Net-Juu no Susume Ep. 1: Will you be my internet GF?

I guess I’ll blog this weekly. I was looking forward to Garo, but I guess there aren’t English subs for it yet? No matter. It’ll happen eventually. And I know some readers wanted me to write about Kino’s Journey, but all in due time. It’s a Friday night, so gimme a break. I also got Blade Runner 2049 to watch, so I don’t have all night to watch anime. As a result, I choose this romantic comedy about a 30-year-old corporate drop-out, who — in her own words — chose the NEET life. Why am I blogging this show? I’ve spent too much of my formerly young life in the world of MMOs. Way, way too much. So when I see a show about MMOs, I just can’t help myself. Plus, there’s romance in it. Plus, the woman is about my age! Yes, I’m old now, but enough about that! Loose thoughts and impressions ahead.

— Okay, okay, she chose this NEET life, but did she really have to call the rest of them schmucks? They have it bad enough as it is.

— Moriko jumps right into the MMO poopsocking life. Why did she quit? How is she going to support herself? What will her family and friends (if she has any) think of her decision? I assume all of those questions will be answered in due time. I’m not criticizing the anime for withholding these crucial bits of information now, but it’s important to keep them in mind. The story should eventually answer these questions. I especially want to know how she intends to keep her apartment without a job. Why? Well, most NEETs are supported their parents. Most NEETs are young people. She’s not exactly old at 30, but I assume her parents didn’t exactly expect to have to suddenly support someone who — up until now — was a gainfully employed adult. But it’s not enough to just answer the question. It better answer the question well. I don’t want it swept under the rug, i.e. “Oh, she has some savings.” I feel as though the story won’t have any legitimacy if it brushes the question aside.

— When I see Fruits de Mer, I think of a plateau of fruits de mer. Y’know, seafood. Not an MMO where you fight cute hamsters in dark dungeons.

— Moriko’s playing as a man… but she’s… but he… oh!

— My suspension of disbelief took a hit when Moriko meets the cute in-game avatar, and they both decide to go on a stroll. I’ve never gone on a stroll in an MMO. Maybe times have changed. After all, I haven’t played an MMO in over two years. But from what I can remember, these were the three things anyone would ever do: 1) idle in a safe place, 2) run and/or jump around in a safe place, or 3) only ever move in order to accomplish something. I have literally never strolled. Yes, I’ve explored MMO worlds, but again, that’s still different from strolling. It may seem like I’m nitpicking, but if you’re going for authenticity, the show made this former avid MMO gamer raise an eyebrow or two.

— And they have conversations like “This MMO is so beautiful, and it lets us meet new people, even a chance meeting is due to fate, and and and…” C’mon, this sounds more like an essay in defense of MMO games, not an actual conversation between two internet strangers.

— Like most stories centered around MMOs, the anime is definitely romanticizing the hell out of the idea of online interpersonal relationships. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not a disbeliever. I even met a girl in an MMO, and we had a great relationship. But even then, I wouldn’t blow this much smoke up someone’s ass about online love.

— It’s not so much unrealistic as it is… inauthentic, if that makes any sense. I don’t care if the scenario seems unlikely. The part that bothers me is that it’s exaggerated and it’s exaggerated in that bad anime sort of way. It’s the way anime puts a saccharine sheen on everything it touches. It’s the way anime romanticize Paris as this perfect Western city full of romance and sophistication and croissants.

— That is one buff-ass ratman. Goddamn.

— The level-up animation in this game is a golden fart cloud. Okay.

— Apparently, Moriko is not a very experienced gamer. Once she hits level 8, her newfound MMO buddy suggests that she’s finally ready to face the boss. The boss is apparently the same golden rat that had been kicking Moriko’s ass earlier on. I thought it was just some random mob, but nope, it was a boss. Why any MMO gamer would tackle a boss without grinding, I’ll never know.

— Another MMO suspension of disbelief thing: even after hitting level 8, Moriko’s avatar is still wearing the same armor that it started out with. She now has a short sword and round shield, but c’mon, son.

— “Leave the healing to me,” said the character who looks like a healer. I mean, I thought I could heal up by poking myself with a sword, but I guess that works too.

— “My wounds are healing right before my eyes…” No MMO player would say that.

— No MMO player would promise to wear shit gear forever, but I guess it’s okay if you can transmogrify.

— A corny scene follows in which Lily — I finally learned “her” name — finds herself in Moriko’s avatar’s arms. I mean, if you wanna do this sorta shit, why not make it a VR MMO. I can at least buy it in that case. But in a regular MMO, this is the sort of inauthentic sheen that anime vomits on everything.

— We also get these scenes because they’re the sort of generic nonsense you come to expect of half-assed romances. It’s not actually MMO-specific, which is a problem. A romance in the MMO world is probably just two people sitting in town privately chatting each other. There’s a lot of talking — some flirting, maybe — but a lot of talking. It’s almost nice to have a conversation without the awkwardness that oftentimes goes hand-in-hand with the imposing physical presence of the other person. Two minds can just bond. Physical intimacy is not erased but merely deferred. You’ll eventually have to cross that threshold some day if you ever decide to meet your online lover in real life. My point is… an online romance has to be portrayed differently. It shouldn’t be the same as regular romances. It shouldn’t be full of typical — dare I say — normie moments like when the characters find themselves silent in each other’s arms, eyes locked, cheeks blushing, hearts thumping. No, no, no. You have to talk. You have to win each other with just talk. You have to capture what it’s like for two minds to fall in love by merely talking to one another. If you want an example of what I’m talking about, look up the movie Her.

— Moriko is Hayashi. Some dude is Lily. It’s gonna be a pain in the ass to keep referring to them with two sets of names.

