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This Week in Anime
Why is Recovery of an MMO Junkie So Relatable?

by Michelle Liu & Steve Jones,

If you've ever felt like your life online was actually more real than your "real" one, Recovery of an MMO Junkie has your back. This week in anime, Michelle and Steve get into what makes this extremely nerdy romcom feel so true to virtual life.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.





You can read our weekly coverage of Recovery of an MMO Junkie here!

Well Micchy, it was only a matter of time, but they finally made an anime about Polygon's Monster Factory.

I don't know whether that counts as a cursed image or not...

The image may be cursed but the show is very blessed. Let's talk Recovery of an MMO Junkie!

Honestly, what a pleasant surprise. Going in, the show seemed unremarkable, but it's actually the most hashtag #relatable thing.

I demand to know when they installed these cameras in my house.

Yeah! This wasn't even on my radar going into the fall, which was already packed to the brim with potential hits. But MMO Junkie came out of nowhere and now it's legit one of my favorites of the season!

Can't go wrong with a 30-something female NEET living a wholesome lifestyle as your protagonist, I say! And by wholesome, I mean she's a goddamn mess and I love her.

Moriko is a HUGE part of why I love this anime so much. There will never be enough booze-loving anime women.

Plus she's weak to cute anime girls and loves her hug pillow very much; I can't believe this show stars future me. She's funny and charming (in a kinda gross way) but also sad, so basically the average nerd. Disillusioned with corporate life, holed up in an apartment all day playing video games, and probably depressed or something. Same, Morimori, same.

Plus she's in her thirties! You already mentioned that but I think it's an important point because it's rare enough that we get an anime starring characters out of high school. A female protagonist over thirty who's just a dorky PC gaming shitlord is such a refreshing sight to see.



Truly the mark of a dedicated gamer: cute avatar, crush on an online friend, y'know, the usual. Real talk though, it's really neat how MMO Junkie's handling the romance (?) between Hayashi and Lily. By which I mean it's SO GODDAMN CUTE I'm DYING.


True love is grinding at a game for weeks on end to get your internet crush a virtual flower, yes.

But yeah, it's a guy roleplaying as a girl falling in love with a girl roleplaying as a guy, so even though it's ostensibly heterosexual IRL, it's complicated by the ways in which we present ourselves and our genders in online spaces. It's a very realistic and interesting topic, so I'm glad to see an anime covering it so earnestly!

There's that scene in ep 2 where the guild members start questioning each other about their ages, reaffirming that they all do have lives outside the game, but then Lily and Hayashi promise not to bring that up until they can trust each other completely. They admit they're hiding parts of themselves, but that's how the internet works, and that's okay! It's interesting to compare this romance to something like SAO, where the character is synonymous with the person.

Exactly! Even only 3 episodes in, MMO Junkie is one of the most earnest explorations of online relationships (romantic and otherwise) that I've seen in fiction.

Everything they do in-game is performative to some degree (their gender, for the most obvious example), but there's sincerity in it, which in my experience has made for the best online friendships. Like you're not gonna be the downer and bring all your IRL baggage to a game, but those personalities are still real.

Internet friendships are weird and contradictory because sometimes it's in those spaces, where you're most removed from your "real" self, that you feel the most comfortable and honest with other people.

Did you mean: private Twitter accounts

Everyone's gotta subtweet somewhere!

But it's true - that sense of distance the internet brings can feel both protective and liberating. The social spaces we create online are just as fraught as offline ones, and that's a topic MMO Junkie tackles head-on.

Hayashi also tackles giant mice head-on (to varying degrees of success)

It's interesting how the show goes into both Moriko's IRL struggles and her online ones. Both are important aspects of her life - and sometimes those difficulties overlap. Not knowing how to talk to an attractive guy: check. Not knowing how to talk to a cute anime girl: also check.

Please, Lily is not your average cute anime girl. Her cuteness is FAR more powerful.

this is me. this is you. this is us.

