Recovery of an MMO Junkie
Quitting her job that was making her miserable, Moriko Morioka decides to try out the NEET lifestyle for a bit. There's just one problem; her old MMORPG, Nantar SG, has terminated her service, forcing Moriko to search for hew new RPG fix. The choice eventually falls on Fruits de Mer, and it's there Moriko will make new friends and experience her online life to the fullest. Or something.
I don't know if it's ironic that it hasn't been THAT long since I watched And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online?, a show that lampshaded the "playing your own gender (and mostly identity) online" aspect of online gaming, or just online representations in general, safety issues of doing so aside. Recovery of an MMO Junkie does have some awareness of the subject, if not necessarily to the same degree as the aforementioned show that was much funnier than it had any right to be. But then, And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online did aim to be a comedy, so the show being full of gags shouldn't be quite as surprising.
Recovery of an MMO Junkie isn't nearly as frequently funny, but that has more to do with it not aiming to be a comedy, but rather a seinen light drama. That is not to say it's not amusing at times, as this show tends to put a lampshade on a lot of things, and with a woman in the lead seat, see things more from that side of the border. Since Moriko's backstory will be delivered in small chunks as the story develops, Recovery of an MMO Junkie wastes no time plunking her in front of her PC, trying to come up with a new character for her new... uh, life. After jotting down a list of hilariously Chuuni-ish names, like Lightning of the Black Darkness, Darkness Knight, Cross of Darkness and worst of all: Yuki -- I mean... good lord, is she serious?! She eventually chose "Hayashi", though, much to her lament over its normality, and we get a good look at her new player character.
That character just screams "Cross of Darkness", right? Or "Lightning of Black Darkness". May I also recommend "Demon Lord of Infinite Darkness", or maybe "Mark" too? I have a whole LIST myself. No, really.
Incidentally, I do also find it amusing that Moriko casually proclaims her "hot guy" character finished just before lamenting the name, because anyone who chooses an opposite gender character do that because of their looks, right? Aheh. Eheheheh....
*cough* Anyway, after a couple of tries of taking down a boss.... hamster? ...with nothing but a twig and her MMO birthday suit -- a simple tunic, pants and shoes -- "Hayashi" meets up with Lily, an almost overtly cutesy female healer character. The two quickly bond and take to adventuring together, with Lily helping him to raise a couple of levels and defeat the menacing hamster that had given Moriko such a rude awakening. Their meeting spot also becomes the tree you see in the promo image for Fruits de Mer, which does make for a nice atmosphere, but also makes me curious as to why they always seem to have their private time there with nobody intruding, seeing as the two meet there either coincidentally or by having one of them look for the other, and yet the place isn't swarming with other players, like in most hub towns.
But I digress -- the thought just popped into my head as I wrote this. I've often complained about things that make no sense in other reviews, but I guess those have usually centered around serious plot points, or worse; plot holes. Since I don't fully know the server mechanics of Fruits de Mer, I can cut it some slack. Particularly since almost all the scenes taking place at that tree tends to be really nice ones.
Because while Hayashi sort of comes across as the prototype dreamboats for shoujo-ish shows, at least at first, Lily is more like the kind of ribbon-bombarded pink cutesy type you find in female harems that are too embarrassed to be heavily sexual, and her behavior really underlines that image too. So of course, the person playing that character ends up being a guy -- more specifically, the guy who becomes Moriko's main love interest. Taking another cue from the aforementioned And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online?, the people in the guild somehow just happens to live near each other, and so the real-life personalities of Hayashi and Lily are of course destined to meet, and then more.
It's actually kind of cute, because it really puts into perspective how people behave online, and how much thought people put into their online behavior based on what they look like online. Which is not saying everyone does, but both Moriko and Sakurai Yuta, the player that plays Lily, leans heavily into making an online personality for themselves. Certainly more than I do, anyway.
To the show's extreme credit, it holds people's private lives in the greatest respect, and even more amusingly, it also lampshades the whole "you should never make a girl cry" aspect of balance between men and women, since Moriko actually acknowledges (in a very weird way) how she's behaving towards Lily, and she herself gets to feel how men's feelings are generally treated -- or rather, it's that she doesn't notice, which is a nice lampshade over the impression I get that men tend to think women are fragile little glasshouses that will shatter if confronted with anything but the most apologetic of attitudes, while men's feelings matters so little that it might as well just have been a black hole. Then again, seinen shows in general tend to be far more neutral than that, so you could say Recover of an MMO Junkie is quite on the ball. Also, the first meeting between Moriko and Yuuta was when he accidentally elbowed her in the face. And once she woke up again (she had a fever at the time, and the elbow in the face did not help either), she didn't really put much mind to it other than wonder how the hell he managed to do that.
