Welcome to the N.H.K.
"In truth, I still can’t read this story objectively. Each time I reread it, I start to have light hallucinations. I break into a cold sweat. Each time I approach one of a few specific places in the plot, I start wanting to throw the computer out the window. At other particular points, I start wanting to run away from home to live deep in secrecy in the mountains of India."—Tatsuhiko Takimoto, author of Welcome to the N.H.K.
Welcome to the N.H.K. is an odd, darkly comic anime series about a psychotic hikikomori named Satou. Most of the series involves his persistent delusion that he is being forced to be a hikikomori by a conspiracy called the NHK. (The name is a Shout-Out to an actual Japanese public broadcaster with the same acronym, which aired the famous Gateway Series Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water.) It has a lot of subplots, most of them revolving around how crazy Satou and his friends are.
The book, Manga and Anime are each rather different in both story and themes, although the anime and manga follow essentially the same plot until the manga's divergence from the novel, leading to its own, separate conclusion. The novel tends to be somewhat darker, focusing more on the characters' issues and less on the love story which is essentially the focus of the anime, with the manga somewhere in between. There are significant differences in the specific way some events happen in the anime and manga, even when they're otherwise almost identical, which tends to bring out the change in tone when watching one version after having finished another. Of course, many events of the novel (the fight scene, the visit to the church) never occur in the anime or manga, and vice versa (the "summer vacation", the entire second half of the manga).
The name of the main character, Tatsuhiro Satou, might be a play on the names of the original creator and his friend: Tatsuhiko Takimoto and Yuuya Satou. The NHK-novel eventually made Tatsuhiko Takimoto one of the pioneers of the post-Murakami literature movement in Japan.
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- Abusive Parent:Misaki is revealed to have an abusive stepdad after her original dad died when she was a baby. The abuse led to her mother comitting suicide by falling off a cliff. This led the stepdad to physically abuse Misaki and causing her to think that she was a worthless human being. This led to her finding a person more worthless than her, causing the plot of the show. In the anime at least, in the manga this whole story was something Misaki made up to make Satou feel bad, although it is clear her parents have a troubled relationship.
- Adult Fear: If you're even remotely of the slacker persuasion and you're the same age as Sato, seeing his Imagine Spot of him at 50 years old (fat, lonely, self-loathing, completely immersed in otaku culture, unable to function 'outside') is horrifying.
- All Psychology Is Freudian: Or at least Misaki thought so for a little while. After the incident below, she switched to Jungian.
- A Man Is Not a Virgin: Subverted in the novel: Satou lost his virginity to Hitomi beofre she graduated, which causes all sorts of additional emotional problems.
- Played straight in the manga and anime. Strangely, as it was an important part of Satou's backstory and emotional state.
- Anguished Declaration of Love: In the finale of both the book and the anime, Sato blurts out one of these while pleading with Misaki not to commit suicide. In the series' typical darkly funny fashion, it doesn't even dawn on Sato that he means it until he's ready to kill himself to convince her not to throw her own life away.
Sato: I like you! I love you! Please, don't die!
- Art Shift: Just to give an example: look at Satou the page picture. Now pick up the manga and see the difference.
- Author Avatar: Satou. In addition to the author himself living as a "hikky" for 4 years, he has revealed in interviews that the success of his work had him "reduced to a NEET, ...living as a parasite on the royalties from this book". In story, there's a scene where Sato sits in on a game concept development class and writes a VN scenario where a lonely, isolated charcoal burner in the woods falls in love with a forest spirit that completely and implicitly understands him and "never calls him a NEET or hikikomori." Nope, no projection there.
- Bait and Switch Credits: Although there's some hints of the darker tone of the show, the opening is an upbeat song paired mostly with pastel, brightly lit scenes of women frolicking in the sun.
- Battle Aura: Parodied.
- Between My Legs: Misaki in episode 3.
