What They Say
The black comedy that takes a ruthlessly humorous look at the otaku lifestyle.
After all that’s happened, will the big downfall for Sato really be a pyramid scheme?
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.
The fifth installment of the series brings Misaki out in yet another skimpy outfit, this time a nice minimal white Chinese style dress with her wearing her hair up as well. With ample cleavage visible and some nice leg fanservice as well, it’s easy to see this as another pleaser, though it’s hard to top the Christmas one with the last volume. The color design and the outfits really come together well as it stands out easily, even if it isn’t really selling what the show is all about. 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 reds 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 relevant insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.
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.
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)
Getting closer and closer to the end, Sato’s life is one that is continuing to show signs of improvement. He’s not out of the hikikomori woods just yet but he’s nowhere near as bad as some others that we’ve seen as well. In fact, there are some wonderful moments of redemption and survival shown during these episodes as others who are in similar situations find their way a little clearer.
One would think that after facing down a suicide club pact and surviving it along with other members and a woman he was interested in that Sato would be only looking upward. So when the former Class Rep shows up in his life, Megumi ends up taking him down another deep dark path that will only cause him harm. Not harm in that he’d be dead, but he might as well be with how soul crushing it can become. Having given up on the real money trading scheme and other money making ideas, it does make a certain kind of poetic sense that he <i>would</i> get taken in by a pyramid scheme and one that a former classmate is heavily involved in. It’s even more amusing that the entire organization behind it has their “company” symbol made up of multiple triangles and he still can’t see it easily for quite some time.
Sato’s attempt to find something to latch onto means he’s a fairly easy target for Megumi, though he does admittedly try to get away from it all at first. But like most people involved in such scams, Megumi is pretty good at convincing people to do things they shouldn’t and she’s able to draw him in. Even better is when Yamazaki and Misaki come along with him to meet Megumi later so he can invoke the “cooling off” clause, she ends up convincing them to sign onto everything with the potential of anti-hikikomori supplements that will help stimulate brain activity. Misaki is hilarious during all of this since she’s carrying around a book about how to get out of pyramid schemes like these in manga form and she still gets taken in by it all.
With this arc running over about two and a half episodes, we get to see a couple of things that paint some positives. Sato’s certainly changed a lot since he first met Misaki as he’s able to get out and about more and he’s actually aware of it now. He’s not exactly completely withdrawn but he’s had his moments where he shuts down before finding a reason to get back to where he was. And he does seem to progress a little bit every time he bounces back. Though he doesn’t see it, the resolution of the story with Megumi and her hikikomori brother provides some real hope for Sato in the end as it tries to run with the idea that for some people at least, simply being forced into a situation can bring about dramatic results.
With the remainder of the volume, the show delves a bit more into Yamazaki which is a nice change of pace. He’s had his moments here and there as Sato initially “investigated” him, but now we’re getting a clearer idea of the path his life has taken and why he’s the way he is now. The pressures he’s up against are revealed when he has to take a quick trip home due to his father being in the hospital and that sets him even more intently on trying to finish the game. This refocus is exactly what Sato needs in his life and the two of them bond together a bit more as Misaki helps out along the way in trying to make sure Sato doesn’t fall under poor influences again. It does all lead up to a great way to end the volume with the two guys mildly drunk and revealing the secret of their game to Nanako while filming it so they can get some authentic reactions. Only college age men…
Welcome to the NHK continues with its fairly straightforward narrative but it manages to take unusual turns along the way. The twist into the realm of pyramid schemes is certainly amusing and they find some nice ways to touch on Sato’s past as well as showing how much he has changed. The storyline is one that isn’t too deep and could certainly use more exploration but as a somewhat surface oriented piece it does a good job with what it has and a certain kind of fun. Touching on the pyramid schemes, dabbling in the realm of the online game again and then showing just what kind of a boob Yamazaki can be is all good fun. But it still leaves a lot of uncertainty to how it can close it all out cleanly with just one more volume to go.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing
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