Welcome to the MELANCHOLY

Uh, whoops. Welcome to the NHK Volume 4 just showed up in the mail, which made me realize I’ve never gotten around to reviewing the third volume. I’ve had this placeholder entry sitting around waiting to be filled out ever since it first arrived… three months ago. (Compare this entry’s ID number with the one before it!) But somehow, I never never got around to writing the text. Whoops. No time like the present to, uh, do what I should have done months ago. Right? Right. Yeah.

Things have changed since I last wrote about NHK. Or rather, my awareness of things has changed. Some of the magical uniqueness of the series has been rubbed away by the friction of my exposure to other manga and anime; the series’ pointed social commentary seems ever-so-slightly dulled now that I’ve discovered that just about every comic and cartoon to come from Japan these days is also about nerd culture.

Review behind the cut >>

Yes, I write things for this site, too.

34 thoughts on “Welcome to the MELANCHOLY

  1. I read comments from Hideaki Anno the other day that stated the final two episodes were about “GET OFF YOUR ASS AND DO SOMETHING YOU WORTHLESS OTAKU” so not only is this slant something that pervades Japanese pop culture atm… but apparently it’s YET ANOTHER thing borrowed from Evangelion.

    It’s good to know when a nation’s culture peaked.

  2. “The difference — aside from the sheer volume of questionable Genshiken and Haruhi merchandise compared to NHK goods — is that this series began life simply as a novel.”

    Except that Haruhi was also originally a series of novels :T

  3. Both NHK and Haruhi were Light Novels originally. Light Novels often more often than not include “anime style” artwork and are written for younger people.

    A large number of popular Japanese comics and animated tv series start off as light novels, Slayers, Scrapped Princess, Haruhi, Welcome to the NHK, Full Metal Panic, Boogiepop Phantom, Crest of the Stars. . .

  4. I think my like of Haruhi is in the same boat as you liking NHK. When I first watched it, I thought it was a great send up. But I like anime and manga in isolation to the rest of the fandom because I just don’t watch/read much. But then I saw the figures exploiting the very thing that was being sent up. I suppose now I try to just have tunnel vision for the series only and ignore the creepy fans. Sort of like Final Fantasy, I guess.

  5. Jeremy, it creeps me out how much our opinions share in common (except for you not liking Afraid of Sunlight and Smash Bros!). The message I get from NHK is that some people either hide or project their problems differently than others, but it’s no reason to be unconfident or afraid of the world. It’s a message that many of us need to see to break those shells we’ve got.

    If you want something funny but not so pandering as Haruhi, check out Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei… it’s a show with the same kind of crazy school-setting humor and ironic tone, but less of the “fetish” plays. And the 15-min mini-arcs from Urusei Yatsura are back in force. It’s seriously excellent.

    BTW Tomm, those “go live in the real world” allusions have been around since the UY movies at least and probably before. Thank goodness there are people in the world that can’t handle selling garbage fiction without some allusions to healthy living to make themselves feel a faint sliver of righteousness.

  6. Wow, that was a scathing critique of Genshiken. I quite liked the series myself, just because I thought it captured the fun of being a nerd, which mainly is hanging out with friends and discussing the meaningless minuta of the latest anime series or videogame. I guess I never realized that having these interests was supposed to make me an introverted loner. I’ve been going about things all wrong!

  7. Oh, yeah, I forgot about Haruhi being a novel originally. So what’s its excuse, then?

    For the record, I would have enjoyed any of these series if I’d read/seen them without any sort of meaningful context. I actually do enjoy Haruhi, even though it makes me cringe as often as it makes me happy. But having read and seen them in close proximity and being aware the subtext of their otaku orientation makes it very difficult not to feel sort of dirty when they go into “pander” mode.

  8. Well, as alzabo said, even though Haruhi was originally a novel, the novel included pictures of the character that are basically the same character designs as the anime. A lot of light novels seem to be about pandering even though they are text based entertainment. For example, look at Zero no Tsukaima. It also is a novel, but it has the main character in her short-skirted school uniform and thigh-high stockings all over the covers and illustrations.