The two of them are actually surprisingly fun to watch, because they're both respectable adults, but also really socially awkward. Yuta does still work, and although he's mostly busy, he seems to enjoy his work a lot. Moriko, on the other hand, quit hers because it was making her miserable. We don't fully learn why, but are served some clues as to how she felt about it, partially because of a rather unsettling dream she had after taking that elbow to the forehead. And while her recently started NEET lifestyle gives her some time to relax, that only brings different problems to the table, the foremost one being a question of appearance, especially towards other people. Of course, even in seinen, people tend to be portrayed as very attractive, and Moriko even at her most frazzled and unkempt, is an almost surpremely attractive woman. Of course, she's not a complete slob a la Gabriel (of DropOut fame) or Tomoko (of Watamote fame), so her lifestyle is fairly decent on the upkeep. Her only (arguable) demerit is that she sometimes looks like she hasn't slept for quite a while, which is usually true at the time. She does clean up a bit and dresses a bit more formal later when she starts socializing with Yuta or Koiwai, and on a personal note, I was actually a bit disappointed when she cut her hair.
While Moriko and Yuta are fun to watch for being so awkward, Koiwai is fun to watch because he's so casual. He's downright a benevolent troll, always setting up his friends for embarrassing situations that might develop into something better. Eventually, he ends up playing Fruits de Mer too, and his player character is a sight to behold, to put it mildly, only mirrored by how little he cares about what it looks like. He's in it to have fun, and to hell with everything else. For a while, it almost seemed like he would be the secondary love interest for Moriko, but the show quickly reneges about that by him basically setting Moriko and Yuta up, being the little Cupid Troll in the equation. (Don't even try to imagine what THAT would look like.)
If I may level one complaint about the show, then that would be that we don't really learn who the others are, except in the loosest of hints. The only character for sure we know about is that Kazuomi Fujimoto, a college student doing part-time work as a convenience store clerk, plays the character Kanbe, who is the current guild leader of Hayashi and Lily's guild. He doesn't really do a lot in this show, though, besides being a bit of a "mature for his age" person both on- and offline, though at least he's not an insufferably wise one. But the intro also shows us a woman who makes a short appearance in one of the episodes, but doesn't really do anything. Which leaves me wondering who is the girl with the elf AND cat ears? Who is the somewhat rotund dude? Who is the weirdly gender-ambiguous elf character who speaks like someone pretending to be gay? These are the questions that keep me up at night. Oh, there are some nuggets of information, like the other pretty woman showing up being the one who plays Lilac (the one with the cat AND elf ears), and that the people who play Pokotaro (the rotund guy) and Himeralda (the stereotypically gay-sounding elf) are a couple who's married in real life, but outside of what they're like in the game, we don't really get to know them very well in real life. But hey, that's what a second season is for, right? It would actually be kind of hilarious if Pokotaro and Himeralda turned out to be an actual gay couple. But then, that would also depend on more being made. Or finding and reading the manga. Or just avail myself to spoilers on TV tropes or somewhere.
Another potentially negative thing -- although not as much against the show itself -- is that Fruits de Mer seems to be a game of the lootbox variety, which is a videogame practice I find distasteful to say the least. Although it seems Fruits de Mer keeps that to equipment glamours and otherwise cheap items as consolation prizes, which lessens the blow somewhat. Still, seeing that sort of thing in practice still isn't what I'd call enjoyable. And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online got away with it because the mechanic became part of a series of satirical jokes about people who throw money at a problem to make it go away, which suited the somewhat black-ish tone of the show's comedy.
Complaints aside, the focus on our two main lonesomes does allow for them to develop their relationship properly. This might have something to do with the first season being a mere ten episodes, which leaves little time for anything else, but given how awkward the two of them are, it's no wonder they turned to online games for easing into the whole "getting to know people" business. It's really tough NOT to ship them like the dickens, which seems to be the show's intent in the first place. It also doesn't help that, since both Moriko and Yuta plays opposite-gender characters, their interactions get completely turned on their heads, which makes asking for advice from their guildmates an interesting inversion. For instance, the show sort of lampshades the ideal that it's the man who should lavish their female significant others with gifts and not the other way around, so when Moriko (as Hayashi) receives a seemingly expensive gift from Yuta (as Lily), she gets to experience that pressure from the other side.
This goes doubly when Moriko is pushed into socializing by the ever trollishly assertive Koiwai, and she logs on to ask advice -- very hypothetically, of course -- as Hayashi. In addition to the aforementioned "Hayashi receives a gift" part, it becomes an issue of potential self-interest as Lily argues with Kanbe about what kind of hairstyle looks good on a woman, and we can only guess or assume that Lily's opinion is simply his own preferance. That, or he already knows Moriko -- who he's already started suspecting of being Hayashi -- has long hair thanks to their earlier meeting. (And to be perfectly honest; unkempt or not, I thought her longer hair looked nicer too.)
