Satou Tatsuhiro finds himself in the middle of a huge conspiracy, being shot at while he’s running through a background of a magical girl anime. One of the explosions launches him into a field of snow with a young girl carrying an umbrella standing nearby. Satou then jumps off the cliff in front of him to fight a shadowy monster. It’s at this point that he wakes up from his dream. He slept for 16 hours and can now hear the song from a bishoujo anime coming from next door. The repetitious music along with his own delusions causes tons of puddings to appear in front of him. Satou wants to go next door and make the guy shut off the music, but he can’t get himself to go outside. In his head, he can just hear all the people on the street making fun of him, which is what made him quit college and shut himself in his apartment. Lying in his room, the word “conspiracy” starts swirling around Satou’s head, along with that music. He remembers his senpai from high school telling him that a conspiracy exists in this world. In order to impress that same senpai, he tried to save another student being bullied, but got beat up himself. The conspiracy thoughts combined with the music give him delusions that the appliances around him have come alive, and they make him realize that NHK is responsible. In his reasoning, the NHK television channel broadcasts anime, which makes anime otaku into hikikomori and NEETs. And thus, NHK actually stands for Nihon Hikikomori Kyoukai (Japan Social Withdrawal Association).
Satou thinks he’s figured out the conspiracy. Pumped up now and thinking about karate masters, Satou breaks a beer bottle with hand. Doing so cuts his hand, and as he’s crying out in pain, the doorbell rings. His mind drifts off about if it’s the electric company and what would happen if his power got shut off. Satou finally answers the door after wrapping up his injured hand and is surprised to find a teenage girl with a pink umbrella standing outside. With her is a middle-aged lady who initially screams because Satou has blood on his face from his hand. She’s actually handing out information on hikikomori and is talking about NEETs. Satou takes all this the wrong way and starts raving about his own situation, basically admitting that he dropped out of college and is a hikikomori. He ends up slamming the door on them, telling them that they don’t understand. Standing on the other side of the door, Satou hears the lady call for the girl – named Misaki – to go. Satou peeks his head out his door and finds Misaki staring back at him from on top of the nearby stairs. She smiles at him and then leaves. It’s from this experience that Satou decides to go out and get a part time job.
Armed with a flyer advertising for help at a manga cafe, Satou leaves his apartment and walks all the way there. The entire way, he repeats over and over again the phrase he’s going to say when he gets there about how he heard that the store is taking applications. But when he arrives and goes inside, he finds Misaki sitting at the front desk. He never finishes the sentence he had practiced so much, and instead comes up with something about motorcycles. After making a fool of himself, Satou leaves, but drops the envelope that he originally brought with him. Back at home, he tries to kill himself through strangulation, but can’t. Satou then starts having fantasies about Misaki being a nun and pleasuring herself. He reaches for the box of tissues, but then the doorbell rings again. The ringing turns to knocking, and then he hears someone put something in his box. Looking through the peephole, Satou sees the person now leaving is Misaki, but by the time he opens his door, she’s gone. In his box she left the envelope he dropped and on the back is a note saying that she’s selected him for her “Project.” She wants to meet him tonight at the park at 9PM. After some more nun fantasies, Satou goes to the park that night at the meeting time. Just as he’s having second thoughts about coming, thinking that the letter was a joke, Misaki shows up. She asks him why he ran away earlier in the day, and yet she seems to understand his hikikomori ways. Misaki tells that it’s ok because she knows a way to escape for a hikokomori – she’s going to help him.
ED: 「踊る赤ちゃん人間」 (Odoru Akachan Ningen) by 大槻ケンヂ (Otsuki Kenji) and 橘高文彦 (Kitsutaka Fumihiko)
Watch the ED! Mirror 1 Mirror 2
I don’t think I’ve heard a ROUND TABLE song since…Chobits. It’s not bad, much better than the ED, which reminded me of the bad guys’ song from Nerima Daikon Brothers. The opening animation is unique, high production quality, very fitting for the Puzzle theme. Same goes for the ending animation, but it’s a bit more on the weird side (minus the nude Misaki and Kashiwa-senpai).
The first half of this episode left me at a loss of words. It was like the main character was drunk and high at the same time because of the pudding delusions and the appliances coming alive. It was a rather creepy and freaky way to make you realize that Satou is really messed up. The second half fortunately made a lot more sense (yes, I know not all of this is supposed to make sense). And I see that they kept the manga convention of putting the episode title at the end.
At first I thought Koizumi Yutaka‘s voice was a bit too deep for the part. But then I realized how good of a job he’s doing when Satou actually opens his mouth and a very different voice comes out. It seemed almost perfect for the role. I liked Makino Yui voicing Misaki too, but I couldn’t help but think of Sakura, which is quite different from a nun pleasuring herself. Animation for the first episode was solid, and the character designs aren’t nearly as bad as they first appeared on the official website. I rather enjoyed the background music, particularly the song when Satou was walking to the manga cafe. The “Puru Puru Purin” song became a bit too psychedelic for my tastes though. Overall, the production quality was fairly high.
The verdict is still out on this series for me. I’ve read some of the manga and I didn’t find it as awesome as some people made it sound like. It remains to be seen if the animated version can do better, but this is a good start. I’ll at least watch a couple more episodes.