep things entertaining. It used a lot of conventions such as strange facial expressions and dream-like sequences. Despite the series revolving around a shut-in (a NEET) it actually had quite a variety of places and scenes. Much of the anime does take place in Sato’s apartment or the park near his house though. It does expand further to deserted islands, Nakahara’s hometown, and Yamazaki’s university for a bit of relief. I want to say that it visually pleased me, but it was nothing that was memorable. I would say that most of the series was average for its time with a few unique hits. The representation of talking appliances and the mysteries NHK organization was rather amusing. I’m not quite sure why the NHK was represented by tiny blue monkeys, but it seemed to me like every detail had significance in this tale of expected love.
The story and character development are where Welcome the NHK! shines in my eyes. The story for a NEET becoming a contributing part of society, or at least a contributing part to someone was captivating. I want to say that I was routing for Sato the whole way through, but that wasn’t really the case. The series doesn’t make it seem like a heartwarming tale of a self-destructive person becoming a standup citizen. Instead it uses a lot of dark comedy and psychology to keep the main character interesting. It was far from a steady progression, which many may complain is unsatisfactory. Watching the series closer you can tell that is exactly what the creators were going for. It isn’t small details and instances that change a person’s life. Whether it be for good or bad people’s lives often changes due to intense dramatic moments. For example, many people wouldn’t suddenly love society because they met a small group of five or six people that were kind to them. Instead most would change due to something like a bad car accident or childhood trauma. However, what it all came down to was this: self-preservation. The main story focused around the romance between Sato and Nakahara with many subtle morals in each episode. Although the series is considered continuous, you could break up different sections into arcs of sorts. What made the series so special to me was the semi-realistic character models. I was kind of happy that not everyone was only looking out for Sato and trying to help through tough times. He had his fair share of ups and downs caused by other people. Each character had their own motivation to interact with Sato as well. Many of the reasons had nothing to do with his NEET personality. Their selfish desires and dreams could be achieved through using Sato one way or another. Even sweet and innocent Nakahara had her personal reasons for helping Sato. Of course when Sato found out their hidden alternatives he wasn’t quite pleased, making him dive further into his isolated hole. As you follow these unlikely friendships you realize that the series turns into a reality slap-in-the-face. The world isn’t going to be nice to you, it isn’t going to hold your hand, and it isn’t going to produce a miracle. Everything that happened to Sato was from his own efforts. All consequences and decisions come from an individual, and it is up to that individual to change their life around. A helping hand isn’t going to pull you up if you keep pushing yourself down. The series also had one of the most powerful endings I’ve seen in a long time. It played the drama card well and really stuck with me. It had me sitting at the edge of my seat keeping me guessing on what was going to happen. Because who knows, the series wasn’t exactly created on rainbows and sunshine. It was created on something that hits a bit closer to home.
The comedy is classified as dark comedy for a reason. Many of the topics that the series makes fun of can be considered rather morbid. Suicide seemed to be a hot topic of humor in Welcome to the NHK!. It is something that I don’t see everyone enjoying. Many people might even find it offensive. However, you have to take it for what it really is: comedy. It was one of those series that made you laugh because you felt sorry for Sato more than anything. It kept me thinking, “How much worse can it get for this poor guy?” without turning on the water works as dramas often do. I think that is what made the series so special to me. A drama tries to make you cry using very melancholy situations or constantly showing characters crying. Welcome to the NHK! takes these situations and gives them a comedic twist. So while it still gives the message and story progression, it also doesn’t make you want to curl up in a ball and cry yourself to sleep later that night.
The soundtrack for the series was pretty entertaining. The opening and ending were enjoyable to listen to and I sat through them a few times in my two day march to finish the series. However, the song that takes the cake is Himitsu no Sen wo Hiku Yatsura which sounds like it belongs in an action movie. A good sound for a series attempting to claim a conspiracy is going on.
Final statements: After watching Toradora! I didn’t think I would find another romance that actually caught my attention. A unique one at that. Welcome to the NHK! is one of those series that really spoke out to me and had me glued to my seat the whole way through. This dark comedy probably isn’t in taste for everyone, but I really suggest checking it out. The story and characters are definitely something that you wont find in another anime. Easy a high priority for all audiences.