  9. I’m expecting the otaku frenzy to get even crazier in the near future, now that Foreign Minister and open otaku Taro Aso is rumored to be the next Prime Minister.

  10. Yeah, I read about that. I hear his first act will be to drop the rising sun from the Japanese flag and replace it with the grinning face of Japan’s new official mascot, Nippon-tan.

  11. The idea of Nippon-tan breaks something deep, deep in my head. Partly from the idea of it getting extended to other nations and the horrible (wonderful?) implications of such.

  12. I liked this. Too many people avoid criticizing anime culture because it’s mostly harmless if you’re not involved; there’s also the arguement of “But those poor nerds get enough abuse everywhere else in life!” These people are monsters of their own creation.

    I was once a complete anime nerd, but I was able to step back from it and realize what a waste of time and money it could be. I was also sick of the insular circle jerking of the community, who had to be glowing about every anime series they saw lest they damage “the community” (see animeondvd.com for a great example of this).

  13. Yes. Just to be clear, the criticism in this review — and, I feel, the criticism inherent in NHK and maybe to a much lesser degree in Haruhi Suzumiya — isn’t toward people who casually enjoy anime (or any hobby) but rather toward those who become so immersed they lose all sense of perspective about it, or about Japan, or about America, or about their peer group. I like some anime! I have several bookshelves full of manga! Even a few random toys and collectibles. But that is as far as it goes, and I harbor no illusions about it.

  14. Mr. Toasty,

    Before you further your rampage on distasteful Japanese culture (that ironically enough, is not distasteful enough for you to easily turn your head away from), it’s important to note that the writers and artists of mangas such as NHK and Genshiken are not the ones that decide to make scantily clad figurines of our favourite characters. Once these mangas are picked up by large anime companies, it is the licensing staff’s job to commission toys and merchandise.

    Yes, the writers and artists still have some say in manufacturing this smut, but as much as they’d like to sanctify their works as an art, they’d also like to make some money too.

  15. I’ve been lurking on this site for years now, and I think that’s the most amazingly bitter thing I’ve ever seen posted here. Or maybe on any site. Mr Parish was not in his Happy Place when he wrote this.

    I may be a geek but I’m also happy with how I am. I may not be as social as the average person but I’m also too self-conscious to become a sexually-frustrated hermit. There is a degree of separation between geekery and hikikomori.

    Also, Sergeant Frog is kind of open about how shamelessly fanservicey it is. The Gundam connection is just the worst example to make here.

  16. hay mr parish, you dont understand anime fans at all. Just because you read it doesnt mean you can call all of us nerds and crazies and i dont think you should judge everybody who watches anime and reads manga. anime is the bestest thing to come over to usa and your just uncultured.


  17. I was, really. It’s just the article was so strongly worded I felt oddly obliged to reply to it, even if I was being redundant.

  18. “What the heck are you watching?”

    “A cartoon.”

    “It looks like it’s made for six year-olds.”

    “Yeah, but it’s from JAPAN.”

    “Shit, man, break out the snacks!”

  19. “anime is the bestest thing to come over to usa and your just uncultured.”

    Pfft. That position is taken up by Monty Python.

  20. “I like some anime! …But that is as far as it goes, and I harbor no illusions about it.”

    And that pretty much sums it up for me.

  21. Wow. Y’know, I’ve NEVER gotten a moe vibe off Ohno, personally. Naturally, there’s the fact that she’s visibly ADULT, and without the whole six-year-old little-sister physical appearance, that gets rid of 80% of the core concept of moe right there. I don’t remember her ever being SHY or EMBARASSED about doing cosplay- if anything, she seems to be more confident when she’s doing it than when she’s in her civvies, and the only time embarassment enters into it is when Saki’s commenting on how the outfit shows off Ohno’s boobs or asking if she’s ever had cosplay sex.

    And Ohno likes bald, older men, not fat, ugly ones (notwithstanding the fact that she ends up dating Tanaka, who’s not particularly bald, old, fat OR ugly).

