is a Japanese novel written by Tatsuhiko Takimoto, with a cover illustration by Yoshitoshi ABe, and was published by Kadokawa Shoten in Japan on January 28 2002. The novel was first published in English by Tokyopop on October 9 2007. The story centers around a twenty-two-year-old hikikomori who gets aid from a strange girl who seems to know a lot about him, despite never meeting him before. A common theme throughout the story deals with the hardships of life and how people must deal with them in their own way.
Welcome to the N.H.K. was adapted into a manga series, also written by Takimoto, with art by Kendi Oiwa. The manga was serialized between June 2004 and June 2007 in Kadokawa Shoten's manga magazine Shōnen Ace. The manga's forty chapters have been collected into eight bound volumes released in Japan and overseas. The English edition of the manga is published by Tokyopop, and the first volume was released in October 2006. It is one of the first manga published by Tokyopop to be rated M, for an eighteen or older audience. The novel was also adapted into a twenty-four-episode anime television series by Gonzo which aired in Japan between July and December 2006. ADV Films announced at Anime Central that they acquired the English rights to the anime, and they released DVD volume one in October 2007 with volume two released in December 2007. In 2008, the anime became one of over thirty ADV titles acquired by Funimation.
In Japan, "NHK" refers to the TV channel and broadcasting corporation Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai, but within the series, the main character believes it stands for , which is a reference to the protagonist's claim of a subversive conspiracy led by NHK (the real-life broadcasting corporation) to create hikikomori. While it mainly deals with the reclusive phenomenon of hikikomori, the plot also explores many other Japanese subcultures—for example: otaku, lolicon, and internet suicide. Despite the show's name, Welcome to the N.H.K. was not broadcast exclusively on the NHK television network, but it was syndicated throughout Japan.
Welcome to the N.H.K.
revolves around the lives of several young-adults all living in or around the city of Tokyo
. Many different lifestyles are shown though most of the time the story focuses on the concepts of being a hikikomori
, anime otaku
, and having most of the characters experience intense feelings of depression and loneliness.
The main protagonist is Tatsuhiro Satō, a university dropout entering his fourth year of unemployment. He leads a reclusive life as a hikikomori, ultimately coming to the bizarre conclusion that this happened due to some sort of conspiracy. One day just when his life seems entirely unchanging, he meets Misaki Nakahara, a mysterious girl who claims to be able to cure Tatsuhiro of his hikikomori ways. She presents him with a contract basically outlining that once a day they would meet in the evening in a local park where Misaki would lecture to Tatsuhiro in an effort to rid him of his lifestyle. During these outings, many subjects are discussed, though they almost always pertain in some way to psychology or psychoanalysis. One of their first meetings in fact deals with interpreting Tatsuhiro's recent dreams. Both Tatsuhiro and Misaki, however, have a tendency of over-doing things, such as hiding the truth, especially from each other and themselves. Despite Misaki's offer and pressing attempts at salvation, it is Tatsuhiro's neighbor and high school friend, Kaoru Yamazaki, whom Tatsuhiro often turns to in moments of need and support. Also, despite his own idiosyncrasies, Yamazaki is one of the more stable characters in the story.
The novel also regularly mentions drug use by the main character, and later, his friend, Yamazaki. This element of the story is downplayed in the manga, and left out of the story altogether in the anime. This is likely due to several reasons, including a more public-friendly rating, as well as ultimately being unneeded for the progression of the plot.
Other plot elements
The of Satō's imagination is supposedly a sinister conspiracy which aims to turn people into hikikomori
. No clear reason why they would do this is offered, although Satō considers the potential of an "army" of displaced individuals. It is also mentioned twice that hikikomori
are needed in society for the purpose of giving people someone to look down upon, making themselves feel superior. The N.H.K. could possibly play the role of creating Hikikomori to give people someone to look down upon. The majority of the N.H.K.'s work is done through the media, via broadcasting anime
and other material that is likely to turn the viewer into an otaku
. Throughout the series, many shots of advertising hoardings or movie posters incidentally displayed in other locations bear N.H.K. references.
