Last Level Press

Anime Review: Welcome to the N.H.K.

Reviewer: Olen Bjorgo

Tatsuhiro Sato is 22 years old, a college dropout, has been unemployed for four years, and is a social recluse known as a hikikomori. He is also the victim of a conspiracy under an organization called the NHK. Life for him was going nowhere until he was visited by an angel: a high school girl named Misaki Nakahara. Although Sato never met her before, she knew a lot about him, and chose him to be the subject of her project to cure him of his problems.

Let’s start with this one, shall we?

The animation is, for all intents and purposes, very good, but showcases some telltale signs of extreme corner cutting in some areas. This is to be expected from studio Gonzo, a studio founded by former Gainax members. Never straying away from anything too surreal most of the time, Welcome to the NHK is pleasing to look at with vivid coloration and clean movements. I say “most of the time” because sometimes objects may come to life and begin talking to Sato as they solidify his belief that he is the victim of a conspiracy that has caused his many shortcomings in life, or strange purple creatures will suddenly come about and start laughing at him. The transition from the real world to Sato’s warped mind creates a contrast in style that gives the viewer perspective to how Sato sees things.

The same way we do, it turns out.  

The majority of music for this show can be best described as emotionally and mentally appropriate. One of the first songs heard in the first episode is a very upbeat J-pop theme song to a fictional anime that Sato’s neighbor keeps playing in a loop, a song that later becomes a polyphonic ringtone on Sato’s phone. A lot of the music is manic, depressive, melancholic, and then can suddenly be very upbeat but in a “give a disingenuous smile for the camera” manner. A personal favorite track would be the second ending theme that plays in the second half of the series if only because the first ending theme feels too intense. The quality of the dub is top notch, an expectation that many can expect from Funimation these days.

Welcome to the NHK might only be twenty-four episodes long but it packs a lot into them. Sato’s journey to recovery is wrought with him seeing old faces from his past and facing the reality of his current situation. With his belief that everyone is laughing at him and his lack of drive to do anything productive, we see him rise and fall on his path, but we also see the lives of others and how they deal with the world. Manic depressives, suicidal people ready to end their suffering, NEETs, and victims of their own actions are a common sight, and Sato encounters every one of them. Sometimes it may feel like the exposition is heavy in some places, but often times it’s hard to notice because the story is engaging enough to forget.

Right.  The story.  Definitely what’s distracting us.  Story.  

Since this is the first anime review for Last Level Press, I want to state right now that all voice acting will focus on the English dub unless there isn’t one available or the specific source I watch it from lacks an English dub. With that said, I feel like Welcome to the NHK has a wonderful dub. Funimation regular Chris Patton (One Piece, BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad) was a terrific choice for Sato and was able to bring the right amounts of paranoia, denial, and intense emotion that was needed for such a screwed up individual. Stephanie Wittels (xxxHolic, Air Gear) was also a good choice for the quiet and kind, though manipulative, Misaki. Greg Ayres (Full Metal Panic, Samurai 7) plays the otaku and game-obsessed Kaoru Yamazaki, an underclassman to Sato from high school, and his energetic, high-pitched voice serves the overly-emotional and dramatic anime geek well. The last notable character is the depressive and drug-addicted Hitomi Kashiwa, Sato’s conspiracy obsessed upperclassman from high school, was played by Luci Christian (Fullmetal Alchemist, Azumanga Daioh). Christian’s monotonous voicing of Hitomi was a good choice but was probably the weakest of the voices. However, due to the fact that Hitomi doesn’t appear as often as the others, and she doesn’t have as great a variety of emotions like the other cast members, this is forgivable.

Welcome to the NHK is without a doubt a dramatic black comedy with themes of depression, suicide, social anxiety, and feelings of uselessness and inadequacy throughout. For me, there were times where I could understand Sato’s plight. Other times I laughed at his expense. And sometimes I pitied him and saw him as a detestable human. In spite of all the hardships people face there is a glimmer of hope that shows that things might work out if they strive for it, which is certainly a nice reminder to have these days. As you can expect this is not a show for kids but if this sounds like something up your alley I highly recommend it.

Rating: 8.2

Visuals: 7
Audio: 8
Narrative: 8
Acting: 9
Atmosphere & Experience: 9

Or, if these images look a little too familiar too you, you just might

Learn a little something about yourself.

Yeah, I’m just gonna leave this here:

  Director: Yusuke Yamamoto

  Producer: Funimation

  Studio: Gonzo

  Release Date (U.S.): Dec 16, 2008

  Release Date (U.K.):  N/A

  Release Date (JP):  Jul 9, 2006

Final Verdict:


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