- The Beard
- Bland-Name Product: There is the Mindows Operating System, Qoogle search engine, Warlboro cigarettes, and Usahi (and once Ebusu) beer. Also Ultimate Fantasy
might count for theis a blatant shout out to Final Fantasy XI.
- Blank White Eyes: Satou and Misaki get these sometimes in the manga.
- Book Ends: That snowy cliff at the end of the anime look familiar? It's one of the first scenes shown, as a nightmare of Satou's, along with numerous similarities between the two beyond location.
- Break the Cutie: In the anime, Misaki's dad dies when she's just an infant, which leads to her mother marrying an abusive man who eventually drives the mother to suicide (Misaki witnesses this first-hand as well), which then leads to the abusive step-father beating Misaki instead and fully convincing her that she's cursed and an utterly worthless person. By the start of the show, she's teetering on the Despair Event Horizon. She crosses it when Satou refuses to sign her second contract.
- Caught with Your Pants Down: And how!
- Charles Atlas Superpower: Parodied. Satou wonders if he has gained any powers from living alone in his apartment like those characters who train alone on mountains. He karate-chops a beer bottle successfully but cuts his hand.
- Coming of Age Story: The series is effectively a really dark one, chronicling Satou's struggles as he tries to go from manchild to functioning adult.
- Conspiracy Theorist: Hitomi Kashiwa, Satou's senior in High School. Satou himself takes it from her afterwards.
- Conversational Troping: Happens quite a bit between Satou and Yamazaki while they're working on their "gal game".
- Cosmic Plaything: A majority of the main characters believe themselves to be this.
- Cross Player: Yamazaki during the Ultimate Fantasy arc.
- Curse Cut Short: Episode 17 in the English dub, upon Satou realising just what he's walked in to:
Satou: I... am so... fu- *Eyecatch*
- Dark Reprise: A dark version of the Pururin theme song appears when Megumi convinces Satou to join Mouse Road.
- Deep-Immersion Gaming: The MMORPG Vina Teelo.
- Despair Event Horizon: In the anime version, Misaki goes past it after Satou refuses to be in a relationship with Misaki through a contract.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Elena in the Manga when Yamazaki tries to give her money so she can get a sex change operation.
- Dysfunction Junction
- Driven to Suicide: Misaki's mother, in the anime.
- Earn Your Happy Ending
- Festival Episode: The new years eve celebration.
- Flanderization: Especially in the manga, where Satou and Misaki eventually get reduced to their disturbed mental state. Nobody is ever nearly as bad in the novel as they get in the manga, and the climax of the book that (mostly) resolves everyone's problems only sends them spiraling further in the manga.
- Flipping the Table: Satou does this to Yamazaki once in ep. 4.
- The Nightmare Sequence at the very start of the first episode foreshadows the last episode.
- A later example - Megumi's hikikomori brother ends up getting a job after not eating in 3 days. Satou goes through the same thing in episode 23.
- Freud Was Right: Brilliantly exaggerated in-universe as Misaki tries to psychoanalyze Satou's dreams. Satou purposely gives her... well, we'll just quote it:
Satou: There was a huge, rigid snake that reared up and then dived into the sea... then skewered an apple with a broadsword, and then fired off loads of shots from a huge black handgun.
- Gainax Ending: You try explaining what the hell just happened in all three versions.
- Gecko Ending: The manga, in a way. Both the novel and the anime end with Satou trying to kill himself, only to survive, with Misaki and him deciding to keep living. However, this happens about halfway the manga, doesn't resolve the plot, and instead it goes on to reach its own conclusion (somehow).
- The end results are fairly similar, with Satou and Misaki attempting to embrace life. Neither are totally over their problems, but they're trying, which is the most anyone could ask for. The manga couple just has to go through a lot more shit to get there.
- Girl of My Dreams: The first episode of the anime opens with a nightmare of Sato's, in which Misaki is watching from afar carrying the same white umbrella she has when they meet for real.
- God Is Evil: What Misaki believes.
- Godiva Hair: Hitomi in one of Satou's fantasies.
- Gonk: A coworker of Hitomi's.
