Image Source: TVアニメ「ネト充のススメ」公式 on Twitter

They’re both awkward, but both kind. The place they meet the most is online. But they have no idea about each other’s online game identity.

[This article contains spoilers for the events up to the anime’s ninth episode]

The story of Recovery of an MMO Junkie revolves around Moriko Morioka, a businesswoman who leaves the company life behind to become a shut-in. She grows out her hair, eats food she buys from the local convenience store, and dresses up in a sweat pants and a sweat shirt. She begins playing her new favorite online game “Fruits de Mer” nonstop. Her character is a timid, handsome male avatar named Hayashi.

Within the game, she meets Lily, a female avatar who becomes her best friend inside the online world. Lily is a cheerful, cute, and reliable character who always gives Moriko advice when she’s not sure what to do. Through her interactions with Lily and the other members of her in-game guild, Moriko is able to grow as a person in the real world.

It’s revealed fairly early on, but the player of Lily is in fact a young man named Yuta Sakurai. At first glance, he seems nearly perfect. He’s handsome, skilled at his job, and sociable. But underneath his seemingly-perfect exterior lies a layer of uncertainty. As a child, Sakurai was adopted—and he is apparently partly of foreign origin, explaining his brightly-colored hair. He was made fun of for his hair, as well as his elderly parents. Because of this, he was drawn into the world of online gaming.

Image Source: TVアニメ「ネト充のススメ」公式 on Twitter

Before Fruits de Mer, Moriko also played the same game as Sakurai, as a character named Yuki. As Yuki, Moriko would talk with Sakurai’s character Harth about her problems at work, but would always end their conversations with a smile. Just seeing her try her best would give him the strength to keep going. Years later, the positions are flipped. Moriko is down in the dumps, and Sakurai is the one who provides her energy. It’s hard to believe that this Moriko is the one from years ago. She’s sloppy, clumsy, and lacks confidence.

However, the thing that makes Sakurai and Moriko such a great duo—within and outside of the game—is that he doesn’t love Moriko despite her flaws. He loves her for who she is, flaws and all. On the other hand, Moriko might say things like “reality is shit,” but when faced with a challenge, she tries her darndest to overcome it, and never has underhanded motivations. A major reason that Moriko changed her entire appearance and began socializing outside of the game is because of her encounter with Sakurai within the game as Lily, and outside of the game as Yuta.

Image Source: TVアニメ「ネト充のススメ」公式 on Twitter

But Sakurai doesn’t have any ulterior motives either. They seem to have little in the way of romantic experience, so as viewers, we get to see them clumsily fumble when trying to not only understand their partner’s feelings, but their struggle to understand their own feelings as well. While they don’t often put it into words, the earnest way they try to think really hard about each other’s feelings in order not to hurt the other shows just how much balance they have between them. Their ability to make such a positive influence on the other makes me want them to be together as an official couple as soon as possible.

MMO Junkie Is More about Forging Interpersonal Relationships than Online Games

While the still-unrequited love of guild member Lilac and guild leader Kanbe also makes my heart beat, the main couple of Sakurai and Moriko—whether in the world of the game or in reality—is what really takes the show. It’s been a while since I’ve seen such a pure pair with romantic undertones in quite a while, and I can’t wait for more to come from them.

Recovery of an MMO Junkie is streaming with English subtitles on Crunchyroll and with a dub on FUNimation.

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