Our society is made up of all sorts of people. The everyday working man, prodigies, movie icons, singing legends, book smarts, street thugs, leaders, professional gamers, ladies’ man, creative innovators. You name it. There’s always someone you’ve met in today’s society that you may be familiar with or completely contrasts who you are. There’s one type of people that our society doesn’t have a keen impression on though. That would be NEET. Know what it stands for? At its most generic definition, it’s a person that is “not in education, employment, or training”. The stereotype about “gamers that stay in their mom’s basement” applies there. In a show like this, we get a first inside look at the life of a NEET and how their social life applies to their norms.
Jumping into this anime was actually quite easy. This is determined by the female protagonist, Moriko Morioka. She is what most people would define as a “NEET”. After quitting her job, Moriko decided to play an MMO called “Fruit de Mer” in order to embrace the NEET lifestyle. I find this choice of the main character rather interesting as there’s sort of gender swap with her role. Most people would imagine a nerdy male protagonist but instead, we have a single unmarried female character who isn’t bad looking in the beauty department either. Some people may also feel relatable to Moriko because of her straightforward timid personality. As a show that examines the lifestyle of a NEET, Moriko fits perfectly for that role because she is socially awkward. In the meantime, Moriko also creates a character in the MMO world named “Hayashi”. In contrast to her real life image, she makes Hayashi as a male knight character with a handsome look; in general, an antithesis of herself. As such, this anime sets up a lot of storytelling as her lifestyle blends between fiction and reality.
Similarly to Moriko, there’s also another character in the series that doesn’t come far off when compared to her. His name is Yuta Sakurai. Compared to Moriko, Sakurai often has hard time talking with people in real life although he does maintain a decent job at his company. This is extremely similar to Moriko as both characters often fret over at what they should say or how others may judge them based on their words. In the MMO world, Sakurai adopts the character name “Lily”. By storytelling elements, he plays a gender bender role as a female character in that fictional world and meets Hayashi. Lily also happens to be an attractive young female in-game and is sociable compared to Sakurai’s real life image. Get the picture here? It basically designates both their characters being completely different between their real life and MMO character persona. However, I do find the character chemistry to be very well executed. From the MMO world, they manage to connect to a personal level and share quite a decent amount of memorable moments together. In fact, character chemistry is what I value this show the most. Through social commentary, character dialogues, and personality dynamics, Moriko and Sakurai stands out as a memorable pair. They aren’t just similar but really bring out their honesty towards each other. It’s like fate often has the two meet together through coincidences as they connect with their relationship.
Of course, this anime isn’t just about them as the show also adds other characters to fulfill certain roles. A noticeable character is Homare Koiwai who has a very outgoing personality. In fact, he can be interpreted by some people as a ladies’ man. Unlike either Moriko or Sakurai, Koiwai has little trouble speaking with others and often initiates a conversation. It shouldn’t take long for viewers to realize that he is a foil character for the both of them. There’s also Kazuomi Fujimoto, a stereotypical college working student who also has an in-game MMO character. While I can’t say his role is very dynamic in this show, he does make up an empty void for filling the shoe of the merchandise seller. You ever need some in-game items? He’s your guy.
Even as a show that explores a lot of social norms, this anime still fulfills a lot of MMO gimmicks and mechanics that gamers may be familiar with. The idea of character classes, customized gear, lootbox, dungeon conquering, world exploration, etc fits into their game world. However, don’t mistake this anime as one about characters trapped in a world in order to defeat some demon overlord or survive. It’s more of a series that satires the NEET lifestyle in a lighthearted way. In addition, the storytelling gives us insight about Moriko’s life in small but vivid details. It shows how exactly she lives her lifestyle as you would picture as a NEET. The anime also gives some background storytelling about Moriko and Sakurai so it doesn’t just rely on the present timeline to do all the talking and showing. On the other hand, I do find that there’s some problem with the storytelling’s pacing. This anime adapts from a web manga and only consists of 10 episodes. The majority of the first half establishes the characters and ideas while the latter half seems to focus more on Moriko and Sakurai’s relationship. It often flirts with the idea of “will they or won’t they become a couple”. No, I’m not just talking about an in-game romance relationship because that comes off as way too cheesy. Instead, it makes the viewers wonder if there’s a future for them in a real relationship. This anime will test a viewers’ patience as it slowly builds up more and more each episode. Some of them end in cliffhangers that can be a letdown. As such, I’d recommend watching this as a marathon rather than on a week to week basis.
On the visual front, Net-juu no Susume isn’t anything to write home about when it comes to raw quality. Signal. MD’s track record consists of a small group of projects that people don’t talk about often. To me, this was their first anime project that people may have taken more notice. The visual quality itself can also be questionable as everything looks very simple. If this anime was marketed as a game in our world, it would be an indie compared to AAA games that you’d see from high budget studios. However, if you look past the quality, you may notice that the anime appeals to more than just quality itself. With its MMO elements, this show is a smart flick that uses its artwork to prove what it means to be a gamer. If you take a look at Moriko’s home, she has everything set up from dual screens to high quality keyboard. In-game character designs, monsters, and items disguises the mediocre quality if you look carefully as it satires the gaming culture. Moriko’s character design can also look appealing especially in later episodes when she gets a makeover. Character expressions also sell a good degree of humor especially with reactions to certain situations. To be honest, this anime will be viewed differently from every viewer but it possesses an innate ability to shine for what it has to offer despite the budget.
The quality of the soundtrack isn’t memorable by any means but it’s more of the characters’ voice lines that do the work. Moriko’s voice fits effectively for her role as both in-game and real life. Even when crossplaying, Hayashi still has some of her traits that can be easily recognized. The theme songs for the show speaks for themselves as it comes as colorfully decorated.
After watching this anime, I can safely say that it exceeded my expectations. The first few episodes took me some time to accept but after realizing what it really had to offer, it changed my mind from a mediocre afterthought to a show that I looked forward to every week. However, I think it’s preferably to watch this anime as a marathon as the storytelling can test the patience of the viewers at many times. The comedy can be a hit or a miss depending on what you’re looking for. But for me, Net-juu no Susume turned out to be a dark horse that went beyond and over.