I realize that a lot of other reviewers have felt led to write about this gem of an anime - and for good reason. Therefore so will I.
Welcome to the N.H.K. is based off a Japanese novel by Tatsuhiko Takimoto, which has also been released as a manga in 2004 and ended in 2007. (strangely enough the anime came out in 2006 inbetween that time) Perhaps because it was based on a novel - the story doesn't contain any real plot holes or fillers - it flows beautifully. (hmmm just like another gem Baccano! was based off a novel too... very interesting...) In fact,
it is one of the most smooth and genuine animes that I have yet seen. Normally with realistic animes (such as Monster) I find it very hard to stay interested... not so with N.H.K.
In episode one we are introduced to a hikikomori named Satou Tatsuhiro, a twenty-two year old college drop-out who has major panic attacks whenever he is around groups of people. He has gotten the idea that everything is a conspiracy, and that the N.H.K. (Nikon Hikikomori Kyokai - a Japanese television broadcasting company) are behind pretty much everything evil in the world including him being a NEET... (Not in Employment, Education or Training) ...aaaaand that's where I stop about the conspiracy business (God knows they explain it enough in the actual show ha ha) and move on to the characters.
The plot wouldn't be anything without the in-dept characters; and the fact that we are allowed to glimpse into their lives and experience what they feel and go through with almost brutal honesty... is amazing. Every character has a story to tell, and ALL their stories are, not only very well thought out and told, but touching, sad, and realistic too. (Except you have to hang in there til the end for Misaki's background story. I swear... I had almost given her up as a Lenalee ...ewww) They make you sit up as you recognize yourself or a friend or family member in them. They will not tell you happy stories no... but the realism takes your breath away. That's essentially what this anime is - a breath of fresh air.
Of course... it has bad points. The sloppy character animation frustrated me sometimes - but since it was mainly slice of life and human faces often contort during emotional times - I cut them some slack. (some) The contortion worked best in the humor moments. However, besides that small detail - the rest of the animation was good. I like how the backgrounds were so crisp and clear; so that it gave the impression that people were added in almost as an afterthought. (which was in line with the show's whole message basically of "what is the meaning of life" etc) I give kudos to whoever did set/background designs - Satou's and Yamazaki's apartments were amazing... I wish more sets were that original in set-up - it felt like you could just walk through the computer screen into them. Actually all the sets had that feel. (I know I keep using the adjective *realistic* to describe NHK - but that's what it is.)
Now onto the sound... which I gave a 9 for good reason. The original pieces were amazing and I want to get the whole soundtrack for the first time. (normally I just pick and choose the good tracks) All the pieces were distinctive and definitely memorable and hyped up the emotion in each scene. They also incorporated Japanese rock and some pop - which in my opinion worked very, very well. The OP is unusual, creepy, strange etc... (more animation-wise than the actual song) but it completely fits the show's mood. The first ending song was amazing - the first time I'm really seen such a sadist, comic song used. (but once again, it totally fit and worked) Half-way through the show, they changed endings to suit the definite sober change in mood, seeing as the first ED wouldn't have suited it at all. VA wise... they weren't outstanding - yet everyone's voices fit their character (my favorite performance would probably be Daisuke Sakaguchi as Yamazaki) so definitely no complaints there.
If you're like me - and enjoy an anime that doesn't back down in the face of realism - that freely consults, assaults, and questions enigmas like: "Why we should matter anyway?" Then this is the anime for you. However, be warned that the dreaded monsters called "hentai" and even one called "Purin" rear their naked heads in this show... beware episode 3 *shudder* (ALRIGHT >.>" I admit it was pretty funny though...) RANDOM SIDE NOTE: The most hilarious arc was the online gaming arc. (I mean wth what else could you do but laugh?!)
But but but! if you're a happy, smiley type of person who can't bear to think that people would be miserable enough to consider disposing of themselves - then stay clear. This show isn't about happy, pink sparkles - it's about real life issues that people really face every single stinking day.
All-in-all I think this just might be going on my top 5 anime list. 24 episodes is just enough to tell the story - and the ending is one of the best anime endings. It's not cheesy or unnecessary - it just seems RIGHT - and I'm sure if you watch it you'll agree. It makes you think... it doesn't hand you the answer on a silver platter like some animes do.