- G-Rated Drug: Usually averted by Satou's fairly hard drug use, but also parodied.
- Happily-Failed Suicide: At the end of the series, Satou throws himself off a cliff in an honest-to-God suicide attempt, but discovers that a hidden metal net has been installed just below the cliff after the previous suicide on that spot. After that, he seems to become quite happy with his life again.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Satou thinks he is doing one of these in the ending of both the novel and anime, and also during the midpoint of the manga.
- Hikikomori: The fulcrum upon which the plot revolves.
- Hollywood Atheist: A Hollywood misotheist, even.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Welcome to the _____.
- Inelegant Blubbering: Sato at the end of episode 13. Misaki's crying, too, although hers is a little closer to Cry Cute.
- The Internet Is for Porn: Yamazaki teaches the far-less-nerdy Sato this lesson, who (of course) proves to be a willing student. Except he misses the whole part about how deleting your OS to make room for your porn is a bad idea.
- Interrupted Suicide: Satou, Hitomi, Misaki, and the "Off" Meeting in the anime. Subverted by Misaki's mother.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Satou wants his Senpai, Hitomi Kashiwa, to be happy, that is why he does not sleep with her, as he knows that doing so could ruin her marriage to Jougasaki.
- This is also part of Satou's reasoning for refusing Misaki's contract which would basically force him to be in a relationship with her, although his delusions insist that it's really because he doesn't want to be considered a "worthless human".
- Lolicon: Satou is one for a while, and Yamazaki is also one. This was heavily downplayed in the anime, where the references to lolicon porn are removed and most of the women both lust after are of age (but a few hints of it still remain).
- Loners Are Freaks: Subverted, since most of the main cast are in fact largely loners and are shown to be just normal people suffering from anxiety, depression and paranoia.
- Licensed Game: Believe it or not, the eroge made in the story was later made into a tie-in videogame, with a story by the author himself.
- Male Gaze: A lot of this going on (the anime's opening, even) but most of the time it's All Just a Dream in Satou's head.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Subverted to the point of deconstruction with Misaki.
- Maybe Ever After: See Bittersweet Ending, above. At least in the anime it isn't entirely clear whether Satou and Misaki remain involved as friends or as a couple, despite Satou's Love Epiphany and Anguished Declaration of Love.
- Meido: Satou and Yamazaki go to a Maid Cafe in the Manga and Anime.
- Mental Story: It's mostly about the main character's inner strife, and no decisions are reached even in the end.
- Moe: Parodied, see Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot.
- Myers-Briggs: In one of the many psychology terms Misaki uses during her sessions with Satou, she tells him that he is a "introverted feeling type". This is from Carl Jung's theory of psychological types, which was later used as a basis for the Myers-Briggs type indicator. (If Misaki's statement is accurate, Satou would be either an INFP or an ISFP according to the Myers-Briggs interpretation of Jung.)
- Naughty Nuns: Sato fantasizes about Misaki being one of these when he first meets her.
- Nightmare Sequence / Imagine Spot - Satou has a lot of these. In fact, the anime starts with him having one. In the novel and manga, it's implied to be from drug abuse while in the anime, it's schizophrenia.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: From Page 98 of the novel. "She's the protagonist's childhood friend as well as a robot maid. She's blind, deaf, and sickly; on top of that, she's an alien with Alzheimer's and multiple personality disorder. However she's actually a ghost with a connection to the main character from their past lives. And her true form is really a fox spirit." In the manga, she's a Catgirl Robot Maid who's got Alzheimer's.
- Nosebleed: Happens to Satou. Interestingly enough, despite being linked to arousal, it's a regular, realistic nosebleed instead of an explosive fountain of blood.
- Not What It Looks Like: Misaki spills hot water on Satou's pants and is trying to quickly clean it off. Cue Yamazaki walking into Satou's room and seeing Misaki's head in Satou's crotch with Satou making weird noises.
