Welcome to the NHK is one of the oddest anime series I’ve watched. This head trip follows Tatsuhiro Sato, a hikikomori, and Misaki Nakahara, a strange girl who decides to help cure Sato of his hikikomori.
Sato is convinced that the NHK (which is a public broadcasting company, Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai) is actually a sinister plot to create hikikomori. NHK, to Sato, stands for Nihon Hikikomori Kyokai – the Japanese Hikikomori Association. Hikikomori is a real life psychological disorder that involves people completely checking out of public life. They completely leave behind normal social interactions and forgo work and other normal aspects of life. We have an article that speaks about hikikomori at length.
Sato has severe problems socializing and functioning on a normal level. He has strong sexual urges that are suppressed and escape through vivid daydreams about the female characters in the story. He often falls into hallucinations that involve the appliances in his apartment talking with him. Sato also spends a lot of effort avoiding normal work and interactions. The energy he expends in avoiding normalcy and avoiding work is more than social interaction and work would actually require.
The anime is an interesting look at disturbed minds, avoidance, denial, and paranoia.
The only “sane” character is Kaoru Yamazaki, Sato’s neighbor. Although, Yamazaki immerses himself into dating sims to the point where he has a distorted view of reality. However, this is discovered later to be a form of escapism rather than a genuine obsession like Sato suffers from.
Welcome to the NHK looks at various Japanese subcultures like maid cafes, dating sims, massively multiplayer online role playing games, and hints at various fetishes like sex dolls. The psychology of the characters made me pity them, feel revulsion, and sympathize with them. Who hasn’t wanted to check out of society, the responsibilities of work, and the headaches of relationships?
The animation of this series is pretty poor. It painfully breaks down to rough sketches in various scenes. However, the look into human life with all its paranoia, triumphs (like waking up in the morning), and brokenness makes Welcome to the NHK a gripping story. It takes you deep into tormented psychology, repressed sexuality, suicide, and desperation along with showing the resilience of the spirit. It strongly reminded me of another anime called Perfect Blue because of the focus on psychology and the darker side of the human mind.
Welcome to the NHK is a fascinating and gripping anime. It is full of dark humor and sexually suggestive humor. It is a slice of life with some romantic elements stirred into the psychological froth. If you are interested in the desperate side of the human character and enjoy thrillers like Perfect Blue or Black Swan, it is a series you need to check out.