Welcome to the NHK Vol. #2 (also w/box) - Mania.com

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Mania Grade: B+

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: TV MA
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Welcome to the N.H.K.

Welcome to the NHK Vol. #2 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     November 28, 2007
Release Date: December 04, 2007

Welcome to the NHK Vol. #2 (also w/box)
© ADV Films

What They Say
A ladies’ man he isn’t! If Sato’s nerdy neighbor Yamazaki can score a cute girl, does Sato stand a chance? In a desperate bid to turn his miserable existence around, Sato agrees to Misaki’s mysterious plan to cure him of his reclusive ways. Unfortunately, her so-called “counseling sessions” may prove to be yet another scam! Meanwhile, the little stability Sato’s been able to develop is knocked down to its foundations when mom announces a surprise visit! When saving face means more than just clearing the piles of garbage from his room, can Sato convince some unfortunate girl to pretend to be his fiancée? And when Misaki cheerfully volunteers to play the part, the question is whether Sato’s charms are finally starting to work, or if it’s just another conspiracy!

The Review!
As Tatsu falls into Misaki's clutches, he finds that he has to deal not only with her but also the sudden appearance of his mother.

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.

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.

Keeping with what the first volume established, this cover lets us have Misaki in another very skimpy outfit, this time a bikini as she straddles a motorcycle. It's all very deceptive since the show has very little fanservice overall, but who am I to complain? The background has some interesting symbols in it that play to a bit more of what the show is about but for the most part what the cover is selling is pure fanservice. In something of a break from most other series that ADV Films has released, there's a big plug that it's based on the manga. 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 yellows against a purple 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 insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.

In addition to the disc only release, a disc+box edition is also available. The heavy chipboard box is designed to hold the entire six volume series and it plays things a bit cleaner than the individual keepcase cover art pieces have been. While those have been heavy with the fanservice, these are fairly tamer even if Misaki does seem to be… enjoying things a bit much at times. One main panel features various shots of her while the other puts Tatsu in the forefront with more of Misaki in the background. The spine is a nice piece as it brings in most of the lead cast together with a fun angled look. Overall, it's a very nicely done box but it feels a touch weak. I almost wish they had gone totally overboard on the fanservice angle instead of playing it more true to the series.

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.

It's a conspiracy that there's no conspiracy handbook for this volume, which means we're left with just the standard clean opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The more that Sato goes to prove to Misaki that he's not a hikikomori, the more he becomes a normal member of society. Well, not exactly normal, but each new thing that he tells her he's doing gets him involved in something that helps him to get past his issues. Not that he realizes it most of the time and the things he does do are painfully simple, but he's making progress that can only help him in the long run. That journey continues to be funny, insightful and almost biting at times.

Welcome to the NHK is amusing in how it shifts from such moments of drama and intensity to ones of very calm and peaceful. This volume opens with some very peaceful moments as Sato and Hitomi together in a café talking about old times. The little we've seen of their relationship has been interesting as it seemed very one sided in how Sato was interested in her but unable to bring himself to make a move. So much so that the only thing they really did was play cards together for two years in the Literature Club. Yet these moments reveal that something more must have happened between them, something that he has very fond (if possibly distorted) memories of. Having these memories just before meeting with Misaki only helps to cement in his mind that he doesn't need her help.

Yet he does need her help and events force him into the position of agreeing to her conditions. His belief that he can outsmart her through it is amusing and almost filled with a sense of desperation. Her goal of freeing him from being a hikikomori is a noble one, and one you can see becoming a full blown industry with the way society and technology is progressing. His efforts to fool her so far has led him to becoming much more interested in doing the game right and without the kind of pressure that he and Yamazaki found themselves under in order to push her off. His time spent doing research has landed him a lot of material and he's definitely a normal male in this regard, but there's a sense of him wanting something more there now as well. Even with those comically perverted scripts he comes up with.

Where Welcome to the NHK won me over more with these episodes is when it dealt with the interactions between him and Misaki. She's such an… odd character. Her goals seem simple in that she wants to help him and potentially turn this into a real job, but she's going at it in an almost high school effort kind of way. Her inability to handle some of the dirtier aspects of it is amusing as well, especially when she does dream interpretations for Sato and he plays her easily with all sorts of phallic imagery. The animators had far too much fun there in getting these visuals across which only served to make her embarrassment all the richer. The amateur nature of her approach is amusing yet there is such earnestness to it that you can't help but root her on, something that I suspect Sato feels as well deep inside him.

Sato's plans end up going into a tailspin however when his mother announces that she's coming to visit him due to a reunion of friends in Tokyo. That has him in a panic over what to do but it's the perfect opportunity for Misaki to try and get things moving even more. Offering her services as a girlfriend du jour, especially since Hitomi is busy with other things before he can even explain it to her, Sato now finds himself with a perky young woman who plays up the role perfectly. Misaki's interest in Sato has always seemed more than what she says it is and this only cements that feeling even more. The two of them as a couple, both in the trial run beforehand and the actual meeting itself, is just far too comical in a subdued way. Sato manages to dial things down for his mother but he has his outlandish moments as well, mostly revolving around how awful his place is.

In Summary:
At the end of the first eight episodes, it's still unclear exactly where this show wants to go for the remainder of it. The basis of dealing with someone like Sato and his issues if definitely fascinating however, as he moves about his isolated life yet finds himself being drawn into reality more and more. He's the "lucky" kind of hikikomori who has a good friend in Yamazaki but also a pair of real beauties that have varying levels of interest in him and want to see him do better. The things that they say, sometimes offhandedly, often lead to him trying to prove them wrong (or correct!) which gets him out and about in the world. A hikikomori like Sato wouldn't normally be found doing the things he does so these people are having quite an influence on his life. Each episode builds upon the previous one wonderfully and I become more and more engaged by these characters and the life that Sato is leading.

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.


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