Goodbye to the NHK!

December 28, 2006 at 5:20 am (Anime)

I’m writing this from my family’s home in Virginia. It’s pretty warm for Christmas (or “Athiest Children Get Presents Day” as we call it in some of my circles) here, but one of the things I look forward to about my Virginia vacations is the nice weather (compare Cleveland), so it works out.

Vacation or no, I am not deprived of my anime (though annoyingly I don’t have the right codecs here to watch Gundam Note), which brings me to something a bit more topical: My Welcome to the NHK! wrap-up.

I’ve gone back and forth on Welcome to the NHK! Sometimes, I thought the dark comedy really worked. It seemed to work best when Satou and Misaki were on screen at the same time, but I think that’s basically because Satou and Misaki’s dynamic is one of the only really interesting things in the show.

A lot of people seemed to think the show was not really better than the manga, or that the manga was way better, or something. So I read the manga, up to what was available at the time, which brought me through the MMO and Amway arcs to a place where I think the story diverged from what is in the anime. Actually I thought the manga failed and succeeded in most of the same places as the anime (up to that point at least), and all things being even I prefer moving pictures.

The most boring parts of this show, for me, were the MMO and Amway arcs (they were boring in the manga too). The MMO arc was particularly bad, and it seemed like it was mostly there to try and capitalize on the fan culture by going “haha, see: MMO jokes! haha RMT!” instead of doing something actually funny. The Amway arc just made me groan. The class prez. and her brother were introduced, but they didn’t really play a huge role in the story, so it was all a little extraneous. Also the animation in the middle of the show flagged. These arcs were also a big interruption to Satou and Yamazaki’s game production, which I just kept losing track of because it seemed like it was always going on in the background. I think if they’d been cut out entirely, and the game production had been worked more smoothly into its own arc instead of a background b-plot, the show would have felt much cleaner and held my attention better.

The Suicide Island arc was probably my favorite part of Welcome to the NHK!. It was hilarious how Satou’s sempei pulled the total 180, and it had the great scene with Misaki parodying what would be a more traditional (I wub you!) climax. That whole arc, actually, does a great job of playing up the central irony of the story: that Satou, the hikkikomori, is actually LESS crazy than many of his friends. The other part of this irony that I wish they had played on more, was that Satou, who is supposed to be pathetic, has at least two (I’m not convinced the class prez doesn’t belong on the list as a third) women who want his balls.

Misaki seems to fill in a really classic moè niche: she’s almost entirely dependent on Satou, but doesn’t want to admit it, and still tries to act like she is the dominant one in their relationship when she so clearly is not. The very essence of tsundere? While (amusingly, I thought, when I read all this head-scratching about HIKKIKOMORI HOW CAN THIS BE?!) cutting off his allowance gets Satou out of his house, Misaki is really the key to his development into a more functional person. There’s a beautiful role reversal between Satou and Misaki in the show, that pervades from a parallel suicide attempt, to the touch at the end of the show where Satou now teaches Misaki.

All in all, Welcome to the NHK! was only okay. It had a lot of potential that was suffocated by a lack of focus. I only half blame this on Gonzo (this is what happens when you try to port manga directly to animation, without making enough changes); I think I blame the rest on the mangaka. I would kind of like to read the novels that are the original source; I’m curious how it has changed through these repeated adaptations. If I could remake this anime, I’d do it with a chainsaw; cut out the unnecessary story arcs, wrap the galge story into its own arc, and focus on:
1. Reflecting the other characters against Satou, to highlight the irony of their relative disfunctions.
and 2. Satou developing forward, rather than stagnating; he does this, but because of the way it’s presented it’s not terribly obvious.
Oh, and they should never have gotten rid of the first ED; it rocked the cock.

There’s a good anime in there, but it’s not the one they made. Still, it had its moments, and was not unworth the time I put into watching it. The last episode was very good (it had the first ED as insert song!!!) and made up a lot of lost points.

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1 Comment

  1. Peter Burd said,

    I hated the first ED. But when they brought it back for Satou’s sprint to suicide moment it worked very well. The second ED was no improvement, however.

    I get the opening tune stuck in my head sometimes.

    Yea, some flaws, but I’m glad I stuck with it.

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