What has this?
Got to do with this?
The answer is: Nothing.
The anime version of the story is the best.
The light novel is average.
The manga is atrocious.
The NHK anime has an unrealistic premise playing out in a plausible manner. The premise is the same as that many other anime and manga like Sundome, Oh my Goddess, Video Girl Ai and I think the first of its kind was a hentai OVA about a sucumbus coming out of a computer or something but I can’t remember its name. It is a pretty flimsy uneralistic premise I must admit but the premise is not the show- it is the execution that matters. Welcome to the NHK was originally a light novel by Tatsuhiko Takimoto which was then subsequently adapted into two very different manga and anime adaptations. The premise of the show like in all those shows I have mentioned above is that of a beautiful girl coming to save some loser from himself and his own laziness and lack of initiative. What makes NHK better than all these other shows is that the angel like girl actually has a motive of her own for helping Satou, the protagonist of this show.
We are introduced to the protagonist in all three adaptations with a monologue by protagonist to the home appliances in his one room(8-tatami?) apartment about a conspiracy by the NHK(Japanese Broadcasting Corporation run by the government with TV license fees) to turn Japan’s young men into otakus(geeks) by airing anime with cute girls. The conspiracy delusion aspects are poorly explored in all adaptations even though though they make a great way of introducing the main character Satou by showing how delusional he is even though it turns out he doesn’t actually believe in the conspiracy himself. The conspiracy also plays a key part in the ending to the point that it kind of feels that the author forgot about the conspiracy but then found a neet way(get it?) to incorporate it in the ending. It was a really good opportunity lost but I admit that if it had done so then it would have bitten more than it can chew and would have had to abandon the otaku documentary.
Despite at times feeling episodic by exploring too many negative aspects of otaku culture conseucutively in a short period of time, the anime version is the best version.
The ending, well what happens before and after the climax, is what feels the most plausible when the protagonist is forced by hunger to work in construction to earn a living because he wasted every other opportunity and when he settles into this new life and it isn’t that devastating, that’s when all the delusions and hopes melt in the air which makes it most satisfying. The protagonist’s friend who lives next door, Yamazaki, also has a similar arc, and some very interesting lines too, also feels
In many ways NHK is the ‘anti-dream’ anime showing that what people and especially otakus really desire can’t be achieved through success alone but through companionship of some kind. Satou was the happiest when he was fooling around with Yamazaki and Misaki(the main girl) and Satou’s childhood friend and Yamazaki finally found peace when they got married(well in the anime and the light novel anyway). The characters in NHK are both funny and sad because it is funny when their outlandish schemes and dreams fail.
The animation of this show is not that good. Characters can sometimes be off model but fortunately this kind of show doesn’t require that much animation as it’s mostly characters sitting around occasionally being funny and perverted.
In the manga they never show what happens after Satou decides to get a job in the creative industries while going back to live with his parents basically as a freelance writer selling his writing for nothing, like yours truly, so the ending feels hollow not hopeful.
The motives of the girl helping the guy are never explored and characters such as Yamazaki’s girlfriend act just out of character. The girl especially feels too much like a plot device. The manga wastes too much time on the side stories when it can’t afford to due to its length and then rushes the ending trying to end it on an artificially hopeful tone that is not convincing at all and makes you wonder what was the point of all this.
Thematically, the difference between the anime and the manga is that the manga implies but does not outright say that the problem is part of the solution while the anime doesn’t see things this way at all. The light novel is neutral. The problem of course is anime and the culture around it. The anime is more convincing but the manga could have made a good case too had it not wasted too much time on melo-drama. Actually instead of a stand-alone story revisiting the events of the novel and anime it may have been better as a continuation of sorts.
The manga contradicts the ‘anti-dream’ message of the anime by having Satou end up being some sort of Shounen character striving towards something but it is never shown if this gets him anywhere or not or if this gets him what he wanted. The implied message of the anime is pretty much that what people need is relationships and that lofty dreams that are often undefined (Yamazaki and Satou wanted to be sucessful at anything, they didn’t even know what they wanted) don’t lead anywhere to get people what they want. The few who are able to live off of their hobbies shoud not be imitated according to the anime, as Yamazaki asks Satou ‘Do you really want that kind of life-style?’ When Satou tried to make a living by playing video games. The image conjured up in Satou’s mind(which is the second image at the top) of a thirty year old himself who has spent all his time trying to make a living by playing vidya but has failed. The manga simply fails to provide a counter argument to this view even though that is what it attempts to do by having the protagonist try to get a job by working at home or something. I am not saying it could not be done. Heck, that is what I am trying to do as well, but the reality is not presented as it is as the manga ends on a suspiciously positive note. If I try to put in another way it’s just like sports manga always end up being propaganda for the sport presenting it as the best thing ever without ever making the protagonists the losing side.
