Nov 23, 2007
Manga Review for Welcome to the NHK Volume 4. Story by Tatsuhiko Takimoto. Art by Kendi Oiwa. Translated by Christine Schilling. Adapted by Zachary Rau. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten in 2005. Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Mature 18+.
Unlike most otaku, Satou and Yamazaki both find themselves having girl trouble in Volume 4 of Welcome to the NHK. They're both also having parent problems as well. Yamazaki is beginning to make inroads with a classmate named Nanako that he likes but he is being ordered home to take care of the family business. Satou has wants Misaki out of his life and gets another shock when he finds out his old friend from high school, Kashiwa, is getting married, which drags up some feelings that he didn't even know he had for her. Things get even more complicated when Yamazaki invites Nanako to his apartment, the mecca of otakudom. Meanwhile, Satou and Kashiwa are on the cusp of having an affair, which enflames the jealousy of Misaki. Suffice it to say, a lot of hidden feelings come out in this fourth volume.
While NHK has always had its share of black comedy tinged with despair, you always felt that the writer was never taking it very seriously, almost as if he were laughing with a trace of a tear on his face. But with this volume we get some very serious relationships right out of slice of life shojo, which just adds another layer to an already virtuoso work. Mostly gone are the uncomfortable underage girl fixations and sexual fantasies of earlier books (that's not to say this one is totally clean), but the two guys are finding it hard to work on their hentai game so a lot of that element is missing. Misaki has gone from guiding light and angel to stalking psycho girl and it seems totally out of the blue, unless that is due to the fact that she didn't know she liked Satou until Kashiwa entered the picture. With its brillant comedy bits of gallows giggling, NHK is one of the best titles out there.
My Grade: A