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Monday, January 15, 2018

Anime Hajime Review: Net-juu no Susume

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Net-juu no Susume. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

Moriko Morioka (voiced by Mamiko Noto) has reached her limit. She can no longer find the energy to live a corporate life. Despite an acclaimed career, she decides to give it all up. From here on out, she will be what she calls an elite NEET.

On the first day of unemployment, Moriko downloads the MMORPG, Fruits de Mar. After some deliberation, she creates her ideal character; a male knight named Hayashi (voiced by Ryouta Suzuki). Once settled, she begins her new journey and gets destroyed in an instant.

After several failed quests, another player character takes notice of Hayashi’s struggle. This was the female healer known as Lilly (voiced by Reina Ueda). These two soon form a close friendship. Moriko is beside herself and wonders who the person behind the sweet, innocent Lilly is.

Back in the real world, Moriko has a chance encounter with a good-looking businessman named Yuta Sakurai (voiced by Takahiro Sakurai). Though the two start off on an awkward foot, they keep meeting up in the most unexpected places.

For Moriko who has given up the grind of office work, her new lifestyle has its own set of challenges. And for Yuta, he can’t get Moriko out of his head. And it doesn’t help that she reminds him of the male knight he helped out in his favorite MMO.

Series Positives

I had an expectation going into Net-juu no Susume. That expectation wasn’t low, except it wasn’t grand either. Actually, it’s more accurate to say I had a certain hope for this show.

I only wanted to get something lighthearted and fun. If this were to be silly, goofy, and jokey, that was fine. A little cheese here and there wouldn’t have been a bad thing. If this was nothing more than a good time, that would have been enough. Had this been the case and then this series faded into obscurity, I’m sure that would have been a shame. Regardless, there was no reason to suspect anything else.

My hope was to at least enjoy Net-juu no Susume.

Having now seen this show, there are a number of things to bring up. To start, most of the attributes I mentioned and hoped for were present. This series delivered on those aspects. So, then it was mission accomplished, right?

Well, there was something else too.

Imagine going to a classy, world famous, expensive as hell, five-star restaurant. It’s a special occasion, you’ve been saving up for ages, and the date has been in your head for months. Every part of your being is telling you this is going to be a wonderful night. When you get there, everything ends up being everything you predicted.

The traffic getting to the restaurant wasn’t bad. The valet was quick and there was a spot right up front for them to park your car. Inside was lively, but not loud. You could have a conversation with your party without shouting. In fact, the entire mood was calm and relaxing. And the service, it was impeccable. The bartender mixed a delicious variant of your favorite cocktail. The staff was attentive and had what you needed before you even realized you needed it. Then when it came to the actual meal, it was unlike anything you had ever tasted.

This establishment had spent years building a reputation for quality. And that effort was on display for you to witness. Like it was with this series, you got everything you had hoped for. You were satisfied.

Then came the bill. This was the low point you knew was coming. You were about to drop a ton of cash, but you had prepared yourself for this moment. You grabbed that piece of paper, looked at it, and then the entire course of the evening changed.

You stared at this slip and you couldn't believe it. The drinks, the food, the entire experience, it was all one hundred percent free. This wasn’t a mistake. There wasn’t an error. This was legitimate. You’re not sure the reason why, but you did not have to spend a cent.

And that’s what this show was.

Net-juu no Susume took the things I had hoped for and made them something else. This series was great. It was fantastic. That thing I said about this show falling into obscurity, that’s not going to happen here.


A dilemma Net-juu no Susume would have to sort out dealt with its two worlds. How would this series balance out the exposure between the real world and the game world? Underusing one or overusing the other would have led to a disconnection. How does one go about making both seem important?

This is not an easy thing to juggle, but Net-juu no Susume managed to do it.

One way I assumed this show was going to do this was through making everything fifty-fifty. And in the beginning, that was what was happening. But to get where this story wanted to go, maintaining this ratio would not have worked.

One needed to become the focal point. I won’t say one needed to become a priority because as this series proved, that wouldn’t be possible. For these characters, the game world was as important to them as the real one. Too bad the real world did need to come first.

For most of this cast, Fruits de Mer was a form of escapism. This was a place they could go and be someone else for a time. And this was something everyone understood. The avatars weren’t the actual players. Therefore, this series didn’t spend much effort on the actual game aspect of this game.

Net-juu no Susume didn’t go on epic fantasy quests. No one needed to overcome great odds to grow stronger. The main party wasn’t fighting a tyrannical evil to save the world. None of that happened. Rather, the time spent in the game took place between these parts.

