Shutting yourself in your room is so tempting. Nobody talks to you; nobody harasses you and most importantly nobody judges you. Finally peace and quiet down that pool of chaos that we call our mind. But that, as many things, is something temporary.
Welcome to life! Get ready for the best and biggest journey you’ll ever have. Meet Satou Tatsuhiro. This guy will accompany you on your trip. Or actually, you will be accompanying him on his trip. Satou is 22 year old and is an amusing character with idiotic quirks. You’d probably want to know that Satou has shut himself in his room for the past three years and is rapidly approaching the fourth one. He lives in a one-room apartment; doing things completely on his own including cooking, watching TV and being lonely. He also likes playing erotic videogames and is doing drugs.
Would you still like to accompany Satou on his trip? It’s okay, you don’t have to. It’s understandable if you think that all those things he does is disgusting and not acceptable as a normal functioning human being. So let me ask this one important question: What IS normal?
Welcome to the NHK! centers around this one question. No doubt that you and everyone around you has wondered what is acceptable and normal in this world to do so that nobody will think you’re weird. That’s human nature. No one wants to come across as somebody weird that can’t function in society. No one wants to be at the mercy of others, constantly in need of help. But at the same time, we all need help. Even something petty and small like feeling lonely can’t be overcome by one single person and could turn into a vast problem.
Satou doesn’t understand that. So what he does is something that many people would do when it all gets too complicated: shut himself in. Physically and mentally. This is what this manga is all about. Either go with the flow and live your life by the rules of society, or be an outsider and do things your way. But the thing is for Satou, it’s not a choice, he’s forced to live alone in his apartment. Not because somebody told him to, even worse, he told himself he had to. He can’t live by the rules of society. Problems like not being able to talk normally to strangers arise when trying to get a job are seriously huge rocks in his life that hinders his way. He does not choose to be an outsider and live with all these problems he didn’t ask for. He wanted to have a normal life, with a normal job and normal people around him. And it didn’t happen. Getting something so normal, so plain that many people in this world have, is so unbelievable difficult for a shut-in like Satou. And now he’s stuck in his own apartment, getting addicted to it and is rotting away.
And then there comes an angel. A savior, somebody who cares about you and thoroughly believes that you deserve a normal life. You deserve those things that other people get to have. Her name is Nakahara Misaki. An 18 year old girl who’s strangely interested in oddballs like Satou. The two meet when she and her grandma knocked on his door to talk about religion. She knew something was going in there and she wanted to help by providing Satou counseling. But why? Why would a young female stranger help somebody who has shut himself away from society? The answer is as simple as getting a feeling of self-worth.
Misaki is not different from Satou, only that she thoroughly realizes her problem and does something about it, albeit in a dubious manner. She helps Satou simply because she wants to help herself. Her feelings of defeat, hatred and resentment all flushes down through Satou and she regains new strength. In a way, she’s using Satou to make herself feel better. But is that normal? Satou is already in a position where he can’t go lower much further so any help is appreciated. And if it means that the other party gets to feel better, it’s a nice bonus. The action is what matters, not the thought behind it. Or is it?
The series makes you wonder about Misaki’s actions. It makes you realize that she’s just another human being with problems and trying to solve them. The interaction between Satou and Misaki is truly remarkable. Satou is the kind of character which you can easily relate to. Because his problems are so common, although in a less extreme form with most people, you can put yourself easily in his shoes and understand what he’s going through. This puts you at a position of a judge. You’re perceiving Misaki’s actions through Satou’s eyes while formulating your own opinion about it in your head. The manga does not tell you directly what is wrong or right, you simply see things through Satou’s eyes. And because the writer of the manga created Satou in a way that he’s in a low position and as such does not give you a solid opinion of his own, you are free to interpret the story in your own way.
Too bad that the story itself is not so special. Great characters create great stories. But in this case, it is not the case. Do not expect a manga about the psychological problems of a person shutting himself away from society. That is simply not it. All the characters are open, some are funny and some are sad but never does it take you to the depths of the human mind. The story is almost that of a slice of life series. There is no common thread through the story, events just happen because they happen. There is no goal where the characters work towards and therefore marks when the series is supposed to end. There are simply just some characters with problems and things occur. Not too deep and definitely not too shallow. It’s just that the story does not impress overall. You’re waiting to see the characters, to see how they will develop and how they will interact with each other. And therefore, you’re seeking an unfolding story to act as a playground for those things. It’s almost as if the events in the manga happen at random without the will of the writer, maybe it’s intentional but it’s probably not.
Welcome to the NHK! is a manga like none other. It’s classified as a romance series combined with some humor. If it were to have a label that’s just right for this manga, it would be ‘’fun psychological problems’’. It will never talk about the deep aspects of human psychological problems of shutting yourself away from society, but it does talk about what those problems do with you on a global scale. And with humor, something very important to note. The characters will make you instantly fall in love with them. Satou is just the nice guy next door with some problems and Misaki is not necessarily a complex characters but does make you think about her actions. And those two ultimately mix together amazingly well in a manga with an okay story and solid art.
They say desperate times ask for desperate measures. Those times may not come often, but when they do, they show which choices truly matter.