ANIME REVIEW | A Silly, Heartfelt "Recovery" For MMO Lovers Everywhere
I'll be the first to admit that I've never really been drawn into playing massive multiplayer online games. Despite dabbling with Dofus and Wakfu from time-to-time, my legit knowledge on how to play these games and their appeal are beyond my own comprehension. With that being said, even though I've never been addicted to this certain genre of gaming, I am taken aback by how relatable the characters in Recovery of an MMO Junkie are throughout its (hopefully) first season run. Dare I say, it's one of the most real anime comedy series to come out in 2017.
Recovery of an MMO Junkie starts things off with our main protagonist Moriko Morioka (Mamiko Noto/Terry Dotty) quitting her job. At the age of 30, she has decided to return to her NEET ways and boots up a new MMORPG called Fruits de Mer. There she creates a male character named Hayashi (Ryouta Suzuki/Aaron Dismuke), and soon finds herself playing day in and out in this massive fantasy world. Within the game, she makes a friend that goes by the female avatar Lily (Reina Ueda/Natalie Hoover), who is used by the male player Yuta Sakurai (Takahiro Sakurai/Josh Grelle).
As it is with these sorts of anime comedies, the MMO life clashes with the realm of reality, with fate giving the opportunity for Moriko and Yuta to begin crossing paths. At first it's just a random one-off, until a rushing Yuta plows head-on into Moriko, resulting in a quick hospital trip and tons of apologies. From this point on, the two decide to go back-and-forth as friends, still not knowing of each other's online identities. Things get more awkward when Yuta's current -- and Moriko's former -- co-worker Homare Koiwai (Tomoaki Maeno/Ian Sinclair) becomes the third point in this sort of love triangle, resulting in some misunderstandings and close calls between the three.
One can understand how the love triangle trope has been done so many ways. However what makes Recovery of an MMO Junkie different is the mentality of these characters, especially when it comes to both Moriko and Yuta. Here are two people whose online personas are truly out there, whereas their real selves can't put a sentence together without blubbering like an idiotically nervous wreck. It seems cartoonish at first, until you force yourself to look into the closest mirror and realize that these characters have more in common with the current generation of adults than most live-action TV or films of recent memory.
How Moriko and Yuta converse with one another is no different from how we as a general population find ourselves speaking. Because of the way the Internet has revolutionized messaging and conversing, we often talk with a lot more confidence when not face-to-face, as you see Hayashi and Lily do so in the MMO game. When Moriko and Yuta are in the same room, they struggle so hard to have a good chat without things going down an awkward route. There's also this level of self-awareness that's in your face when Moriko realizes she needs to somewhat change her slobbish ways before meeting up for dinner with Koiwai.
Speaking of Koiwai, it's quite a sigh of relief when he pushes Yuta to take the proper steps in order create a relationship with Moriko. He acts as a much better wingman of sorts rather than a playful rival, even going so far as to dive into Fruits de Mer himself to see what the fuss is all about. His interactions both within the game world and real life result in some side-splitting humor that will make you laugh out loud wholeheartedly. It's because of his carefree attitude that keeps him from being an annoying third wheel and instead acts as the straight equivalent of the "magical gay best friend" one sees in various Hollywood comedies.
Getting back to the main two characters, what makes both Moriko and Yuta fun to watch is how their real selves slowly bleed into the video game they're playing. Once filled with false confidence, their true awkward personas reveal more to one another, resulting in Yuta being the first to put two-and-two together and realize the Hayashi/Moriko connection. It's even fun seeing the other players getting into it, with them reminding Hayashi to cool it just a bit so he can focus on teamwork and monster slaying rather than real-life dilemmas.
It's very refreshing for Recovery of an MMO Junkie to be portraying adults having this conflict rather than the usual high school spiel that anime often throws at its audiences. This has been a year where shows like Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid and Sakura Quest presented adults finding their true callings and rediscovering their lost happiness, so it's quite the nice change of pace to be able to relate to these sorts of characters without feeling awkward about the age difference. Recovery of an MMO Junkie can be very comical with its relatable ideals, but at the same time it's best to laugh at a similar problem to make it easier to overcome.
A good reason an anime like this resonates well is because of the performance of the voice actors. Noto's Moriko is simply wonderful, playing around with the nervous gamer wreck with some of the most hard-hitting internal monologues both stab and tickle you simultaneously. Sakurai's Yuta does a great job balancing his dorkiness and heartfelt intentions via a charm that's slightly reminiscent of a classic Rick Moranis character. Boastful and confident in every scene, Maeno's Koiwai is a hoot to hear in action, especially when he enters the MMO world in the funniest possible way.
Funimation’s SimulDub, which has been adapted by Jessica Cavanagh, knocks it out of the park thanks to a great blend of comedic one-liners and stellar voice acting. Dotty is down-to-Earth as Moriko, projecting her voice during the character’s more frazzled moments for that extra laugh. As Yuta, Grelle blends a fine mixture of relatable worriment with that of a genuine caring persona. Sinclair’s Koiwai is simply a scene-stealer, being even funnier than his Japanese counterpart in just about every way.
Although their track record consists of a couple films and one series to date, SIGNAL.MD's animation in Recovery of an MMO Junkie could make them a studio people will have to keep a close eye on. In the MMO world, the surroundings are brimming with such beauty whilst the characters and creatures that roam the world are absolutely stunning. When it switches to the real world, most of the animation focus is then switched over to our main players. They're cartoonish with their expressions, but at the same time their external reactions mesh perfectly with their legit internal ones.
Composed by Conisch (Hetalia World Series, Appleseed XIII), the score plays up both the more comedic and sweeter elements of the series. A blend of Celtic melodies, booming epic symphonic sounds, and light-hearted songs act as a well-fitted frame for Recovery of an MMO Junkie’s canvas. Opening theme "Saturday Night Question" by Megumi Nakajima is a heart-pounding song that's both catchy as hell and mesmerizing to the ears, with closer "Hikari, Hikari" by Yūka Aisaka a simply great rocking track to end each episode.
Recovery of an MMO Junkie came out of nowhere for this reviewer, and wound up being probably one of this year's most memorable romantic comedies. Funny, relatable, beautiful to the eyes & ears, and wonderfully down-to-earth, this concoction adapted from Rin Kokuyo's original manga is a fresh take on the current dating and social trends of those in their 20s & 30s. Even if you've never booted up an online game in your life, Recovery of an MMO Junkie will no doubt touch your heart and soul in ways no other anime comedy has done before.
Voice Acting: (Japanese dub)/ (English dub)
Final Grade (not an average):
Recovery of an MMO Junkie can be viewed on Crunchyroll, FunimationNOW, and VRV. It has been licensed by Crunchyroll. Episodes 1-11 were observed for this review. Promotional consideration provided by Crunchyroll & VRV.