And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online?
Hideki Nishimura is a fan of the MMORPG Legendary Age, where he plays a character named Rusian. Some years ago, he proposed to a character he liked in the game, Nekohime, who proceeded to turn his offer down on account of being a middle-aged man. Feeling betrayed, Hideki went on a huge solo adventure of martyrdom and woved never to trust anyone to be a girl online ever again. And yet, some years later, he's finding himself married to a girl-avatar named Ako, and a member of a guild called Alley Cats. While Ako's tenacity won him over for a marriage, he still doesn't believe that she's a girl in real life. That's when the guild president, Apricot, suggest that the four of them should do a meet-up in real life.
Before I start this review, I'd like to introduce you all to someone.
This is my player character in Final Fantasy XIV. It's not the first game I've played where you're basically free to form your character however you like, but it's the first online game of this magnitude, where you potentially meet other players around the world. I don't specifically play female characters, though, but my attempt at kinda-sorta creating myself in this game basically taught me that male human characters in this game tend to end up either prettyboys or dapper old gents, of which I'm neither. So I ended up creating a female Au Ra -- a demon race of sort -- female, because the male Au Ra look grumpy in any context. But despite playing a character of the opposite gender, I don't really roleplay as much as playing the game while acting like I would on an internet forum.
If you're wondering why I'm bringing this up, that would be because MMORPGs and roleplaying figures heavily into this show's plot to various degrees and depending on the character. This show is not a "captured in the game" kind, or even a "real-life game vessel" commercial type; And You Though There is Never a Girl Online? is about a bunch of kids playing an MMORPG as a way of unwinding and having fun in addition to their regular life. It doesn't glamorize the situation, particularly when it comes to a certain main character, but it doesn't exactly make fun of the concept either. Well, barring the way the characters in the show are ribbing each other over their habits.
Hideki is a pretty normal kid, all things considered. (Aren't we all, though?) And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online? sort of beats us over the head with how normal and otaku he is at first, but his behavior is not entirely unlike a certain Yuuta from Love, Chunibyou and other Delusions, and it's actually kind of encouraging that the show gives his character enough weight that his opinion and interests counts for something instead of being another show where his modus operandi is catering to the female cast's whim. He's a bit of a dork, but he's also a fairly sly one when the situation calls for it, but in a way that's never really meanspirited in any significant way. He's also fairly calm at all times, which is something that sort of developed after his first marriage proposal and post-rejection drama session.
It was during that time he met up with Ako in the game, who was a newbie at the time. Rusian -- that is to say Hideki -- offers her some tips, which endeared herself so much to him that she started following him around, and eventually asking him to marry her. Which, given what happened to him in the past, ended up being an activity that she needed to spam him with until he gave in. While he did finally give in, he still thought of her as "not possibly a girl in a thousand years". Which all came crashing down when guild leader Apricot suggested a meet up in the real world. Ako was the first to meet up with Hideki, and while he wastold that she was a girl from the get-go, he was sceptical at first. As it turns out, all three of his playmates were not only female, but also fellow students at his school. While this sounds rather haremish in concept, the show itself only lampshades this in a rather ambiguous manner, mostly because like a certain Love, Chunibyou and Other Delusions, And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online? sets up a main couple from the get-go, and never really strays from that. Not to put too big a spoiler out there, but Hideki actually admits to himself that he likes Ako already in the third episode, and the rest is basically the two of them trying to settle into a relationship despite their differences and hangups.
Granted, Ako has a good deal more hangups than Hideki, most of which has to do with her self-imposed loner shut-in lifestyle. But where Love, Chuunibyou and Other Delusions's Rikka took her fantasy world into real life as a way of dealing with her sorrow over her father, Ako can discern between what is a game and what is real life, but she has latched on to the relationships she made in the game to the extent that her in-game marriage to "Rusian" is just as real and legal to her in the real world as it is in the game. Her feelings are understandable to some extent, since Hideki doesn't really roleplay as someone other than himself, so his online persona isn't really that much different than his real-life self, whom Ako also immediately latches on to once she realizes that Hideki is Rusian.
