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DVD Review: Welcome to the NHK Vol. 1

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Welcome to the NHK started out as a novel by Tatsuhiko Takimoto which was then turned into a manga which became an anime. Filled with odd and funny, and sometimes strangely bleak, moments, I couldn’t help but laugh as I watched.

Sato is a 22-year-old college dropout who hasn’t left his apartment in almost four years. His existence in the tiny space has become depressing and a little strange, filled with dancing puddings and talking appliances. Sato is convinced that there is a conspiracy by the NHK, a Japanese broadcasting company, to keep young people inside their apartments, disconnected from the outside world with cute anime girl programming among other things.

Sato is so convinced that everything in some way is a conspiracy that he can’t bring himself to go outside and has become a hikikomori, which is basically a recluse. But everything changes for Sato when he meets Misaki… well, he really blows up on her when she knocks on his door. But of course this chance meeting is the fuel for change.

Sato realizes that he has to get a job, he has to go outside and face the world beyond his apartment. When he goes to apply for a part-time job at a café. who should be there but Misaki, and Sato freezes up, but not before he makes a bit of a fool of himself. He runs away, back to his apartment, back behind the door, swearing never to go out again.

But Misaki isn’t going to give up on him. She leaves him a letter asking him to meet her in the park, that she has chosen him to participate in her project. Sato almost doesn’t go but in the end he meets her, only to find out that she is going to rescue him from his reclusive existence. Misaki has drawn up a hand-written contract detailing the recovery and support of Sato which she asks him to sign. Though he doesn’t sign the contract he does make an effort to change his life, mostly to impress Misaki.

When Sato finds out that the neighbor who has been blasting cute girlie anime theme songs is none other than Yamazaki, a kid who he happened to save from a beating in middle school, they reconnect. Sato, desperate to find something to impress Misaki with, notices that Yamazaki is going to school for game design and when next Sato sees her he claims that is what he does all day at home with his time. But Misaki calls his bluff and asks to see one of his creations.

Sato and Yamazaki then team up to create the best hentai game, or girlie game, ever. Yamazaki is beyond intense about his video games and refuses to pull all the weight so Sato is given the easy part — all he as to do is come up with the story.

Sato is a likable guy, very much the geek, who is completely lost. There are a lot of adult themes here: the hentai game, which is mostly pornographic, not to mention the fascination with girls' panties, but it’s dealt with in a funny way. And in the end this is really the beginning of a story about growth, sort of a coming-of-age tale.

This first volume contains four episodes; “Welcome to the Project!”, “Welcome to the Creator!”, “Welcome to the Beautiful Girls!” and “Welcome to the New World!” and each is funnier than the last as you get to know Sato and the rest of the cast. Welcome to the NHK is very tongue-in-cheek so be prepared to laugh; it's definitely worth checking out.

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About Katie T. Buglet

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