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- Episodes : 10
- Genre : Slice of Life, Comedy, Romance
- Airing Date : October 2017 – December 2017
- Studios : Signal.MD
Moriko Morioka finally quit her job! Now, with that hassle out of the way, Moriko can focus on her real passion in life: online gaming! And she just discovered Fruits de Mer to boot! Rather than playing as her gender, though, she creates a hot guy she names Hayashi, and sets out into the world! Except, well, it’s a lot trickier than she thought it would be and keeps dying. As luck would have it, she meets a cute girl who goes by Lily and seems to have some experience, and after some advice, the two become fast friends. Eventually, Lily invites Moriko into her guild. However, embarrassed about the fact that she’s playing her opposite gender, Moriko continues pretending to be a boy in order to avoid looking like a creep.
Actually, Moriko maybe gets a little too into the game, as, on the way out to the convenience store, she bumps into a handsome young man and, rather than just excusing herself and going on her merry way, she instead passes out from exhaustion and needs to be rushed to the hospital. When she wakes up, Sakurai, the man she ran into, is there in her hospital room to make sure she’s alright. Sakurai, having seen her at the convenience store before and developing a little crush on her since, decides to use the opportunity to get to know her a little better and asks to meet with her again. They exchange information, but Moriko turns Sakurai down in the end, embarrassed over how much of a mess her own life is.
Sakurai, feeling dejected, complains to his senior at work and close friend, Homare Koiwai. Koiwai actually mentions he knows Moriko, as he recognizes the name from someone he used to speak to at another department from his old job. He confirms it, and then ends up running into Moriko at the convenience store she frequents. Koiwai pressures her into going out to catch up and Moriko eventually gives in. Completely stressed out about this new development, Moriko talks to Lily as Hayashi on Fruits de Mer about what she could do. Moriko ends up getting a haircut and a makeover to prepare for the date.
It’s revealed that, unbeknownst to Moriko, Lily is actually Sakurai, and he starts to wonder, based on the story Hayashi gives him if he’s actually not a college student, but actually Moriko pretending to be a guy. However, the day of the date that Hayashi gives him is different from Koiwai’s story, casting some doubt on that situation. When Hayashi doesn’t log in one evening, Sakurai hastily runs out to where Koiwai told them they’d meet, and sure enough, Moriko is there. Sakurai realizes that Moriko is in fact Hayashi, but he decides against telling her he’s Lily. The two go out for the evening when Moriko realizes Koiwai won’t actually be showing up until tomorrow.
Koiwai’s and Moriko’s night comes and goes, and it seems like everything is returning to normal. However, Koiwai gets in contact with Moriko one weekend afternoon saying he wants to play that online game she mentioned she plays during their get-together. Moriko logs off in a rush and creates a new character, based on the design of Yuki, the character she made in another online game called NtrSaga. When they start up the game, they quickly run into some of the members of Moriko’s guild and get into conversation. Not wanting to sink further into her web of lies, Moriko messages their guild head Kanbe, who knows of Morkio’s secret identity, to not mention anything to Koiwai about playing a man as her main. However, Koiwai messages Sakurai to let him know he’s playing with Moriko and sends him a pic of Yuki. Sakurai recognizes Yuki from NtrSaga, as he remembers spending a lot of time with Yuki in NtrSaga himself.
In the end, Sakurai recreates Harth, his character from NtrSaga, in order to see if he’s delusional. He joins up with Koiwai and Moriko, and while, at first, Moriko doesn’t recognize him, it slowly dawns on her that Sakurai is actually her old friend from NtrSaga. Moriko messages him about it, and the two start talking on the phone after realizing who they are. The two agree to get together the next day, where Sakurai, after getting cut off the previous night, confesses to Moriko that he’s Lily. The two agree to continue to play and be friends online, but Sakurai, feeling awkward over what he did, stops logging onto Fruits de Mer.
At the end of the series, Koiwai tricks Moriko and Sakurai to meet up at the park one last time. Moriko, incredibly embarrassed, tries to withdraw from Sakurai after getting mistaken for his girlfriend, but Sakurai chases after her. It begins to rain, and the two retreat to Sakurai’s place nearby, where Sakurai confesses to Moriko he always appreciated having her around to talk to and he wants to keep seeing her from now on. The series ends with the two finally getting together for a real date.
What we liked about Net-juu no Susume
It’s been something of a modern trend to address the inescapable connection between the popularity of anime and the growing trend of young people avoiding the traditional salaryman lifestyle and descending into becoming a NEET. We’ve seen slice of life comedy series like Welcome to the NHK poke fun at NEETs, or fantasy series like last year’s surprise hit Re:Zero look at the disconnect from people’s expectations of escapism and the reality of their lives.
Where Net-Juu no Susume succeeds is in avoiding the pitfalls of other series that overanalyze the rise of depression by offering an alternative take. The issue that the shows mentioned above have is that they unintentionally romanticize becoming a NEET by rewarding their heroes for wallowing in self-pity. Net-juu, rather than actively commentating on the condition, just gives us a firsthand glimpse of Moriko’s life by painting an accurate picture of what it feels like to live with self-doubt. In Moriko’s mind, nothing is ever anyone else’s fault. Sakurai isn’t a weirdo for withholding his knowledge of Moriko’s identity on Fruits de Mer; he must have just felt awkward because she was playing a man. Koiwai wasn’t actually interested in spending anytime with her; he only extended the invitation because he happened to run into her and felt pressured into it somehow; and so forth.
