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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Welcome to the NHK: Season 1, Part 1
Welcome to the NHK: Season 1, Part 1
FUNimation // Unrated // December 30, 2008
List Price: $59.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted January 5, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Show:

Welcome to the N.H.K. is yet another one of those series that was once in ADV's hands, but now finds a welcome home in FUNimation's catalogue of titles. The recent shift has made America's largest anime publisher even stronger and with a more robust selection there's even more reason for otaku to fawn over them. In the case of N.H.K. FUNimation finds themselves with a unique show on their hands.

N.H.K. got its start back in 2002 with a novel by Tatsuhiko Takimoto which was later turned into a manga in 2004 and then an anime in 2006. As far as the anime is concerned it's worth mentioning that the series was produced by Gonzo, and if you're familiar with any of their works you probably already know that the series looks good. The animation house has a knack for quality and considering N.H.K.'s interesting pedigree, there's plenty of material to make for a striking series.

The show follows the life of 22 year old Tatsuhiro Sato, who is a college drop out and professional Hikikomori. In case you're unfamiliar with the term, a Hikikomori is essentially a recluse with no social skills whatsoever. They often hole themselves up in their apartments and do not interact with anyone unless they have to. In the case of Sato he's been in this reclusive state for roughly three years when N.H.K. starts and right from the beginning we see his anxiety towards the outside world and fact that he doesn't have a job. Deep down Sato isn't necessarily a bad guy, but as is the case with Hikikomori the rest of society passes judgment on him for the worse. Sure he has some perverse tendencies, he lashes out during normal conversation, and he doesn't pay his bills, but aside from that he seems rather average most of the time.

With a hermit as its main character N.H.K. begins with a decidedly different tone. We are introduced to Sato's condition and each episode follows his life as he tries to pull it together, but inevitably has his progress fall apart. Towards the start of the show Sato receives a knock on his door and on the other side is a girl named Misaki, who is traveling around handing out pamphlets about Hikikomori. It's rather ironic to say the least and as Sato goes on a tirade about being a Hikikomori something about him strikes a cord with Misaki. She decides to make it her personal mission to rid Sato of his psychological disease and throughout many episodes here we see Sato attempt to resist her, but inevitably succumb to her will. Before we get to his treatments though, let's talk about what happens during the interim.

Since Sato lives in an apartment complex with very thin walls he naturally gets sick of his neighbor who blasts the music to an obnoxious magical girl anime 24/7. When he finally musters up the willpower to kick on the door he discovers that it's actually an old acquaintance from high school, Yamazaki. They become friends, which is rather odd since Sato doesn't get along with people and Yamazaki is a hardcore anime addict. Together they join forces to create an erotic video game in an effort to thwart Misaki's attempts at curing Sato of his Hikikomori-ness.

To make a long story short, Sato's deceptive efforts prove to be futile and eventually he gives in to Misaki and her apparent innocence. While Sato has strange fantasies revolving around Misaki and her resemblance to an erotic video game character, there's a real relationship that grows between them in the first half of this show. Granted a lot of it feels forced and there's something about Misaki that we're not quite seeing, but regardless it plays a large part in the show's development. I'm definitely looking forward to see where the series takes them because they are both compelling personalities to say the least.

I wasn't really expecting much from it, but Welcome to the N.H.K. surprised me in many ways. The show revolves around psychologically damaged people as they struggled through daily life, but it's infused with so much humor and a high level of intrigue. You'll constantly want to see what happens from one episode to the next and in all honesty several parts of the series feel like watching a train wreck. You know you should look away and you feel guilty for being interested, but in the end you succumb to your instincts. Welcome to the N.H.K. is a fascinatingly different show and my instincts say it's damned good. I can't wait to see the next part!

The DVD:

Video:

Welcome to the N.H.K. is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. FUNimation has decided to release the series in two parts with two discs in each set. As such you can expect to see 12 episodes split between the two DVDs in the first part, which gives the series a somewhat claustrophobic feeling. FUNimation has done this as of late and though there is some compression and grain here as a result of the packaging, overall N.H.K. still looks good. Gonzo is known for their high production values and this series stands as testimony to that fact with some unique design, fluid animation, and an all around solid looking presentation. The production team really went all out with some of the trippy hallucinations that Sato has and they definitely give the series an interesting look.

Audio:

As you'd expect N.H.K. is presented with a Japanese 2.0 stereo dub as well as a 5.1 English offering. Both tracks performed admirably with regards to the voice cast, though I felt the Japanese crew nailed the material more than the English team did. Even so the quality of both dubs is very good so fans of each type should be pleased enough. As far as the audio quality is concerned both tracks perform like you'd expect they would, though this isn't really a show that requires a dynamic presence on the rear channels. The sense of immersion is quite minimal since, for the most part, this is a dialogue-driven anime.

Extras:

The only bonus features you're going to find here are some clean animations and trailers.

Final Thoughts:

Welcome to the N.H.K. is an addictive show. Once you start watching it you'll be glued until you find out how Sato's adventure ends and if he ever finds a cure to his condition. It's a compelling program with fascinating characters and interesting situations. This is a rarity for anime and if you are looking for something that is essentially unlike anything you have ever seen definitely give this one a shot. It's a fun guilty pleasure that has enough surprises and charms to endear itself to a wide audience. Highly Recommended


Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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