Who Would Like this Anime?
Netoge is an MMO-themed rom-com, with a slight harem aspect and even slighter drama which merely serves to advance the story. It’s one of those “normies should just die”-thingies and loosely feels like Haganai with MMO nerds. Basically, it’s something for rom-com fans and due to the amount of MMO references, probably also worth watching, if you’re into MMOs yourself.
I watched this release and apart from using the Japanese question mark in the title for no reason, I didn’t encounter any pressing issues, neither visually, nor sub-wise. You might want to get a 720p release, though. It doesn’t strike me as native 1080p.
Lucian (I have no idea why everyone seems to go with “Rusian,” I’m not having it), Hideki’s character in an MMORPG called “Legendary Age,” falls for one of his guild member friends, a character named “Nekohime.” She’s cute and all, so he decides to confess to “her.” However, Nekohime tells him that he’s actually an old fart who just likes to crossdress in games. Traumatized, Lucian swears to himself that he’ll never ever be deceived again – there are no girls on the internet, just guys playing as girls. A year later and with a new guild, Lucian gets confessed to. By their healer, Ako. A female character. “She” wants to marry him (ingame), he, however, declines for the aforementioned reasons. She insists that she’s really a girl, still not believing it, Lucian does give in so that she’ll give it a rest. Discussing that certain topic with the other two guild members, they also admit that they’re actually girls (but playing male characters). Lucian still won’t believe a thing, so their guild master suggests an offline meeting. When finally the day of the meeting arrives and they see each other face to face, it turns out that, indeed, all three of them are girls and Lucian the only boy. And he knows two of these girls all too well. The bigger problem, however, is that Ako doesn’t seem to be able to distinguish between game and reality, which turns into more and more of an issue…
We’re blessed with anime these days. I wouldn’t say that Netoge is a high budget production, but it’s looking A-OK. The animations can be a bit clunky, the backgrounds a bit sterile – or even hardly existent, but you have to pay close attention to go like, “Meh, I’ve seen better.” I’d still say it’s colorful and easy on the eye with sometimes obviously real photos that have undergone some kind of “anime-ization” process used for background, which obviously makes it look really good. Those “commercial break cards” or whatever you call those images they insert before/after a commercial break are literally real photoes from probably all around the world (?) into which the studio inserted Ako, I’ll add one of those below for reference. In short, the visuals are nothing to complain about, just nothing to go nuts about either. It’s just cool to see that this is the standard nowadays.
When I read the first volume of Netoge way back, I just didn’t know what I was supposed to feel. It was as if I could write all the stuff that happened on a post-it note. Nothing going on, really. How could this ever make it past a couple of volumes? With currently 17 volumes, I guess you could say I was wrong.
Netoge‘s main story is pretty simple. Lucian and Ako have a lot in common, but are vastly different when it comes to the details. For instance, both of them love MMOs. While Ako refuses to distinguish between game and reality (for instance being married ingame, means being married in reality to her), Lucian seperates the two of them too much (being loved by Ako ingame only means she loves his character). And both of them love each other, Ako overdoes the loving, Lucian underdoes it. So their guild, consisting of Lucian, Shu, Apricot, and Ako, all of them attending the same school, form a club in which everyone works together to get Ako to be more like Lucian, and Lucian to be more like Ako. Well, that’s the excuse at least, it feels more like all of them are just glad to have “friends” (the usual “I have no friends” persists even though they’re obviously friends with each other) that they can do the stuff the love with.
Now you’ve read about the story and might think that that alone sounds kind of boring. I agree. It isn’t, though. While the idea behind the story does have an interesting yet bland (PARADOX) ring to it, Netoge isn’t carried by story per se, but by the characters, their small interactions with one another, and the setting. In fact, after a few episodes it feels more like a slice of life anime with no apparent goal. The characters, however, make it worth the watch, nonetheless. Lucian is kind of boring, so I’m going to focus on the girls. First of all, the main heroine and girl “married” to Lucian, Ako. She’s a total loner, super shy, would rather quit school to play games and be ingame with Lucian forever, and for the extra spice, she’s kinda yandere, too. Whenever Lucian gets overly friendly with a girl, she either stops attending school or even threatens to kill the girl. I’m pretty sure that in the novel Ako tries to stab Nekohime in reality with a knife, in the anime it’s just a magical girl staff replica, I’m not sure whether they altered it or my mind’s playing tricks on me. Anyway, she’s head over heels for Lucian and doesn’t see why one should separate game and reality. Oh, she’s pretty much a noob too and socially super anxious.
