At the time I begin writing this article, I’ve watched the first episode of ‘Recovery of an MMO Junkie’. Just the first episode mind you, since it was already really late by the time I finished it. And I really enjoyed it. A lot in fact. I really enjoyed the ultra-expressive character designs, the colour art-style which Crunchyroll was kind enough to provide a non-subscriber like me with glorious 1080p and a full panoramic screen on which to view it. This made the art-style, which I didn’t actually think looked that appealing when I saw the series through livetweets that people on my Twitter timeline made, feel vibrant and colourful.
And naturally, I also really enjoyed the story which spanned through a few months without feeling forced or rushed, it all felt extremely natural with the intersperse between the real life and MMO segments. It achieved this by having an incredibly quick pace which didn’t fill us in on all the details of the world of the game like so many Isekai Anime would do because world-building isn’t really the focus of the series. This in turn allowed for a clear focus on the characters (their MMO versions at least) who in addition to being positively adorable with their interactions, also conveyed an extreme likability in their need to communicate with one another. The commentary from the main character Moriko enhanced this by displaying the underlying thought pattern behind certain dialogue choices.
The fact that the characters aren’t very heavily written or imbued with complex personalities actually worked in the episode’s favour because it allowed the audience enough information still to piece them together and subconsciously decipher them on their own. All the while allowing the narrative to flow seamlessly. The term “relatable” is frequently applied to this series due to Moriko’s struggles with social interaction and general antipathy toward the outside world, but I think such a description actually undersells the intensive realism conveyed through the directorial focus on Moriko’s behaviour patterns and how much it gets under your skin.
And it’s here where I stop providing a conventional glowing review of the experience, and confess how this directorial focus I just mentioned, haunted me last night. I didn’t initially. Not while I was watching the episode because I was mostly focused on how much fun I was having watching it. In fact, the episode itself wasn’t the last thing I looked on my computer for before going to bed. That was a discussion about Bondrewd from ‘Made in Abyss’ comparing him to both Griffith from ‘Berserk’ and Shou Tucker from ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ (two of the most heavily despised characters in all of Anime) which mostly got me thinking back to end of the Golden Age Arc, the intensive violence of it all and the tragedy of Griffith’s story, the torture he went through which led him to be psychologically broken enough to do what he did. Yeah, very nice things to think about when going to bed.
But going back to ‘MMO Junkie’, this combined with, of all things, ‘Berserk’ and it’s portrayal of trauma made me feel a bit restless. And of course, since I can never get to sleep the instant I get into bed as much as I would like, this left me alone with my thoughts as I always am when I go into bed. This usually makes my last browsing topic the thing which I end up consuming my mind. Now, this was hardly the most unsteady night I’ve ever had. I’ve had nights where I’ve thought about people who I completely despise, and actively kicked the air in my bed as a result of the violent reaction in me they stir up. I was actually extremely calm this night. Melancholic even. But as I thought of the brutal finger tortures in ‘Berserk’ and then thought back to ‘MMO Junkie’, I was allowed to both expand my appreciation for its more quiet excellence, and realise what caused the episode to resonate with me.
Moriko herself is perhaps the best part of the episode, which may appear obvious because of how utterly cute she is, but her sweaty character design with her messy hair and visible wrinkles played second fiddle only to her actions outside of the MMO experience. The way that she nervously wandered the world around her, whether it be the outside or her own room, the way that she felt terrified of other people, or even trivial details such as the visceral sound effect her stomach produces when she is hungry. This visual anxiety is something which I naturally connected to, but as I thought about it deeper in bed, I also realised it reflected how terrified I truly am.
It made me think about how uncomfortable I am with even the people closest to me. How much I feel scared about being open with them, and how in some cases it would actually be better not to dispel everything about myself to them (would you tell your family about your specific sexual preferences?). And yet it made me feel like a caged beast somehow. More than those aforementioned moments of violent rage I mentioned earlier. Despite the fact I had showered relatively recently and thus didn’t have a particularly sweaty or dirty body at that time, and still don’t as I write this, I felt really dirty somehow. Like my worst thoughts were consuming my entire form.