- Off-Model: Well, it's a GONZO production, so... yeah, the series suffers from this in places, particularly episode 19. (See this sequence for the worst of it, but beware of spoilers: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7)
- Older Than They Look: One of the eroge games Sato plays to "research" features a big-eyed girl on the cover...with the title "I Am Not Loli!"
- Otaku: Yamazaki Kaoru, He has tons of Anime merchandise in his room. In the anime he even has a Pururin body pillow.
- Poor Communication Kills: Inverted, sort of. Satou's senpai, Hitomi, intends on going to an "Off" Meeting -- a group suicide. She stops by Satou's the night before and gets very drunk, talking about going on "summer vacation." Satou thinks he has a chance at being with her and getting out of his shut-in life with someone he loves, so eagerly offers to accompany her anywhere, "whether it's to Paradise or to Hell." She thinks he saw the Off Meeting notice sticking out of her purse while she slept, so he never learns what's what until the whole group is on a deserted island ready to do the deed. Satou manages to talk everyone out of it at the end... however, there's a fair chance that they never even would have made it that far if it wasn't for him! Group resolve was flagging back on the mainland, and it's only because he pushed them to go ahead with their "vacation" that they made it to the island at all. Nobody dies, but they nearly got there because of his misunderstanding.
- Porn Stash: And how!
- Pragmatic Adaptation : The anime version leaves out some of the more complex plots of the manga and novel, but uses the opportunity to explore the earlier themes in more depth.
- Precision F-Strike: There are a handfull of F-bombs dropped in the English dub, mostly by Satou, but his use of it during the climax of the final episode is especially spectacular and certainly qualifies.
Satou: I'll show you, Yamazaki! I'm about to die saving the girl I love! How do you like that? That's not just dramatic! IT'S FUCKING DRAMATIC!!!
- Hitomi manages to get in a single F-bomb to punctuate her crossing the Despair Event Horizon in episode 13.
Hitomi: He may have said I was important to him, but in the end, I know he doesn't need someone useless like me. Why would he? He's so fucking perfect he can do anything he wants all by himself!
- Conversely, Yamazaki's single F-strike is somewhat more comedic.
Yamazaki: Satou, you're not listening! I'm telling you the dialogue you wrote for the heroine in this scene doesn't work at all.
Satou: You think so?
Yamazaki: Not even close!
Satou: I dunno, it seems fine to me.
Yamazaki: That's because you're a fucking idiot.
- Reality Subtext: See Author Avatar. Also, Chris Patton (who played Sato in the dub) has struggled with anxiety problems for most of his life, which likely helped him in the role. His performance in the dub has been highly praised by critics.
- Really Dead Montage: Or rather Really Put on a Bus Montage.
- RPG Episode: The main character's bad habit was playing
Final Fantasy XIUltimate Fantasy ("Welcome to the Taru Taru").Fantasy ("Welcome to the Taru Taru").
- Sabotutor: Misaki's stated goal is to help Satou overcome his fearful reclusiveness and properly function in society, but her true intent is to make him dependent on her affection and service so she can feel needed. Instead of a cure, she becomes more of an enabler for Satou's condition by babying him, and he's only forced into finding work after cutting ties with her for a bit. Misaki doesn't take his success well.
- Scare'Em Straight: Yamazaki does this to Satou in order to cure his MMORPG addiction. It works, for the audience as well.
- Scary Shiny Glasses: Yamazaki has these sometimes.
- Shout-Out: Chapter 37 of the Manga is called "Welcome to the 2nd Impact" in a Shout-Out to Neon Genesis Evangelion. The Title page has Misaki, Satou, and Yamazai in plugsuits with an Eva in the background. The chapter also contains a pachinko machine with images of Asuka and the Angels on it.
- Also, the preview for the second episode consists entirely of the cast quoting Eva.
- Another Shout out is to True Tears the anime the "Moe Game" Sato worked on is based off of. Why would I say this? Well the game was name "True Words" and the main character on the cover looked almost identical to Noe.
