Posts Tagged ‘welcome to the nhk’
As many of you are aware, Funimation made quite a few people upset earlier this week by announcing that a few of the series acquired in the Sojitz/ADV deal (most notably ‘Welcome to the NHK‘ and ‘Red Garden‘) would be released and concluded in box sets releases. This was in spite of both series being only one or two volumes away from being finished.
Earlier today, an official Funimation rep posted the following to the ANN forum:
“Hello anime fans,
We do understand your concern regarding the future releases of these two series in which you have already invested so much time and emotion. I won’t bore you with the long explanation as to how we came to the decision we did as to how to package these series nor rattle off the many factors that led to that decision.
That being said, we have taken your comments to heart and here’s what we are going to do: in addition to the box sets we will ALSO release Red Garden Volumes 4 and 5, Pumpkin Scissors v.5, and NHK v.5. They will be available through The Right Stuf in December — though street dates have not yet been finalized. Volume 6 for all three of these series will be available at a later date, still to be determined, and will also be available via The Right Stuf.”
With this volume the series moves into its second half. It’s not quite what I was expecting but it will do.
Sato is out on a deserted island with Hitomi and three other people who all want to kill themselves that night. And they all think that Sato is planning on joining them. Obviously it won’t be the end for Sato but the trip back will put him in an even worse mood towards Misaki. Though she isn’t giving up on him. As a way of saying thank you, one of the other off meeting participants gives Sato a free pass to an online game which seems to be perfect timing.
When his allowance gets cut in half, he remembers hearing about gold farming in online games as a means of making income. Soon though, he makes a friend and forgets all about the real world as he finds a brand new addiction. It will be up to Yamazaki and Misaki to save him but their means might be a little unusual. When Sato gets an unexpected phone call however, he disappears again suddenly leaving everyone to wonder where he’s gone this time.
Good and the Bad
Starting immediately with the dramatic conclusion to the cliff hanger (literally), the series lightens its mood considerably even with the dark subject matter. The characters will all eventually come to their own conclusions and ultimately there will be characters coming off the island. The conclusion to this story arc just has to be mentioned though since there were just so many things about it that stuck out.
In this entire episode, it never ceased to amaze me at how easily Sato and Hitomi are swayed to a new line of thinking. While it makes sense due to his decreased social awareness, watching it play out in front of your own eyes can be perplexing. Hitomi is the more surprising of the two since in the end it trivializes her problems by making her seem like she is just being overdramatic.
From here ‘Welcome to the NHK’ segues into a new story arc not nearly as dramatic for the beginning of the second half. Instead one of the characters that returns from the island gives Sato a free trial to an online game that he just happened to have on him. Naturally the issue here is that he’s giving the invitation over and yet disappears for the rest of the volume. It just seems like if you’re giving someone an invitation to a game then you probably are inviting them to adventure with you. It made the complete transition feel a little forced and almost telegraphs the phone call Sato gets from his mother.
The new story itself is entertaining once it begins and the series shifts its setting. Having the series change its format to match the new fantasy setting breaks up the pacing of the series nicely. The change of pace helps the audience transition from the dark drama back into its comedy roots with little issue as well.
With the series needing to find a way to return to its original story, the change in scenery does the trick nicely by pulling a bait and switch. Instead of moving the series immediately back to its original story with Sato and Yamazaki’s game, it moves in an entirely new, unrelated, direction. While the original subject matter hasn’t come back up yet, the audience will remain distracted from that fact for all three episodes of the story.
The entrance of the new female character that Sato becomes friends with plays really well. The change in character design for Sato is good for a laugh right away but after that the design is easily adjusted to. While it’s a shame that Mia won’t be returning as a regular character in the series, the time that she spends within the story is fun.
From both the background to the insert music, the music in this volume is where these four episodes really accomplished the most. Episode thirteen features wonderful music throughout with a prime example being the tense string music that plays late in the volume. The music is very well layered and adds a lot to the scene. Also featured in episode thirteen is a new ending theme by Yui Makino (Misaki) titled ‘Modokashii Sekai no Ue de’ which is another soft ballad. The song fits well with the series and sounds very good coming from Yui Makino.
The insert songs continue to be well composed and placed within the series. Sato’s sad slow walk home in episode fourteen was perfectly matched by the soft acoustic insert song.
Dub vs. Sub
While regular readers of this site might see this one coming, Monica Rial deserves the standout performance of the volume. Monica is absolutely adorable as Mia the fantasy cat girl and really comes across well in this volume.
The dialogue remained consistent in both language tracks. The comedy didn’t always get the laughs that the writers were intending to get but they were always worth a chuckle or an eye roll. Either way audience members will not be able to stop themselves from reacting.
Despite its predictable nature, the episodes on this volume managed to keep me entertained. While the stories aren’t the strongest the series has told so far, the second half of the series starts fresh by changing the format for a little while. The change of pace ends up being a shot in the arm for this series as while my interest isn’t nearly as strong as it was four episodes ago; I’m still very interested in seeing where Sato ends up next. Recommended.
