Review: Welcome to the N.H.K.
March 27, 2011 4 Comments
This post contains little to no spoilers of Welcome to the N.H.K.
An absurdist, black comedy drama, Welcome to the N.H.K. is about the life of a hikikomori (social shut-in) named Tatsuhiro Satou. By pure chance, Tatsuhiro’s daily shut-in life is forever changed by a girl named Misaki Nakahara, who seems to know almost everything about him. From then on, Tatsuhiro begins to encounter new and old friends from long ago, running into new problems that seem to connect to together, one way or another. But is it truly because of the luck of the draw that all this happened? Tatsuhiro is under the impression that all of Japan is part of a large conspiracy organization known as the N.H.K.; the Nihon Hikikomori Kyokai (Japan Hikikomori Association) under the facade of the Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) bent on creating more and more hikikomori through the use of otaku media. Tatsuhiro will learn about the world beyond his front door, how to heal his hikikomori condition, and how the people around him deal with their problems in different ways.
N.H.K. at its best is a cynical and skeptical drama about the interaction between Tatsuhiro and the people around him, who some through various ways are connected to each other. Obviously, the plot revolves around the life of a hikikomori, but also goes through themes such as death, suicide, religion, and absurdism (the belief that individual life has no meaning). The show keeps a melancholy tone throughout most of the show, while offering comedic relief through the use of the above themes as basis for the humor, hence black comedy. N.H.K features the lifestyle of several different people living depressing or lonely lives, with Tatsuhiro as the center of all of them. The human interaction between the characters and dialogue in the conversations reveals the cynical aspect of life that the efforts an individual puts forth will ultimately lead to a pointless end, and that the effort to even try anything in the first place is pointless. The moral message is that everyone has their own problems, regardless of the magnitude or quantity of them, and unfortunately their efforts to solve them are hindered because of the show’s expression of cynicism, skepticism, and absurdism. Every character in N.H.K is used well. There are no true expendable side characters but rather minor characters, as they all play a part in progressing the story, and expressing the personal and inner thoughts and reactions of the major characters. The plot is dynamic and utilizes the characters to fit in well.
Everything else about Welcome to the N.H.K. falls under the themes and overall tones of the show. Its animation is neat, and when called for can be surreal, and unnerving as to follow the tone and atmosphere of what is going on in the show. The character designs are unique and fit the characters well. The soundtrack to the show is one of its strongest points. It sets the tone for what is happening in the scene. It ranges from melancholy and sober, to (rarely) uplifting and cheerful. The tracks support the themes of the show when they sound dark and saddening.
Welcome to the N.H.K. is a unique show that uses black comedy to talk about the touchiest of subjects in life through the depressing and lonely lives of the people in it, and how interaction between them can make all the difference in the world.