The odd thing is that the day that came before this (remembrance day 2017) wasn’t even a bad day as my days go. I got to go out with my family and enjoy a new meal for me which involved a chicken burger with sweet sauce on it as opposed to the usual ketchup or mayo, and I surprisingly enjoyed it more than I thought I would, taking me out of my usual culinary comfort zone to enjoy trying something new which is always a plus. And I got to be temporarily absolved of the College work I was doing for the weekend as I didn’t have any assignments to submit anymore. So obviously it wasn’t the day that made me this reflective. No, it was the whole situation in my life right now, and the fact that I can’t seem to ever simply shake off my depressive thoughts, and the episode I watched which triggered this mind-set for the night in me.
I won’t go into too much detail about specific names in regards to my family or anything, but Cancer is something which runs deep in my family. It’s something which in the last few years has claimed the lives of a few people in my family, which makes me worry about the very real possibility that I will get cancer at some point in the future. If not cancer, death in general is always something which terrified me, no matter how many decades away it is, and like most people I just try to not think about it and enjoy life while it lasts. But in my bed, with nothing left to distract me, my thoughts become my quilt. My fears take over me.
This eventually culminated in me imagining a scenario in which I meet up with my dearest friend (who I haven’t gotten to see much this year due to her employment restrictions and being away) and have what starts out as a normal conversation in which we discuss our lives at the moment turn into an emotional breakdown for me when I go into extensive detail about how things are in the family right now. And I began crying, but without tears coming out of my eyes because they can never seem to come out. During this, she would come to me to give me a warm hug and I would tell her how wonderful she is in my irritating nasal voice that I would try my best to mask in my mind so as not to remind me of how much I hate the sound of my own voice.
The thing is, I don’t know if I could do that in real life.. Even though I know she would be extremely understanding and caring, I don’t think I can bring myself to make her feel sad. So when those options are depleted, my remaining course of action is to take it online. If this all came across as extremely depressing, you can at least be assured that my overall mood is fine as I type this. Like I said, this was hardly the most depressing night I’ve ever had. All that stuff about crying was mostly related as being the potential course of action in the scenario I imagined for myself.
But I did know that with the mind-set the episode locked me in, I had to write this Article first thing in the morning. Mostly because I felt it would help me out a lot. Both as a practice for writing, and as a further development in 2017, a year in which, if nothing else, I have been able to come to terms with myself at a greater rate, in often ugly and mostly positive ways. Often through media, particularly my discovery of Manga this year. Whether it be Inio Asano’s ‘Oyasumi Punpun’ which made me fundamentally question my dependent and occasionally overbearing attitude to others and helped me to realise how much I think unpleasant thoughts which could potentially harm others if I ever placed them into action (good thing then I never have). Or Kaobi Nagata’s ‘Lesbian Experience with Loneliness’ which forced me to confront my own loneliness and how much I desire and need to receive love from people but feel too afraid to ask for it because the world I live in doesn’t just give kindness to me easily. Or my experiences since joining Anitwitter, which initially just started out as a way to become more involved in Anime discussion, but ultimately blossomed into some genuine friendship with people I’ve never met, but who through a myriad of circumstances I’ve been able to relay some of my honest feelings and experiences to.
And most recently, the first episode of ‘Recovery of an MMO Junkie’ which held a subtle portrayal of anxiety which wasn’t apparent at first due to the cloth of delightful humour blanketing it, but used its subtle displays of physical stress to help me reflect on it and realise that the seriousness of the situation, the feelings of isolation kept as subtext for that first episode (I’ll see how the rest of the series portrays it later on, but this article focuses primarily on just that first episode to keep on point about how it specifically affected me). How it made me feel sweaty, dirty, afraid, anxious, pitted me into a pit of self loathing resonated by my wandering thoughts on how much I dislike the sound of my own voice.
Overall, it pulled me into Moriko’s experiences and how I felt everything that she internally felt without the episode even feeling the need to relay those feelings in detail through excessive exposition and allow me to figure them out for myself. It’s all impressive considering I still wouldn’t quite say it’s the best debut of the season (taking 2nd place to ‘Girls Last Tour). Feelings are a complicated thing to talk about, and sometimes what is left unsaid tells us more than the most harsh of confessions. But I’m glad that the episode made me feel this way and that I was able to get this article out there.
Thanks for Reading.