Final Grade: B-
Four more episodes of conspiracy theories and social freak outs.
In the next four episodes of this series, the story slowly moves forward and begins to take on an actual shape. When Sato has dinner with Hitomi, he starts to rethink his life and decides to sign the contract given to him by Misaki and begin her treatments for curing hikikomori. The treatments are odd but work in an odd way as Sato will find a new level of passion for the game that he’s creating with Yamazaki. He’ll even venture out into the real world of college to find out if Yamazaki has a girlfriend.
The second half of the volume focuses on a surprise visit from Sato’s mother. This is now a complicated mess for Sato as he’s told her that he’s working for a software company and he has a girlfriend that he wants to marry. Needing a job and a girlfriend, Yamazaki gets enlisted to create a software company and Misaki volunteers to play the role of his girlfriend for the day.
Good and the Bad
When I watched the start of this series, I felt like I was missing something but I didn’t know what. Now that I’ve watched a few more episodes, the bigger picture is finally coming into view and that’s what I was missing.
In the next set of four episodes, the story will play itself out a little more each episode. The pacing in this series moves at a very steady and deliberate pace. While it occasionally shifts in its pacing, this series uses its time so well in each episode. While some of the scenes may feel like they are being drawn out a little too long, there wasn’t a single episode wasted on this volume. Every episode does something to help the story move forward while still trying to develop characters along the way.
The character development on this volume is delivered in various ways making audiences pay attention. On this volume, Sato will see a lot of growth as a character that should broaden his appeal to the audience. With new love interests popping up around him, Sato has started to grow out of his shell and become a bit more palatable to the audience. While Sato has yet to really appeal to me as a hero character, the writing in this volume really sends a signal that they are planning something special for him later on and this has piqued my curiosity.
The development of Yamazaki and Misaki on this volume were a little more subtle but not hidden. All throughout this volume, Yamazaki provides a great service to the series as a strong supporting character. Episode seven doesn’t do nearly enough to expand on his character but audiences will be able to walk away with some new light on the character. In the second half of the volume, the audience is finally going to learn a little bit more about Misaki. While a lot of the information will be delivered to the audience in list form (almost makes you wonder if the staff is planning on testing the memories of their audience later), a lot of it comes from even more will show up in more traditional ways. The lunch scene in episode eight is a great example of Misaki being developed with as few words as possible.
The story itself is moving in interesting new directions. Yamazaki and Sato have found new passion for their game and have decided to create something special instead of just something that they threw together. Meanwhile, Sato is starting to show signs of wanting to emerge from his shell and explore things like relationships. So he enters into Misaki’s counseling sessions. While the series is moving forward, it almost feels like there is a predictable edge to it. As I watched this volume I was already envisioning more than a few different directions that this series might possibly head.
The animation in this series continues to be a strong pull for audience members. There are a lot of little details that were animated well such as Sato’s smoke and some of the weirder effects in Sato’s dream. The character designs remain one of the more appealing aspects of this series as the characters all look realistic. The features are well drawn and the animation staff did a great job of paying attention to simple features like wrinkles or a shift in the way a character’s eyes look during different scenes. While many of Sato’s jokes are overt reaction gags, there are also a few quiet scenes where a lot of weight will be carried by a subtle facial expression.
While the closing animation and music still frighten me on a few different levels, the insert song in episode seven is really nice. It has a nice pop feel but the acoustic guitar keeps it from seeming overproduced. The mood of the song fit the scene well and it would play well out of context.
The background music in this volume comes across strongly really aiding the episodes along. While none of the music ever stood out in a bad way, there were a couple of scenes where I did find myself paying more attention to the music than I was the dialog. The ambient music in the dinner scene of episode five is a nice example.
Dub vs. Sub
Greg Ayres as Yamazaki is really entertaining on this volume. The performance really had me laughing is quite a few places making it well worth the nod. Also standing out on this volume is Luci Christian as Hitomi. It’s far too rarely that audiences get to hear Luci play a slower, more mellow and flirty role. Hitomi really came across well in the dub track.
The writing itself in the dub script really hasn’t won me over yet. Some of the cultural jokes such as Misaki’s confusion over eight million gods still don’t translate well into English making them a lot weaker in the dub script. Another interesting choice was to give the character of Nanako a lisp in the dub script. There are a few different reasons why the director might have chosen to go this route but I’m still not sure which one is the reason they chose. Either way the lisp really didn’t add much to the character though she certainly will be a bit more memorable should she return later.
Just clean animations.
While the characters and story have yet to win me over, the pace at which they are moving forward is hard to ignore. While the comedy rarely made me laugh out loud, I did get enough chuckles from the writing to be interested in exploring more. I’m not enthusiastic about this series but so far it hasn’t shown any reason not to move forward with it. This is really coming across as a series that won’t be for everyone though and casual anime fans will probably get lost in all the cultural references. Make this one a rental.
