There exists something rare in this medium. In fact, its so rare, that only a handful of titles have managed to do this and still make the anime work. This trait is called realistic chemistry of characters. In a fictional work, it's virtually impossible to create relations so genuine, that it is almost frightening to experience when you do so. You are aware that what you're witnessing is made-up, but can't help comparing the characters' life to yours, as well as the struggles they encounter.
This is where Welcome to the NHK shines, and they don't hold back in making you feel like you are part of the story; while being unable to help those who are suffering. It's a terrible feeling, and if you're weak-hearted, I do not suggest you to watch this show: it's simply too powerful.
The setting of NHK is rather straight-forward: a guy lives in his room, away from society, and we get to see how he deals with new-found dilemmas; or, that's what they expect us to believe. In fact, it's nothing about that at all. The story develops into being much more about world conspiracies, proving how fake the world is, as well as the human condition when dealing with rejection and denial. We are brought into this world where everything seems to be against our protagonists, including their own families.
You can comprehend the story in two ways:
1. Mostly Comedic
2. Mostly Depressing
1. Many people believe that the humor that NHK holds is the bread-and-butter of the show, and thus cannot be taken too seriously. Like this, when the show is seen to be getting more serious, they treat this change of heart as dramatization. The problem with this way of thinking, is that it highly undermines the show itself. NHK has many comedic moments, which may or may not be understood as dark-comedy, or simply comic-relief. These people tend to state NHK as being over-dramatic and thus overrated.
2. The other group of people, including myself, see the basis of comedy as a minor genre of the show. However, this group sees the comedy as being dark, so it adds to the depressing overtone, instead of taking it away. Like this, I do not believe that NHK is dramatized at all, instead it's flavor being added. People more accustomed to anime are more likely to belong in this group, thus the show is recommendable to both newcomers as well as veterans of the anime community.
Getting that out of the way, as stated in the introduction, NHK places emphasis on world-conspiracies. They structured this very well, combining the male protagonists backstory with this train of thought. It deals with human psychology in ways very unique to anime, without including paragraphs of monologue which can be very irritating if done wrong or in excess. Everything betrays Satou, which is very depressing to watch. It's like watching a train that is heading towards a person, you know what's going to happen, and you feel powerless against it. While watching the show this feeling was so mutual, that I had to take breaks just to ease the pain.
The story is not perfect however. While being very realistic and innovative ,the ending was bittersweet. And not the kind of bittersweet of which you can walk away and say "Well, at least it was satisfying". They could have explored further into the relations of the characters, but what we got as what we got: a cliffhanger.
There were also many arcs in the story which felt very out-of-place and were slightly unnecessary in my opinion. In addition to this, the pacing was questionable at times, there were moments were I felt it was going too slow and fast respectively. But for the most time, the pacing was on-point.
A series cannot be made depressing without a great cast of likable characters. The way this works, is that the more likable a character is, the more painful it becomes when you watch them meet an obstacle. As stated at the introduction, the chemistry of the characters was so well done that I felt like I was eating a steak made of ice (bad jokes are bad). But seriously though, I couldn't believe my eyes; it was as if I was witnessing the lives of real humans, where every struggle and dilemma have a reasonable impact to the characters, as well as the audience. You felt so condensed with the characters that it was like you knew them for many years. So as a result you really don't want to see them get hurt.
I will now evaluate the characters individually:
He's your main male lead, and straight from the bat he's likable and highly relatable. He's the story's main focus, and we watch him deal with his everyday struggles as a hikikomori. ***SPOILERS***We witness him being rejected by him parents, almost commit suicide, become addicted to visual novels and RPG's, and living alone without any friends, suffering from day to day.***END OF SPOILER*** It's as if the viewer is Sato himself and you are experiencing his life through his eyes. How did they do this, you ask? I have no idea, but he is one of the best written characters I have ever witnessed.
She is the main female lead who, at the start, seems to be your everyday one-dimensional character. It's only until later in the story where we find out her backstory and thus we are able to dive deep into the psychology of her characterization. This is purposely done so that the emphasis is given to Satou instead, thus we can empathize with him first. The same technique was used with Misaki as her backstory was uncovering, and her presence became more necessary. Without including any spoilers, she makes the anime that much more depressing than it already was.
Of course, when I stated the chemistry being golden, it's between these two characters and the romance that follows. It's not your typical love-interest. The characters develop thoroughly throughout the length of the show, and this is done through struggles and leaps. *MINOR SPOILERS*Misaki tries to help Satou into getting out of the zone he finds himself to be in, while returning him back to society as an everyday functional human being.*END OF SPOILERS* Their meeting was purely coincidental, but the anime portrays this coincidence as fate, rather than chance.
The side characters are few and far between, but most of them play a large role in the story. I will not talk about these characters individually, because they introduce themselves later in the story, but what I can tell you is that, for the most part, they are not trouped. They have they own struggles and developments, and do not exist as a means of comic relief, for the most part.
However, there are a few side characters that are more useless than not, and can be quite irritating to watch. A key example is Kobayashi Megumi who was not pleasurable to listen to and had no real purpose for existing.
Art & Animation: 5
Sadly this is were NHK falls, and boy does it fall. For the most part, NHK's art is on-par with the anime at the time, and was relatively fluid, although lacking detail. BUT, there were episodes were the quality decreases so much ,its ridiculous. We have no detail here, literally stick-men. Gladly these episodes were a minority; but the consistency is inexcusable.
THOSE TRUMPETS. THOSE GLORIOUS TRUMPETS. The opening of NHK was wonderful and highly nostalgic. It fits the tone of the anime second to none, and I am glad they did not change it (although the trumpets were removed for some odd reason). The first ending song was unique and intelligent, showing off the dark humor, as well as the psychological aspect of the show very well. The second ending was fantastic, as it was sang by the same artist who performed the opening, and thus had a similar vibe to it.
The voice acting was excellent: exactly what you would expect when watching an anime in Japanese, but I cannot say the same for the English dub, since I have not watched it.
The OST sadly did not stand out to me as much as everything else. There were a few songs that were fantastic, but these were played too many times throughout the length of the show, which is a shame, because you tend to notice these things when watching NHK.
I loved this show, but because it was so depressing to watch, I did not want to see what would happen next due to the pain of experiencing something so genuinely saddening. The huge lack of budget in terms of animation/art as well as overused OST's decreased the value of enjoyment as well, but these are nitpicks. The ending was not complete to my liking, but was still a fantastic closure nevertheless.
A fantastic show that is highly nostalgic. I would only recommend this to those who can handle watching 'tragedies'. If by ANY MEANS you have a weak heart when watching depressing shows, PLEASE skip this one, unless you're watching just for comedic purposes. Otherwise, simply enjoy the brilliance that is NHK, which in my opinion, is one of the best non-monologue-inducing psychological titles anime has to offer.
Thank you for reading my review! RedInfinity out.