So I finished watching Welcome to the NHK recently and it was just PURE AWESOME!
Based on the covers, if you think the anime is porn or hentai, you’ll be highly disappointed. That’s what I thought at first, but it wasn’t until Tera told me that Welcome to the NHK and Mushi-shi were the best 2 animes of 2007, that got me interested. Mushi-shi is another awesome anime which I haven’t had time to post my review yet. Looking around, it appears that Welcome to the NHK is about a NEET (not in education, employment or training) who is a hermit that hides in his apartment all day long. Somewhere down the line, he has come to the conclusion that there’s an organization called N.H.K. (basically the TV station’s name) that has a conspiracy to create hermits/NEETs and has sworn to take it down.
That was my assumption of the anime before I began watching it and boy was the anime SO MUCH MORE!
I’m going to take a step back and give you a little introduction that CrimsonAngel told me over my vacation. By the way, he got me this really cute deer (Japanese shrine charm), which I originally thought was a reindeer:
Back to CrimsonAngel, he’s currently doing his Masters in Japan and he did an essay on Otakus/Hikikomoris. Today, most Americans think otakus are people into anime, while other some people whole know a bit more assumes that otakus are hobbyists. However did you know the phrase お宅 (otaku) originally was a term used to mean you (honorific), your house, your home, your family? Later on, since the term could mean your home/house, it began to refer to people who would stay home all the time. His story continues with some serial killer loose in Japan and proclaimed himself to be an otaku. Even though the serial killer was caught, the term otaku had a very bad connotation associated to it and it wasn’t until recently when it became popular again. Nowadays, オタク (otaku) can refer to geeks, nerds, enthusiasts, basically someone who is very into something, and are most likely introverts or at least not very sociable.
The other term is 引きこもり (hikikmori) which means a shut-in, a stay-at-home, or people who withdraw from society. I’ve used the term hermit as I believe that’s our slang for it. Anyway, the story is about Satou, a hermit and how he overcomes hikikomori ways (oh, did I just ruin the ending?). He was a college dropout and after he was expelled from college, he basically became a hermit, living off what his parents transfered into his bank account every month. Misaki, the main female character appears soon with the intention of helping Satou get rid of his hikikomori ways. However, you learn very little of Misaki, but you can feel that her past is very painful. At first Satou of course denies he’s a hikikomori, but the first step to fix a problem is of course accepting the fact you have a problem.
The anime has it’s light moments, poking fun at the otaku/hikikomori culture, while it does have it’s very dark and deep moments that question the purpose of life itself, why do hikikomoris fear, how people get lost in fantasy role playing games (mmorpgs), how a child’s upbringing affects their view on life, why people commit suicide and what goes through their mind, etc.
Speaking of suicide, you’ve probably heard that it’s quite common for Japanese people to jump in front of trains to commit suicide. And you’ve probably heard that Japanese trains are really packed. Imagine the train conductor taking one of those riot shields and pushing people into the train. That’s how pack it is. Anyway, when someone kills themselves in front of a train, this causes major delays and problems on an already overloaded transportation system. Imagine thousands or ten thousands of people getting delayed 30mins because of your stunt. That’s a lot of lost time. That’s a lot of lost money. The train company will then send your parents a letter saying they’re sorry for your lost and a BILL for the damage/delay you’ve caused. Just imagine that! I’m not saying it’s a bad or good system. Someone has to be held accountable for it and I don’t blame the train company for holding the parents responsible.
Anyway, back to the anime. The story goes on as Misaki tries to help Satou, but curing hikikomori isn’t an overnight thing and it takes a lot of patience and I applaud Misaki for sticking it in there. However, it’s when you learn of Misaki’s true past, where you feel a very deep sadness and why she is trying to help Satou so much. Satou of course takes Misaki for granted. One thing you have to realize that is a hikikomori lifestyle isn’t sustainable without outside support, but getting a hikikomori to adapt to society is a very difficult task. All in all, I have to say Welcome to the NHK is a very touching roller coaster ride.