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Manga Review: Welcome to the N.H.K.

March 15, 2010

The first time I got in touch with this series was ‘cause of a recommendation of a friend of mine. He said that the anime doesn’t leave out any single cliché and on top of that it has a good story. So I watched the anime and shortly after that I read the manga. I looked into my manga-list and almost exactly one year ago I read the NHK manga for the fist time. Now, after a re-read I thought why not writing a review for it. So here it goes…

Tatsuhiro Satou is a social delinquent who dropped out of college four years ago and since then he has been a hikikomori. “Hikikomori” is the Japanese word for a person who shuts himself in and barely has any social contact. You could say that this is the lowest status of Japan’s society (even the homeless are more respected with their blue tents…).

One day a strange woman knocks at Satou’s apartment. He opens the door and looks into the bright eyes of a cute 17 or 18 year old girl standing behind the old woman who knocked at the door. Apparently they are from a religious cult handing out pamphlets about quitting the hikikomori-life. Satou denies that he’s a hikikomori and makes them both leave.

After that, he sniffs some drugs. On his trip the furniture in his apartment starts talking. They’re telling him that it’s not his fault that he became a delinquent. It was all planned by a huge conspiracy called the Nihon Hikikomori Kyoukai (or short: N.H.K.) drawing young people into society’s ass. Now everything is clear. He knows a way to escape from his miserable life. He writes an application and dashes out to the next best store.

As he walks in through the door of a normal looking manga café, he smashes his application on the table. The girl behind the counter turns around and appears to be Misaki the girl who helped the old hag handing out these pamphlets. Satou is frozen from the shock but then he runs back home and falls even deeper into the hikikomori-abyss but Misaki wants to help him by inviting him to participate in her special project which should help him from quitting being a hikikomori.

What is Misaki’s intention and will her project be a success? Find out by yourself! I won’t spoil it for you.

The art supports Satou’s feelings. When something leaves him in despair, his facial expression is exaggerated. Sometimes the art almost drifts to the American comic-style. Look at Satou’s arm. It’s kinda unusual:

I don’t know if it fits in the art-section but I don’t care. Sometimes there are – let me say – spontaneous time jumps which confuse you when you read it. Here’s an example of two pages:

You can click on the pages to enlarge them.

You see, only at the panels at the bottom right side of the fist page are suggesting the break. I’d be more effective to change the color around the panels into black or something ’cause on the next (right page) there’s a totally different setting.

Compared to the Anime:

In the manga, the story arcs are a bit different. Sometimes they’re not following the anime/ novel or are split in half and continue at an other point of time. The manga shows Satou’s desperation going deeper than in the anime. The ending, which drifts off at the half of the story, is completely different from the anime. For myself, I like the manga ending better although the anime follows the original ending of the light novel.

I think everybody has a little hikikomori in his soul. Sometimes we let it out and the majority of people are able to put it back into the deepest corner. When I got holidays, it’s hard for me to NOT get into this hikikomori life. Just staying in the bed relaxing, reading manga and watching anime. If I could, I would be a semi-hikikomori: Having a carefree life but don’t loose the social contacts.

The author of N.H.K. is a real hikikomori who wanted to get over it with writing the novel. I think he wished for a “Misaki” who rescues him from his lifestyle. That makes the manga, novel and anime so convincing.

After my first re-read the manga was able to keep its rating of 10/10 points.

PS: Subete Ni Iya Garu… anyone?

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