Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Welcome to the NHK Review (English)

“I see... It’s so obvious! Why didn’t I realize this before? When you think about anime, you automatically think of Otaku. And Otaku tend to be antisocial, and antisocial people tend to become reclusive. It all makes sense now. By airing addictive anime, they’re mass producing Otaku. And by mass producing Otaku, they’re contributing to the massive emergence of NEET. So that means, the NHK’s TRUE identity is....


Welcome to the NHK is a Comedy/Slice of Life anime, originally based on the novel by Tatsuhiko Takimoto. A manga adaptation, written by the same author, was published by Kadokawa Shoten and was licensed by Tokyopop; with no news of it being relicensed after Tokyopop closed it’s doors in 2011. The 24 episode anime was produced by Gonzo (Last Exile, Romeo X Juliet) and is currently licensed by FUNimation after airing in Japan in 2006.

Tatsuhiro Satō, a university dropout, leads a reclusive life as a hikikomori, ultimately coming to the conclusion that this happened due to some sort of conspiracy. One day just when his life seems entirely unchanging, he meets Misaki Nakahara, a mysterious girl who claims to be able to cure Satō of his hikikomori ways. She presents him with a contract basically outlining that once a day they would meet in the evening in a local park where Misaki would lecture to Satō in an effort to rid him of his lifestyle. During these outings, many subjects are discussed, though they almost always pertain in some way to psychology or psychoanalysis. Both Satō and Misaki, however, have a tendency of over-doing things, such as hiding the truth, especially from each other and themselves.

Gonzo......... What. Have. You. DONE?!?!?!? I had YET to run into a badly animated Gonzo series. Romeo X Juliet was great! Last Exile, amazing! Gankutusou, fantastic!! NHK? *bashes head on wall* WHY?!?!?!?!?! It’s so good one minute and then it’s so terrible the next! Did Gonzo just not give two shits about this series? Cause it really shows.... Let’s see what else Gonzo was up to in 2006. *looks at notes* Glass Fleet, Witchblade, Red Garden, and Pumpkin Scissors..... Well I know where the money really went. But seriously, the animation is on and off again. One moment, it’s really awesome and looks stunning. The next ten minutes then turn it into a contorted mess! Some people can argue the laziness is cause of the theme of the show, but I don’t think that’s any excuse for this kind of poor animation. Overall, however, if you can manage to get past the animation, then you’ll love the story.

NHK’s story is not an action story, not a drama, not a romance (kind of), and not a mystery. NHK is a Slice of Life series with very black comedy and mature content such as Hentai games mentioned. The idea of exploring the lives of hikikomori and even otaku, and poke fun, is one of those rare series that you wouldn’t expect to hit home with it’s viewers. As an otaku myself, NHK is a series that talks more about those days when you just don’t want to do anything and just stay at home to hide from the world. It’s one of those rare gems of an anime, story wise, that you can’t help but watch over and over again. And the physiological bits involving Sato's thoughts are some of the funniest things I have seen in a long time.

With the characters of NHK, there are, at max, five the series is focused on. You have Sato, Misaki, Yamazaki, Hitomi, and Kobayashi. The series has more focus on Sato, Misaki, and Yamazaki with some Hitomi and not much Kobayashi in the mix. But, boy, do all of these characters have problems! Sato is a NEET and a hikikomori; Misaki was abused by her stepfather as a young girl and carries scars from that; Yamzaki is a major otaku and plays gal games a lot; Hitomi who’s a druggie, thinks everything is a conspiracy, and even tries to kill herself at one point; and Kobayashi is caught in a pyramid scheme and has to make money in order to support her hikikomori brother. The funny part is..... it all works, soooooooo well! It’s a lot of fun watching these characters interact with each other and just live normal lives as hikikomori or something else. The best interactions in the series are from Sato and Yamzaki! Funniest. Stuff. EVAR!!

Now, I only had time to watch the english dub so I’m gonna talk about that. With our five main characters, four of them are veterans and one is more lesser known. The lesser known voice actress being Stephanie Wittels (Air, Red Garden) and her role as Misaki. She isn’t my favorite choice for the role, but isn’t completely terrible and makes me want to kill things with fire. As for our veteran voice actors you have Monica Rial (Gunslinger Girl, Noir) as Kobayashi who makes the role very snobby yet very commanding. Next you have Luci Christian (Princess Tutu, Trigun: Badlands Rumble) as Hitomi; making her very mellow yet somehow keep an almost constant smile on her face. Kinda weird... Speaking of weird, next you have Greg Ayres (Ouran High School Host Club, Black Cat) as Yamasazi. There’s a lot of win here, just saying... And then you have Chris Patton (Full Metal Alchemist, Soul Eater) as Sato...... Never mind what I just about Ayres.......... CHRIS PATTON WINS FOREVER!!!! Seriously, I never knew a shut in would sound so crazy and hilarious and just be completely awesome! One of his best roles I have ever seen him in!

At the end of it all, Welcome to the NHK is a kinda poorly animated achievement for Gonzo, but has a very interesting story and characters. It belongs in it’s own category when you think about the Slice of Life genre in anime, and will hit home for many an otaku. It gives some of the best performances from Chris Patton and Greg Ayres that I have EVER seen them do, and gives us the chance to meet Miss Stephanie Wittels as well. A new favorite of mine, and, I hope, a soon-to-be favorite of many others. Welcome to the NHK is a must see for the real anime otakus.

If you want something funny with less adult humor, Ouran High School Host Club or Fruits Basket would be my first choice. But for those guys out there, Cowboy Bebop or Trigun for you (even though those series have their serious moments).



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