Welcome to the N.H.K.

Dark…so very very dark


“Our lives will always be…filled with a vague uncertainty”

Yamazaki Kaoro, Welcome to the N.H.K

The NHK series is a dark and deviant look at how media, and overly consuming said media, can affect a person’s life in all the wrong ways. “Welcome to the NHK” has the courage to address some of the more glossed over aspects of Japanese culture; ranging from the dark side of Otaku lifestyles, to the extremes of addictive online gaming, to the outright stupidity of unwittingly going to an “offline meeting” (suicide group). The creator Takimoto tackles all of these tragic and brutal situations in a surprisingly funny manner adding comedy to events where lesser writers might strugglen. N.H.K tackles such a wide variety of different situations that it is all most impossible to not relate to at least one of the cast’s situations.

The story of welcome to the N.H.K centers on a 22 year old socially withdrawn boy, Tatsuhiro Sato, who has a chance encounter with a strange girl who knows a lot about him despite claiming to have never met before. She promises to cure him of his “hikikomori” – a social phenomenon in Japan where adults and adolescents withdraw from social life, actively seeking isolation – but only if he agrees to sign a contract that states if he fails to follow her instructions he will suffer a “financial penalty”.

In his desperation to be rid of his phobias, Sato grudgingly accepts the young girl’s proposition and this triggers a series of chance encounters and freak coincidences that lead Tatsuhiro to the brink of despair; all in the name of comedy.

Welcome to the N.H.K. was originally a light novel written by Tatsuhiko Takimoto. The series later saw a number of adaptations from a manga in 2004 where Takimoto reprised his role as writer and was joined by lead artist Kendi Ooria. The manga fully embraced the source material and made the transition almost perfectly; choosing to keep Satos’ use of drugs and misaki attention seeking issue, where the anime adaptation would only lightly touch upon these instead focussing on more of a comedic approach.

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The animated series ran for 24-episodes and even though it diverged slightly from the source material I believe it gained strength by adding a much needed infusion of extra comedy in to the series. Personally I believe the anime to be the best form of N.H.K, the situations transfer perfectly from panal to on screen madness this is at home with studio Gonzos relaxed art style and budget appearance to the series… Yes it doesn’t look the best it even looks painfuly bad at some points but I believe this just added to the charm and the feel of the series as a whole.

The soundtrack for the series is surprisingly good with the outro in particular being of note (Song: Odoru Akachan Ningen) being one of the few
songs that completely captivates the mind numbing madness of the series.

So what actually is the N.H.K.!? In Japan, “N.H.K.” refers to the public broadcaster “Nippon Hoso Kyokai”, but the main protagonist Tatsuhiro believes it stands for “Nihon Hijikomori Kyokai”, the Japanese hikikomori association. He deludes himself into believing that the NHK are deliberately polluting the airways with addictive media in-turn fuelling the dark side of the Otaku lifestyle forcefully turning the youth of today into recluses creating an endless cycle.

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“Welcome to the NHK” is home to one of the most original and unexpected endings I have had the pleasure of watching. Without giving to much away the anime has a more light hearted and bitter sweet last couple of episodes where as the manga adaptation has a far more dark and realistic finale , that will have you questioning your time spent reading. No matter what instalment of the story you choose N.H.K keeps you grounded firmly in reality, slice of life at its most painfully funny.

Did I personally enjoy N.H.K.?
Yes and no. I don’t think Mr.Tastsuhiko created a story he wanted the world to laugh at. He created something that forces the reader to think about all the crazy situations Sato finds himself in, and how you as a person would act in these circumstances and what the repercussions of your actions would be. Even though Sato’s actions are extreme, it wont stop you from thinking about how this actually happens to people and I personally found myself letting out a uncomfortable chuckle at how ridiculous all of the situation’s become.

Welcome to the N.H.K is one of my favourite anime it is just the right blend of dark comedy and painful realistic and I strongly recommend it to any lovers of slice of life or comedy albeit a very bleak one.


Episodes: 24

Genre: Anime/Slice of Life

Distributor: Funimation

So what do you think? Have a think and let us know in the comments section below.


 

– Aaron

 

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