Morioka Moriko has forsaken her corporate lifestyle and taken a dive into the Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) Role Playing Game world. Her male character, Hayashi, joins a guild with a beautiful character named Lily. Together, Hayashi and Lily learn about each other, tackle dungeons, spend a little too much money on loot boxes, and… fall in love?
Morioka Moriko is tired of the rat race. Instead of sacrificing her life to the GDP gods, she quits. She dives into a brand new MMO and joins a guild. She is introverted, likes instant ramen, and sits in the dark squealing about online interactions. Interaction with the outside is limited in both time and scope. We get the impression that she did not make any friends from her workplace and we do not really hear anything about her childhood connections. While Morioka is our main character, I never felt very attached to her. It never felt like we got to know her with the intimacy that we have known other characters. Maybe this was because of her private nature? Either way, I wanted more depth from her and her interactions.
Yuuta Sakurai makes a not-so-secret appearance in the first two episodes. Anyone looking closely would notice that he would be an important character — given away by his blond hair. Sakurai is part of the guild that Moriko joined and plays as the character known as “Lily.” Sakurai comes across as really bland. Given his online interactions, I expected him to be more feminen and that rang true only mildly. Perhaps a casualty of my brain re-writing the script as the show goes, I felt like the opportunity to make Moriko a stronger foil to Sakurai was missed. Where Moriko is shy and introverted, Sakurai is… also shy and introverted. While the moments between them felt cute, the bashful interactions felt uninspired. Where there would normally be humor, absurdity, or romance, Sakurai lacked all three. He and his interactions with Moriko reminded me of the jokes people make about LaCroix. Sakurai was written with romance and humor in the other room, hoping he would absorb some of the flavors in time for the show’s release.
Homare Koiwai is everything Sakurai could have been. Koiwai is funny, energetic, and completely clashes with Kakurai and Moriko. Koiwai used to work with Moriko and is now co-workers with Sakurai. He plays a weird role in the show where he might be a romantic rival and he might be a relationship facilitator. It felt like he didn’t know what we wanted to do with himself until the very end of the show, so how the heck am I supposed to know what he wanted for most of the show? This definitely injected the energy into the show that I needed. Out of any of the characters, I realized that I looked forward to Koiwai more than any of the other characters. But it was clear by the amount of screentime that he got that this was not supposed to be the case.
Overall, the cast felt underwhelming. The guild members play a very small role in the show despite the importance of the online community in Moriko’s life. I wish that the show had done a little bit more in regards to the people in the game facilitating Moriko’s transformation outside the game, making them a more concrete foundation for her to reference. Instead, they were an afterthought to process things that already happened. Koiwai felt like the agent to make things happen and the guild felt like a soundboard. While unmemorable, I thought the characters were functional enough to enjoy the show.
During the early part of the pandemic, I lived with my grandparents because they were closer to my job at my old company where I worked as a software developer. My grandma loves to cook. I love my grandma. The issue is that my grandma is a terrible cook. Like my grandma’s cooking, Recovery of an MMO Junkie is very endearing and I love it for the ideas it brings to the table, but it is dry and lacks flavor. We needed some spice. We needed some bitterness. Please, just anything to make the flavor more interesting.
Anyone who has played any kind of RPG knows that people don’t always make their characters look like them. In fact, most don’t. As long as I can remember, I played Pokemon as the female character. My nine-year-old self loaded up Pokemon Diamond, looked at the character screen, and picked Dawn immediately. Can you blame me? Dawn was two hundred percent more stylish than the guy. So it didn’t really phase me that Moriko played as a guy character. The show makes an effort to point out that this is odd. Maybe the cultural standards are different in Japan, so it is more weird than I think it is. Maybe the author just thought it was an oddity. I see it as something fun adn another way to escape reality in the confines of a game that gives someone just that extra bit of freedom.
