I think we all dream of quitting our jobs and staying inside – or at least unemployed – at some point in our lives. Morioka Moriko is the woman who lives this blessed dream. She begins the show by quitting her job and joining the MMO community with her male character named Hayashi. In the hopes of reliving the fun she had in a previous MMO, Moriko plays Fruits de Mer and meets a girl named Lily who’s kindness inspires her to make changes in and out of game. Lily happens to be a very attractive man, Sakurai Yuta, and so the romantic comedy begins as the two meet in real life without realizing it.
Recovery of an MMO Junkie certainly isn’t a standout show this season because of superb animation or enthralling prose, but because it trusts the viewers implicitly on a level that you don’t see – really ever – in anime. Inferencing became a pretty large part of understanding the world and Moriko’s interaction in it, and the show trusted the viewers to use this inferencing.
I want to point out the various side characters that aren’t used to direct the plot- basically, everyone but Sakurai, Fujimoto, and Koiwai. These in-game side characters are shown in the opening to have real lives outside the game, and we are lead to believe based on an ending scene in the opening that a female we never learn the identity of (I’m thinking Lilac) visits Moriko’s apartment.
Besides the opening cinematic, there are numerous references to adventures and relationships we never see develop as viewers. I don’t quite remember over how long a time period this show takes place, let’s call it a year, but the ten episode stint of MMO Junkie is certainly not long enough to dictate every detail. Instead of wasting time with the commonly used “getting-to-know-you-getting-to-know-all-about-you” story arcs that persist is just about every anime we see, MMO Junkie simply allows us to infer and understand that there is a lot we don’t see and that we don’t need to see. Do you actually care about Pokotaro and Hayashi’s in-game relationship and how they became good friends? No. You don’t.
Furthermore, if you’ve ever played an MMO, you know that you sort of just log on and play. There isn’t often a huge session of learning about each other- you just play the game. MMO Junkie brings a sense of relief with this storytelling, and a sense of reality that I find, frankly, refreshing.
In talking about time, let’s talk about how long the show is: it’s ten episodes. That’s two-three episodes shorter than the average season run, and it’s another thing we don’t see often in anime. A lot of shows will run their count, stretching the plot, over-explaining, character arcs, animations, and so forth just to reach that twelve episode mark.
MMO Junkie didn’t do that.
It told the story it wanted to tell, granted there is a lengthy side episode that accomplishes something I feel could have been done better and more quickly, and ended. There’s OVA’s, of course, but that’s not a part of the main season run. In a world where we are used to timing our shows to the 12’s and 13’s, it was cool to have someone end it all early with confidence that they did what they wanted to.
That brings me to the content of the show itself; what did Recovery of an MMO Junkie want to do? Well, let’s look at the title of the show, first off. I actually found the English title off-putting and confusing considering the content and direction of the show. While I do understand that the title is referring to Moriko’s recovery as learning to cope with her anxiety and getting back into the world, the title lead me to believe this show was going to be more gag-centric about the life of a NEET.
I am very glad it wasn’t a over-the-top gag anime because I hate them. However! If people are similar to me, you may not pick this show up based on the wording of the English title. That being said, the Japanese title isn’t much better: ネト充のススメ or Recommendation of a Neet (best translation I can get).
Honestly, I don’t think either title serves the show, but it’s something to think about when watching and understanding what the creators want to get across.
MMO Junkie begins as a fantasy for most of us, then becomes an adorable RomCom that makes you go “aw” at the teenage-like love of two 30-year-olds. We need to get from Moriko being a borderline hikkimori to a reasonably social girl with prospects. MMO Junkie does this in a two cool ways:
First of all, we establish the gender-bending aspect of online gaming, and twist it just a smidge. You’d never expect a guy to play a girl character, and that’s what makes Lily a great plant. Moriko comes to love and idolize Lily in-game, and even becomes her partner later. We can see here that Moriko doesn’t see gender as a boundary, which is interesting in itself, and this leaves us open for Sakurai’s eventual acceptance.
Secondly, we have two characters that only exist to move our fated lovers along: Koiwai and Fujimoto. Koiwai provides the catalyst that gives Sakurai the courage to pursue Moriko despite his initial reservations, and it’s heavily implied that if Koiwai didn’t start moving on Moriko- Sakurai would likely have backed off and not attempted a relationship with her.
Fujimoto provides a similar, though different, service for Moriko where he serves to give Moriko encouragement, confidence, real-life friendship, and eventually come to terms with her in-game and out-game gender.
With these two plot aspects set in stone the RomCom nature of the show, even if the use of exterior characters seems contrived at times. I believe that MMO Junkie wanted to make an endearing look at online gaming, and it really did succeed. Moriko and Sakurai do not feel forced together, so the growth of their relationship feels natural and smooth. If cute love stories are your bag, then this is the show for you.
Recovery of an MMO Junkie is great. Watch it.