Review by: Brenda Gregson
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
Running Time: 300 minutes
Rating: TV M
Release Date: Available Now
An occasionally funny, off-beat and likeable anime? It must be a conspiracy.
Tatsuhiro Sato thinks everyone is against him and laughs at him behind his back. He feels the eyes of people he doesn’t even know staring at him, ready to call him a freak and failure in life. The feeling is so strong that he has become a hikikomori or, as we know it, a shut-in. Oh but there’s a bright light the will shine through his dark little apartment and the anti-social young man will find that life can be better outside his door in Collection Part 1 of Welcome to the NHK.
A quirky little romantic comedy, Welcome to the NHK’s first collection part is told in 12 episodes on two DVDs. It is here that we meet the likeable yet tortured Sato who finds himself sleeping long hours, keeping a messy apartment and cursing out the neighbor who plays the theme song of a popular anime almost nonstop. One day, a young High school girl and her religious missionary aunt knock on his door, which starts a chain of events that might just lead to his recovery.
On one of his rare trips outside, he discovers that the young girl that came knocking on his door works at the local manga café and despite the fact that he runs away, it is the girl that comes looking for him with a proposal. You see, the young girl named Misaki Nakahara offers Sato a cure for his “hikikomori disease” in the form of nightly therapy sessions with her. She even came up with a contract that states if he was to miss a session he would have to pay an excessive fine. Reluctant to take her up on that offer, Sato finally does give in partly because Misaki is cute and because a part of him doesn’t want to live out his life as a shut-in anymore.
When Sato finally summons the courage to tell his neighbor to turn off that music, he finds out that the young man living next to him is actually an underclassman from his old High school he once helped out. It turns out that Yamazaki is not only a friend but he’s also a self-proclaimed Otaku and a student of a video game design school. One evening he lends Sato a number of “gal games” (or hentai games) and is suddenly inspired to create a gal game of their own with Sato as the game’s scenario writer.
Meanwhile, Sato continues his off-and-on-again therapy with Misaki. He just isn’t able to stick with the guidelines of the therapy and begins to think that Misaki sees him as a truly miserable waste of a human being. Sato’s mind often drifts back to his High school days when his sempai named Hitomi Kashiwa who talked him into joining the literature club and convinced him that all of life’s problems can be attributed to an unseen force or a conspiracy. Sato even has a name of it … the NHK.
Slacking off on the game that he and Yamazaki are working on, they take a trip to the “holy land” where Sato discovers what it’s like to be an Otaku. He avoids Misaki and even runs into Hitomi who hasn’t really changed her theory about conspiracies and seems more depressed than before. She reveals she has a boyfriend but he seems to put work before her.
While each episode isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, the series has a number of genuinely amusing scenes and there’s a sick pleasure in watching Sato start to break down in his hikikiomori state such as the time he tries to find out if Yamazaki has a girlfriend only to attend one of his game design classes and falling apart in the classroom. There are times when he envisions that his appliances talk to him and tell him that his problems are the fault of the NHK. His problems even put a damper on the gal game project that Yamazaki had planned on taking to a comic book convention. When he meets up with Hitomi again, he decides to run away with her to an island with people that set up and “Off” meeting. What that is I won’t tell you but the 12-episode set ends with a cliffhanger.
Welcome to the NHK, Collection Part 1, is an amusingly offbeat anime series that is every bit as enjoyable as the manga itself. That said, it might not be as funny as it was meant to be but there are scenes that really won’t fail to make you chuckle at a young man that’s too messed but darn does it feel good to see Sato slowly see the light to recovery. If you’re looking for something different and way out there, definitely give Welcome to the NHK a try.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Sato is a shut-in whose life changes as a result of meeting a young girl on a mission to cure him and a hardcore Otaku who pushes Sato into creating their own computer game. Of course, suffering from panic attacks and believing in wild conspiracy theories doesn’t help.
VIDEO QUALITY: A-
The video transfer is excellent and the animation is delightfully colorful. Collection Part 1 doesn’t feature as much fan service as expected.
AUDIO QUALITY: A-
Once again, I find myself happy to see a series that does the Japanese and English dub really well with some standout performances featured for both options. The original score is lovely and – while the opening theme isn’t my cup of tea – the closing theme for Part 1 is Ok.
Clean opening and closing theme song and a small handful of trailers can be found on the discs and that’s about it.
While it’s not as funny as it should have been, there’s a lot to like about this quirky and wonderfully written series. Welcome to the NHK strays from the typical romantic comedy trappings and does its own thing to bring us a strange story that won’t fail to put a smile on your face.