Shu is another of their guild members and turns out to be one of Hideki’s/Lucian’s classmates, Akane. That’s “shocking” because in class, Lucian’s a so-called “open otaku” who doesn’t bother hiding that he’s into games and anime – and Akane bullies and verbally abuses him for that. In reality, Akane’s a “closet otaku,” who does her best to hide the fact that she’s pretty much addicted to games, going as far as to buy fashion magazines she calls “riajuu walkthroughs” to better fit in with the riajuus she despises so much and hence be able to lead a high school life without being branded as an otaku. At first, she really doesn’t want the others to talk to her in school, especially the open otaku, Hideki.
The last guild member and at the same time their guild master is Apricot, or Kyou. She’s the student council president and while having no friends for some reason (how do you become the student council president if you’re unpopular?), she doesn’t mind if her fellow guild members call out to her in school, even suggests that they’d call her “Master.” Besides being the student council president, Kyou’s also the daughter of a pretty damn rich family, which leads her to be a pay2win player, who relies on a looot premium items, which Shu and Lucian look down upon (as most f2p players). Her position and wealth allow her to form the club and equip it with high-end PCs for them to play the MMO they love even in school.
Another noteworthy side character is Nanako, she’s basically a riajuu and socially very competent and cheerful. In school, she’s always with Akane/Schu and is even friendly towards Hideki, the open otaku. After the offline meeting and Ako’s problem to separate game and reality even in school, Nanako is Shu’s main source of worry, since she doesn’t want her riajuu friend to find out she’s an MMO nerd. Of course, she does find out and decides to sneak into the game herself to see what her friend is doing all day. At the same time she gets overly friendly with Lucian, which also triggers conflict with Ako. Nekohime, in reality, turns out to be their (female) homeroom teacher, but in my opinion the impact she has on the whole story is pretty small.
Now you’re like “Dude, what the f*ck?” I went out of my way to turn the character portion into a wall of text to make a point why Netoge is so fun to watch even if the idea behind the anime seems so trivial. All of these characters interacting with one another and all the puns and jokes that stem from their personalities and the setting turn Netoge into a recommendation. The story developments are pretty boring, in my opinion, I still enjoyed it very much and would even rewatch it. It’s just great to watch Hideki, Ako, and their guild having their adventures and making fun of each other while trying to live their nerdy lives to the fullest in a riajuus world.
There are, however, two downsides. One lesser and one bigger. There’s a weird arc where they visit a hotel that’s holding an event for “Legendary Age” (free items and stuff), so their club pays a visit and on a computer in the hotel lobby, Lucian has his password phished. That leads to Ako having bedroom talk with that scammer guy without knowing it’s not Lucian (NTR-ish stuff) and a weird goose hunt to get back at the scammer who sold Lucian’s items and deleted his character. It’s hard to believe that a fake log-in page would be set up in an event hotel like that, and only at one of the computers on top of that, the way they get back at the scammer is super far fetched, too. The whole arc feels like forced drama and poorly thought-out. Not that big a deal, but still strongly feels out of place. A bigger issue is that the whole anime loses its whole unique “yandere and socially anxious MMO nerd can’t distinguish between game and reality”-vibe over the course of the sesason and does more and more of your ordinary rom-com stuff. While at first you have stuff like Ako trying to assault their teacher yandere-style, later you have one of dem “going to the beach” arcs that you’ve seen a trillion times before. Overall, the unique flavor dwindles, not necessarily making Netoge bad, but less interesting than before; basically making you think: been there, seen that. My kudos, though, for having a final arc that doesn’t result in one of those “original endings” with forced drama and a storyline that feels out of place. The final arc feels very “Netoge” and left me satisfied.
All in all, Netoge‘s a story that works really well as an anime and proved me a liar when I said it was plain boring after reading volume 1. For what it wants to be, it’s a great piece of work. If you like rom-coms, I’d strongly recommend you give it a try, it won’t disappoint. To me, it’s an 8 that tickles lots of my fancies; a weak 8, but an 8 nonetheless. By the way, the anime appears to cover 4 volumes, so if you want to see what happens next, you could try reading volume 5, I sure will.