Let's be real, Morimori's gotta be bi, right?

SUPER bi. And jokes aside, that's actually another cool thing I appreciate about MMO Junkie! Moriko is confused about her feeling towards Lily, but they're real and she's slowly beginning to accept them. Even in her thirties, she's growing and learning new things about herself.

Girl, that's not how it works and you know it.

As someone who just turned 29 a few weeks ago, the message that you actually don't need to have everything figured out when you're past 30 is extremely comforting to me.

Take that, high school coming-of-age anime #23735

Also, the message that you can quit your awful job and play games 24/7 is, quite frankly, inspiring.

did you know: corporate culture sucks

Not that there's anything wrong with stories where the teenage protagonists figure out their shit and go on to have successful careers, but it's nice to get something different for a change.

I mean, I love those shows too, but they don't have the protagonist hanging around her apartment looking frumpy and drinking beer. Those are the things that speak directly to my heart.

We still don't know a lot about Sakurai/Lily though, other than that he's a functional human being with a real job and he's a really nice person.

Also he's REALLY good at making cute girl anime avatars: a man I can only aspire to be like.

It's neat how he only expresses his feelings as Lily, being a pretty nondescript guy irl. It's a kinda cool way of handling character writing, I think. On that note though, I have to question the anime's choice to reveal Lily's identity at the end of episode 3. It's pretty clear early on that he's the one manning the account, so showing him playing as Lily isn't much of a surprise. Like, the episode stops right there like it's supposed to be a cliffhanger. But in the first episode, we go from Lily talking about work to Sakurai talking to a coworker. Economy of storytelling would suggest they're the same person, so why put off this "reveal" for so long?

Yeah, structurally that's the one thing I don't really get. The mystery of Lily's identity is not interesting (nor difficult to figure out). The engaging part is how their relationships intertwine online and off.

It's a weird decision in an adaptation that's been pretty good about establishing the connection between characters' real life and online personalities. That said, having read some of the webcomic, I can see how that came about. The manga initially doesn't focus on Sakurai much at all; he's basically a rando for the first 15 chapters or so. In the comic, Lily's identity actually is a mystery. This early stretch of the manga revolves around MMO shenanigans, it's honestly pretty thin on IRL events. So the anime introduces them way earlier as a way of tying the in-game characters to irl stakes. For the most part, it's successful. I care a lot more about these characters when I know who they are both online and off. But it leaves this weird trace in adaptation that doesn't track.

Ah, that makes sense! I think that's smart of the anime. Keeping the MMO stuff firmly tethered to reality is another reason why I like the show so much. It's not glamorizing, but it's also not condemning the way these people play their game. They're using it to relax, have fun, and spend time with their friends. Just basic, human desires. But yeah, it's amusing that the very first scene Sakurai shows up in, your reaction is "oh that must be Lily". It's so obvious that I even questioned myself at first, but it's not like this show is Danganronpa. It's a cute, funny, and thoughtful romcom, and I love it for that.

Yeah, it seems like the artist wasn't sure where to take the story that early on, so I'm glad the anime smoothed most of that process out. I'm super down for cute dorks being adorable around each other, and slightly less so for jokes about Hayashi having bad gacha luck.

speaking of relatable...
don't ask me about my Fate GO rolls

As long as you're not spending thousands of yen on limited-edition New Years costumes, which Lily absolutely has done.

i mean not YET, new years is two months away

Anyway, if you're sick of watching anime about dumb teen drama, and you wanna watch a show about the inescapable awkwardness of Being in Your Thirties, I can't recommend MMO Junkie highly enough.

(spoilers: turns out a lot of it is still like dumb teen drama, but at least you can legally drink)

And if you're like me, a 20-something almost-NEET, MMO Junkie is a nice change of pace from teen romcoms where the kids are somehow not completely socially inept in meatspace. Playing MMOs, building a Twitter brand, wherever you find yourself, it's all #relatable.

May we all aspire to the Elite NEET life.

I'm way ahead of you...

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