And in all fairness, she is generally a sweet girl... most of the time, and a surprisingly stylish lady for a supposed shut-in. Her sense of devotion is certainly admirable, as is her selflessness when it comes to anything that isn't about her or her relationship to her "husband". She does however have a rather disturbing dislike for the "normies" that borders on the kind of angst-borne, social-stunted hostility you also see in Watamote's Tomoko; Ako's sweet, bubbleheaded demeanor sometimes gives way to an almost yandere-like hostility that scares the pants off me. Well... not really, but boyo, I'm worried that "Rusian" is in for more than he bargained for.
Then again, his capacity to deal with nonsense seems unreasonable high, even as an anime character. Normally, Ako's situation would have required some amount of psychiatric help, but since when is that sort of things required assistance in oddball comedies. And, thankfully, And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online? has a sense of humor good enough to alleviate the situation. The dialogue is often snappy and funny, with Hideki and Ako seeming at least somewhat aware of how bizarre their situation is, even when Ako is fully able and willing to embrace her own delusions. The show is brave enough to let both of them tease each other often, lending some credence to their relationship, and with things that aren't your typical romance or harem shenanigans. And even when the show does, like when Hideki walks in on Ako naked in her room by accident, it puts an interesting spin on that, and not just because nudity in general doesn't bother her. They even joke about Hideki's aforementioned limitless patience with her antics, which leads into a gag where the other girls are metaphorically trying to get into her head, only to bitterly regret it when the things she says starts to make sense. I have to admit I kind of like Ako's many methods of revenge. She's quite creative on that account.
Now, I mentioned that all of Hideki's guildmates in Legendary Age were girls, and that is the case with Schwein and Apricot too. "Schwein" turned out to be the somewhat tsundere Akane Segawa, who raises a rather hostile front towards general otaku stuff. She has already turned down a lot of boys, but as it turns out, she did this mainly because she didn't want anything interfering with her game time at home. She chose the name "Schwein" for her character because it sounded cool, and were less pleased when the others told her it basically meant "pig" in German. Technically, it can also be a perjorative term for someone who is... lacking in integrity and/or cleanliness. Good thing she didn't name her character "Schweinhund", I guess. Kyou Goshouin, on the other hand, is the school class president and also the daughter of a rather wealthy family, so her playing style seems to be leaning more towards "throwing money on the problem until it goes away", which in this case means premium items, which also means that Legendary Age belongs to my favorite game style ever, the "freemium" kind. In a weird way; while neither Hideki/Rusian or Akane/Schwein are particularly fond of her doing that, the show doesn't shy away from the fact that items paid for like that does give someone a huge advantage in the game. Kyou herself is pretty much gung-ho about everything, and has a pretty well-developed sense of duty and honor that stands in hilarious contrast to her "money takes care of everything" lifestyle.
So, with three girls in the guild at first, and then one more later on, does that mean this is a harem show? I wouldn't blame anyone for thinking so, but the answer to that is "maybe?" Ako does at least not make any secrets about her feelings for Hide-... uh, I mean "Rusian", and Hideki actually reprociates those feelings surprisingly fast, given how cowardly most harem anime can be about having their main lead's choose someone. But Akane and even Ryou seems to have at least one short scene that could maybe be considered indicative that they have feelings that go beyond friendship. That said, they're actually quite supportive of Ako and Hideki, offering whatever advice they can to help the two of them. Not that Akane or Kyou have much experience in the area, Akane by choice and Ryou because most guys are too intimidated by her wealth, I'm guessing.