    Oh no! Shimoku gave us a main character who’s primarily there for audience identification? You mean he DOESN’T get any development in subsequent volumes? What horror! I wonder how many of my other favorite series have pulled such a dirty, underhanded move!

  22. “Oh no! Shimoku gave us a main character who’s primarily there for audience identification? You mean he DOESN’T get any development in subsequent volumes? What horror! I wonder how many of my other favorite series have pulled such a dirty, underhanded move!”

    Just being a cliche doesn’t make something good. Though I thought that would have been obvious.

  23. I’ve only watched one volume of Genshiken, and have heard some about other episodes so I don’t know how everything goes down, but is the whole “Otaku can laze about without worries.” pushed that much? We do see the characters buying all kinds of junk and never see them study. But AFAIK, the studying isn’t a important part of the show so we can assume that Mr.Geek has a programming class so he can snag that job after the series ends, and Mr.Cipher buses tables at McDonalds so he can get those doujinshi.

  24. In contrast to Bobservo, I’m still a complete anime nerd despite realising what a complete waste of time and money it is. Sometimes being stupid is far more fun that being intelligent ^^;

    In regards to Sgt. Frog, the Gundam obsession is a really odd thing to pull it up on. I mean, it’s not like the series is entirely innocuous or anything (I’m trying to remember if it was you or someone else who described Mine Yoshizaki as “the go-to-guy for putting boobs on inappropriate things” in regards to Otomedius), but I can’t remember the Gunpla thing ever being shown in a positive light. Keroro’s obsession with plastic models is consistently shown to be pretty much the sole reason why he’s failed to actually be productive in his attempts to conquer Earth and escape his incarceration.

    I’d probably argue that you are being a bit too harsh on Genshiken as well, but I’m feeling lazy and it’s not like I disagree with what you are actually saying overall (I’d be curious to know what you’d make of Lucky Star…). My love of retarded pulp fiction, regardless of origin or medium, overrides any attempt for me to particularly care about it.

  25. There is no such thing as being too hard on Genshiken. The only reason more people are not openly derisive of it is because they are too busy trying to forget that it exists.

    Anyway, I thought of this screed when I saw the Region 1 Welcome to the NHK cover art: http://img206.imageshack.us/img206/8172/welcomenhkanimeqm9.jpg

    Personally, I think that of the two titles, Haruhi has a more appealing core message (escapism is awesome but reality actually exists and can be almost as good) than NHK’s ‘everything sucks’ nihilism, but they’ve both been so wholly subverted by the Moe-powered Otaku-Milking Corporate Machine that I can’t really say I’m a fan of either.

  26. I’ve started reading NHK after seeing this, and while it claims to be comedy, yeah.. Pretty depressing. It almost feels like the House of Sand and Fog of manga. I honestly can’t imagine how this could possibly have a happy ending. I’d almost feel cheated if it did. Based just on how the first volume seems to be going, I can’t imagine any ending where this guy doesn’t ultimately kill himself.

  27. I read all three of the NHK reviews at once as I had not seen the other two previously on the site. I think you might want to consider reviewing manga as a whole and not volume by volume as you tend to needlessly reiterate a number of points. I also tend to think it gives the reader a more cohesive view of the manga or anime. However, not all of these series are finite and the choice is ultimately yours to make. I hope you and the crew continue to review manga and anime reviews. As with all of the reviews on this site, I find them insightful even if I do not agree with them.

  28. I read NHK up to volume 4 or 5. Yeah, it is depressing. I saw one episode of the anime, and it seems toned down a little, which isn’t surprising. Good comment about the House of Sand and Fog. Where is the anime Requiem for a Dream? I just noticed both those have Jennifer Connely. If you like depressing anime, Requiem from the Darkness features violent child death in about 70% of the episodes, along with a hilariously smooth intro song.

  29. I don’t get the same vibe off of Genshiken that you do – I really read it as a younger otaku’s High Fidelity.

Comments are closed.