Hikikomori: A Japanese word for those suffering from acute social anxiety. Here in the west we might just call them shut-ins or agoraphobic, but over in Nippon it's a very serious social issue, with charities and help groups to try and alleviate the problem. These hikikomori also fall into the NEET (Not in Education Employment or Training) category because of their inability to hold a job, and frequently live off social assistance and/or their parents.
So what better way to handle an important social issue than to adapt it into a novel, manga and anime?
Welcome to the NHK is one of my favourite anime, and is indeed a favourite among many anime fans worldwide. This is probably due to relating to the main character a little too well.
Tatsuhiro Satou is a university dropout, living on his own in a tiny apartment. After entering his fourth year of being NEET, he comes to the conclusion that he has become a hikikomori due to a mass-conspiracy by the NHK, who are apparently trying to convert as many people to hikikomori as possible. Eventually Satou meets a young girl named Misaki Nakahara claiming to be from a charity which helps people in his situation. The couple continue to meet at a local park to discuss Satou's life, and their relationship develops. Eventually characters are introduced, including Kaoru Yamazaki, Satou's otaku neighbour.
The series has a particular style of black humour, which reflects upon Japanese culture. This humour blends well with the drama in the narrative, creating a rich, tasteful entertainment smoothie. Even those who are not particularly acquainted with anime may enjoy this, as the characters are down-to-earth and relatable, and the few surreal moments are simple hallucinations or dreams, and nothing close to the stereotypical view of over-the-top anime.
The animation is pretty sweet, with a lot of detail going into backgrounds, and when you see Satou's or Yamazaki's apartments you can really see their personalities come out, just through use of art. Aside from the main story the series touches on many popular themes, such as gaming, anime, sexuality and even pyramid schemes.
The ending theme is also done by one of my favourite musicians, Ohtsuki Kenji, who's music was also used for the opening themes to Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, which I may review in the future. One particular quirk with this anime is the recurring use of the theme song from a fictional "magical girl" anime called Pururu Pururin as a ringtone. This song is first seen in the first episode, where it drives Satou to the brink of insanity. The song has since been used as somewhat of a replacement rickroll between me and a friend.
If I was forced to give it a rating, I'd give Welcome to the NHK 4 and a half square watermelons out of 5. I would recommend watching this with the intended Japanese dialogue, but if you really don't like subtitles then there IS a dub for you to enjoy.