It always intrigued me that people developed online personas. I use the same username for all my gaming accounts to combat the anonymity that I see as a potential license to behave poorly online. But, I know many people like to have a second life on games. They have friends they only know online, a different way of talking, and they don’t want the areas of their life to mix. Moriko comes across as someone who didn’t really want to mix her gaming life and her real life, mostly because she feels insecure. The idea that online personas give people a place to feel secure is comforting. I have to wonder how much more important these online personas have become with the quarantine isolating people for so long.
Growing up has been illuminating. I spent most of my high school career getting ready to be a software engineer. I spent most of my university career doing the same thing. I spent less than a year in the industry to learn a couple things.
- Software culture cares only about software, the work life balance is terrible.
- I need to talk to people.
- Software people don’t talk to anyone.
- I do not work well for other people.
Moriko inadvertently comments on where people find fulfillment. Moriko, like myself, finds no pleasure in the corporate life. She wants to enjoy what she does. She found gaming and dove into them. I don’t think this is discussed enough. There is a cultural expectation that we will lead fulfilling careers, enjoy our jobs, and work towards some abstract thing that other people care about. Not often enough are the joys of creation, family, and community highlighted. If we talked about all of what people could do in their lives like we talked about careers, there would be so much more value applied to all the options that people have in life. There is so much hyper-fixation on what role we can play in businesses and not what roles we can play in life.
The benefits of telling a simple story is that laying it out in front of the viewer is easy. Recovery of an MMO Junkie takes a safe and simple approach to the pacing. It is a standard ten episode season with fairly predictable plot points and character development. I went back and forth on giving the pacing a two or a three, but there is no shame in a simple structure. No surprises, with a fun episode thrown in, that fits the pacing that story needs. No fireworks, no impressive arcs, just what the show needs and nothing more.
I watched episode one, opened my messaging app and got a single message out before the Lotad Gang confirmed what I thought in a flood of messages. The animation just isn’t that great. Having multiple forms of animation has grown on me. Liz and the Blue Bird was the introduction to having multiple styles and if I revisit that movie, I will update that accordingly. In the real world, the colors are drab, dark, and the energy is low outside of Moriko’s excited moments. The in-game world reflects Moriko’s happy place. The colors are bright and the characters look happy. But what Recovery of an MMO Junkie suffers from is the stillness of the show. It rarely FEELS like anything is happening because the animation never really creates any energy. I already get a healthy dose of lifelessness through my love life so when I watch anime, I want some more action.
I am all for world building, but almost nothing in the world mattered in this show. The setting was bland and uninteresting. At any point it could have been replaced with any other setting and effectively been the same story. That is an issue. Despite being an MMO junkie, there was no connection to the game. While telling a story revolving around the characters and their interactions, the world has to play some role in doing something other than masking an identity. If a world is going to be created, it needs to have a purpose, especially if the person existing in that world is enthusiastic about it. Just like the animation, the world fails to bring any energy and lacks behind other elements.
MMO Junkie’s music reminds me of those endless dungeon crawler games where you have three moods. Mood one: starter town. The music is lively, piano and orchestral music are playing. Mood two: battle. The orchestra gets faster, the drums are beating, and your heart rate increases even though you are more focused on dodging attacks than anything else. Mood three: the shop. For whatever reason this synthetic piano-xylophone conglomeration sounds like it came from the Wii soundtrack. The perfect mood to make you want to spend real money on fake money. I don’t see the soundtrack being nominated for any award, like…ever, but it did its job.
|Category||Points Given||Points Possible|
|I am interested in the characters in the story||3||6|
|I liked the emotion the story made me feel||2||6|
|The story brings up interesting ideas||3||6|
|I felt the pacing of the show was appropriate||3||4|
|The animation in the show is beautiful||2||4|
|I am interested in the world that the story takes place in||1||3|
|I felt that the music added to the story in a meaningful way||2||3|
Recovery of an MMO Junkie is a simple story. It is a quick watch that really didn’t leave a lasting mark on my anime journey. I hope this story hits home for the heavily introverted and that you spend a little bit of time thinking about how people can find fulfillment in life from many places. I would recommend this show as something to watch between high energy shows as a nice little palette cleanser.