Moriko would often find her guildmates performing odd tasks. She herself would wander around with no real goal in mind. We only ever saw the prep work for a mission, never the actual mission itself.

Why you ask.

Unlike Moriko, most of her comrades were busy during the day. They had things to do. It was hard to get a full party together at the drop of a hat. One thing that caught my attention about Net-juu no Susume was its cast make up. In that, this story wasn’t set in high school. The main characters weren’t kids. They were adults.

Don’t get me wrong, some of my top comedies, most of them for that matter, take place in a high school. Nichijou, Seitokai Yakuindomo, Binbougami ga, all in high school. The same is true for the romance genre. Amagami SS, Ore Monogatari, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai, high school. And even in some of my favorite anime ever, the characters are high schoolers.

Am I complaining about this? Not in the slightest. Each of the shows I mentioned, as well as so many others, have a lot more going on than just their setting. But do you see were a bit of exhaustion can come from? It was nice to see Net-juu no Susume not do something I’ve seen over and over again.

Please keep in mind, I’m mostly referring to shows in the comedy, romance, and slice-of-life genres. More dramatic series have a platform to tackle more adult themes. Even if those shows have a younger cast of characters. And I don’t mean adult themes as in sex or eroticism. Nor am I talking about heavy subjects like death, loss, or tragedy.

What I’m getting at are issues most kids don’t have to worry about. This includes things like a job. Or buying groceries. Or tackling responsibilities that keep the lights on and the water running. You know, adult stuff.

Not only that, grown up casts have different opportunities for different setups. One of my go-to examples, a show doesn’t have to come up with a complex, convoluted reason to get a character drunk. A story doesn’t have to rely on a tolerance level that gets someone juiced through smell alone. Instead, a character can just drink alcohol.

Net-juu no Susume was always aware of this reality and used it to its benefit.

For one, Moriko and Yuta’s in-game characters never became separate characters. There was never a shift in gears. Hayashi was still Moriko and Lilly was still Yuta. The avatars never got depressed. The events of the game never dictated what was going on outside it. This was always the other way around.

But the virtual world did have a purpose. The ones controlling the avatars were human beings. Therefore, the game became a place to meet up with friends. And like any friend would, they were willing to listen and give advice. They became a support structure.

And for Moriko, that was something she needed.

When she first started playing Fruits de Mer, Moriko wasn’t in the best place in her life. She was once a successful career woman. And by all accounts, she was an ace at her job. Even after she quit people thought highly of her. So then why did she quit?

This was due to an unfortunate, but a very understandable reason. Moriko’s job drained her energy, drive, and confidence. She no longer found fulfillment in what she was doing. She became disillusioned by everything. Thus, when she found something where none of that mattered, she grabbed on to it.

Then as fate would have it, the real world found its way to Moriko once again.

Up to this point, Net-juu no Susume was already going strong. Then when the worlds started to come together, this series became amazing. This was thanks to this show’s best aspect.

Moriko and Yuta’s Relationship

This series was hilarious. The comedy was solid throughout. While not the funniest thing to come out of 2017, it was still pretty funny. And this gives a lot more credit to the anime that made me laugh harder.

But as a romance story, I’m having trouble thinking of a show that did this better in 2017. Up until now, this distinction went to Gamers from the Summer season.

In certain ways, Gamers and Net-juu no Susume were similar. I couldn’t help to see elements of the former while watching the latter. The big one being two online personalities having a fateful encounter in the real world. But it was how these two shows took this scenario which sets them apart.

In Gamers, the driving plot point was how the characters exaggerated their misunderstandings. Everyone got caught up in their own delusions without noticing what was right in front of them. The two characters that should have been the best of friends, if not more, couldn’t get along. They had created a false narrative in their head that prevented them from getting closer.

Gamers used these circumstances well. But there were moments where this got frustrating. No one ever took the initiative to stop, ask questions, and hash out what was going on. Every misconception was only a five-minute talk away from sorting itself out.

Net-juu no Susume never got to this level. It would kill any large-scale misunderstanding the moment it arose. What this story did was not give characters a reason to piece things together. Not until there was information to go off of that is.

When the “aha” moment came, it was natural. I’m not going to pretend meeting someone from online in person by pure random chance is a thing that is going to happen. Except, while the odds are improbable, they're not impossible. This act of fate does make for a good story.

Net-juu no Susume acknowledged how unlikely this scenario is. There was justifiable doubt in these characters. But Moriko and Yuta, particularly Yuta, recognized something was up. What was happening was either the most incredible coincidence ever or it was real.

