Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
October 1st, 2007

Welcome to the NHK

Welcome to the NHK
Directed by Yusuke Yamamoto
Written by Satoru Nishizono
Starring various depending on language track
Produced by Scott McClennen

...ohhhh boy.

The Japanese have completely freaking lost it this time. I know I've said that literally dozens of times previously, but this time, I think they've finally gone off the bridge. There's a big sign hanging from Tokyo Tower, and it reads "The whole country is out to lunch. Today's special: Crackers, Nuts, and Bananas!"

How do I know? Because this time around, they've created a new anime that's all about anime fans, commonly called "otaku". Otaku are to Japanese society what, for example, Wolverine fanbois are to ours. And in this case, a secret underground network launched to pander to those otaku is pumping out hours upon hours of high-quality anime programming every day. Why, you may ask? Good ratings? Choice commercial advertising timeslots to yield billions of dollars?

No sir! Nothing so mundane. In this case, the network is brought to us by the NHK--the Nihon Hikikomori Kyokai. Or the Japanese Social-Withdrawal Association, for those of you what don't habla. Apparently, it's a network designed to keep otakus off the streets--in a self-referential state called "hikikomori"--and out of the gene pool, which, judging by some otakus I've seen, is not a terrible idea. Think about that--all those assholes you see running around conventions smelling for all the world like a septic tank burst in a skunk farm doing absolutely nothing but hanging around the house all day watching catgirl / schoolgirl hybrids in non-stop gratuituous panty shots.

Though the conspiracy of the NHK has reached one young man, Sato--at his very lowest point he meets a girl named Misako, who claims to know how to "cure" Sato's hikikomori "disease". She offers him a contract with a hefty termination fee--one hundred thousand yen--and then, we're off to the races. With Misako convinced she's got the cure, and Sato out to prove her wrong by creating a top-selling pornographic video game in a month, the missteps and accusations fly fast and furious.

This DVD only has the first four episodes, you understand. So it's not much to say that the whole thing is inconclusive. It's four episodes out of who knows how many, so it's not as though we're going to get a lot of satisfaction here. But it's good enough--there's no doubt of that. It's solidly done for what little there is here.

That's the one thing that sucks about anime DVDs. There's only a few episodes on each disc, and who knows how many more there'll be until the series is concluded? Or when we'll see them? It's not exactly a recipe for long-term satisfaction, you know.

All in all, "Welcome to the NHK: 1st Conspiracy" is good, for what there is of it. Lacking in long-term satisfaction, but great in the short run, it will definitely be worth a rental.


DVD Directed by Lamberto Bava
Written by Dardano Sacchetti,
Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava, Franco Ferrini Starring Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey, Karl Zinny, Fiore Argento
Produced by Dario Argento
88 mins

Once again, Anchor Bay salvages the darkest depths of 1980s video store fare to recover a classic. Funny, but they very seldom seem to dredge the turkeys out of the lake, rather sticking to fantastic treasure ships. And this one will be no different--welcome to Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento's great Italian nightmare, "Demons".

In a move that displays why the video store is your greatest and safest entertainment value, "Demons" offers a special treat--a free screening of a horror film at the local theatre, the Metropol, courtesy of a guy in a truly freaky metal half-mask. Those expecting a simple night at the movies couldn't be more wrong, as in short order, people abruptly start turning into insane monstrousities bent on murder and destruction. Okay, the premise is pretty flimsy, but we're not here for a deep and involved storyline--we're here to watch people try and survive the theatre of horrors!

And best believe, there will be lots and lots and LOTS of bloodthirsty subhumans tearassing around this old movie house, and a steadily dwindling number of humans trying desperately to survive their monstrous new counterparts.

Perhaps the simplest kind of horror--let's lock a whole bunch of people in with some cannibalistic nightmares!--and yet one of the most effective, "Demons" proves to be supremely effective. Wavering back and forth, semi-randomly, between balls-out slash-and-burn horror and nail-biting suspense ratchets up the tension to surprising high levels.

I used to watch this every so often back in the dim days of my youth, but I could only get it on VHS. And trust me, watching it on DVD is wildly, WILDLY superior to that raggedy old VHS copy I watched. They really improved the audio AND the picture quality--I used to think the horror movie showing at the Metropol was wreathed in fog. Watching it now, all I can say now is...well...there was no fog involved. A big shock, sure enough, and at the same time, a fantastic testament to the great improvement DVD can offer when it comes to the classics of our era.

Okay, maybe I'm overstating things. Maybe "Demons" isn't really classic to anybody but horror buffs enjoying the twenty-second anniversary edition. It may not be a classic, but it's still pretty hair-raising.

The ending involves the best use of motocross I've seen to date, and when you see it, you'll understand how I could say that without looking like a complete loon. The phrase "over the top" is not without merit here. Bonus points for extensive cheese, and killing by helicopter!

The special features include audio options, English closed captions, a commentary track, a behind the scenes featurette, and trailers for "Demons", "Demons 2", "Phenomena", "Tenebre", "Re-Animator", and "Phantasm".

All in all, another magnificently overpowered win for Anchor Bay! I can only wonder what half-forgotten treasure of the horror industry's dim, dark youth they'll dredge up next.