Welcome to the NHK Vol. #6 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Little by little, Sato is becoming alone again as life is taking away those around him and he begins to wallow in it.

What They Say
Sato and Yamazaki manage to finish their hentai game in time for the winter comic market only to discover it sucks - and not in a good way. Bye-bye future and bye-bye friends! Now our hikikomori hero has to fend for himself and face his greatest test of all: Misaki's "final exam." However, there is more riding on this test than even Sato realizes.

Look out - someone is ready to fan some flames of passion. But who will get burned? Sato must risk everything to put an end once and for all to the diabolical N-H-K. Will it be worth it, or will he lose it all? All the answers lie in the disturbingly final twist of Welcome to the N-H-K... or is it all just a conspiracy!?

Contains episodes 21-24:
Welcome to Reset!
Welcome to God!
Welcome to Misaki!
Welcome to the N-H -K!

The Review!
Audio:
The bilingual presentation for Welcome to the NHK is fairly standard for ADV Films. The original Japanese track is in its stereo form done at 192 kbps while the English 5.1 mix is done at a higher 448 kbps. The two are both solid mixes though the 5.1 remix wins out in having a bit more punch to it. The show is essentially a dialogue piece but it does have some bigger moments to them, at least in comparison to the rest of the show, which make out better in terms of placement and depth. The Japanese track is solid enough in its own though and makes for an engaging enough presentation. We didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Airing in the second half of 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Though a few scenes have some special filters applied to them, the show is done in a rather straightforward real world manner for the most part. That brings in a lot of basic colors that look solid here which are broken up once in awhile by some rather vibrant moments. There is quite a lot of detail to be found throughout here as the places where Sato goes to have so much to see in them, be it his apartment or the Promised Land. Colors in general have a very solid feel to them that's free of blocking and only a couple of very brief moments had some visible noise. Cross coloration and aliasing is basically non-existent which leads this transfer overall to look very solid and easy on the eyes.

Packaging:
The sex appeal side is used for the final cover here and it’s certainly a winner as we have the two women in very skimpy outfits with just about everything hanging out. With very appealing smiles and the way they convey themselves, it’s the kind of cover that definitely gets attention. The color scheme isn’t as bright as some of the past ones and that muted effect works in its favor I think. The design fits in with the previous volumes just right outside of swapping out the ADV Films logo for the FUNimation one. The back cover uses a chaotic style to it with lots of angled text, cutting line symbols and a hodgepodge of character artwork and shots from the show. In an interesting design, the technical grid has the style applied to it as well which means it shifts from pinks and oranges against a dark red background. It's a bit hard on the eyes and it feels like it's busier than it should be but at least everything is clean and visible. No relevant insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design is nicely simple as it features a messy full screen shot of Sato's apartment with the logo on each of the four window panes. The navigation strip, slightly angled, has a wonderfully amusing little cursor to it and all of it is set to a nice vocal selection that's soft and inviting. Te layout is fairly standard so there aren't any surprises here. Access times are nice and fast with no transitional animations. The disc correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
The only extras included here are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After quite the delay and uncertainty about getting this final volume in this form and not having to plunk down for a collection of episodes I already having, Welcome to the NHK has finally come to a close. And what a weird and interesting ride it’s been, certainly not the kind of show that you’d have expected to be made these days. The ups and downs of the lives and relationships of these characters isn’t normal, but it’s not uncommon either to be certain. While the ending here does leave things in a surprisingly positive manner, the uncertainty of life and the way people like Sato feel is still at the core of it all.

The final four episodes of the series works towards removing the little foundation that Sato has built into his life at this point. As the world goes sometimes, it feels like it’s nothing but cruelty. For Sato, this is so very true right now. Sato and Yamazaki have finished their game but it’s come too late for Yamazaki in the end. The game, which Sato has to admit is crap, doesn’t sell well and there’s nothing for Yamazaki to do but to go back to his parents and take on the family business there. The way that the two go through this experience is heartbreaking as they’ve been the main support for each other for awhile now. They’ve bonded because of the game that they worked on but that’s come to an end and he’s packing up his place. They have some very cute moments as they go through this, with Yamazaki busting Sato at the appropriate times, but the closure is very strong as the two young men move on with their lives. Or at least Yamazaki does.

Sato goes through another similar experience like this not long afterwards. Misaki is continuing to push him through her program and has organized a trip to the shrine for New Years. This kind of trip isn’t as hard on him as it used to be considering he’s done the big comiket kind of events, but he’s still a bit uncertain about things. When he gets separated from Misaki however, he ends up running into Hitomi which feels like fate is thrusting them together. The history that the two have together is certainly different and when she talks to him about her life and how happy she is, it’s surprising that she still proposes an affair with him. With her marriage impending, he’s not quite sure what to make of all of it but he can’t help but feel that like Yamazaki, she’s slipping through his fingers because there are better places for them to be.

All of this leads up to Misaki feeling like she’s losing Sato herself. From the beginning, her reasons for “working” with Sato always seemed to revolve around the idea that she was interested in him for more than just the project. The reasons why were pretty apparent as well as she was almost like him in a lot of ways and was doing her best to reach out to someone to make that all important connection. But when she feels like she’s losing him, she tries different things which includes giving up on life itself. When you feel worthless and worse, having someone reject you like that will just push you further over the edge. Neither of them are really admitting how they feel, and the level that they fell, and that keeps them from being truly honest with each other. But both have hidden things about themselves from the other since the beginning and it only makes sense that it’s still an issue.

Watching the way the relationship plays out when it comes to these two at the end is quite engaging as we finally do get a fair amount of revelations when it comes to Misaki. She’s not exactly been completely mysterious, but she’s had unanswered pieces for awhile that have be revealed in order for there to be a good ending. Sato learns a lot about her because of all of this and it helps to cement what he’s really been feeling for awhile but unable to deal with. And much the same can be said about Misaki, though she’s working from a different angle on it. In the end, both of them feel so completely alone and worthless that they’re trying to cling to each other or push away from each other, but never at the same time, even at the end. Watching them go through this is almost heartbreaking in a way as you want them to realize that they may be good for each other – but you also fear that they may be very bad for each other.

In Summary:
As much fun as it is, Welcome to the NHK is not a show I ever expected to really see because of its content nor is a show I would have expected Gonzo to work on. Yet it’s a very engaging show, with some lulls along the way, which dabbles in the world of very troubled people who have a very hard time with basic social interaction. And as the world continues to change, we’ll see a lot more of this in the future I’m sure. In the end, this has some really fun moments, some great character designs and some really neat little things that are skirting around the edges when it comes to the conspiracy side. It’s a show that will leave some people feeling uneasy and others thankful that they’re not like that. Unless they perhaps take a real close look at themselves in the mirror?

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 16 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Welcome to the N.H.K.