Final Grade: B-
I’m finally digging into the series that arguably has given Chris Patton more positive press coverage than any previous series.
In the first four episodes of this series, we meet our main character Sato Tatsuhiro who lives a NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) lifestyle. Sato dropped out of college and lives a lonely existence made up of 16 hours of sleep a day and internet porn. Finally though he comes up with his answer… the reason why he’s such an anti social mess is because he’s been targeted in a conspiracy run by the NHK. The conspiracy is a clever plan which traps people inside their homes with cute anime characters and other such addictive programming.
So Sato decides to try to push past his solitary, anti-social, NEET lifestyle and find a job. Instead of finding a job though, he meets a mysterious girl named Misaki who wants to save him from his recluse lifestyle. Before he lets her do that though, Sato is going to pull out every excuse possible to deny her… even if it means creating a hentai game with his otaku neighbor.
Good and the Bad
Not everyone loves Gonzo animation but everyone has to admit that when a series is animated by Gonzo you’re going to see some killer animation and in this case they didn’t disappoint. It was a little weird to see Gonzo listed as the animation studio of this series though since I’m so used to seeing them create epic space battles or amazing character shots.
In terms of animation though, there really wasn’t a whole lot on the volume that could be called really impressive. The animation all looked very good, it was clean and the colors were sharp but that’s really about all you can say about it.
The writing on this opening volume was absolutely nothing like what I expected. Reading all of the promo materials for this series, I knew that it was going to be a comedy and I knew it was going to be over the top but wow, this is absolutely nothing like what it was made out to sound like.
The story for this title is certainly interesting so far. A guy lives a recluse life style, cute girl offers to help him get out of it and he refuses using the excuse that he creates hentai games and thus does not need help. I will say that I have never seen an anime try to tell a story like this before.
Sadly though this is not a story that can be run with as this opening volume suffers from a terrible problem with pacing. While every episode of the volume progressed the story forward and introduced us to our key characters, it did so in a very slow and deliberate manner. This had a really hard affect on me as every episode felt like it took forever to get through even if I was enjoying it.
I think perhaps the biggest reason for this though is that so much of the comedy is based on cultural and language jokes. While I was able to catch most of these jokes and get a small chuckle out of some of them, an average fan isn’t going to get or even catch half the jokes in the volume. Even I had to hit pause a couple of times to look stuff up before I could continue and so I know that someone who isn’t already plugged into modern Japanese culture is going to get lost along the way. For those fans who stumble into this series without any sort of knowledge of Japanese culture there are also plenty of sex jokes and fan service scenes.
The opening theme is a really nice pop tune that I enjoyed. Really heavy on the acoustic guitar and cute female vocals, it fits in well with the moe and otaku theme that runs rampant throughout the first four episodes. The closing theme itself isn’t weird… combine it with the closing animation though (which I’m not sure I can even describe) and it becomes mind blowingly weird. If you get a chance, watch the closing animation of this series even if you have no intention of watching the series. I really believe that it will rank quite high on most people’s ‘what am I looking at?’ meter.
The background music for this series was really impressive though. From start to finish I was constantly finding myself quite entranced by the beautiful background music that was composed for this series. Ironically enough, the music was sometimes better than the scene it was accompanying.
Dub vs. Sub
With such a small cast, it’s really easy to focus on performances. Chris Patton and Stephanie Wittles and Greg Ayres all do a wonderful job with their roles. In particular I really found Greg Ayres to be quite hilarious as the otaku neighbor. It was actually kind of sad how many lines I heard from Greg’s character, Yamazaki, and recognized them from other conversations I’ve heard throughout my life with other anime fans. A little too sad really.
Chris Patton has been receiving non stop praise for his role as Sato in this series and while I haven’t actually heard enough to know if he deserved all of the ‘dub actor of the year’ nods he got this past December, I will say that I am impressed. Despite the series being a comedy, Chris really puts his vocals through a grinder with this role and the extra effort is apparent in this opening volume’s performance. A very solid performance.
Moving right past the standard clean animations, the only other extra on this volume is something called ‘Conspiracy Handbook 101’ which are just liner notes that define some of the more obscure references and even gives some cultural notes. These are always helpful and even if you don’t need them, it’s always a good idea to read them and brush up. While I was really hoping for more, this is a ‘take what you can get’ situation I think.
While I’m certainly not sold on the series and am not entirely convinced that the series deserved all of the epic praise it’s gotten thus far, I will say that I enjoyed this opening volume. The story is moving at a terribly slow pace and I’m not even entirely sure what the series is going to ultimately going to end up being about (though I have hunches), there is enough here for me to recommend this one to seasoned anime veterans who will laugh at all the cultural references and inside jokes regarding anime fandom. Everyone else is just going to stare at it and wonder why it’s supposed to be funny.
Final Grade: 88% – B