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Welcome to the NHK



Satou has been a hikikomori - a recluse suffering from anxiety at the idea of going outside - for the last three years after dropping out of college when he meets a highschool girl,Misaki, who decides he is perfect for her project : if he does what she says, including daily counselling sessions with her, she will cure him. Meanwhile, he also realises that the annoying otaku neighbour who listens to anime songs all day is one of his former school mate Yamazaki; and in order to prove Misaki that he is not actually a hikikomori, he decides to collaborate with Yamazaki to create a porn dating game; thus falling into the grasp of the otaku lifestyle.

I really enjoyed watching Welcome to the NHK as a dark comedy about depression with geek references in its first half; but I kind of got really fed up with it after a while, when I started finding the plot very repetitive - with Satou falling into yet another unhealthy/predatory fringe subculture every few episodes - the main character too dislikeable in his self-centeredness and lack of empathy for other people, and I had to struggle to finish it. I'm not entirely sure if that is a fair criticism, because when people are suffering from depression and anxiety, being unable of focus on other people is a factor of it, as is falling back onto unhealthy patterns every time you think you'd make progress - so it's not like those things are unrealistic. There are also many times when I felt that the show simply might be a poor adaptation of a much better original work - as it's adapted from a novel with autobiographic elements.

The animation style is pretty detailed and realistic in a way that I actually thought really didn't fit the anime. With the frequent surrealistic imagine spot and paranoid delusion that Satou goes on about; I thought a wilder, more creative animation style would have worked much better. It also suffers a lot from inconsistency, distortions from episodes to episodes despite the fact it doesn't look very cheap. The soundtrack was actively annoying; and the OP is a cheerful, offensively full of fanservice piece which I thought worked very badly with it.

As I already mentioned I had some trouble with Satou, besides those, he feels much too generic loser male lead to be interesting; and I didn't think the narrative worked enough to sell us his point of view and what his psychological troubles feel like, though they came close a few times. The rest of the cast is actually rather interesting and not stereotypical. Yamazaki, for example, despite being an otaku and somewhat misogynist, has a temper and determination which makes him appealing as a character. Satou's sempai in the literature club in highschool - who he often thinks back and who started his obsession with Conspiracies; is another character with interesting contradictions and whimsies. Misaki is interesting as well, though I didn't like the way she was expositionned, with too much of her character development being rushed toward the ending in a way that made her more clicheed than she actually felt / couid have been. It also felt that the show lost a big opportunity to make her a character deconstruction some of the most annoying Magical Girlfriend / saviour girlfriend tropes; and instead went for a sort of disturbingly co-dependant version of those while being happy with lampshading those tropes.

Actually in general I thought the series suffered from not knowing whether it wanted to be yet anothe romantic comedy with meta elements and a darker tone than usual; or be a dark comedy about depression with some genuine deconstruction of otaku and MMORPG culture - and ended failing at being either. It actually never reaches deconstruction; though it comes close at times with excellent explanations of tropes, but never problematizes them, which was frustrating especially when it was talking about the most misogynistic aspects of otaku culture. Still Welcome to the NHK was at its best on the dark humour front, filled with surrealist paranoid fancies and a cynical, self-depreciative tone.

I also really disliked the overall portrayal of psychological troubles; since asides from the arguable apology of co-dependency (or was it?) it seems to end up saying that the "cure" for hikikomori is to... leave them to starve until they snap out of it driven by hunger to go outside and search work. No, really. It happened twice. Well, that was simple, thanks for giving us the solution!! >_<

Since I had so much trouble with the second part, I have a hard time highlighting the parts which I did like though I do remember liking it early on >_>; Sorry for that. Welcome to the NHK ends up a very flawed work, still interrestingly unusual in its subject matter and with some interresting characterisation and black humour.
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Etrangere's anime reviews

September 2011

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Currently watching

- Legend of Galactic Heroes
- Katanagari
- Uraboku
- Senkou no Night Raid
- Madlax
- Welcome to the NHK
- Now and Then, Here and There
- Kaze no Yojimbo
- Arigatou Ghost Slayer Arashi
- Kara no Kyoukai
- Occult Academy
- Shiki
- Legend of Legendary Heroes


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