After mustering up the courage to propose to a girl in an online game, naïve otaku Hideki "Rusian" Nishimura is devastated when she flat out rejects him. To make matters worse, the girl reveals that she is actually an older man in real life. With his dreams crushed and his heart broken, Rusian comes to an abrupt decision in the midst of his raging fit: he will never trust another girl in an online game again.
Years later, Rusian is now in a guild with three other players, one of whom possesses a female avatar by the name of "Ako." Ako is deeply in love with Rusian and wants to marry him. Although he entertains the possibility that she might be a guy, Rusian accepts her proposal, claiming that her gender doesn't matter as long as she is cute in the game. However, after a discussion between guild members that led to all of them having an offline meeting, Rusian finds out that Ako, along with the other members, are not just girls, but also his schoolmates.
Oh, great. Another light novel adaptation with a harem, a stupidly long title that nobody in their right mind would want to pronounce, and a story revolving around MMOs. The anime industry clearly hasn't had enough of those.
It would be one thing if Netoge was just more run-of-the-mill mediocrity, but it instead goes all the way in being silly tripe. This is an anime where the protagonist's entire set of friends in an online game just so happen to be attractive (in some cases, popular) girls who, conveniently, attend the exact same high school and know him personally, including a twintailed tsundere and his
in-game waifu who immediately clings all over him and proclaims herself his wife, despite not actually knowing anything about who he is in the real-world. If you were to drop the show immediately after the first episode, I would not blame you, and I would actually suggest you are making the right choice. It certainly does not do anything in the later episodes to convince otherwise.
For what is supposed to be an anime involving romance, said 'romance' is about as shallow and as juvenile as it can possibly get. They love each other over a video game. A game! This is not love--- it is two mentally troubled and lonely children infatuated with one another because they share a superficial hobby and because they cannot get anyone better. Anyone who has dated before, especially at a young age, knows that desperate relationships like these never go anywhere. And the two of them like to imagine themselves a married couple? Really? Marriage is not play-time-- it requires a great deal of compromise and sacrifice, and would crush their childish fantasy as a result. A couple like this would not last more than a few weeks in reality, much less a lifetime. So forgive me if I do not care when the show tries to make me feel for them (and often, unfortunately, it does).
Anything that comes out of Ako's mouth is a pain to the senses. She claims real-life is a kusoge and compares luck to item drops in a game. Even the most extreme of otaku on 2ch and other places have the sense to treat these sorts of comments as a joke. That Ako is completely serious about it makes it quite clear that she is a basket-case and that the show has no interest in painting her as an actual person. She is a collection of silly tropes to throw on a body pillow and sell to otaku. At least something like Oreimo, as painful a show as it often was, actually made an effort to make its characters something more than that.
On numerous occasions, Ako makes it clear that she is a terrible girlfriend who has no right dating anyone. She even goes as far as to lie about meeting up with another dude to get back at the protagonist and make him jealous. Anybody, whether male or female, who thinks this is acceptable behaviour is, frankly, scum. He should have dumped her right then and there. But he didn't, and he won't, because this is a harem anime, and harem anime do not care for their characters behaving like sensible human beings.
Netoge isn't all too interested in making the other girls (and there are a whole four of them) feel like they actually have a place in the story. They could just as easily be taken out of the show entirely without it affecting all that much. They exist primarily as eye-candy, showing up, for example, in a vapid 'beach episode', where they join Ako, swimsuits and all, in lathering the protagonist with sunscreen. Netoge doesn't really have any idea of whether it wants to commit solely to Ako or fully embrace the harem route, and often it will switch directions one or more times per episode. They encourage the protagonist and his relationship with Ako, and then the next moment they'll be rubbing their breasts against him or blushing in some pseudo-confession scene. Why? For what purpose?
(It also goes without saying that Netoge, given its genre, is ripe with unnecessary fanservice. The girls will all bath together, making vaguely homosexual comments about each other and comparing their breast sizes, with huge amounts of steam covering their bodies so that otaku will be manipulated into buying the uncensored BluRay version. How many more years will it take until the anime industry matures beyond this?)
Every male besides the protagonist is depicted as a horrible loser with no hope of finding love. His group of male friends (who, by the way, were even less of an otaku than him) do nothing but envy his apparent success with the ladies, despite him being entirely bland and average and without anything that would make the opposite sex interested in him. The protagonist is the single most important character in a story, and here he is the least interesting. I get it-- the girls need to be cute in a harem series, and so they might take a higher priority, but that is still no excuse for making the protagonist a lifeless sack of nothing. I suppose the one thing that can be said in his favour is that he isn't entirely dense like most other protagonists in the genre, and actually makes an effort to go out and get things done. He could be worse-- he could be, say, Ichika from Infinite Stratos.
