We scoured our library for the 10 best anime for fans of this seasons' quirky romcom
With Recovery of an MMO Junkie coming to an end, many of you may find yourselves asking “where do I go from here?” We’ve put together a list of my top recommendations for the MMO Junkie fan looking for new material to consume. One aspect that made the anime truly unique was its focus on characters in their late 20s and early 30s, so many of these recommendations will involve more traditional high school age romances but I’ve tried to include something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for the gaming culture aspects of the story, the focus on Japanese work culture, or subversive gender themes, there should be something for everyone here. In no particular order, here are our Top 10 picks for fans of MMO Junkie!
One of the most feel-good romantic comedies in anime and potentially the planet earth, MY Love STORY is a great substitute for MMO Junkie’s relentless positivity. Takeo Goda is a tall, muscular high school student with thick eyebrows. He’s a romantic but his pursuit of love is constantly foiled by his best friend Sunakawa. Takeo’s size makes him intimidating to the girls of the school while Sunakawa’s legendary good looks attract everyone to him. That is, until Rinko falls in love with Takeo after he saves her from a groper in a train. What follows is the story of Takeo and Rinko awkwardly navigating love through mutual support and with the help of their friends. The series avoids many of the romantic comedy anime tropes, focusing on real-life challenges like first kisses and Valentine’s Day instead of romantic rivals and mysterious childhood promises.
Princess Jellyfish (manga)
Perhaps the most similar premise to MMO Junkie of all these recommendations for its focus on NEET culture and gender subversion. Princess Jellyfish is a romantic comedy telling the story of Tsukimi, an artist and jellyfish otaku living in the Amamizukan apartment building, a women's only dorm populated by NEET women. She has a fateful encounter with Kuranosuke, a beautiful woman who she discovers is actually the cross-dressing illegitimate son of a Tokyo politician. He takes an interest in the residents of the dorm, despite having to keep his gender under wraps to avoid violating their “no men” rule and offers aid when they find themselves fighting to keep their complex from being demolished for redevelopment. The manga won the Kodansha Award and has an anime adaptation with a live-action TV series on the way!
Navigating modern work culture and the pursuit of personal happiness are a constant presence in the background of Moriko’s online questing and awkward romance. ReLIFE puts a laser focus on that struggle. It’s protagonist Arata Kaizaki quits his corporate job after 3-months and is unable to find new work besides a part-time position at a convenience store. He’s approached by a mysterious man who wants to make Kaizaki the test subject of a new government program known as ReLIFE, using a special medication that will regress his age 10 years and place him back in high school with the intention of allowing him to more successfully navigate that formative period of his life and fix what’s ailing him. The story has its share of surprises with other ReLIFE participants and some subversive elements looking a modern corporate culture in Japan that resonate with Moriko’s own falling out with her job.
Another high school romantic comedy that plays with genre conventions, Chiyo Sakura has a crush on Umetaro Nozaki and, in the process of attempting to ask him out, ends up discovering his secret life as renowned shojo mangaka Sakiko Yumeno. Somehow she ends up working as his assistant filling in beta and reining back his outlandish story ideas while trying to sort out her feelings. This anime is a bit more slowburn, falling back on the “will they won't they” formula common in shojo manga with Chiyo’s struggles to confess her feelings to the oblivious Nozaki. For all that, it keeps things relatively stress free by putting you in the lives of a growing cast of eccentrics with some attachment to shojo manga, either as artists or real-life stereotypes.
A less obvious candidate for MMO Junkie fans is this reverse isekai LGBT romance between a woman and her dragon who is also her maid. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is the same kind of goofy, loosely animated romcom with an equally charming cast. Although Moriko and Kobayashi are outwardly dissimilar, with Moriko having quit work at the beginning of the story and Kobayashi intensely involved in her job to the detriment of her personal relationships, both have issues with intimacy and self-image that they struggle with in the face of unexpected romantic interest and overcome their own loneliness by discovering a place in a group of eccentrics. Dragon Maid is a heartfelt and happy story with moments of soft introspection that ground things, it's just a bit pervier.
A sleeper hit of this year, Tsukigakirei is unusual romance for focusing on a mutual crush between two middle school students. Much like MY Love STORY, the story focuses heavily on firsts and discovering what love and being in a relationship really mean. The big MMO Junkie connection probably comes in the social anxiety experienced by the two leads, Kotaro and Akane. In addition to learning about relationships for the first time, the story observes their slow progress in learning how to communicate with one another and express affection. In the beginning, they’re only able to open up and be themselves over the chat application LINE but are overcome with awkwardness and uncertainty in person. It’s a story of discovery and reaching out to one another, motivated by love and the desire for self-improvement.
This may be my most unique recommendation and one I make precisely because it is so unique, much like MMO Junkie itself. Both josei series are difficult to codify using more popular anime storytelling tropes. Where MMO Junkie has its more middle-aged focus and quirky construct for introducing its romantic leads, Chihayafuru is part drama, part romance, part sports series. Chihaya Ayase is introduced to the traditional Japanese card game karuta. The story focuses on her quest to improve at the sport and rediscover the boy who showed her the world of karuta. This may be a bit of a stretch but both stories leave the feeling of coming from outside normal conventions of their genre.
Now let me explain. Although the conditions under which Kirito and Asuna meet in an MMO in Sword Art Online couldn’t be different than those of Hayashi and Lily, the two couples definitely have a lot in common. While the quests in SAO are life and death affairs, Kirito and Asuna have a mutually supportive relationship with both characters playing proactive roles and offering mutual support. It’s a good ship. If you’re into MMO Junkie for the gaming culture elements, there are plenty on offer in SAO. While the series movies into more action and intrigue-related subplots as it progresses, the first arc has a laser focus on Asuna and Kirito’s budding romance in a unique and deadly world. If you wanted an MMO Junkie with higher stakes, you’ve come to the right place!
If you love stories where everyone but the main characters are aware of their mutual affection, welcome to this quirky high school comedy featuring the protagonist Ryuu Yamada, a delinquent and outcast who finds himself in the middle of a magical conspiracy in his own school. Seven female students have magical powers that manifest when they kiss someone. He discovers this by accidentally kissing one of the school's top performing students, Urara Shiraishi and learning she has the power to swap bodies. He quickly discovers that, despite her achievements, his perceptions of her perfect life were way off base. The story explores themes of agency, loneliness, obligation, and the personal struggles and lives individuals people keep hidden behind their public face.
Although not a love story, Sakura Quest is an anime about working women that takes a deep dive into some of the social issues of MMO Junkie. Its cast is a group of misfits trying to hold up the failing economy of a town in rural Japan. Each harbors their own troubled past and personal struggles with the current economic environment and modern work culture. The anime offers an uncomfortable perspective of the victims of modern progress an all-too-real look at people who just aren’t sure what they can do to find meaning and prosperity in their own lives. The possible motivations for Moriko’s own rejection of modern work culture and retreat to the comfort of the virtual world play themselves out several times in this series. It doesn’t offer many solutions and may not be as upbeat as MMO Junkie, but is inspirational in its own way, showing characters trying, failing, and trying again.
I hope you’re able to fall in love with one or more of the series stories the same way we fell in love with Recovery of an MMO Junkie. If you find one of these filling that Moriko-shaped hole in your heart then please share it with others! If you’ve got your own recommendations, please share them below!