And it was this that allowed Net-juu no Susume to blow Gamers out of the water.

From there, Moriko and Yuta grew closer. I won’t detail this entire pathway, but I will say one thing. Their journey was super sweet. It was the kind of sweetness you can’t help to smile at.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the answer is yes. Moriko and Yuta were adorable together. And much of that credit goes to the performances of Mamiko Noto and Takahiro Sakurai.

One quick side note before moving on. Something was bugging me the entire time I was watching Net-juu no Susume. I could not place where I had heard Mamiko Noto’s voice before. It then occurred to me why she sounded so familiar. I had spent a significant portion of December 2017 listening to her.

Ms. Noto is also Mavis Vermillion from Fairy Tail. And I’m going to remember her more as the thirty-year-old NEET than her as the first guild master. She did a phenomenal job in this series.

Series Negatives

Everything I’m about to say I couldn’t care less about. The positives of Net-juu no Susume outweighed its negatives by a massive degree.

We’re still going to talk about those negatives, but know that’s my mindset going into this.

And to start this section off, there were two things I found strange.

One was something I usually never think twice about, yet I noticed it here. The other is something that I’m not confident is an actual problem. I’m only bringing it up in case I do come to learn that this was what the show had intended.

Let’s begin with that one then, shall we?

There was never a point in this series where I didn’t think Yuta was Lilly. From the moment of his introduction, that was who I associated him as. This is not me boasting about how I saw this twist coming. I never saw it as a twist.

When this story showed Yuta and Lilly on screen at the same time, I thought nothing of it. The only thing that stood out to me was how odd this moment was shot. But I then dismissed it because what else could it have been?

But now it has occurred to me, “Wait a minute. Was that supposed to be a reveal?”

This can’t be what this show was trying to do. It’s why I’m not confident in calling this a problem. I say that because if this was indeed the case, Net-juu no Susume botched it. This was not a surprise. This was not unexpected. To think it was those things is foolish to me.

The other issue, the one that other stories do, involved a lot of metagaming. What do I mean by that?

This would happen on occasion in this series and always in the virtual world. Moriko as Hayashi would be having a conversation with another player-character. Then we would hear a quick thought going on inside the other character's head and that would be it. This is not an unusual storytelling method. It happens all the time.

But this doesn’t change the fact of the matter. We should never have heard the other player’s inner monologue. Net-juu no Susume would establish that it was Moriko who was our player.

So, if there was anything Hayashi didn’t have access to, we shouldn’t have had access to it either. When this story showed other player viewpoints were available, this continuity error went away.

To be fair, this only happened on a few occasions. When it did happen, though, it felt like a mistake.

These two points I bring up were nothing more than tiny hiccups. On the other hand, there was something this series did fail to capitalize on.

Supporting Characters

We got to meet Moriko and Yuta’s entire guild. They seemed to be interesting enough characters. And that was the problem. We got to know enough about them to expect them to be important characters.

The only exception to this was the guild’s leader, Kanbe, the male assassin (voiced by Yuichi Nakamura). Kanbe’s actual player did have a larger role in this story. Yet even this got brushed to the side.

Here are some of the details we discover about this guild. Two of its members appeared to be married in real life. Don’t know why I know that. Another person doesn’t have the time to log in on a regular basis. This makes it a rare occurrence when they can join the party. Not sure why this got so much exposure either.

Then there was Liliac, a female elf (voiced by Yuka Aisaka), whose player we did meet. She was the worst offender because Liliac had a decent chunk of an episode dedicated to her point of view. Nothing came of this.

Fortunately for Net-juu no Susume, Moriko and Yuta’s story was plenty. These two more than made up for the rest of the cast. Too bad this was a huge waste of potential.

Final Thoughts

I said it at the top and I want to say it again. This show was great.

As a comedy, it was funny. As a romance story, it was amazing. I went into this series looking to get something fun out of it. What I got instead was something worth remembering.

This show knew what to focus on and when to focus on those things. It was balanced, and it never tripped over its own toes. Along with that, Moriko and Yuta’s relationship was well paced. This resulted in them becoming one of the most adorable couples I’ve seen in a while.

There was so much to like about this one. Net-juu no Susume is a series you should, without a doubt, check out.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? How would you advise Net-juu no Susume? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

And if you liked what you read, be sure to follow me on my social media sites so that you never miss a post or update. Also, please share this review across the internet to help add to the discussion.

I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

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