- The fraternity that Misaki and her aunt attends is a shout out to the Jehova's Witnesses church. Even the magazine Misaki's aunt gave to Tatsuhiro is called "Awake"!, just like the real one by the Jehova's Witnesses' publishing house (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society).
- In the fourth episode, Yamazaki is describing the various types of Gal Game heroines to Satou, the robot gal Satou imagines based on Yamazaki's model and description is strangely similar to Kos-Mos of Xenosaga fame. Especially with blue hair, red eyes, and forehead crest with her model number printed on it.
- In episode 4, a Strike Witches poster is proudly displayed behind Sato as he describes his idea for a ridiculous galge heroine. Keep in mind NHK aired years before Strike Witches ever did, making this a reference to the manga or the light novels.
- That MMO Satou gets into? Totally Final Fantasy XI.
- Another subtle reference from the book/anime, the cliff Misaki is named after, has many similarities to the cliff from which the main character of Dazai Osamu's "No Longer Human" (Ningen Shikakku) jumps to commit a semi-failed lovers double suicide.
- In the anime episode where Satou imagines himself kneeling in front of and being judged by a court of samurai is a very close recreation of an identical scene in Akira Kurosawas 1951 period drama "Rashoumon" which is itself based on Ryuunousuke Akutagawa's "In the grove".
- Show Within a Show: Pururin.
- Shrinking Violet: The main character is a hikikomori, so this is a given.
- Stalking Is Love: Played With A LOT, but mostly deconstructed no matter which media it shows up in.
- Hell, it might be even subverted in the anime, POSSIBLY. Or maybe some form of Reconstruction of the trope. We weren't kidding when we say it was played with.
- Stepford Smiler: Misaki in particular, although Megumi has her moments.
- Stock Sound Effects NERV Cicada.
- Suicide Pact: The "Offline Meeting" Hitomi and Satou attend. Also, at the end of the anime, Misaki and Satou both sign a hostage pact where both are obliged to respond to the other's suicide by also committing suicide -- the idea being that, since the suicide of the other is just about the only thing either will not stand for under any circumstances, it will stave off their own suicidal thoughts.
- Surreal Humor: Not all the time, but a lot of Satou's delusional moments and nightmares use this trope.
- Surreal Theme Tune - "Odoru Akachan Ningen", the original ending theme used for episodes 1-12.
- Theme Music Power-Up: "Odoru Akachan Ningen" for Satou in the final episode, without lyrics this time.
- There Are No Therapists: In actuality, Social Services were invented for people like these. Satou's father does think about sending him to a psychiatric hospital in volume 5 of the manga though. And most of the characters try becoming therapists to each other! Japanese culture in general doesn't believe in therapy -- apparently there's more sex therapists in Japan than people that will help you work out your psychological issues.
- This and That: Yamazaki uses this term to describe the action in a Hentai Doujinshi.
- This Loser Is You: The entire premise.
- Title Drop: Done both in the first and last episode.
- Trash of the Titans: Satou's apartment. He manages to keep it a bit tidier in the latter part of the story (Misaki also comes often to help him clean).
- Tsundere: Yamazaki uses the term to dismiss Satou and his girlfriend when they're inexplicably aggressive to him.
- Unsettling Gender Reveal: Elena does this to Yamazaki in the manga.
- Wham! Episode: Episode 13.
- Weakness Turns Her On: Misaki selects Satou for her project because she wanted to find someone even more "worthless" than she believes she is.
- Hitomi also had this for Satou, seeing and liking the pathetic loser he is.
- Will They or Won't They?: Satou and Misaki. In the end they don't, but still maintain an intense friendship. In the manga version, they do acknowledge each other as lovers, but they don't officially start their relationship until Satou can get back on his feet.
- Woman in White: Misaki.
- Yandere: Misaki in the manga. She's much more innocent in the anime.
- Probably an illusion; her thumb may just be hidden in her hair. But her hand doesn't move in this shot, and with the half-finger on the right that looks like a sideways thumb, it looks more like she has a missing pinky and a ring on the wrong finger.