The Light Novel
The Light Novel does not suffer from the many problems that the manga suffers, like the characters especially the girl being constantly re-written but it suffers from the opposite that the anime does, it feels one-note, a lot of arcs and in the anime. One thing that the light novel had which the anime did not have is that the main character was actually taking drugs so him being delusional sometimes was excused while in the anime it kind of came out of nowhere.
Actually only the main character gets any proper characterization mainly through his internal monologues. Well, it is a light novel. The girl doesn’t get any proper characterization and her motives just make sense but that’s the anime too.
The light novel, unfortunately, didn’t have any illustrations other than the book cover. I like the illustrations in light novels, sue me. The light novel ends on a similar note to the anime but failed to leave an impression on me as the characters seemed like ghosts in the main character’s mind without having a presence in the actual world. Actually I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had gotten a ‘this was all a dream’ pretentious ending.
Final thoughts and Scores
I honestly can’t think of how to improve the anime other than improving the animation. The manga just wasted too much time and then ended too abruptly and the one-shot light novel was too short to fully explore the concepts. What I am going to say next is probably going to enrage people who watched this show but I think that a sequel could be done to this show. I know, I know, why spoil a perfect ending? Well, I would like to see the protagonist improving himself. It would be a boring slice of life series though, so I guess it’s not a good idea. I am a sucker for character development and romance. I mean I am sure I can find plenty of romance fan fiction but that isn’t what I want. The otaku aspects still need to come in here and there and it must all be plausible not like the manga which does in fact read like fan fiction.
I give this anime an 8/10
The manga is a 4/10
And the Light Novel is 5/10
Genshiken: It’s about a bunch of otakus in a university club exploring different aspects of otaku culture. It’s a slice of life(nothing happens) so it’s not my cup of tea but it’s a good intro into otaku culture for normies and unexperienced otaku which doesn’t romanticize its content or drown itself in self-deprecating humour to deflect legitimate criticism(as otaku often do).
Otaku no video: A part mock-documentary and part unrealistic empowerement fantasy of some dude creating an anime studio. Otaku no video(and to a lesser extent the first season of Genshiken) hasn’t aged that well as otaku culture has changed, for example we don’t have that many that many millitary otaku around and the mecha genre has all but dissappeared and few people keep let alone build robot figurines. Anime has become more mainstream. So it may not serve as a good introduction into otaku culture nonetheless it is a time capsule of otaku culture back in the 90s and 80s but let’s be honest that was never the intention of otaku no video, it’s intention was a bunch otakus poking fun at otaku’s for their lack of social skills and for their fantastic, childish and often perverted self-empowerement fantasies and I think it still succeeds at doing that.
Evangelion: The other famous anti-escapist anime. I don’t know. Is it just me or is it hypocritical to use anime and novels which are escapism to preach anti-escapism? Shouldn’t an anit-escapist message necessarily be anti-anime and anti-fictin?I know you might say that I am putting the cart before the horse, after all it is not the fault of anime and manga that otaku end up antitsocial losers, it is the fault of otaku and geeks that they end up however they do and blaming it on anime is in fact putting the blame on someone else for one’s own faults but..but…but (wags index finger) would it be really honest to say that anime and manga and novels and vidya for that matter don’t contribute to this?
Manga Vol 1 Cover
No human beings, regardless of who they might be, want to look directly at their own shortcomings.”
“Don’t you understand? Listen carefully to what I’m saying. If you do, you’ll get it. you can grasp this easily. In short…in short, I shut myself in because I’m lonely. Because I don’t want to face any more loneliness, I shut myself away.”
“However, the largest source of rage is his own cowardice.
He is poor because he lacks the skill with which to earn money. He has no girlfriend because he lack charisma. But the process of seeing this truth and acknowledging his own incompetence requires quite a bit of courage. No human beings, regardless of who they might be, want to look directly at their own shortcomings.”
