Recovery of an MMO Junkie Series Review: Recommendation of the Wonderful Virtual Life

Overview:

Recovery of an MMO Junkie follows Morioka, who has given up work and going out doors to become a NEET by choice who plays an MMO. Her avatar is a male and she is partnered in the game with a healer called Lily. However, everything changes when on her way to the convenience store she runs into a man named Sakurai.

Review:

If you are looking for something amazingly new and different, then MMO Junkie isn’t going to be your thing. It is a fairly standard rom-com with a few gimmicks thrown in (as there always are) to try to give it the tiniest bit of differentiation so that you can remember which particular couple of emotionally inept characters you are following in the particular series. Despite that, there’s something fairly entertaining about MMO Junkie as it manages to execute standard rom-com in an engaging way with most of the material hitting the mark.

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I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by this series. From the synopsis I wasn’t expecting much (actually I was expecting it to be pretty average) and the whole they met in the game and then in real life thing has been done many times at this point. But where MMO Junkie quickly managed to win me over was in the characters of Morioka and Sakurai.

Neither of the two characters are teenagers and while some of their reactions are exaggerated for the sake of entertainment, most of the way through the show they respond in a believable naive but amusing manner to most of the things that happen. Small details like Morioka delinting her rug when she was stressed or thinking about something (a recurring visual gag) and Sakurai’s pink computer keyboard really helped to flesh these two out beyond the standard trope they might otherwise have represented.

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It also helped that I found them both likeable characters. I know some people were frustrated with Sakurai’s lack of initiative, but I found him to be quite a nice guy and to be honest, what he said to Morioka in the final episode while they were washing dishes was adorable. I think if a guy had said that to me in that context I’d have gone weak in the knees. It was just such a sweet moment. That doesn’t mean he’s exactly assertive, but despite his earlier dithering he does slowly but surely make progress towards actually asking Morioka out.

I mentioned this in my episode reviews but the story is significantly better when the focus is on the real world rather than the virtual one. It isn’t that the virtual world is bad or poorly constructed, it just works better as a background to the more interesting story taking place in the real world. So the first episodes that are more heavily focused inside the MMO, while cute enough, are decidedly weaker than later episodes where the characters interact more in real life. This is a problem because I know quite a few people gave this show up early on and it is only ten episodes so this ‘wasted’ time in the series run kind of hurts it overall. And it is difficult to argue that the time isn’t wasted because they initally spend a lot of time explaining how things in the MMO world work or show us Lily and Hayashi fighting a character or just hanging out. While it establishes the bond they have in game, this could be none with much more economy and ultimately it does detract from what is otherwise a pretty solid show.

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The support cast are hit and miss. Koiwai is probably the best example of this where he serves an absolutely essential narrative purpose so removing his character is impossible, but his character is incredibly obnoxious for most of his screen time. Even though his brash personality is what allows him to move the plot along in the way he does, overall his presence is one I’d have really liked to see diminished in the story. However, Kanbe (one of the characters in the MMO) who’s real life controller works at the convenience store Morioka and Sakurai frequent, is almost unused. What little narrative purpose he has is quickly swept away and by the final episode when you get your final look at his character you just have to wonder what the intention was behind his role because ultimately he didn’t do much.

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That might make it seem like there are more flaws to this show than quality but I’d disagree. From the opening song, to the sweet romantic story, as well as the comedic elements that most of the time hit their mark, this show was pretty much pure enjoyment. There are a few slower episodes at the mid-way point but given it is such a short series it doesn’t take long for it to pick itself back up. All and all, if you’ve got a bit of time, this is one worth checking out. You won’t be blown away but you’ll probably leave with a smile on your face.

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