Welcome to the NHK! – 1 – Salvation lies within

I admit I was initially turned off by the pretty poster girl heavily pasted all over the promo art (much like Black Lagoon) and yet still, my interest in NHK has rapidly grown over the last 4-5 weeks. Being an anime fan it’s always fun seeing otaku culture lampooned by the big screen; but unlike say Genshiken or Densha Otoko where the so-called geeks actually come off as sub-urban heroes, the acclaimed NHK was said to depict a more detestable, depressing side of otaku life.
NHK goes beyond simply ripping it out of otaku though; I’d go so far to say that the main character (Tatsuhiro Sato) has a mental illness. Paranoid, unconfident, afraid, lazy, whatever; Tatsuhiro (young 20s, I guess) is an anime fan who never leaves his apartment – the Japanese word for this kind of person is ‘hikomori’. Basically he has spent the last few years doing nothing but watching anime, smoking and wanking, and until now, he has been too scared to even talk to his neighbours.
I see great potential in NHK; the soundtrack is outstanding, running non-stop through-out the first episode and featuring a wide selection of rocky and indie tunes. The animation and general mood is really damn surreal; being as he is isolated from society, Tatsuhiro spends a lot of his time sleeping and day dreaming. The viewer regularly slips in and out of his sometimes fun and exciting, sometimes leery fantasies, and it quickly becomes obvious that here is a boy entrenched firmly within his escapist hobbies.
The characterisation is vivid and pulls no punches, and yet Tatsuhiro comes off as neither a good nor bad person, rather just a completely flawed, worryingly paranoid young man in serious need of help. We can laugh at him floundering through conversations, but there is also a twinge of sympathy in there too. I believe (or is it that I hope?) that he can be saved, and feel strongly compelled to watch more.

4 replies on “Welcome to the NHK! – 1 – Salvation lies within”

Judging by the manga, its only going to get worse, and it looks like there wont be any salvation for Satou 🙁

I’m not sure how long a series this will be, but from the premise, I doubt it will stretch much more than 13 episodes and given there are what, but 4 volumes of the manga out, I’m expecting Gonzo to script themselves an original ending for NHK.
Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing how this pans out, even if it becomes the most depressing thing ever.

NHK’s focus isn’t really on Otaku culture, but rather the problem of Hikikomori in Japan. Actually, when the series begins, Satou isn’t even an anime fan (clear from his hate for the Pururin song.) Don’t expect this show to examine Otaku culture like Genshiken does; it’s a drama that centers around a cast of mess-up people. If anything, it’s a lot like Evangelion.

I really enjoyed the first episode – the all-out weirdness and the ‘hero’ (if you can call him that) are enough to make me come back for more. It certainly has potential to be more than the eye-candy Gonzo are notorious for (some bits reminded me of a variety of things, from Perfect Blue to Requiem for a Dream). With the possible exception of Bokura Ga Ita this one has grabbed my attention the most out of the summer season series.

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