Welcome to the NHK – It’s a Conspiracy!

Welcome to the NHK.

Welcome to the boobs.

It seems like every time I check out any anime produced in the last five years, all I encounter is a bunch of unwatchable moe shit. In fact, I had pretty much given up on anime altogether. The last new show that I finished and enjoyed was Gurren Lagann. Everything else was so godawfully bad, I would rather blow my brains out than finish it. Fortunately, I stumbled upon an interesting series titled Welcome to the NHK, and it rejuvenated my interest in anime.

My initial reaction was that this had something to do with the Japanese TV corporation, NHK. However, that isn’t the case. NHK stands for the Nihon Hikikomori Kyoukai, or in non-weaboo-English, Japanese Recluse Association. The show features the exploits of Sato, a 20-something recluse who is so afraid of the myriad conspiracies plaguing the world, he refuses to leave the safety and comfort of his cramped apartment.

Obviously, there are no conspiracies, but he is certain they exist. Everything is a conspiracy. The noisy neighbor who plays anime theme songs, the people that laugh at him if he ventures out, and pretty much everything else, is a conspiracy. In that case, why not just stay in and avoid them? Sounds good to me. I wish more otaku would follow Sato’s lead and never go out in public. Actually, I would like them to take it a step further and not get on the internet either. The world would be a better place if fat, sweaty, pedophilic otaku would not contact the outside world in any way, shape, or form.

The show progresses as Sato meets a cute young girl, Misaki, that he immediately develops a crush on. She thinks he is a shut-in, so in an effort to show her that he’s not, he tells a lie, which leads to another lie, which provides the fuel for the main story. He eventually meets up with an old high school friend, and together they form a company to develop a dating-sim computer game. While they work on the game, Sato also deals with his fear of conspiracies, and struggles to form and maintain a relationship with Misaki.

Cute girls that like you are a conspiracy!

Cute girls that like you are a conspiracy!

My description sounds kind of mundane, and really that’s all there is to the plot. The episodes, however, are laden with rich comedy, drama, and human interactions. We are given a fascinating glimpse into the life of otaku. All at once we laugh at them for their ineptitude in social situations, we relate to them in their attempts to collect merchandise related to their favorite shows, and we feel pity for them as they struggle with daily life, and make progress, only to slide back again.

Welcome to the NHK is a great character study, and an excellent example of how to balance comedy and drama. Too many shows these days are “slice of life,” which is otaku shorthand for “no plot.” Welcome to the NHK shows that you can still get a slice of someone’s life contained within an overarching plot. To do anything less is just lazy storytelling, and people that enjoy those types of shows are lazy, too. You know who you are, you fuckers.

The story of this series progresses at a moderate pace, and the best part is that it reaches a natural conclusion. Nothing is forced, and we are left at the end knowing that their lives continue on. We just got to see them for a short part of it. There is growth, but not enough to make it unrealistic. We are talking about otaku, after all.

The most amazing thing about Welcome to the NHK’s quality, is that it was created by Gonzo Animation, a.k.a. The Worst Animation Studio on Planet Earth. Gonzo has a certain knack for taking great ideas, and making them terrible. It seems like every series they make starts out good and turns to wretched shit by the end. Their specialty, though, is supplanting plot for shitty CGI. This series, however, featured none of the usual Gonzo touches. There was very little CGI. The animation quality did jump around a bit, but for the most part it was good enough. There weren’t a lot of action scenes, so things usually looked fine. The idea was cool, and they didn’t break away from it. And somehow, the plot managed to reach a satisfying conclusion. I fully expected Gonzo to fuck up the last episode and ruin the entire series as a whole, but they didn’t. They came through, and made a quality series. In fact, I would say this is the best series Gonzo has ever produced.

Truer words have never been spoken.

Truer words have never been spoken.

I watched this series on DVD, and listened to both the English dub and original Japanese language. Honestly, I enjoyed the dub more. The acting in both was quite good, but there was something more endearing about the English version. Perhaps it was just more compelling to experience the characters’ emotions in my native, spoken language, rather than through subtitles. Well, either one you pick, you can’t really go wrong.

Overall, Welcome to the NHK is a great anime. It is highly recommended. Lazy assholes who like plotless “slice of life” series will hate it, and pedophilic otaku who like moe shit will be bored by it. However, for all of you other anime fans out there (I can’t be the only one), this is a series that should be watched.

Why isn’t this series more popular? It’s a conspiracy!

Verdict: Good

15 Responses to “Welcome to the NHK – It’s a Conspiracy!”

  1. 1 Kroni
    August 13, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Sato does have one up on other Otaku: He’s gotten laid.

  2. September 1, 2009 at 4:57 am

    If you’re disenfranchised with the slice-of-life genre, you should give Genshiken a try. Again, it’s a slice-of-life series about otaku. They’re pretty much all socially inept like Sato. It probably doesn’t have as much plot as you would like, but it’s still engaging because of the characters.

    Through interaction with a ‘normal’ person and each other, they become somewhat ‘normal’ themselves and just that little bit more capable of dealing with the big, wide, ‘normal’ world. This alone makes it coherent and watchable/readable.

    Speaking of which, you’re better off checking out the manga because the anime adaptation is sorta ‘meh’.

  3. 3 andagi
    February 15, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    I like plotless slice of life series, AND moe shit. And you you know what? This is probably my favorite anime series. Must be a conspiracy.

  4. 4 Anon
    January 18, 2011 at 11:56 am

    this is old, but gonzo has made a couple other good ones. Full Metal Panic, Last Exile(which I think is their best), Densha Otoko(drama), well there are other good ones that are moe-ones. Also K-ON sucks.

  5. 5 Tarnsman
    August 30, 2011 at 11:54 am

    I’m a lazy asshole, retarded, like a handful of “slice of life” shows, and I still love Welcome to the NHK. I think your review is spot on about what makes this show great. It has a nice balance, never feels forced, and manages to tell an interesting story without needed to focus on anything but a messed up guy living his life.

  6. 6 dude
    December 23, 2011 at 1:26 am

    wonderful anime. Really, one of the most emotional I’ve seen. The second half did have a very different vibe to it. A lot less wish fulfillment and pandering mixed in with indulging antics. When I first watched it I remember wishing the second half was more like the first half and that it could have been a more typical “happy ending”. Then as I got older and I realized how well this show does reflect realities of life an growing up. While I’m only 21, between graduating high school and my life now, everything that has happened to me (from actual events to the emotional ups and downs) was reflected rather well in this show. I appreciated it then and even more now.

  7. December 6, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    hey, i like slice of life and i loved this show.

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March 2009


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