“We wanted to smile casually and happily each day; we wanted to enjoy a normal, average, invigorating daily life. The incomprehensibly rough waves of fate have made it impossible, though—so, cry in despair! We really wanted to be useful to everyone, to be respected by everyone, to live in harmony with everyone. Now, though, we’re lolicon hikikomori—so, cry in despair! You must cry!”
“In actuality, there’s nothing to do about a useless, recurring depression. A person could become disconsolate or angry. Even if they’re enraged enough to punch something, they won’t find a target. A huge organization. . . They wish that some huge, evil organization existed. That becomes our dream…
Terrible things inundate the world. This world is wrapped in complex, messed-up, senseless, and incomprehensible misfortune and sadness.”
“In my heart, I really do long for that kind of drama because there is truth in those television shows. Because there’s the introduction, development, turn, and resolution; there’s an explosion of emotions, and there’s the conclusion. . . On the other hand, our lives continually are filled with dim, dreamy anxiety, and there are no easily understood dramas, situations, or confrontations—nothing at all like that. . . Isn’t that sort of absurd? I’m twenty, and you’re twenty-two, Satou. Even so, we’ve never really loved anyone, hated anyone, fought as a result of love or hate, or had any of those experiences at all. It’s terrible!”
“I just kept thinking and thinking, ‘what are we missing?’ There’s something missing from us. There’s a big hole in our chests, so I wanted something to fill that hole. I wanted something to make me content. That’s it. Yesterday, our religious observation reinforced my meditation on the subject. Everyone is uncertain. In this incomprehensible world, we want to be ordered around by someone else, and that’s why we made God. The dual antagonism between God and Satan explains the world more easily. You see? That strong, simple story! I honestly was affected!”
“Those who believe will be saved! We must make something we ourselves can believe in order to bring meaning to our lives! And the meaning will be how we live on with our incredible new religion!”
“Come on, what idiot could have come up with such a stupid scenario?
It was me. I was the very person who had written the original outline for the story.
I grew sad. It was a bittersweet sadness, because I thoroughly understood the scenario of the game: Soldiers taking a stand against evil.
This had been our exact desire; we had wanted to fight an evil organization; we had wanted to fight villains. If a war had broken out, we would have joined the JSDF36 right away and launched kamikaze attacks. That definitely would have been a meaningful way to live and an attractive way to die. Had there been villains in the world, we would have battled them. Fists raised in the air, we would have fought. There was no mistake about it.
There weren’t any villains, though. The world was just complicated in various ways, and there weren’t any obvious villains to be found. It was excruciating.”
“The world has become rather convenient. If you go to a convenience store, food, drinks, cosmetics… Even cellphones are sold. But they don’t sell relationships there.”
“I have created a chart that shows the ratio between pain and fun in file. It is evident from this that fun things, things that make life worth living… Those kinds of happy occurrences make up less than ten percent of a person’s life. People who believe in God say this world was created by God. Therefore, this world of pain and struggle was created by God. The God who created such a miserable world cannot be a good person. God is evil. There’s no doubt about it. Since God is evil, he does mean things. That’s why I know what I have to do about it. I just have to defeat God. This world would probably transform into something wonderful if such a mean God vanished. The problem is… I don’t know where God is, much less how to defeat him. Unlike the others, I can’t believe in God, since I have a poor imagination. If an extravagant miracle occurred before my eyes like in the Bible… Then I would be able to believe in God. If I had faith, I could blame all the bad things on God. Then I’d be sure it wasn’t my fault…”
“I’m a NEET, you say? That’s ridiculous. Don’t tell me I haven’t talked to anyone in almost a year…And on top of that, a college dropout and unemployed? And the fact I’ve already lost hope in the future? What kind of story is that? “Are you okay?” Of course I’m ok! I am… If I could cure my hikikomori self by praying, I wouldn’t be struggling as much as I am now.”
“Our lives will always be…filled with a vague uncertainty.”
“People like us aren’t qualified to be involved in a dramatic incident such as a suicide. No matter how depressed you are or how much pain you’re in, you have to return to your routine, daily life. Even if you don’t come back, you’ll just end up dying in vain. A dramatic death isn’t befitting of us.”
