Welcome to the N.H.K DVD Review - www.impulsegamer.com -

Feature 7.5
Video 9.0
Audio 9.0
Special Features 1.0
Total 7.0
Distributor: Siren
Running Time: 600 Minutes
Reviewer: Simon Black
Classification
: M15+

7.0


Welcome to the N.H.K

Unemployed 22-year-old Tatsuhiro Sato is a hikikomori, or shut in, one of the estimated 50,000 Japanese who shun social contact, preferring to stay indoors or in certain cases confined to a single room.  One day he meets a young girl named Misaki who for reasons of her own decides to help Tatsuhiro out of his funk, though Tatsuhiro prefers to see his cause as lost (the title comes from his paranoid theory that Japanese television station NHK is actually a front for an organisation dedicated to spreading the curse of hikikomori in hopes of turning the entire Japanese populace into mindless socially withdrawn consumers).  Together the pair deal with their own considerable demons as well as those of their friends and acquaintances, though death and ever-present thoughts of suicide are never too far away.

The series is rife with acronyms for its distinctly Japanese social ills. In addition to being hikikomori Tatsuhiro is classified as NEET Ė Not in Employment, Education or Training.  His neighbour and high school chum is an otaku, or mega-obsessed fanboy (the term usually applies to someone whose obsession with anime or manga is such that they rarely leave the house and spend the bulk of their time and money indulging their hobby).  Other terms which crop up include lolicon, erige, hentai and internet suicide.  Such weighty and occasionally perverse concepts may not yet have made it into everyday Western parlance, but they do form the basis of a complex and emotionally beguiling animated epic. 

Welcome to the N.H.K. is a deep and decidedly accomplished exploration of some of societyís darker mores, a world in which crippling dysfunctions mingle with clever dialogue and the threat of a breakdown is never far away.  The premise is somewhat misleading in the sense that Sato isnít technically hikikomori, as he can without too much fuss leave his house and does so frequently Ė true hikikomori stay cloistered inside for years at a time, some living in a squalor they no longer have the will to care about and limiting interactions with other people to a bare minimum.  Tatsuhiro displays nothing like this level of severity, at times coming across merely as a bit of a work-shy loner, and even the suicide of Misakiís mother and her abusive past arenít really sufficient to explain why she would go to such extraordinary lengths to help a stranger 

Minor quibbles aside however this visually arresting series provides a rarely-seen glimpse into the fetishistic and distinctly troubled portions of the contemporary Japanese psyche.  Itís an intelligent examination to be sure, and an oddball classic that revels in the shortcomings of its misfit protagonists and their wayward, sometimes tortured lives. 

Extras

Clean opening and closing songs, and trailers for four other recent Siren releases. 






 
 



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