Netoge tries to go for a similar art style to No Game No Life, with its blue-coloured outlines, although, quite thankfully, it does not try to assault the eyeballs nearly as much as did NGNL and its excessively bright colours. Interestingly, Netoge shows the MMO gameplay from both the player's perspective (with sprites similar to Ragnarok Online) and from some sort of fantasy (a la Sword Art Online) presumably going on in their heads. If it truly wanted to appeal to the audience's nostalgia for these sorts of games, it could have done without the latter. We don't need to see random online girls having their boobs bouncing against the protagonist's arm. The real-world side of the story already has enough of that.
Unless another lame harem anime is something you absolutely need in your life, Netoge is something to be avoided. It is completely manufactured, playing the genre trope for trope in order to manipulate a few poor souls into paying money for it. You're better than that. You deserve better than something like this. Heck, anime deserves better.
In a few weeks' time, nobody will even remember Netoge. The next generic light novel harem will roll around, as always it does, season after season. Will anime fans ever get sick of them? Perhaps. But I sure don't want to sit around and wait.
There are some series that leaves an impact on the consumer, whether positive or negative, influencing or degrading, enjoyable or painful. They fall into a specific spectrum of very good or very bad. But then there are the in-betweeners, some which have good qualities but still missed their mark more times than acceptable, or are of the “so bad, it's good” due to managing to hold on to some charm that saves it from the trash bin. Others, however, manage to find comfort in the very middle by just “being there”, not picking a side and not making an impression good or bad enough to
be properly labeled at a glance. These get glossed over easily enough that one would really have to be paying attention or actively looking to notice them.
Such is the case of “Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta?”, “And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online?”, simply shortened to “NetoYome”. It's your typical “high school ecchi romance comedy light novel” adaptation, fit for its particular audience that picks it up every season and manages to enjoy them despite the problems that plague the genre. And yet at the same time, it's one of the more tolerable ones. There is nothing infuriating about it while still not being special enough to fully stand out from its fellow ecchi light novel crowd. You could say it's the wallflower of ecchi light novel anime, the one you notice at the corner of your eye, yet aren't willing to ask for a dance. Well, maybe this time, you can make an exception to try just once, or at least give a wave to acknowledge its presence and make it feel more welcome.
STORY: Hideki Nishimura is a regular in the MMORPG called “Legendary Age” as a knight named in-game “Rusian”, and has been in a few guilds during his play-through. In one such guild, he came to like a particular player and confessed his love for that character in-game and asked to marry them. The player behind the character revealed she's actually a he in real life, and out of shock, he vowed to never trust another female character in-game again. But it doesn't stop him from meeting a new character, a cleric by the name of “Ako”, and after a bit of inner conflict with himself, they marry in-game. One day, as suggested by the guild leader, the Alley Cats decide to have a meet-up in real life, revealing much to his surprise—and near-disbelief—all three of his party members (two of which are male characters) are girls who go to the same high school. And as it turns out, Ako truly is Ako (full name Ako Tamaki), and she has fallen in love with him like she did in the game—if only because she can't differentiate between online fantasy and reality. Thus, Hideki, the tsundere Akane “Schwein” Segawa, and the student council president Kyou “Apricot” Goshouin work together to help her out by forming a club while the two in-game lovebirds find themselves growing just as close in real life.
It's a simple premise, there's nothing more to it than what is listed in the paragraph. You do get character interactions with each other both in the game and in real life (to show their online counterparts aren't too different from their actual personalities), but that's as deep as it goes, even when occurring characters come in-and-out as they please (and showing a strange male-to-female gamer ratio in-series, but whatever). It's a romance, and a sweet romance at that, which for an ecchi rom-com light novel adaptation, it's to be expected, and it knows it's nothing more than that. And yet because it's simple and sweet, there's a special charm to it that makes it refreshing for the genre. In fact, despite being an ecchi, it's not your standard ecchi fare of “main male protagonist and his harem get into sexual slapstick mishaps with cheesecake shots for the camera”. The closest it ever got to this was in the obligatory beach episode, but the roles were actually switched. It was just the characters having fun.
The only real conflict throughout the series is Ako's inability to tell apart online fantasy with the real world, but there was an episode dedicated to a hacker infiltrating Hideki's account that caused a temporary rift between him and Ako while also practically deleting his character and selling all of his inventory for a quick buck. The character of Rusian does get restored, but not with his items, so for the rest of the series afterwards, there's brief discussions about such-and-such item still being missing, Rusian and Ako remarry, and the hacker gets confronted in a strangely amusing but admittedly smart way, then that's about it for the hacker subplot.
