Welcome to the NHK is one of many anime that deals with the concept of “NEETs”. NEETs are people, often young people aged between 20 to 30, who are “Not in Education, Employment, or Training” (hence the NEET acronym).
The NEET issue is a universal theme addressed in many anime (Eden of the East is another one that comes to mind). Whilst the trope of the young socially awkward otaku male is used time and time again in anime, Welcome to the NHK addresses it in a much more serious way.It does this by presenting the life of a particular NEET called Sato. Sato is not just a NEET, he is a “hikikomori”. This term literally means “pulling inward, confined”, and refers to a reclusive lifestyle. Sato’s hikikomori lifestyle is generally explained as a result of social anxiety, and his struggle to battle this condition makes for the ongoing theme of this anime.
One thing that really set this anime apart for me was it’s refusal to shy away from what it means to be a hikikomori, to avoid people, to not know how to interact with them. Sato lies, Sato takes the skirt off an anime figurine so he can perve on it, Sato is tricked into parting with his money, Sato ignores the people who care about him. His struggle seems all the more real because we see him fail so much more than we see him succeed. His lowest moments are neatly portrayed with hallucinogenic trips in which little creatures giggle freakishly and his appliances seem to talk to him, reflecting the true extent to which isolation can warp the mind.
For me, I would highly recommend this anime to anyone. With a strong group of well realised characters, each fighting their own battles, the themes of depression, financial struggle and loneliness of young adults attempting to make it in a modern Japan that doesn’t seem to care for their wellbeing, Sato is ultimately a sympathetic character. The quirks, sometimes embarrassing, but often relatable to some degree, will strike a nerve with anyone who has ever felt alone, lacked motivation or struggled to gel with peers.