It’s an inherent contradiction that I could utterly loathe the cast and yet recommend it. Make no mistake Welcome to the NHK is a chilling cautionary tale still relevant today as it was in 2006. It’s merits lie not with making you cheer for the protagonist, it’s merits lie in giving you a chilling look into what it is like to be a hikikormori or have to deal with one. Much romanticism has surrounded High School in anime but NHK goes in the opposite direction citing how animu aloofness in reality does not get you the girls instead it retards your social development and perpetuates a kind of arrogance that makes one useless in society.
While Sato is seemingly the lowest form of life on the planet he is still capable of arrogance in believing that there is a conspiracy that is out to get him specifically. His condition is quite contemptible he was lucky to have been born in a stable country, having seen how some people are born in places that have much much less his suffering pales in comparison, and not only because it is self inflicted. There is in my family a Sato and when he grows to be fifty I have no doubt in my mind that he will live out Sato’s nightmare as some MMO addicted fat body living off the sweat of those older than himself. The similarities for me are striking and only added to my loathing and hate, and likely gave me much more vitriol as a result.
Also at the time I was watching Kuragehime which also dealt with hikikomori albeit in a lighter manner. So as a result much of the hate I felt for Sato carried over to Kuragehime where most of Nunz were living just as parasitically. I remember getting into a debate of sorts about how harmful/benign the existence and habits of NEETs and Hikikomori are, those who felt sympathetic pointed out how hikikomori do not hurt anyone. I am not of that opinion even when they are shut in their rooms growing fat off the junk food they eat while indulging in luxuries that someone else pays for they are still hurting some one else, because the people that make all their luxury items are not pulling 40,000 USD a year on a forty hour work week. No to mention that the people providing this support might as well be reciting a Dream Deferred while they dole out the tribute. Supporting a worthless hikikomori is expensive and burden to the person who dares to take in such a sorry sack of shit. People who don’t work for a living will probably have some sympathy or even empathy with Sato. After all who wouldn’t like to sit at home all day growing absurdly large in girth, destroy their teeth, and play games while their parents work themselves to death in a vain hope that it is simply a phase?
If you have had to work a day in your life you will probably despise Sato most of all. The story of Sato is a most dreadful one and serves nicely as a cautionary tale for those who are arrogant enough to think they are too good to do labor and waste their time in higher education instead of getting that degree. I find Sato to be quite galling, he was lucky to be born in to a decent family in a decent country only to waste his good fortune by hiding in a hole blaming some conspiracy for his misfortune. Having seen extreme poverty else where in the world and watching people suffer long hazardous journeys only to be turned away from my home country only hardens my attitude since those with even less try harder than most hikikomori do. Those people suffer because they were not so lucky as Sato at birth, and yet he moans of his misfortune languishes in his self pity while those less fortunate go hungry while Sato gets his fill, smokes his cigarettes, and drinks his beer. It is hardly fair and for me to have to help support our very own Sato while he wastes away his days playing free to play RPGs makes my blood boil.
NHK does not offer any real easy solutions to the Sato case, and the author who wrote the book lived that life. I like how there is no epiphany no easy answer since it was a range of factors that led Sato to be the loser that he is. I find it hard to not have any drive in life I find it strange to have no dream to aspire to or a goal to attain. I am sure every one has a childhood dream of some sort, mine was to be among other things a fighter pilot but that got shot to hell in 5th grade when I learned I was visually impaired and at the time there was no corrective surgery as there is now. The death of one dream does not mean that one should stop dreaming or aiming for something else. Moreover it takes a special kind of sucker to buy into pyramid schemes for if it is too good to be true it probably is. Maybe I grew up when hard work meant something, I have no idea what they teach now parents and teachers both but when I was young if I wanted something I had to earn it.
Another thing that irked me was this defeatist attitude that pain was something worth cowering from. Pain is important; physical pain alerts you to danger, emotional pain is proof that you still yet have a heart, and as Master Asia once asked, “What is the meaning of victory if one has not suffered?” Nothing in life is going to be easy pain is inevitable if one least aspires to make something of him/herself. Even if the rest of the cast have issues at least they all tried harder than Sato. Hitomi tried to get help, and she got it, she felt she had nothing to live for and yet found something and moved the fuck on. Moreover she did not withdraw from society despite feeling ostracized. Yamazaki despite being arrogant and a coward in love at least tried to make his dreams come true even if he was never cut out for it more over he struck out on his own and was not rely on parental handouts to survive. While birds of a feather flock together Sato by far fell the farthest, and while being overly conscious about what others say in High School is understandable by the time you are an adult you should be able to shrug off insults and give those people a one finger salute. If you are that thin skinned then truly you have lived a charmed life and to be honest if that is the worst you have ever endured then I dare say what ever you have suffered through is but a fraction of what every enlisted member goes through in basic training and minuscule when compared to those who live in poverty.
I am not too overly hung up on Misaki’s black intentions when she helps Sato out of a need to give her own flagging self-esteem a crutch. I do not feel joy at seeing those less fortunate than myself I cannot understand why having a Sato would be good for my self image but I can identify with the value Misaki places upon a written contract. Purity if intent matters little since Sato was going to be worse off without her given his lack of skills and late entry into employment. If only she devoted her efforts to someone a lot more worthy. If there is one thing I can say I liked about Welcome to the NHK is that the conspiracy theory is pretty much debunked and lampooned. The NHK Conspiracy to make Sato unhappy and hikiko is laughable at best. I hate how there seem to be so many people willing to blame their misfortune on “society” or “the man.” Plots are being hatched and executed all the time but they are not as petty as to keep one person down. I like how it Sato being Sato was because of his own ineptitude, irresponsibility, and cowardice. I literally cheered when Miya turned out to be Yamazaki using a handle during that glorious riff on MMOs.
Welcome to the NHK for me is highly recommended if only as nightmare fuel for those still in college and high school. Good times do not always last and the Sato at 50 scene should be seen by all who watch anime so that the cautionary tale can be seared into one’s memory. I like that Gonzo kept most of the GRIM DARK intact instead of over playing the comedy. There are some serious issues they touch upon but unlike the book they went for a more hopeful end. Sato’s fate is clearly one to be avoided and while there are plenty of works that glamorize how great being an otaku is Welcome to the NHK goes one day’s march over Kuragehime and gives a strong warning of where such hedonism can lead. I am glad I watched it even though I have an IRL Sato.
Welcome to the NHK should be watched by one and all who enjoy anime and want something more than what most series have to offer. Upon watching you will know the meaning of fear by seeing what you might become, you will be stirred to anger by Sato’s foolishness and lewd thoughts. You will feel like punching Yamazaki yourself and tossing Hitomi over that cliff personally. You ought to feel nothing but loathing, facepalm repeated, and a whole lot of hostility and ill will. What you will not feel is good for most of the series, you might see a bit of yourself or someone you know, and well you should. Your hatred will make you powerful, your fear is but the beginning of wisdom. Should your heart be black you might feel a bit of elation when Yamazaki reveals his MMO handle. If nothing else if you like pina coladas, if you have half a brain you will at least have the drive to not end up like Sato.