If there had to be a problem with the story itself, it's that Hideki's trouble with trusting girls online, which is what kickstarted the anime, goes away pretty early on when he comes to terms that not everyone's what they seem to be behind the keyboard. So he doesn't show too many trust issues throughout the series as originally believed, which may or may not be a good sign depending on what you were expecting to happen. It's not like with “Girls Bravo” in which the main protagonist is allergic to girls, so there's no jokes at his dispense over it during and after. Akane more-or-less is the only one who really pushes his buttons, but that's because she developed a reputation as being the popular beauty who turns down every guy who asks her out despite being bit of an alpha bitch (more-or-less to hide the fact she's a gamer), so she has to keep that title in the school.
CHARACTERS: Personal opinion here, but Ako is one of the most precious, if not adorable characters this season, albeit in personality and design. Sure, there's always that possibility her naïveté will get on people's nerves (and given how moé she is, that's to be expected), but there's something innocent and a little sweet about the way she views her relationship with Hideki. She truly loves him even though she sees him as “Rusian” and calls him as such much to his chagrin, and the other characters are concerned enough about her lack of social life that they want to help her overcome it. And the odd thing is she's a very pretty girl, one would think she'd be popular with the boys in school. But she's not. No one gives her the time of day because she's painfully timid and probably doesn't take great care of herself at times. She's Tomoko's sweeter twin sister who's inexperienced with video games, if you want a comparison.
Hideki is your typical male protagonist in that he's the nice guy with no real distinct personality to call his own, especially since he's quite the otaku so his friends at school tease him about. He shows genuine care for his guild (which extends into real life the best they can), but especially for Ako since she's the newbie of the group. And yet, there's something charming about him. By himself, he's just there, but together with Ako, they form a nice dynamic that allows him to shine a little brighter than he could've. It's not the best way to write a character, however, the relationship is definitely there and cannot be overlooked without forsaking the lifeblood of the series.
Akane and Kyou are of their respective archetypes for the most part, but they work fine together with Hideki and Ako and thus that keeps them from being the “slightly more than a background character” characters. Kyou's the guild leader (reflecting her status as student council president as well as a rich girl), so she's the most level-headed of the group, but she has her moments as well. Akane's sharp attitude causes some bickering here and there between her and Hideki, but as the tsundere, it's to be expected, and since there's no romance between them, it's for good fun. She's pretty much their ace in the guild despite Hideki having some of the best items, and is usually the first to go into battle.
Other characters show up, but Nekohime and Sette are more-or-less the only recurring characters. There's honestly nothing more to these characters than what they're introduced as even after becoming regular members of the Alley Cat guild, but there's an actual funny punchline behind Nekohime's identity, at least if you're not paying attention.
ART/ANIMATION: Of all the shows I personally watched this season, “NetoYome” is one of those shows with a distinct art-style that makes characters pop in their beauty and attractiveness (even with the occasional bounciness of the girls not Akane, though she makes up for it with leg shots). Not entirely sure how much of Hisasi's influence there is in the anime, but Akane Yano knew what to do as the character designer. It's a very colorful, pretty show to look at, and I hadn't noticed too many quality dips during its run. Colors also have different palettes for the real world and the online world. There's more color to the real world than in-game where it's more gray and saturated, but that's probably because most of what we see in-game are the characters in the dungeon or in a pub where they hold their meetings. Not that the game itself doesn't have color, when the characters are out in a field or in the village, it is bright and there's like a rainbow filter in the backgrounds, but it's noticeably not the real world. The tone also changes much more in-game than in the real world, where everything's calm and normal, if only because other guilds tend to drop by and pick fights with Rusian when they're not battling a boss (which aren't of bad quality themselves).
I'm not one of those folks that goes around proclaiming “this cinnamon roll is too good for this earth” or “I want to protect that smile”, but I can make an exception for the latter because holy crap these characters have lips and they have adorable smiles that makes the eyes look sparklier than usual (which says something since they have rather sparkly eyes to begin with). Protect that smile at all costs, it's too precious for any other show but this one.