— How did she afford such a nice rig? At least she’s saving money by keeping the lights off. A-plus on the unnecessary frills on her keyboard. I bet it’s even a mechanical keyboard. Y’know, even if I can afford one, I just can’t stand the idea of paying that much for a keyboard.

— Oh hey, more online friends. And you can make a fat avatar. How quaint.

— These guys seem nice. Lily is down because Hayashi’s been avoiding her. So their guildmates are getting to the bottom of it. It’s been so long since I’ve been in a guild, I can’t remember at all if they can be this… proactive about tackling such a non-gaming problem. If everyone had become close friends, then sure… after all, Hayashi is now level 80, so perhaps quite a bit of time has passed. It’s hard to get a sense of the level of intimacy from the little we’ve seen, though. Sitting and drinking MMO alcohol makes it all the more difficult to gauge. Like what is that? Hey, we go to taverns to RP dirty shit, okay? No one drinks!

— Hayashi’s only been avoiding her, because he’s trying to get a rare drop to give to Lily as a Christmas present. Moriko’s a dork.

— MMO nitpick: if a drop can’t be bought, it’s usually bound to the person who receives it. If you can get the drop, then trade it to someone as a gift… then it can be bought. Hell, you can technically buy items that bind to you as well. Just hire mercenaries to help with the quest.

— “I asked Kanbe-san where you might be.” I guess this MMO’s friend list doesn’t actually tell you where your friends are… like every other MMO ever. Inauthenticity…

— Lily does that generic romance shit where Hayashi is about to tell her why he’s been MIA recently, but she just can’t help herself by asking, “Am I getting in your way…?” Oh, love and its myriad misunderstandings! Lame.

— Back in the real world, Moriko opens her fridge to find it empty. So she drags herself to the nearest combini and gripes at all the couples she sees there. Gosh. You’d think a burgeoning online romance would soften her heart.

— In an attempt to buy the last depressing piece of fried chicken, Moriko locks eyes with a cute, bespectacled guy. Oh, is that our Lily?! Of course it is. I don’t know why the show is so transparent about it. Why not make it a big plot twist? But even without reading the source material, which I haven’t touched whatsoever, you just know who Lily really is.

— Yooooo, that looks nothing like the crystal rose I thought you were gonna get. Did you wuss out on the quest?! But Lily likes it, so I guess that’s all that matters.

Well, that’s the end of the episode. It’s not shaping up to be a great anime, but I still drew some fun from watching it by comparing it to my own experiences with the genre.

Nevertheless, first episode leaves me wanting. Moriko seems to jump wholeheartedly into this relationship with Lily, but she’s a grown woman. I have to assume she’s not dumb. I have to assume she’s not naive. So how does she really feel about this relationship? Does it fill a gap in her heart? Is it just a casual, no-strings-attached online fling? Or does she really want something more? Why go to such great efforts for a fling? Why go to such efforts when it seems like neither of them have even discussed anything about their actual lives? The anime would rather go for laughs instead of introspection, but you can do both. Simply put, the first episode lacks that extra something that would make this more than just another dumb romantic comedy.

One Reply to “Net-Juu no Susume Ep. 1: Will you be my internet GF?”

  1. Damn, four articles in a row. You’re on a roll here, E Minor. Keep up the good work. I don’t have much to add to this post other than regardless of what animu fans say, anime tend to be linear and straightforward, so the first episode of an anime tend to do tell what to expect from an anime. It gets better is just bullshit. In fact, most of the times, anime get worse than better after the first episode regardless of how well done it is. Are anime writers even at their best only able to write the beginning and climax but unable to write the ending?

    “It’s not so much unrealistic as it is… inauthentic, if that makes any sense.”

    This part of your post as well as others that are related to it do rouse my mind, so I want to write a bit about what comes to my mind after reading it. I’m sorry if this comes off as incoherent.

    Anime on the whole seem to be unable to accept reality or to be more precise avoid it at all cost. Yes, I know anime is ultimately an entertainment, an escapist entertainment even. However, it also wants to be taken (somewhat) seriously, which is why it loves to put “human drama” (lol), “questions about morality” (lol 2X), “deep and philosophical theme” (lol 3X), and so on in it in order to be more than a joke. Of course, its inability to confront reality head-on makes them unable to engage any of those serious stuff in any meaningful way, making it even more of a joke in the process. It’s not just a joke. It’s a joke with a delusion of grandeur.

    Because of this, most anime come off as a spoiled, know-it-all brat acting like he is an adult and demand me to treat him like an adult. And no, it’s not as endearing as anime tend to make this scenario seems to be.

    It’s also reflected in a lot of animu fans who loves to use the “It’s just fiction. It’s not real. You shouldn’t treat it seriously. Don’t overthink it or even think.” excuse whenever they want to defend their favorite animes from analysis or criticism. Of course, whenever they meet something that they don’t like in their favorite animes like that stupid travesty about Kannagi, suddenly, it’s more than just fiction. It’s a matter of the heart! (lol 3X)

    Back on topic, (because that is a completely different topic and I don’t give a damn about Kannagi) if you actually follow their advice and don’t treat anime seriously. In other words, giving it no respect and treating it like a joke, then they go ape shit and go on a spiel about how you’re disrespecting its fans and its creators. Don’t you know that the life of an animator is hard? They are overworked and underpaid and shit, you know? What a joke like they really care about them at all.

    This brain-dead version of having your cake and eating it is just… well, brain-dead and immature I guess. Anime as a medium won’t be able to improve until it can solve this issue. Seriously, anime may grow up physically as it looks prettier with a lot of CGI to boot (just like a boy grow up into a handsome man and use a lot of cosmetics to make himself more appealing) but mentally I can’t help to think it either don’t change or regress. And that is sad.

    It got nothing to do with the anime you post about. Sorry about that. I just want to write what is in my mind after I read this post.

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