FUNimation has rescued another ADV series from
oblivion: Welcome to
the NHK. Teh series was first released in individual volumes by ADV (and finished by FUNimation) then FUNi put out the show in two half season sets. Now they've combined those into a nice full series collection. That's good because
this is an excellent show that's different from most anime that I've
I've seen a lot) and deserves more attention. Welcome to
the NHK is a slice-of-life drama that peeks into the
life of a recluse, known in Japan
as a hikikomori. Sato spends all of his
life in his apartment, supported by his parents and only going out late
night for groceries. That is until
Misaki knocks on his door one day. She
wants to try to cure him of his problems and tries to get him to meet
night at the nearby park for counseling.
It's a simple story filled with genuine people who have real
problems. The best aspect however is
that it offers up no simple solutions.
When Sato was in high school he was in the literature
club. It's wasn't a big organization,
just he and a girl, Hitomi, and they spend most of their time playing
cards. While they play, Hitomi tells
Sato of the various conspiracies in the world, covering up the
UFOs, political and economic cabals, and the like.
After high school Sato moves to Tokyo to go to college, but one day
walking to class he becomes convinced that people are laughing at him. Where ever he turns people are scoffing and
giggling, so he runs home and doesn't leave.
He spends most of his time watching TV, and eventually realizes
happened: he's turned into a hikikomori,
and the reason is a giant conspiracy lead by the NHK the national
network. The letters actually stand for
Association and they are turning people into recluses so they'll watch
TV. It all makes so much sense.
As the story starts Sato has been a hikikomori for nearly
four years. He's pitiful and pathetic,
and he knows it, but leaving his apartment is way outside of his
zone. One day however a pair of
missionaries knocks on his door, a lady and her niece Misaki. They give him a religious magazine but after
they leave the young girl returns and leaves him a note.
She wants to meet him in the park across the
street at 9 pm that evening.
Curious, he eventually shows up, only about an hour
late. She's still there waiting for him
and presents him with a hand written contract.
Misaki promises to cure Sato of being a hikikomori and all he
has to do
is show up at the park every night for counseling.
If he fails to show up, there's a $10,000
fine. Of course Sato thinks the girl
crazy, but he undergoes a lot of stress as a hikikomori, and being
be nice. But who is this young girl and
how does she know so much about him, and why does she even care?
I really enjoy movies and such that are accurately able to
capture what it's like to be alive and live your life.
Movies like Lost in Translation and the comics
of Harvey Pekar good examples,
and so is this anime series. There's not
much action, but a lot still happens. Sato
starts to design a game with the guy who lives next door, someone he
in high school, who has problems of his own.
He becomes reacquainted with Hitome, who is educated, beautiful,
a good job, but is still miserable and even a member of an on-line
The program does a great job of showing the pressures that
young adults face and how they deal with them.
The pain from loneliness and stress that Sato feels are clearly
but he also has ambitions to someday become normal, he's just waiting
for a miracle
to happen. The alienation that Hitome
has to deal with is also presented in a realistic way.
While every episode is enjoyable by itself, the one thing
that sets this series apart from other anime (and films and books) is
doesn't try to give pat answers. Sato
knows that he has to buck up and just deal with going outside, but he
can't. Even after some problems are
are always other ones lurking in the shadows.
People don't go off to live happily ever after, because life
isn't like that.
That's not to say that this is a depressing show, it isn't. It is a fascinating look into several aspects
of Japanese culture that we often don't see here in the US. You'll soon grow to empathize with the
characters and click past the end credits to see what happens next.
All 24 episodes come on four DVDs which are housed in two thinpak
cases. The cases have an illustrated
slipcase to hold them.
The show offers viewers
a choice of the original Japanese soundtrack in stereo or an English
track. I listened to both, and I have to
admit that I enjoyed the Englsih track a bit more.
The surround effects were used very well;
doorbells ringing behind you, people talking from the rear and things
made the show a lot of fun. If the
Japanese track was in 5.1 I'm sure I would have preferred that since
did a great job with their characters.
There were no audio defects and the dialog was mixed well.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic image was good but not great.
The colors were solid but the blacks were a
little light in some areas. The lines
were tight and the contrast was fine, but there was some minor aliasing
parts. Overall the defects were minor
and didn't adversely affect the show.
There wasn't much.
Just a clean opening and closing and some trailers.
This is an outstanding series filled with the most three
dimensional characters I've ever seen in an anime show (and better than
movies.) This slice-of-life drama is
neither sensational nor melodramatic. It
is first rate show that deserves a lot of buzz.