SOUND: Admittedly, I haven't paid too much attention to this, so this'll be short. There is a FUNimation dub currently streaming, but I haven't yet listened to it to really give thoughts on. The original is fine if you ask me, but there's nothing too special or note-worthy outside of Rina Hidaka as Ako. She knows how to make the soft-spoken character adorable, and thus her voice stands out the most in this show. Everyone else is fine, I have nothing against them. As for the music, the soundtrack doesn't really stick out to me that much outside of violins, bells/chimes, and electronic beeps, but it's not bad. The OP is sugary-sweet in setting the tone of the “1st Love Story”, and the ending has some nice, calming beeping effects in the music I actually like. I may never remember the name of the song, but I could most definitely pinpoint it to this series since those notes give off this “Internet” feel.
But I must point out that in the MMO world, swear words when spoken are censored with oinking sound-effects, which is pretty funny. I thought it was because of the “Schwein” character, but it affects all of the characters even though Akane swears the most.
ENJOYMENT: “[Don't] Judge a book by its cover” is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, but there's a lot of truth to it while there's plenty of exceptions. I don't know what exactly it was about “NetoYome” that I was interested in from the start, but most likely it was the attractive art, and I had no other expectations for it. I'm just as skeptical about the light novel adaptations as the next person, especially as I haven't had too many good times with a lot of them (the last ecchi rom-com light novel adaptation I had watched peeved me off, after all). This isn't even my favorite show of the season.
And yet somehow, it wormed its way into my heart and made itself comfortable. It's too endearing to bother asking it “Yo, why're you here?”, so I just let it be, and I've grown content with its company. It'll probably leave at some point down the road, but I see it sticking around for a little bit or going off to join the likes of “My Dear Marie”, “Gingitsune”, and “Denki-gai no Honya-san” in the “Somehow I Liked This Enough to Acknowledge Its Existence a Bit More Regularly Than I Technically Should've” corner. Either way, I definitely wouldn't mind a second season if they choose to do so. I'd like to see Ako become more socially active and further develop her relationship with Hideki, since it's not too often you get an anime couple willing to develop and grow together prior to the third act of a series.
But no, really, protect that smile. Go ask that darling Ako for a dance and make her feel loved and welcome. Wallflowers are beautiful when they finally open up.
When first saw this anime on a Facebook clip, I thought, "Hmm, looks like another SAO, ill watch it when I have time." Now fast forward like 5 weeks, I had time to watch. After seeing the first 3 episodes this instantly became my favorite anime of this season. Not only was there extremely relateable MMORPG references, there was so many jokes made for the avid MMORPG Player who has no social life.
Story 10/10: Because i have 0 experience with love, and this anime is basically a love story, i can say, its basically the most perfect romance ever. Like meeting a girl thru
a game and then having a relation irl? Maaan, i only could WISH that happens to me. Thru my eyes, this is the most ideal and perfect love story ever.
Art 9/10: They do well with the fight scenes, lots of bright scenes that are done quite well and darker scenes that transition smoothly. There is a slight vary of character art styles but it looks similar enough and still very well, especially Ako's.
Sound 8/10: I can't say the intro and the outro are amazing, but the anime it self does not repeat much sounds. The music that plays when the characters are about to do a dungeon raid in game is pretty good, others are just "ok."
Character 10/10: Lets start with the obvious. Ako Tamaki is my waifu now because of her character. Moving on with the other female characters. Theres a few others and the anime seems to explore their character as well, you start to find them all quite likeable. Now the male mc. In most anime, when i see a male mc doing well with girls, i usually cringe kinda hard and start to hate them. In this anime tho, the male is quite likeable.
Enjoyment 10/10: Well lets see, after being mc-kun in my own story that took place in Runescape, seeing someone else perfectly replay my story is quite the enjoyment. Most "funny" anime put a small smile to my face, this literally can make me laugh out loud.
Overall 10/10: I'm going to start playing mmos again and try to live mc-kun's life now.
Netoge is the type of show where it’s pretty much every school, game tropes, and roleplay coming together in one package. The English title is “And you thought there is never a girl online?” The first thought that popped into my head reminds me of the second season of Sword Art Online. To sum it easily, it’s a show that blends fantasy and reality. From the real life perspective that shifts into the MMO world, Netoge is probably a show you’ll enjoy if you’re familiar with storytelling related to such themes. Otherwise, this could just be another blend LN adapted series that serves no more
than eye candy.
In terms of story, the show should be taken more as a comedy, almost like a type of satire. Because let’s face it, the show itself isn’t based on characters playing as saviors to defeat some overlord or escape after being trapped in some alternate world. The main character Hideki Nishimura goes by his in-game name “Rusian” and apparently finds out that his wife from an online game (Legendary Age) is also a girl in real life. Take this further and soon, he realizes that all the guild members are classmates from the real world. And they are all girls! I think this ties back a bit where Rusian needs to reevaluate about what he learned. Luckily, Rusian’s classmates accepts him as who he is because like him, they are also gamers.
