Watch ‘Recovery of an MMO Junkie’. It’s so good and cute and if you don’t you probably won’t understand what I’m talking about in this article. I’m not joking. I’ll leave a link right below this paragraph. I’m not sponsored or anything; I just really love this show and I think you will too.
Seriously, it’s only ten episodes long. You can finish the whole thing in like, a day. Trust me; this is one of my favorite romantic dramas. If you haven’t seen it before (which you likely haven’t, it flew under most people’s radars), then you are missing out. I’ll go into more detail this Saturday in my review.
Today though, I’m going to dive deeper into the show’s main character. The titular MMO junkie: Morioka Moriko. Also known online as Hayashi. Or as I like to call her: the actual best girl of all the best girls.
Morioka’s story isn’t especially complex. It isn’t a dark tragedy for the ages. Rather, it’s a real take on overwork, extreme social anxiety, and low self-esteem. Hers is a story not about tearing away from an MMO addiction; rather, it’s about re-learning how to function in the real world. It’s a simple, emotionally resonant story that I can’t help but come back to time and time again!
The Wound: Corporate Overload
As the story progresses, we slowly learn more about how Morioka ended her professional career. She dedicated herself to years for her job, which she excelled at magnificently. Unfortunately, her work wasn’t exactly thankful for her. She was overworked so hard that it makes an average McDonald’s worker look appreciated! It proved so nightmarish that she had a literal nightmare about it!
So, she did the only logical thing: she quit. It was so bad that she willingly chose the lifestyle of a NEET, locking herself away in a tiny apartment to play MMOs. She walked away from her corporate life and refused to ever look back.
Now, to be clear: this wasn’t exactly traumatizing. Honestly, all it really does for the plot is serve as a backstory for our protagonist. It served as the bridge she needed to cross that lead to her NEET lifestyle.
Which had a much greater negative impact on her than she realizes.
The Lie: Offline Disaster
Here’s the scary thing about extreme social anxiety: your imagination tends to go to some scary places. Whenever you do basically anything that involves interacting with other people, you immediately begin to imagine all the worst-case scenarios. And what’s more frightening is that your brain tricks itself into thinking that what you’ve imagined isn’t a possibility; it sees it as an inevitability.
This is the biggest flaw of Morioka Moriko. Her social anxiety is so severe that she runs off every time she’s faced with an uncomfortable situation. When she beats another guy to the last bit of Christmas chicken from a convenience store, she runs off thinking “I can’t go back to this store for a while!” (I have had that exact thought several times, so this hit pretty close to home). When she goes out for a date on the wrong night, she starts worrying that the man who asked her out did it as a joke. It gets so bad that she runs off when someone asks if she’s a guy’s girlfriend, as she construes that statement as a back-handed insult!
With social anxiety that severe, you can imagine that Morioka’s self-esteem is about as low as a meteor impact site. She constantly worries about how she looks or how she presents herself. If you were to take a sip of beer every time she apologized for no reason, you’d be dead by the end of episode four. Hell, she’s so anxious that she’s afraid of how people would judge her for playing a male character online, despite that being one of the most common occurrences in any MMO ever made!!
This is why Morioka is so hesitant to get close to people in her offline life. She considers herself too lowly like she doesn’t deserve to be with them. Whether it’s because she’s not pretty enough or she’s too old (she’s thirty, by the way; that’s not old, that’s still fairly young). As compared to her online life, where she hides behind a persona that lets her escape her low image.
Which leads us to…
The Want: Online Connection
Morioka states several times across the series that she is most comfortable while playing an MMO. The reasoning is obvious; here, she gets to play a fun game and connect to other people while protected by online anonymity. While being a NEET doesn’t do much to help her offline image, it gives her exactly what it wants: human connection. And better yet: it does so without the hard work of having to talk to them face-to-face and be potentially judged by them.
Even though she isn’t being judged by them. But we’ll get to that.
She has a great passion for MMOs. That’s why, whenever she finds out someone else plays these kinds of games, she opens up almost immediately. Her love for them is almost childish, but that’s exactly what makes it so infectious. When she’s in her comfort zone, she’s more than capable of connecting to people. Her problem is that she doesn’t believe in her ability to do so.
The Need: Bridging the Two Together
One of the central themes of the show is connection. How online relationships are just as meaningful as those made in reality and how one can help the other. Talking to someone over a computer is just as valuable as talking to someone in real life. One can’t replace the other, of course. But there’s nothing wrong with either approach.
In fact, in Morioka’s case, there was a great boon to her online relationships: healing. Through her online friends (and several coincidences), Morioka slowly gains the confidence to step out back into real life and connect with real people. They give her advice, encourage her, and support her through all of her struggles.
One more than any other: Lily. Or as she would later know her: Sakurai Yuta.
Morioka’s relationship with Sakurai is the central driving force of the story, and for good reason. In the first episode, the two develop a strong bond online, behind their online personas of Hayashi (Morioka) and Lily (Sakurai). Then, as the story progresses, they slowly grow closer in the real world, using their online bonds as a basis for doing so. Their love for each other was born online and moved into reality.
Which proved to be exactly what Morioka needed. Sakurai is just as awkward and bumbling as she is. But he provides her something she desperately needs: encouragement. He cuts through her worries, insuring her that her anxiety-driven fears are misplaced. With his support, both as Sakurai and as Lily, she gains the drive to push herself and become a better, stronger person.
When the series begins, Morioka tries to sever her real-life as much as possible in order to fully enjoy her online one. But that’s not the healthiest approach. Thankfully, it worked out in the end. Through her online world, she managed to heal and become strong enough to step back out into the real one.
Thanks in large part to the best wingman of all time. But I’ll talk about him this Saturday.
In the series finale, it’s very clear that Morioka’s insecurities and anxiety haven’t been erased from existence. As nice as the thought is, that’s not how anxiety works. No matter how in-depth your character arc may be, you can’t ever be rid of these mental issues. All you can do is live with them.
That is what makes Morioka such a relatable, likable, and even admirable character. She shows that these issues don’t define us, no matter how dramatic they may affect us. It definitely isn’t easy and it requires a lot of support to do it. But she shows that it’s more than possible to live a happy, healthy life with these problems.
Also, she’s absolutely adorable and I love her to death.