“It’s natural for a person to deny he’s a failure as a human being. That’s why he searches for somebody who is more miserable than himself. That’s why so much animosity exists on the internet. Those who aren’t able to find a more miserable person, turn to the internet and call other people losers, even though they’ve never met. Just to make themselves feel superior. isn’t that pathetic? There’s a sense of security that comes from speaking badly of someone else. But that isn’t true salvation.”
“People who neglect to make efforts or who don’t take any actions at all are always the ones who dream that someday they will suddenly become wildly successful.”
“Because of our broken instincts, we are in pain. We continue living in pain, because our instincts are twisted by reason. So, what are we supposed to do? should we abandon knowledge? Throw away reason? In any event, that wouldn’t be possible. For better or for worse, we ate the fruit of knowledge long, long ago.”
“In the real world they always talk about love and friendship, but in fact it is merely a filthy world formed of mutual self-interests and illusion!”
“Even if there was a god, he’d probably be too evil to help us out anyway…”
“Romantic love is a trap designed to expand capitalism.” — Kaoru Yamazaki
“It is not true, Satou! You are not a pebble on the side of the road, you’re a human being. That’s it, you’re made of flesh and blood, even if you are a failure … because you see, I finally found a human being … [crying] even more bleak and pointless than me, a hikikomori more miserable than a stray dog. I need you, Satou, I need you! So … so you … you can not die, Satou, do not die!”
“Feelings of romantic love are, in the end, just some chemical reaction. Under the right conditions, they occur no matter who the other person is. ”
“This is a conspiracy”- Tatsuhiro Satou
“Cats look like they’re okay… At any time, any place. Even if they’re alone…”
“Right now you’re nothing but an ugly, pathetic, filthy, pervert.”
“Guys like us aren’t allowed to have a dramatic death”
“Damnit Damnit Damnit Damnit Damnit !! Why does everyone just wanna f*ck me over and screw with my head?”
“I kinda filled my PC up with “reference materials””
“What to do from here on out, how to improve my life, I actually know the answer. I’ve read around two hundred books on self-improvement, I’ve even thought about writing one myself. I know everything. ”Then…why?” I’m scared. I’m scared of changing my way of life. If I do, I feel like something unexpected will occur. When my old man collapsed, no one told me to change my lifestyle. I know things can’t continue like this forever, but, I also want to remain like this. I don’t want to log out. Although I know it isn’t realistic, I keep thinking that suddenly, one day, a surprise will occur and everything will resolve itself”
“You feel anxiety because you feel you’re worth less than people around you. When you’re around people imagine they’re all inferior to you.”
Tatsuhiro Satō, a university dropout entering his fourth year of unemployment. He leads a reclusive life as a hikikomori, ultimately coming to the conclusion that everything that happened to him happened because of an evil conspiracy by the NHK(the equivalent of PBS or BBC if live in the UK), a conspiracy to create an army of lonely perverts by airing cute anime, and he comes to this conclusion after conversing with his fridge. Anyways the one who sets the plot to start is a girl mysterious girl called Misaki Nakahara, who claims to be able to cure Tatsuhiro of his hikikomori ways( Well,at first it might not make sense why she is trying to help him but then later on in the series we get to know what her ‘ulterior’ motives are,). However Satou does not turn to her for help but he turns himself to his otaku friend who falsely claims to hate 3D women due to some bad experience and who is also a weirdo himself although I would rather say that he is the one who makes more sense and who is more aware of how life works.
Welcome to the NHK is a dark-comedy about the meaninglessness of life. It’s funny, it’s funny to see the characters epically fail at their attempts to improve themselves. It’s a little bit perverted too especially the first few episodes but then I think that that maybe the way that the mind of a lonely 22 year old with social anxiety works. Most of the characters don’t feel like caricatures except the girl but then we get to know her reasons for wanting to help a lonely, filthy, hopeless pervert(moderately I would say). And then sometimes there is this hopelessness and listlessness that you might feel seen the characters in a comical and epical way. Well, I think that if you are in any way someone with social anxiety you will like this but even if you’re not affected by such a thing you’ll probably like it for it’s message about the meaninglessness of life seems pretty powerful for as Satou said “Our lives will always be…filled with a vague uncertainty.”You also might find yourself wanting the characters to succeed , seen them failing but not getting upset by it for when they fail, they fail epically. I also think that Satou’s belief in a silly conspiracy is also another way that he tries to cover up that uncertainty in life by creating an imaginary enemy, the one who is to be blamed for every misfortune in his life- both those that are his fault and those that are not.