However, one particular gamer seems to have difficulty of differentiating between fiction and reality. Meet Ako Tamaki, the girl that proposed to Rusian and now is technically his in-game wife. The problem is that she takes that idea too far and also considers Rusian her husband from BOTH worlds. Most of the comedy comes to reality when misunderstanding develops between the duo. Because let’s face it, these kids are still in high school and getting married at their age is almost unbelievable. Plus, Ako has somewhat of an obsession toward Rusian, like the way a clingy wife does when they are lonely. Judging on Ako’s character alone, she genuinely seems like a kind person with a bit of an airhead-like behavior and lack of common sense. Perhaps she spends too much time online and her ideas about relationships reinforces that.
While the majority of the relationships focuses on Ako and Rusian, there are times when other girls step in to show their knowledge about gaming and real life. Characters such as Akane often tries to get Ako to be more herself rather than an in-game character. Kyo Goshuin, the leader of the Alley Cat guild (also student council president) plays the role of a commanding leader. As such, she often serves a big sister to the other characters and bears a lot of responsibility on her shoulders. But needless to say, these characters are still one dimensional. Ako gets jealous like most wives tends to do when other girls are flirting with their “husbands”, Akane is the classic tsundere, and Kyo is pretty much a walking billboard of fan service in-game. Rusian is perhaps the only normal character with some common sense. Despite that, he still get dragged into various affairs whether he likes it or not.
A portion of the enjoyment coming from the show is the humor. The story itself isn’t well written as it mostly focuses on the life styles of these gamers but the comedy can be quite fun once you get sucked into it. What does that mean? It generally means try watching the show with an open mind. Every episode mixes in a variety of ideas from gameplay mechanics, relationship dynamics, and sometimes nonsense that transforms into absurd humor. While the show’s story lacks on most parts to explore relationships, it does give a decent meaning to Ako and Rusian. The duo accepts each other more and more throughout the story and in one episode, Ako’s trust towards Rusian is proven after a malicious incident. This is characterized by Rusian accepting Ako for who she is (both in-game and out in the real world). The reality is that Ako is a timid girl and Rusian may be the first person to be honest about what he likes in her. While the couple is silly to watch, there is a genuine heartwarming feeling about them as well.
On the downside, I think the show overemphasizes on their relationship with minimal characterization about the others. Nearly every episode shows Ako getting girly with Rusian. She even has yandere-like moments when another girl approached Rusian. Akane’s role in the series can be rather annoying to watch as she constantly denies about her gaming lifestyle from the public. At some point, those scenes feels like it’s taking on TV time. The only tolerable female character out of the group may be Kyou (Apricot) She even sets up a club to unite gamers and tries to help Ako connect with reality. Unfortunately, her role in the show (particular when in-game) shows she’s more of an eye candy rather than a role model.
Oh boy, the artwork of the show. When I first found out that the original source was drawn by an H-artist (Hisasi), I was already rolling my eyes. While the anime is tamer than the light novel, the series still has fan service. The prominent example is the in-game design for Kyou where she wears little clothing to cover herself. Ako isn’t far off as there are times when she’s goes full nude because of her lack of common sense. There’s also the classic beach episode with skimpy swimsuits. In one particular scene, Rusian gets hounded by three girls at once to help him “put the lotion on”. Artistic wise, the show is fairly average in terms of quality. Nothing too impressive but also not atrocious either. The in-game character designs are perhaps what stands out the most while their real life counterparts is nothing special.
Soundtrack is one of the lesser noticeable parts of the show. The OP and ED theme songs does characterize what this show is about on paper. Character voice mannerism is moderate although listening to Ako’s voice makes her sound like a child on most occasions. Akane’s tsunder personality is clearly evident in her voice as well. There are also some occasionally sad and heartwarming moments with a surprisingly decent soundtrack to bring it together.
By the time I finished this show, I pretty much thought “ok”. Because quite honestly, I think this show is fine as it is. If it stretched more, it’ll feel dragged and quickly gets old while rushing isn’t doing the source any favor. Ako and Rusian’s relationship can be a mixed bag for most viewers where at times, they can be really fun to watch while other times feels like it’s a chore. But in retrospect, Netoge is what it is, with nothing great but also not so easily forgettable either.
If it was physically possible, and we managed to avoid being put in the friend zone, it would be almost every anime fan's dream come true. Let's take a peek at some characters that would make for the best anime girlfriend!