Recovery of an MMO Junkie
Episode 9

by Paul Jensen,

How would you rate episode 9 of
Recovery of an MMO Junkie ?

Last week's episode of Recovery of an MMO Junkie brought us the big "Yuta is Lily" confession, and now it's time to face the consequences of that bombshell. Moriko says that she wants to keep gaming with Yuta, but days go by without any sign of Lily in Fruits de Mer. Koiwai figures out that something has happened between Yuta and Moriko, so he conspires to bring the two of them together again. An awkward incident at the convenience store leaves them stuck outside in the rain, and Moriko suddenly finds herself in Yuta's apartment with no idea what to do next.

For what it's worth, the series makes a point of having Yuta own up to some of his past mistakes this week. He acknowledges that he took far too long to reveal his identity, and he's prepared to quit Fruits de Mer if that's what Moriko wants. It's obviously not a perfect solution, but the admission of fault is an important step towards regaining his status as the super nice guy we know him to be underneath his mistakes. Perhaps more importantly, Moriko's reaction to the whole situation seems believable. Naturally, she's way too flustered to process all the information she's been given, but she also points out that she would have had just as much trouble coming forward if she had been in Yuta's position. There's a nice moment of understanding as we see that both characters are unprepared to deal with this new situation, and I can buy the idea that they're too busy apologizing for their own actions to hold anything against one another.

As this episode plays out, there are a couple moments where Recovery of an MMO Junkie manages to tell us a lot with just a few lines of dialogue. For all the frantic apologies and explanations that carry the opening conversation, Moriko sums up her viewpoint nicely when she says that Hayashi and Lily are partners. That one line goes a long way toward conveying how she values the time she's spent in the game with Yuta and how she wants to maintain their relationship going forward. By the same token, we learn a lot about Moriko's state of mind from the convenience store clerk's question later in the episode. When we first hear the question, it comes across as an innocent (if awkward) bit of idle chatter. When it's played back in Moriko's head, we see how she's interpreted it as something more insidious. Between her negative work experience and her uncertain feelings for Yuta, she's genuinely worried that he'd be embarrassed to be seen with her. It's an intriguing piece of character development, and it also feels like an honest appraisal of how our past experiences can affect the way we look at things.

As Moriko and Yuta stumble their way toward a romantic relationship, Koiwai makes a well-timed departure from the show's love triangle. His interest in Moriko has always seemed more casual than Yuta's heartfelt longing, and Koiwai has generally walked a thin line between egging Yuta on and genuinely contending for Moriko's affections. With his scheme to bring the two of them together at the park, Koiwai appears to have formally settled into a supporting role. He's helping the show's central couple confront their feelings for one another and clearly having fun watching their antics along the way. This feels like a good match for his personality, and it allows us to enjoy the shenanigans along with him.

The glue holding all of these new developments together is the chemistry between Yuta and Moriko. This dynamic feels altogether different from the one between Lily and Hayashi, which goes to show how our online personalities don't always match our real-world ones. When you put these two together on a park bench or in a convenience store, it quickly becomes obvious that each of them desperately wants to be liked by the other. That leads to plenty of entertaining dialogue as they search for the right thing to say, and it also gives us a reason to root for them. Put the two of them together in Yuta's apartment, and suddenly the panicked social ineptitude is bumped up to an entirely new level. It feels like this scene could go in any number of directions next week, and that sense of open-ended possibility has me excited to see what happens.

This episode manages to sweep some of the show's messier plot points under the rug, thanks in large part to the charming interactions between the main characters. I feel like I'm fully back on board with Recovery of an MMO Junkie now, and the series has taken a big step towards building a real-world romance on top of its online gaming foundation. Its challenge in the last few weeks of the season will be to complete that journey while maintaining a balance between both worlds. At the moment, this series looks like it's up to the task.

Rating: A-

Recovery of an MMO Junkie is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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