Hikikomori (or hermit) is a very real and very severe problem in modern day Japan, to the point of being declared a national crisis. It has become so severe that it is believed to of even caused an impact on the countries own national birth rate. Welcome To The NHK, a 24 part anime series, takes this very real issue, makes fun of it and somehow manages to create one of the most profoundly endearing anime series of all time.
Adapted from the Manga by Tatsuhiko Takimoto and Kendi Oiwa and lead by Studio Gonzo, Welcome To The NHK tells the story of twenty-something-year-old Satou a college drop out turned shut-in who has withdrawn himself from the world. He is sleep deprived, paranoid and severely close to full blown mental breakdown. Then he meets the beautiful Misaki, and for the first time feels he is required to justify his existence. What follows is a dark journey through the looking glass of Otaku fandom as Sato is slowly consumed by his own paranoia. As we follow Sato through his day-today life we are taken to places both genuinely heartfelt and depressingly bleak. It feels appropriate to mention that some caution should be given before watching this series.
Welcome To The NHK is a rare example of a show that basks in the often negatively perceived aspects of anime fandom. No subject matter is deemed unsuitable with both Hentai and Lolita Complexes frequently cropping up. As far as the show is concerned, no cow is sacred. Thankfully the show manages to pack a lot of material in its twenty or so minutes, bringing forth an art style both consistent with the original source material but with enough character to stand on it’s own. Character designs step away from the fantastical and keep a foot firmly in the realistic with backdrops suitably lo-fi and authentic. Surprisingly what ties the show together is it’s soundtrack. Taking equal influence from Jon Brion’s work on Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind and blended with the contemporary yet experimental J-rock of acts like “Seagull Screaming…”. Aside from FLCL I struggle to think of another show that brings this calibre of “indie-cred” to mainstream anime.
Welcome To The NHK is not for everyone, this is a series that takes great pleasure in subverting the viewers expectations, taking unusual tangents and approaching quite often disturbing topics with a dark sense of humour. For those of you looking for an original anime with something to say and genuine heart, look no further.