The best part is that it communicates all of this with a sense of good-natured humor. You’re probably not going to find a lot of gut-bustingly hysterical gags or anything, but the jokes are treated with a light touch that generally elicit a chuckle due to their relatability. When Moriko agonizes over the price of a new dress she’s buying for a social event she doesn’t even want to attend, you can’t help but think how you’ve had that exact same thought. It’s never pandering, but the levity does a lot to sell Moriko’s plight.
The heart of Net-juu no Susume is dependent on how much you buy the development of Moriko and Sakurai. For the most part, the series succeeds. Moriko is such an affable protagonist, that you can’t help but root for her to find her place in life. Sakurai and Koiwai are just the inevitable catalysts. And the story plays out in such a way that it doesn’t fall into the trap that other romance stories fall into where the “will they, won’t they?” is dragged out to an insufferable degree. At a brisk ten episode pace (plus one OAV to wrap things up), Net-juu manages to find closure just before such antics would become stale.
There is one caveat to all this, though. The unfortunate issue is that in order for Net-juu no Susume to work, you have to buy into a very long string of inexplicable coincidences. There’s a lot Net-juu no Susume asks us to buy about where everyone is actually located and their history with one another that really begins to strain the show’s credibility. Thankfully, Net-juu no Susume quits throwing these silly twists at you just in time and shifts focus back onto Moriko and Sakurai’s current relationship without dwelling too long on their past. Though that doesn’t keep the coincidences from being distracting.
Why You Should Watch Net-juu no Susume
1. Moriko Morioka
Simply put, Moriko does a lot on her own to sell the central themes of Net-juu. There’s something charming about the way she claims that she knowingly embraced the NEET life, knowing that this is just her way of justifying to herself that she left her job without any prospects. It’s as if Moriko is trying to convince herself that she’s self-aware, when in reality she really has no clue what the heck she’s doing. And these attempts to try and be self-aware come back to bite her too, as it causes her to overanalyze every situation and ends up selling herself short more often than not.
And yet, you can understand why she would be this self-defeating through her backstory. She genuinely just wanted to do right by everyone at her old job, staying late after hours to complete whatever task was necessary. Yet no one ever cared outside of possibly Koiwai, who only seemed to talk to her because he was bored himself. It makes Sakurai’s rather simple statement that he always appreciated having Moriko to talk with online and her subsequent breakdown all that more heart-rending, knowing that this is the first time anyone has ever shown her that kind of appreciation.
2. Believable Romance
Online, Hayashi and Lily have absolutely no problems introducing themselves and immediately ingratiating one another into each other’s life. Offline, Moriko actively rejects Sakurai’s advances, not because she doesn’t want to, but because she can’t honestly believe that someone like him would actually be interested in her. But rather than wondering if they could ever make it as a couple, you already know how well they suit each other due to their online interactions. It’s never a question; they should be together, but because they don’t understand their own situation, Moriko and Sakurai do whatever they can to convince themselves to withdraw from the other.
It’s this tension between their online and offline selves that really drives the story of Net-juu. It’s never done in a manner that’s unconvincing; you can sympathize why Sakurai wouldn’t keep pursuing after he reveals he’s Lily to Moriko. After all, it was a little creepy that he wouldn’t tell her as soon as he figured it out, even if he meant no harm. You can’t really blame Moriko either, as she’s made her life such a mess that why would she ever think she could make something like that work? But you want them to succeed in spite of all that because you understand how they’ve helped each other before.
Why You Should Skip Net-juu no Susume
1. Plot Conveniences
Moriko and Sakurai just happen to run into each other outside of Moriko’s apartment? Fine, we’ll go with it. Sakurai happens to work with a former co-worker of Moriko, who also happened to have a bit of a thing for her? A bit much, but we’ll roll with it. Kanbe happens to work at the convenience store just outside of Moriko’s apartment complex? Starting to lose us. By the time it’s revealed that Moriko and Sakurai actually played an online game with one another before Fruits de Mer without realizing it, you’re just about checked out because of how outrageously everything is piling up.
It seems that the point about Moriko and Sakurai knowing one another on NtrSaga was done to show how their roles were reversed back then, with Moriko being the sensible, encouraging pillar propping up Sakurai in his time of need. And, granted, this does highlight that their relationship was a two way street rather than Sakurai being an emotional sponge for Moriko’s mess. The show even pokes fun at how many coincidences have built up to this, making snide remarks about how stuff like this does actually happen in real life. However, there’s a thin line between actual comedy and just covering for a plot contrivance, and sadly Net-juu crosses it. Drawing attention to it actually makes it worse because it shows a lack of confidence in the work rather than hoping viewers would understand.
If you can look past some of the plot necessities to keep the story moving, Net-juu is absolutely worth your time if you’re looking for a new slice of life comedy. And if you don’t think you can? Well, still give it a shot. It’s the sort of light pick-me-up that really highlights that, while not everything is going to go your way when you want it, you can still find happiness in little things even at your worst moments.