Sunday, July 12, 2015

[Anime] Welcome to the NHK Review

Welcome to the NHK - 9/10

"Welcome to the NHK" is a tragicomedy about the life and times of a certain Sato Tatsuhiro, a 22-year-old committed NEET who almost never leaves his apartment.  While there is an overarching plot of Sato facing his problems (slowly), the series essence is more contained in its collection of sub-plots as Sato is involved in the projects and machinations of others.

One recommendation I would also give: watch NHK in English.  The dub is superb.  The VAs for the characters had their personalities down pat.  Even the profanity seemed to fit better than it usually does.

The Good: The mundane psychology. When most shows try to do psychology, they go for the grandiose. Their characters have world-encompassing views, conflicting ideologies, and intricate explanations for their actions. NHK has none of that. Instead it captures the essence of a vulgar, mediocre, normal human. That might sound strange to say, since Sato isn't "normal," but that actually doesn't matter. Everybody has their own eccentricities and anxieties, and as humans we share a similar pool of responses. NHK nailed the "perfect unreasonableness" of a human being clinging to their own faults.

But what really makes the series shine is its mixture of seriousness and frivolity. On one hand, it shows the sad leavings of a culture of success. People's lives are "measured" and their value ascertained already. As lamentable as Sato's situation is, and the show pulls no punches in that regard, there's the terrifying reality waiting out there that "winning" doesn't mean happiness either. It was a rather candid look at the spiritual malaise in modern consumer culture, the heat death of the soul. Although the future is pretty sunny by the end for all of the characters, so it doesn't dig too deep of a depressing hole.

That said, it was hilarious while not being dismissive of the real sadness. I lost it when Sato finds himself in that farmhouse listening to the pyramid scheme's lame presentation and immediately thinks, "God I wish I were back on that island." It is such a dark sentiment, but also so appropriate to the series. There were several other moments like this that I thought were absolute gold, as well as many more subtle jabs. One of my favorites was near the beginning when Misaki is explaining to Sato the "revolutionary new approach" to helping him with his low self-esteem: by mentally bringing everybody else below you to justify it. And what gives the humor the extra kick is its verisimilitude to every day life; there are more than a few scenes that I could personally identify with.

Finally on a personal note, I really liked Misaki as a character. Perhaps it's because I once had a girlfriend like her down to the abusive history. I was continually amazed at the kindness that sprung from that dark place, and really admire it. It also caused me to want to rage at Sato when he raised his fist against her, because her traumatic response was all too obvious to me. Also it sounds a bit shallow after what I just said, but I found the combination of her character design and VA extraordinarily cute.

The Bad: Nothing major. At times the animation quality noticeably drops and I thought that some of the scenes were perhaps unnecessary, but I don't think the series is overly burdened by these. It can also be quite crude at times, but that's Sato so I can't really hold that against the series.

Overall, NHK is a great watch that provides many moments for self reflection along with others where you can't because you're laughing to hard.

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