Welcome to the N.H.K. is the story of a 22-year-old hikikomori/NEET named Satou Tatsuhiro.
More than half of you are probably wondering what a hikikomori is; So that explanation should probably come now before getting into the review of the series. The dictionary definition of hikikomori is "a state or condition of acute social withdrawal". The number of people living the hikikomori or NEET (Not pursuing Employment, Education or Training) lifestyle are increasing everyday worldwide but they are predominantly concentrated in Japan among the adolescent male population. The hikikomori are basically shut-ins. They feel uncomfortable in presence of other people. They don’t leave their rooms/houses unless they absolutely have to and make just enough money through various means (parents, relatives, jobs that can be done from home, and rarely part-time jobs outside the house) to survive and continue their hikikomori lifestyles.
The main character of the story, Satou Tatsuhiro, is a college dropout. He is a complete conspiracy nut who believes a giant organization encompassing the whole planet called the N.H.K. (Nihon Hikikomori Kyoukai / Japan Hikikomori Association/Society) is working around the clock to ruin his life and make sure he stays a shut-in forever through any means necessary. The origin of his obsession with conspiracies seems to be an upperclassman named Kashiwa Hitomi with whom he spent a lot of time with in high school. Satou realizes that he can’t continue living as a NEET forever and wants to escape the lifestyle and overcome the conspiracies of the NHK but he is too afraid and doesn’t know how to go about it. However, everything changes when one day he meets a girl named Nakahara Misaki who claims that she will save him from his hikikomori lifestyle if he agrees to sign a contract with her and become the subject of her “project”.
The story is about a very serious subject matter but it is still full of humorous moments. The creators of the anime realize that the best way to convert such a serious subject matter into an enjoyable anime that will not only entertain the viewers but also educate them is through humor. That being said, the anime is also full serious and sometimes very sad occurrences. If you happen to be an emotional person, be prepared to shed a few tears or at least feel downright horrible watching some of the episodes of this series. The story progresses at a fair pace with a good mixture of serious episodes and some not too serious ones.
The characters are well designed and although I have never actually met a hikikomori, I would guess that the personalities and lifestyle are fairly depicted. For me, the most notable character in the series is the female lead Nakahara Misaki. She remains a mystery for almost the entire series and refuses to reveal any personal details about herself to Satou. Even when asked directly, she makes up obvious lies in order to avoid divulging anything personal. Her actions leave the viewer wondering and guessing and although that becomes somewhat annoying at times it contributes to the story coming together quite well in the end.
As for the other characters –
Satou is your “typical” conspiracy nut shut-in (or what you would imagine one would act and feel like). While his hikikomori lifestyle doesn’t seem to be as severe as some other people’s, it is bad enough to keep him from functioning as a part of society and most of his ventures to the outside world seem to end with him becoming completely scared and freaked out.
Satou’s only male friend Yamazaki Kaoru is your typical anime/hentai/game otaku. He is obsessed with all sorts of things the most notable of which happens to be echii games. He is very passionate about his obsessions and becomes easily enraged by the smallest things especially if they have any relevance to his obsessions. Needless to say, he is an amusing character to watch.
Satou’s upperclassman (senpai) Kashiwa Hitomi is a complete conspiracy nut like Satou. She seems depressed most of the time and even sees being happy as a sign that she is playing into the conspiracies. She is a supporting character in the series, but plays an important role in the development of the story.
The voice acting is nothing spectacular but the voices fit the characters well. The same can be said about the music. There is no ground-breaking piece of music in the series. There is however a somewhat catchy anime song that is played throughout pretty much the entire series. Do be careful not to get it stuck in your head.
The art and animations are at best average. You won’t find any great-looking characters and the animation can be sort of clumsy at times. I can best compare the art to ‘Great Teacher Onizuka’. However, it looks slightly better and animations are done at a higher quality. That being said, the art style does fit the series quite well. I can’t imagine the story represented with any different kind of art style.
ATTENTION: The next paragraph talks about the ending. While I will not include any specifics about what happens at the end of the series, I will talk about the style and quality of the ending. If you feel this might spoil things for you, skip over the next paragraph.
The story ends. That sounds like a weird statement, but most of you know that in many Anime series that doesn’t happen and it’s always a letdown when this occurs. So rejoice; this one actually concludes. It is the ending you will likely suspect part of the way through watching the series with a few twists and turns before it gets there.
In conclusion, Welcome to the NHK is a well-written and well-told story about a serious subject matter. It has a good pace and just enough of both humor and sadness. I enjoyed the series very much and if it is a type of anime you normally enjoy, I am sure you will love this series as well.