Satō on occasion also believes that the N.H.K. takes a more active role via the use of agents, although of course these agents only appear in dream sequences or flashbacks. Three types of N.H.K. agents are seen: the first are classic Men in Black who appear to have the ability to disguise themselves as anyone else they wish. They occupy key roles in a target's life, ensuring that they fail to develop. The second are cute, or more precisely moé girls who directly break the hearts of targets or who, via celebrity status, induce targets to have impossible or unrealistic expectations of relationships, destroying their ability to develop them in the real world (Satō never considers how, or even if, the N.H.K. would target women). Satō at one point fears that Misaki may be an agent of this type. The final type of agents are bizarre, Goblin-like creatures who are grey all over but for a letter (usually "N", "H" or "K") written in yellow on their belly. These creatures appear to be the masterminds of the entire N.H.K. conspiracy, but more likely than not they are Satō's mental image of the spreading mindset or circumstances he associates with the N.H.K. In the novel, it is hinted that Tatsuhiro may not actually believe the conspiracy to exist but instead needed an imaginary enemy to vent his frustrations on and to help motivate him into overcoming his hikkikomori ways.
The real-life television company NHK (Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai), which is the source of the acronym that is parodied by the series, really does provide a support website for real-life hikikomori. In the manga and novel, a concrete link between the television company NHK and Satō's Nihon Hikikomori Kyokai is implied; in the anime, although the conspiracy is still named NHK, no such correspondence is drawn and it appears that the NHK does not even exist as a television company in the anime's version of Japan (in the anime, Misaki has never heard of the acronym when Satō says it to her). This may have been because the anime was broadcast on TV channels operated by other Japanese broadcasting companies, thus implying that it related to the real TV company could have been interpreted as slander against a competitor.
Puru Puru Pururin
is a fictitious magical girl anime
of which Kaoru Yamazaki is a fan, featured only in the anime version. It is never explicitly stated, but strongly suggested, that Satō believes this series to be controlled by the N.H.K.; in fact, it is after seeing an episode of the series which inspires him to think up the N.H.K. as a concept. The series has a real web-site, which further suggests this. For example, although it appears to be a children's style of series, the schedule on the website suggests that it is shown almost daily in the small hours of the morning, when children would not be awake, but hikikomori
frequently are. Although the website lists the names of several real-world broadcast channels which supposedly carry the show, none of them are operated by the real-world NHK
, again suggesting that in the anime's version of Japan, the N.H.K. is not a broadcasting company and is a conspiracy spanning all media. The listed broadcast times and channels are in fact the times at which the Welcome to the N.H.K.
Only brief excerpts of Puru Puru Pururin are ever seen, and it is not possible to guess what powers the main character, Pururin, would have. It appears that Pururin is a good, heroic character and is assisted by a number of animated household objects, including a vacuum cleaner upon which she flies; her trademark is to randomly append the word Purin to the end of sentences, similarly to the title character in Di Gi Charat. The theme song first heard in the first episode is sung by Rumi Shishido.
- The story's protagonist, at twenty-two-years-old, he has entered his third year of being a hikikomori and is a NEET. One to have psychotic thoughts, he believes that his unemployment and dropout are the works of NHK's conspiracy. He lives in his rented apartment, but depends on his parents for money. Under the influence of his neighbor, Kaoru Yamazaki, he has become a lolicon otaku, and helps Yamazaki on the script of their adult game. He is deeply in love and relies on Misaki but doesn't think that he deserves to be with her since he is a "failure of a human being" but near the end of the anime when Misaki is about to commit suicide he confesses his feelings trying to help stop her from dying. It is assumed at the end of the anime that him and misaki will start their life together after Sato saves enough money, Misaki finishes high school, and they both finish college.
- A mysterious girl who claims to be a volunteer from a "charity project" to help hikikomori like Tatsuhiro. She has the tendency to lie and hides facts such as the fact that she dropped out of high school, but she does not mean any harm. She tells Tatsuhiro whatever it takes to make him pay attention to her. She seems to have a deep attachment to Tatsuhiro, and often shows symptoms suggesting she has a borderline personality disorder. She makes a contract with Tatsuhiro in order to believe that she is needed by somebody and therefore not an unwanted person who only makes others around her unhappy. Her biological father died when she was very young and her mother died by falling off the cape in her hometown. It is never revealed if the cause of death was suicide or if the wind had knocked her off. After her mother's death, she was forced to live with her abusive stepfather who constantly beat her. Due to this experience, when Tatsuhiro is about to hit her following the events at the island, she flinches by instinct. She loves Sato and tries to make it seem like he needs her more but in reality she is even more lonely than him to the point where she attempts to commit suicide after Sato refuses her feelings in a second contract she makes. She is seen at the end of the anime getting help from Sato to finish her high school degree, so that her and Sato can go and finish college in order to start their life (relationship) officially together. Misaki's personality grealty differs between the manga and the anime, in the manga she appears more sarcastic and doesn't hesitate to reprimand Tatsuhiro while in the anime, she has an introverted personality.
