Welcome To The N.H.K

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Welcome To The N.H.K
Release Date: 9th January 2012 (UK)
24 Episodes
Director: Yusuke Yamamoto 
Rating: 15
MVM Films, Gonzo

The N.H.K is a conspiracy out to get us all. With all the consumerism taking importance in our lives, we no longer want to go out and we start to become socially inept. The world needs shut ins so those who aren’t have someone to look down on so they can get through their own lives. The N.H.K is out to get you. It may already have. 

Welcome To The N.H.K is a show about a hikikomori called Sato who won’t leave his flat. A hikikomori is basically the Japanese for shut in, and so we see Sato sitting around eating  instant noodles and having conversations with his electrical appliances. This can’t go on forever though, and due to a mysterious girl called Misaki promising to help him out, Sato ends up on a number of adventures involving Japanese hikikomori culture, which tends to lead to some hilarious results. He ends up addicted to porn, helping his geeky next door neighbour make an erotic game, addicted to online gaming and even accidentally joining a suicide club. A hikikomori leads a hectic life, even if he doesn’t leave the room.

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 It hits all the key topics and mixes the comedy with a more serious message, on how social awkwardness can lead to these obsessions and problems. Could do without all the perverted images flying around though, even if it is the focal point for the first third of the series. Have to be careful when watching in case someone walks in and sees you ogling some cartoon breasts. Tackling the cultures means this stuff has to be shown, so be prepared and don’t let it get in the way of a thoughtful deep show about the human condition and why so many people out there are miserable.

The message and topics work thanks to an easy-going soundtrack playing along to some great characters. Sato is easily tricked into each new scheme, but also has moments to reflect and see the reality of his situations or others. His neighbour Yamazaki offers a bond that makes their purposes and goals matter and by the end you’ll really want to see everything go right. But as Misaki likes to mention, 90% of life is full of misery, and so joy is often brief and not handed out easily, it’s surprisingly harsh with reality. It’s a shame some pretty bland art and animation dampen such a fascinating show, snatching some of the immersion away.

Welcome To The N.H.K will hit close to home for anyone who has spent time locked away for long periods of time, trying to escape from the people and responsibilities of the outside. But that 10% of joy is out there, and Welcome To The N.H.K shows that it is worth trucking along to snatch that minor happiness up at any given opportunity. Just leave the dodgy cartoon porn under the bed.

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