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For Those Who Like Their Comedy Twisted
on August 20, 2009
There are some anime properties that you really can't imagine working in any other medium. Sure anime is very closely related to its manga cousin but comics fail to deliver when things really get zany and personable. Welcome to the N-H-K is exactly one such property. It's so unique on so many levels that it's actually hard to believe it came out of the typically conservatively regarded Gonzo studios. But before we get ahead of ourselves here, let's take a look at the hard facts.
Originally released by ADV Films, Funimation has recently acquired the rights to the show and has wasted little time in getting a Complete Series release out to the public. Coming in at a total runtime of 600 minutes, Welcome to the N-H-K the Complete Series spans 4 discs and comes packaged as a pair of thin packs within a cardboard slipcase.
The show wears an appropriate TV MA (17+) rating, which is surprising should you base the show on the previews alone (a more accurate depiction of what's in store would be to check out the cover art and its foaming can of beer, pair of scantily clad women, and lead character looking slightly neurotic).
Language options are typical sub & dub meaning the option of original Japanese dialog track (stereo) or an English dub (5.1 Dolby Surround) and English subtitles available under either language choice.
Extras are limited to textless songs and a host of Funimation trailers.
I'll do my best to summarize the story without giving away any spoilers. The viewer is introduced to Sato, a college dropout who has just about had all he can take of society. So withdrawn from society is our hero that he locks himself up in his dreary apartment where his very grip on reality is becoming more and more twisted by the day.
His own delusions coupled to his lack of outside contact result in his becoming convinced that he is the subject of a vast conspiracy designed keep him under wraps by the secretive agency known as the N-H-K.
Like most mentally ill individuals, being a delusion-suffering recluse results in a twist of incredible fortune when a friendly, pretty, and just generally good hearted young lady named Misaki shows up one day out of the blue with intentions of getting old depressed Sato back into society.
The lead character pair ends up becoming a trio once the loud-music bumping neighbor of Sato's (and an old high-school pal, it turns out) joins the fray. In all this unlikely team makes it their mission to rehabilitate the ever-degenerating mental and social health of Sato through a sort of long and drawn out intervention.
Believe it or not, this is a comedy anime title despite what you may have figured after reading the summary. It's based on a novel, which although I haven't had the pleasure of reading personally, can't possibly capture the oddity and personality that the anime just relishes in around every corner.
The core of the show alternates between a cityscape reality and the hallucinations of Sato, which sometimes border on sexual fantasies. I should note that there is no real nudity involved in said scenarios, but rather provocative outfits and a bit of suggestive dialog. It is the language that earns this show a majority of its MA rating here in the US.
A lot of the show's charm stems from the age-old gag of presenting a fairly "out there" conspiracy theory that can never fully be dismissed by the viewer. The show's creative team does a great job painting a lead character who is clearly suffering from social dysfunction although there are moments along the way where you can't help but wonder if indeed some other forces (like a top-secret agency for example) aren't at play.
The biggest problem I had with the show is that it lacks consistency in nearly sense of the term. There are some genuinely funny moments but they are few and far between. There are some intriguing psychological undertones that slip away to cheap attempts at humor. There are some nice textures and visuals on occasion but more often than not you'll be looking at art that simply gets the job done. About the only aspect of this program that holds steady is the soundtrack, which includes some smooth melodies and catchy J-Pop numbers throughout.
The acting work is solid in both language options, with the Japanese dialog squeaking into the top-spot thanks to a female actor ensemble that feel almost custom tailored to the material.
In all, this is definitely not a show for everyone, nor is the silly/ goofy type of light-hearted romp that previews suggest. It's really a tragic tale if you allow yourself to look beyond the bright visuals and giddy personalities that make up the superficial. Pacing is nice and swift even if the show does struggle at times to firmly establish itself into a genre.