- Tatsuhiro's former kouhai (Junior) in high school, who is an otaku. Tatsuhiro once stood up for him when he was still in middle school being beat up by some bullies, since then, he respected him greatly and decided to join the literature club with him when he went into high school. He is currently Tatsuhiro's neighbor and a college student aspiring to be a game creator. He made Tatsuhiro join his dōjin soft eroge project, and was also responsible for turning Tatsuhiro into an otaku. His family owns a sizable farm in Hokkaidō. Later, he is forced to return to the farm due to his father's sickness; at that point, realizing he has no hope of continuing any aspect of his life in Tokyo, he drives away his crush, Nanako. In the end of the story, he is living happily at his parent's farm and also currently dating a girl who looks exactly like Nanako whom he hopes to marry in the future.
- Tatsuhiro's senpai in high school, now a public servant. Due to stress, Hitomi develops a dependence on drugs. Hitomi met Tatsuhiro when she persuaded him to join the Literature Club, though most of the time they only ever played card games. She has always been fascinated by the concept of conspiracy theories and is one of the reasons Tatsuhiro suspects the conspiracy against himself by the N.H.K. Also, it is also noted in the anime that she had sex with Tatsuhiro during the last day of school before she graduated because Tatsuhiro kept her company in literature club for her last two years of high school. She attempts a suicide through an internet suicide pact called the Offline Meeting Notice (an offline meeting is a slightly slang term for a meeting of people who have met on the Internet, not really having much to do as a pun for "shutting one's life off like a computer"). However, she changes her mind after her boyfriend proposes to her. She gets married and has a healthy kid, though before her marriage on new years she asks Tatsuhiro if he wants to have an illicit affair with her and have sex in a love hotel they were standing in front of, but Tatsuhiro reminds her that since she's happy she should have a good life. Her role in the novel is minor, and she is not given a name.
- Tatsuhiro's classmate in high school, was the class representative back then. They meet frequently in manga, but none of them realizes the existence of each other until later. After her father died, she had to work in order to support herself and her brother, who is also a hikikomori, though ended up entangled in a shady pyramid scheme. During school, she had a very uptight personality which Tatsuhiro commented about himself to her face. After high school, she retains much of this personality, though has also become somewhat manipulative in order to survive.
Welcome to the N.H.K.
began as a single novel written by Tatsuhiko Takimoto
, with the cover drawn by Yoshitoshi ABe
of Serial Experiments Lain
fame. The novel was first published on January 28 2002
in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten
, and the bunko
edition was published in 2005. According to Takimoto, the idea of the story came one night as a result of a writer's block
. He phoned Yūya Satō, a friend of his who is also a novelist, and said: "Tomorrow there is a conference in Kadokawa Shoten
, but I can't think of a story, please think of something." With that, the two stayed in a family restaurant
late at night until they came up with Welcome to the N.H.K.
The manga series is illustrated by Japanese manga author Kendi Oiwa. It was serialized in Kadokawa Shoten's manga magazine Shōnen Ace between June 24 2004 and June 2007. The manga's forty chapters have been collected into eight bound volumes released in Japan. Tokyopop licensed the manga for release in English, and the first volume was published on October 10 2006. The manga version diverges from the original version later in the story.
In November 2005, the limited edition of the fourth Japanese volume was published with a Misaki figurine which caused sales of the manga to skyrocket, and was once ranked third on amazon.co.jp in terms of sales. The limited edition of the sixth volume, released in November 2006 in Japan, included the hard copy of the bishōjo game from the manga, True World: Shinjitsu no Sekai. The game was authored by Tatsuhiko Takimoto, the characters designed by Kendi Oiwa and produced by Circus (famous for D.C.: Da Capo). The limited edition of the eight volume included a diploma signifying graduation from being a hikikomori.
A twenty-four-episode anime
adaptation produced by Gonzo
and directed by Yusuke Yamamoto aired in Japan between July 9 2006
and December 17 2006
. The series was coordinated by Satoru Nishizono, featured character design by Takahiko Yoshida, and the music was headed by Masao Fukuda. ADV Films
released the first DVD of the English edition in October 2007.
The anime has four pieces of theme music; two opening themes and two ending themes. The first opening theme, was written by Rieko Ito, composed by Kitagawa Katsutoshi, and performed by Round Table featuring Nino. The second opening theme is a remix of the first entitled which was produced by the same people as with the first opening theme. The first ending theme used for episodes one through twelve, , was written by Kenji Otsuki, composed by Fumihiko Kitsutaka, and featured vocals by Otsuki and Kitsutaka. The second ending theme used for episodes thirteen through twenty-four, , was written and composed by Yugo Sasakura, arranged by Masanori Shimada, and performed by Yui Makino.