The light novels are illustrated by Hisasi, which goes some way in explaining why all the girls sans Akane are curvy as sin, and fanservice, while not as in your face as some other shows I could mention, is still an integral part of the visual experience. Part of that comes from the fact that, while Kyou's player character starts out as a male wizard with a bare-chested upper body outfit, that outfit doesn't change when her in-game character changes to her real-life self, meaning that her chest is only covered by two ribbons dangling down in front. Oddly enough, whenever we get to see the actual game graphics, it would seem that the graphical setup follows an isometric 2D style (a la Diablo), with simple, cartoonish character art, and I can understand why that would be boring to look at for any length of time surpassing the 30 second mark. Most of our main characters' gaming sessions are represented by their real-life selves, which makes for some odd disconnects from time to time when the show seems to forget that the characters are basically communicating with each other via text boxes, with the lack of tone that goes with it. Given how often these people are seen gaming, though, that does make a certain amount of sense, although it would be interesting to see someone make a full TV series out of this kind of graphical style. More so if it was actually good too.
For all the show is about gaming, and MMORPG gaming in particular, the topics each episode bring up are surprisingly versatile. For one thing, I don't think I've ever seen a show that brings up the topic of phishing and account hacking with such directness as far as consequences goes, and said event actually gave my opinion on Ako a heavy lift on the side, which she seriously needed given her unstable (if not necessarily negative) first impression. Beyond that, there are minor themes, like net safety (with Ako using her real name as a character name being an issue), which also gets brought up. The show never really feels all that promotional either, rather looking at it as a neutral hobby that can be taken too far. And even then, there's the guild Hideki tried to join before meeting with the Alley Cats, where he learned (to his horror) that they only accepted people who had basically quit their jobs or dropped out of school and made this game their full-time life, yet when Hideki slowly backed out of the door, their leader still welcomed him and offered whatever help they could give even if he couldn't become a member of said club. (A promise he made good on later as well.) Throwing your entire life away on an MMORPG strikes me as wildly irresponsible, but And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online? never forgets that there are human beings behind even those characters, even if the show itself isn't necessarily supporting their lifestyles.
It also helps that the animation is actually pretty good. Character designs (and original designer) aside, the characters are fairly expressionate, both with their faces and their body language. The fight scenes aren't necessarily masterfully directed and edited, and a lot of the moves the players use in the game looks a lot like "something borrowed" from other shows, but all in all, it's a sweet-looking show.
Going by the dialogue; a lot of it is made up of banter between friends, and the dub actors have a field day with it. The conversations are rather snappy, and the characters' running commentary about everything going on is what makes the show so much fun. Even Ako seems to have a good grasp on sarcasm despite her bubbleheaded front, and the prank she plays on Hideki after the "walk in on her naked" scene is just priceless, particuarly because she got me too. Even beyond that, it's easy to tell dubbing this must have been a lot of fun.
While I ended up not having anything against the concept or the way the show presented its characters, there are still some problems you need to take into consideration if you're going to enjoy this show. I already mentioned that Ako didn't have the healthiest of lives, and while I did say that Hideki had an unnatural high limit for dealing with undesirable behavior, it still doesn't change the fact that his relationship with Ako is going to bring a lot of challenges. More than someone should be forced to endure. Ako's tendency to think her marriage to Hideki also counts in real life is one thing, but her dream is apparently to be a stay-at-home wife, because how better to spend even more time on Legendary Age. And again, therapy? Apparently not an option in this world. It's honestly a bit unsettling, and will most likely be the main thing that chase you away from the show. If that doesn't sound like it'll bother you that much, though, then come in and have a laugh.
Fun. Sarcastic. Crazy. Weird. Strong three. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: The show isn't overtly sexual, but there is a lot of fanservice on display, and Hisasi's original designs ensured that the girls have the kind of curvature you'd see in shows like Senran Kagura or Lord Marksman and Vanadis. Hideki isn't really taking any steps in deeping the physical aspects of his relationship with Ako, but the show is forward enough that Ako wouldn't mind, and free-spirited enough not to judge her for it. In fact, one part of the show is basically someone sexually harassing Ako, and said sequence is treated with the respect it deserves, flat out stating that she's the victim for enduring it rather than it being something she has to apologize for.
Version(s) Viewed: Region A Bluray, bilingual.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online? © 2016 Shibai Kineko / KADOKAWA ASCII Media Works / LA management team
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