“Moriko Logs In to Fruits de Mer”
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Moriko and Sakurai bond over building a new computer and a lazy day of gaming at her apartment. Moriko falls asleep at her keyboard and dreams about being a hero in Fruits de Mer.
This episode was everything I wanted… in the first half. Two dorks doing a nerdy activity together while blushing all over the place is exactly what I’ve been calling for the past few weeks and they certainly delivered. As adorable as their time together was, I think my favorite part was Moriko debating whether to clean her bathtub. That struggle to determine the bare amount of cleaning necessary to look presentable is too real.
The second half was pretty good but kind of disappointing, especially after we were promised a hot springs story “for another time”. I guess that was a real hard sell for the manga? Moriko’s fantasy was entertaining, particularly as they continue to flip gender on its head over and over again. But is that the last thing I ever wanted to see out of MMO Junkie? Probably not. Even if we had just one more short scene of the two together to tie a bow on everything I think that would have been an improvement.
That all said, I think this was a solid send off overall, and certainly higher quality than what we often get for bonus OVA material. Considering the content and the timing, you almost could count this as the final episode. It left me both satisfied as a stopping point and wanting more, and that is probably the best way for an anime to go out.
Jel’s Final thoughts
At this stage in my anime watching career I can still enjoy stories about high school kids, but it’s always from an outside perspective. I might like a series because it makes me laugh, it dazzles me with artistic creativity, or it makes me feel nostalgic, but I’m just not going to relate on a personal level. Even shows about college or entering the working world are starting to pass me by, which are rare but they do pop up from time to time.
Recovery of an MMO Junkie then is the rarest of rare anime, a story about someone who has actually been an adult long enough to be tired of it. As a thirty something nerd who is burnt out from work and spends a lot of time hanging out online with people ten years younger than me, this spoke to me personally. Moriko’s story is still a fantasy, but instead of dreaming of super powers and far off worlds, it makes me excited about things like not having to get up for work every day, having enough income to cover my basic needs, and not making a fool of myself when I talk to other people. Oh, and I suppose having a hot significant other come to my house and build me a super computer.
Given the subject matter, there are a lot of ways this type of story could have been handled. We could have gotten a heavy, melodramatic drama about a woman crippled by anxiety and depression who succumbs to addiction to cope. Thankfully, what we do get is a healing process. As the English language title suggests, this is about Moriko’s recovery. It’s full of heart and positive energy as she finds a group of supportive friends to help her through a tough time. There’s almost no conflict to speak of and Moriko’s reasons for quitting her previous job are explained just enough for us to sympathize with her choice. Nothing but good vibes here.
As a result, I think some people might find MMO Junkie a bit shallow and that’s not necessarily wrong. The big coincidences and focus on romance put it solidly in the “escapism” category, and I do think they could have done more to explore Moriko’s development as a person outside of her relationship with Sakurai. But as light hearted and unrealistic as the plot can be, it’s grounded by characters with very real feelings and concerns. Do I think Moriko and Sakurai would ever randomly meet in real life the way they did? Of course not, but I think if they DID meet somehow they would have still ended up together.
I could write an entire separate post about good versus bad escapism (and maybe I will someday), but for now I’ll just say MMO Junkie is the good kind of escapism. Like Moriko’s MMO, it’s a positive experience that gives you a break from your daily stress and helps you keep perspective on life. It’s the kind of affirmation that I find more appealing as an adult than the usual anime stories about growing up and figuring out who you are, and I think a lot of people will agree.
As a large wave of Millennial age anime fans are nearing the end of their twenties, I have to wonder if Recovery of an MMO Junkie is the type of show we’re going to see more of in the future. The series’ popularity seems to have exceeded expectations. Sure the younger generations will still want their Shonen Jump adaptations and high school power fantasies, but I think the demand for relatable adult stories is growing. While we have to say goodbye to this particular story, hopefully it has paved the way for us to get more of this kind of content.
Marlin’s Final thoughts
While I’m a bit younger than Jel, I have been out of school for a bit over five years now, so I definitely enjoy the idea of more shows about people working through real adult situations. Where I do sympathize with Moriko’s character is I too was unemployed for several months, completely self-sufficient all the while. It seems like a great situation only if you look at the base surface level. No responsibilities means no problems right? But we often forget the psychological toll of a life without meaning. There’s plenty to preoccupy us these days when we’re feeling down. I tried for a long time to distract myself with games and anime and this blog, but it was never enough. You can find escapism in the internet, but in the end it’s no true replacement for what’s important in life.
Just like with Moriko, I needed to find purpose and I had to start respecting myself again, even if I didn’t always realize what that meant. I was lucky to have my friends here on the blog. Unlike Moriko’s shame, this crew grew to be people I trusted enough to visit and never felt ashamed to be completely honest with. As much as we enjoy our company online, seven of us have met at least one other member in the real life. It’s no coincidence, there really is no complete substitute for spending time with someone. Moriko wanted escapism, but she also wanted attachment. We see that clearly with how close she wanted to be with Lily, her desire to show she cared.
That’s one of the places this show excels at, showing the subtle wounds we all share in the modern world. It’s naturally harder to trust people, naturally harder to build friendships outside, because it involves risk. That’s why we need Koiwais in our lives. Sure, Jel will still fight with me for days on how much of a creep he seemed, but it’s also important to note that his outgoing nature meant he didn’t worry about making a fool of himself talking to Moriko at the supermarket, or forcing the shy couple to be bolder by prodding them when they weren’t being completely honest. As I’ve said earlier, he challenged Sakurai to see his feelings for what they really were, and he made Moriko realize that she had real value when she didn’t have confidence in herself. This show is as much about what it means to support someone as much as it is about love. Moriko and Sakurai are a long way from being a natural couple, but they know they have the groundwork already laid out by their support for each other online. Now if they could only have some less stammering!
This show is obviously very idealistic. The level of coincidences give it the feel of an old fashioned love tale, and I think it works really well. Too much media these days has to be super realistic, or even worse “gritty”. At best this means that the show has to do a really good job capturing the human person to stand out in the crowd, at worst it means a show can lose all its good will in one melodramatic swoop. Compared to that kind of story, MMO was downright refreshing, a true feel-good piece. It reminded me a bit of watching Azumanga Daioh in that, although every episode might not be a revelation, it left me with a content warm feeling that could carry me through the day. We all could use something to help us recover from the unreasonableness of modern life. What starts out as a diversion can turn into true love, but happiness doesn’t find Moriko in her room, she had to go outside and grasp it for herself.