Recovery of an MMO Junkie
Episode 3

by Paul Jensen,

How would you rate episode 3 of
Recovery of an MMO Junkie ?

Our heroes take a real-world step back and a virtual step forward in the romance department this week. Moriko declines Yuta's offer to go out to dinner, and Yuta instead finds himself hanging out with his coworker, Koiwai. He soon discovers that Koiwai used to work with Moriko, and we learn a bit about what Moriko's old life was like. Back in the game, Hayashi and Pokotarou end up discussing the subject of receiving expensive gifts from other players. Hayashi and Lily have another treetop chat, and Lily opens up about what her experience in the game was like before she teamed up with Hayashi. The two of them agree to become “partners” in the game, complete with fancy matching outfits.

While we've seen Yuta and Koiwai interact a few times already, it feels like Recovery of an MMO Junkie has finally nailed down the dynamic between them this week. Koiwai is simultaneously the more easygoing and more assertive of the two, while Yuta comes across as being more earnest and responsible. I like the balance they strike in the restaurant scene; they come across as the kind of “office buddies” who wouldn't necessarily hang out if they didn't already work together. Even though they get along, it's easy to see why Yuta might prefer the online company of his guildmates. Koiwai's comments on Moriko are also intriguing, as they give us a glimpse into what her life was like before she quit her job. Whether he intends to or not, Koiwai paints Moriko as someone clearly unhappy at work, possibly stuck covering for less reliable people in her department. At this point, it's hard to fault her for deciding to walk away from her job and play games all day instead.

Hayashi's chat with Pokotarou is perhaps the least compelling part of this episode, but it still has its merits. The subject of players buying in-game gifts for one another is briefly touched on during the Christmas scene, but the show decides to dive deeper into it here. This yields some intriguing questions about what happens when two people are miles apart in their capacity to spend real money on virtual stuff. How the heck is Moriko supposed to respond when a guildmate gives her an absurdly expensive piece of gear for no apparent reason? Even though we know from the beginning that Lily's motives are probably innocent, I'm glad to see the series acknowledge that the situation can be awkward for the person on the receiving end. It shows that Recovery of an MMO Junkie is able to handle some more complex material beyond its charming in-game romance.

Lily's backstory continues the pattern of looking at how people interact in online games, and the story once again displays a solid grasp of MMO dynamics. Between her healer class and her cutesy appearance, it's easy to imagine Lily being bombarded by messages from every gamer under the sun. Even if most of those folks don't mean any harm, all that attention would be the exact opposite of what Yuta wants, since he seems to crave an escape from his high-pressure job. This leads into an utterly charming scene as Lily and Hayashi agree to be partners, and the show's trick of cutting back to Moriko's real-world reactions continues to be a clever way of adding some humor to the situation. The suggestion that Moriko and Yuta might have played together in an older game is also intriguing, though the series doesn't go any further than dropping an initial hint about that.

As Recovery of an MMO Junkie continues to push its story forward, it's the little things that do the most to win me over. Moments like Yuta and Koiwai goofing around with their chopsticks or the convenience store cashier silently yearning to talk about Fruits de Mer with Moriko may not be vital to the plot, but they help make the whole thing feel more human. They're the kind of scenes where it's easiest to relate to the cast, and that connection is important in a character-driven series. Even the throwaway gag of having Pokotarou constantly crafting spell scrolls while talking to Hayashi is a nice touch; it's exactly the kind of mindless task a player might actually do during an in-game conversation. As long as this show can continue to make its characters feel like relatable people, it should be in good shape for the long term.

Rating: B+

Recovery of an MMO Junkie is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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