Being an animated show does also sort of shoot itself in the foot by having people obsess about their looks as much as they do -- that is to say, Moriko does. Even before she quit her job, she didn't exactly have the best of self-images, but like even the so-called homely girls in Please Tell Me! Galko-chan, Moriko looks nice even at her most slovenly casual. I'm not entirely on board with Yuta's surprisingly quick interest in Moriko -- he seemed almost obsessed with her from the moment after he elbowed her in the face (by accident) and apologized for it after bringing her to a hospital. Still, the two of them seem about equally awkward, so I'm sure I can chalk it up to the "kindred spirit" thing. While this relationship takes a bit longer to even arrive at the starting line, it's just as adorable as the one in My Love Story!! Double points since we're talking adults here; most of these kinds of shows are about people not even close to my own age, so this is nice for a change. Since Recover of an MMO Junkie leans towards seinen rather than shoujo, nobody has that weirdly lanky look either; both Yuta and Koiwai look like proper gentlemen, while Moriko definitely look like a grown woman.
And while shoujo doesn't necessarily aim at being creepy, some of them nevertheless have male leads that are disconcertingly aggressive in ways that would be rape-y in real life. Compared to that, Yuta's somewhat underhanded tactics at trying to have Moriko figuring out that "Lily" is really him comes across as downright mild in comparison, if not necessarily the most constructive. Then again, despite not building its drama to "end of the world"-rated levels, Recover of an MMO Junkie still plays it up like a king. Both Moriko and Yuta started playing Fruits de Mer to relax and unwind, but socializing with people, even in a game, will always come with added benefits and some hurdles. It goes without saying, of course, since even if you put a game inbetween yourself and anyone else, you're still dealing with real people. It's still not lost on the show, as Yuta, despite playing a cutesy female character, still doesn't go all out on the MOE behavior spectrum. In fact, he points out that if he did that, he'd have NO friends online. On the same coin, Moriko might've made herself a "hot guy" (her own words), but she didn't specifically try to act like one. But when real life starts bleeding into their online gaming, Yuta's growing jealousy is easy to see. Koiwai certainly noticed too, and he milks it for all its comedical worth. He might be working to set Moriko and Yuta up with each other, but he's not going to deny himself all the laughs he can get out of it.
Recovery of an MMO Junkie is easy to pick up on. Aside from being rather dialogue-heavy, we also get to hear everything that goes through Moriko and Yuta's heads, and they certainly both think and overthink matters to an almost manical degree. It's not as action-filled as... well, all other shows I've watched that focuses on videogames... but that's not really a problem. You don't often get to see how people use games to either deal with problems or get away from them for a while instead of working as wish-fulfillment, and certainly not ones where it's not really the game itself that's important. It really nails the personality of their characters, and when you get down to it, the only real fault I can lay at its feet is that it's over a bit too quickly. Ten episodes isn't a lot, and the OAV that follows is also mainly about Moriko and Yuta, the latter being invited by the former to help her build a new computer when her old one goes bye-bye. Said situation covers the first half of said OAV, and is actually quite sweet in its own way, but the second half leans on the old gag of "main character is somehow transported into the game", and whose sole redeeming trait is it reversing some tropes by having Moriko rescuing Yuta from the evil demon King Koiwai. Mild amusements aside, it's hard to watch something that remained as engaging as it was up to that point suddenly trying its damnedest to waste your time. Fortunately, like certain filler episodes of other shows; as long as you know which ones, they're easily skippable.
Recovery of an MMO Junkie turned out to be a fun time, and a pretty sweet one too. It leans a bit too heavily on the coincidence train, which the show itself lampshades from time to time, but the show itself is fun enough while also taking its characters seriously enough that the drama feels both real and understandable. It helps that the dialogue is smartly written, even for someone like Koiwai, who seemingly takes nothing seriously unless you read between his lines. The only potential downside is that the show feels a bit unfinished, which with anime becomes a problem if this is all we get, so anyone who wanted to get to know the supporting cast better are going to hope or pray (or whatever else works for you) that someone decides to give this show another season.
Finally a show about adults acting like adults, which doesn't happen THAT often. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: There is some mild fanservice centered around Moriko, but it's been carefully orchestrated so that the show will still be rated PG-13 at worst. Koiwai does comment at one point that she's got "big ones", which he immediately uses as a train of thought to end up at the nickname he made for her. ("Morimori-chan".)
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (11/11)
Recovery of an MMO Junkie © 2017 Signal MD.
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