Episode 1: Welcome to the Conspiracy


Hikikomori – social self-rejects. Sponging off of their parents, without the wherewithal to get out of their apartments, get jobs, get training, get educated. People who have seen the world, the way it works – interaction, conversation, networking – and have said, “No.”

It isn’t brave. Not all (or even most) transgression and norm-breaching is an act of bravery. They’re damaged, or cowardly, or somewhere in-between. Welcome to the NHK is about one of these anti-social near-hermits: Tatsuhiro Sato, a normal kid in high school, who became withdrawn in the first year of college, and has barely left his apartment in four years. He has an active imagination, one that invents fears and fantasies that keep him behind closed doors.

The first half of the first episode involves the internal conflict – can he go next door and tell his neighbor to turn down his

WelcometoTheNHK_ep1_shot2damned anime? This leads to a series of connections in his mind: anime was created to create anime fans, otaku, who then become too obsessed with their favorite shows and unable to cope with the real world. Creates more Hikikomore (or NEETs – “Not in Employment, Education or Training”).

The animated recreation of these conspiratorial thoughts is vividly imagined. At one point, when Sato determines the full reach of the conspiracy, his appliances all come to life and congratulate him on his insight. But he does not go out of door. He does not knock on the neighbor’s door. He stays in.


He does open the door once, when a couple of charity workers passing out religious documents about the NEET phenomenon come by. One of them is a teen girl, very pretty, who catches Sato’s attention.

When he does venture out, finally, looking for a part-time job (and practices asking the simple question about getting the job again and again on his walk, so he can have to courage to actually say it), he goes to the bookstore/internet cafe that is hiring. The girl is there, too, sitting behind the counter. He runs away, and tries to imagine why she would work there. It isn’t the right place for a religious girl. He imagines her chastising herself at night while wearing a nun’s habit and digitally stimulating herself (it’s important to note that her breasts become much larger in the fantasy – Sato cannot interact with women, but they all seem to become hyper-sexualized in his imaginings). The girl comes by his house again, leaving him a note, telling him he’s her new project.


Whatever that project is is left to our imagination (for the next episode). What it sets up is the perennial (and to some, annoying) manic, pixie dreamgirl scenario – a young woman who exists to solve the problems of the broken man*. Welcome to the NHK has a very broken man at its center, one whose inertia and awkwardness are his defining characteristics.

*Annoying personal note: I am reviewing this series without having watched the whole thing. Usually, I do my reviews while doing a second-pass. However, I have read the novel on which the show is based, and enjoyed it thoroughly – not the least because it features a complete portrait of the inward unhappy Sato who not only hates his life, but hates the notion that it can change.

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com