I was not expecting my favorite anime so far this season to be about an unemployed, 30-year-old MMORPG addict with an unhealthy drinking habit, but here we are.
Recovery of an MMO Junkie, which is simulcasting on Crunchyroll, is a silly, playful anime about a woman who quits her demanding office job to become a trashy NEET, which stands for “Not in education, employment or training.” With her hands free, Morioka Moriko one day considers restarting her long-lost MMORPG habit.
She searches for the most popular MMORPG du jour and stumbles upon Fruits de Mer, a Final Fantasy XIV-like game where she immediately goes about designing her “hot guy character.” But, sadly, her hot boy is, at first, a little pathetic. An oversized hamster defeats him, embarrassingly, several times. That’s when Moriko encounters a sweet fellow player named Lily, who appoints herself Moriko’s mentor and friend. Lily reveals Fruits de Mer’s charms and idiosyncrasies to Moriko, and in the process, her own. After some time, Morkio begins to wonder why wandering the digital landscape with Lily makes her so incomparably happy.
Outside of the game, Moriko’s life is a predictable but not totally pathetic cycle of gaming, buying beer at the convenience store and sleeping. Around that convenience store one day, she runs head-first into a very kind, generous man whose charms, over time, begin to remind her of someone else’s….
Recovery of an MMO Junkie is definitely cutesy and romantic. It’s the kind of show that you watch three episodes of in a row and, when you’re done, you feel like five minutes have passed. What’s special about it isn’t how easy it is to watch, though. It’s that it’s a good as hell, low-brow anime about a woman that is 100% crowd-pleasing without resorting to gratuitous fan service.
It’s rare to find an anime about a totally unglamorous and unemployed 30-year-old woman. Rarer still is it to find an anime where a woman’s interest in video games isn’t seen as special (I’m looking at you, Gamers). It’s a love story that isn’t cloying with its sex appeal and doesn’t treat Moriko like the bait at the end of a 10, 20 or 30-episode stick. In fact, the avatar Lily’s pastel beauty is addressed in the anime as something that makes her gaming experience difficult—she confides in Moriko that getting so much male attention almost made her quit.
Also interesting is the way the show plays with gender norms. Lily and Moriko’s avatars develop a closer-than-friends bond despite the fact that neither knows the other’s IRL gender. A lot of the show is about how Moriko chooses to wear her male avatar’s masculinity, especially in contrasty to Lily’s picture-perfect cutesy girl persona (spoiler: she’s played by a man). Fruits de Mer represents a place where anybody can be anyone, unquestioned and accepted. That’s pretty escapist.
Recovery of an MMO’S Junkie’s level of thoughtfulness makes watching it a cathartic experience. Sad to say, but a solid anime about an unremarkable, and even pretty unendearing, woman who loves MMORPGs is worth celebrating.