Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Welcome to the NHK

Released in 2006, Welcome to the NHK is a 26-episode series based off the novel of the same name from 2002. it follows Satou Tatsuhiro, a college dropout who has become a Hikikomori. Satou is paranoid and focuses on all the 'conspiracies' he finds in the world, such as the NHK, which he thinks stands for "Nihon Hikikomori Kyoukai" (Japan Hikikomori Association; in reality it stands for "Nippon Housou Kyoukai", or Japan Broadcasting Association). during a rare moment that Satou leaves his apartment, he meets Nakahara Misaki, a girl who ends up forcing him to sign a contract whereby she will help cure him of his hikikomori ways.
Don't worry, not all our rooms are this messy. But most are.
the show explores the concepts of depression, isolation, and loneliness, so as such the mood overall is very sombre, with the characters experiencing trauma and failure deeply when it does happen. that isn't to say that the series is TOTALLY depressing, as there are upbeat moments, but overall the drama outweighs the comedy. even Misaki, with her chipper, upbeat manner, hides pain underneath, though exactly what isn't revealed until the very end.
So helpful and sweet....but what hides beneath?
for those unaware of the term, Hikikomori is a psychological condition for the most part unique to Japan, though persons showing the symptoms have begun appearing in France and the USA. it involves a person bearing so much strain from outside pressure (grades, parents, job, society, etc) that their psyche collapses in on itself and the person refuses to leave their house or even room. Hikikomoris RARELY (if at all) venture outside and typically don't hold down jobs or attend school. the condition can last from months to even years, with the most extreme "first-generation Hikikomoris" being in their 40's, having been in isolation for 20 years. furthering the problem here is the idea that the parents are supposed to take care of the children, resulting in kids living at home well into their 20's, Hikikomoris or not. the projected estimates of Hikikomori in Japan range from 700,000 to 3.6 million, though due to peoples' unwillingness to talk about or properly address the problem, the actual figure may be much higher. as such, this is one of a handful of series to even touch on the subject, and the only one i've heard of where it's a key plot point.
Satou goes outside, but he's more the exception to the rule in this case.
given the psychological exploration going on in this series, the characters are all very distinct, easily recognizable and well-rounded. even the figments of Satou's imagination are unique, bearing slight resemblance to creepy stuffed toys in stocking caps. the setting is also a great backdrop to it all, it being what you would expect in each situation. the music is great, especially the opening and the insert songs. the story, while rich and meaty, is a tad confusing in that there are a couple different arcs in it. normally this wouldn't be a bad thing, but it's rather unexpected from a dramatic series about such a deep topic. perhaps they wanted to keep it interesting by introducing new characters (including other Hikikomori), but looking back it sometimes seemed a bit out of place.
Twisted little demons that are the product of his own delusions.
if nothing else, the show is a great study on a relatively unknown form of mental illness. everyone in the series has their own set of issues, making you take a hard look at the reality of it all. to be fair, you can't judge mental illness unless you've experienced it yourself, but given that it lays flat some of the inner workings of these people, you can really get a feel for the torture it can be. as such, this isn't a series for the light-hearted. there's little fanservice, no gore, but still, this can be a hard watch if you're not ready. please don't show this to children. it might give them nightmares.
Really, this show ain't for kids.
Welcome to the NHK is available from Oyasumi Subs, Exiled Destiny, Arigatou Subs, Anfo-Event (Polish), and NyaaTorrents. it was licensed for distribution in the US by ADV back in 2007 but has since been acquired by Funimation.
Sir, I believe you may be suffering from the Crazy.

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