There always seems to be one series that I miss at the beginning of the anime season but which I’ll binge near the end after hearing good word of mouth about it. This past season, that anime was Recovery of an MMO Junkie. It was funny and sweet and of course, MAMIKO NOTO. But most of all, I just really spoke to me, both in my gaming experience and in my growing ones.
As I like to mention, I’m not a gamer. Not at all. My kids love games. My dad loves games. My wife loves games. I’d rather do a hundred other things than game, though. That said, I did once get sucked into playing an MMO called Evony. For about a month, I was addicted, not so much by the quality of the game (not good), but because of the people in my guild. There were so many kind people who helped me out, including the clan mother who I remain Facebook friends with ’til this day. I was very much the newbie, like Koiwai, slowing everyone down, and like Morioka, too, finding comfort in the kindness of my guild members.
But MMO Junkie isn’t a show about MMO’s; it’s really about what it means to become an adult. That’s maybe a surprising idea to put forward since Morioka is 30 years old and Sakurai isn’t much younger, but it’s true—they’re learning what it means to be adults when they’re ten years into adulthood. And I totally relate.
Here’s the problem as I see it: for many of us, when we’re 23 or 26 or 29, we’re expected to be expert adults. After all, we’ve been adults for ten years, for many of us, by this time. We graduated high school, made it through college (and maybe grad school), and have been working for several years (or longer if we didn’t attend university). We’ve probably had multiple relationships and might even be married. We should have this adult thing down pat.
But the truth is, many of us are struggling with learning how to adult years after we’re told we’ve become one. Morioka isn’t alone in wanting to quit her job and become a NEET—let’s admit it, that’s the dream for many of us. And like her, not only are we struggling with some of the things we’ve always had trouble with, we’re also having to deal with all the responsibilities that adulthood throws at us. It’s not easy.
In fact, I frequently tell college students that preparing for their twenties is like bracing yourself for an automobile accident. Thrown out of your bubble into the real world, given enough money to be dangerous (but not enough to live easy), and expected to march along and live a well-ordered life, the twenties are a stressful, scary, fun, and terrible time. And I think maybe we should, as a society, see them that way—that age is not as much about establishing yourself as an adult, but just fumbling into adulthood with all the mistakes that entails and with an acceptance that you don’t have all the answers, nor are you expected to.
When I turned 18, I didn’t feel like an adult at all. I refused to consider myself one—I had more freedom and more responsibility, sure, but I kept thinking about my own father. I just couldn’t see myself as anything like him, even as a younger version of him that I’d never known. I was still living like a child. Even when I married, I felt the same—it was so awkward spending time with people with kids and mortgages and 401(k)’s. I just wasn’t there yet.
Do you know when I felt I became an adult? It was when I was 27. That was the year I had my first child, and finally, there was something in my life that I had responsibility for and yet had no control over. I failed so many times as a parent, so so so many times, and in my desperation I saw that I needed to finally grow up. And though growing up isn’t necessarily as simple as just doing what needs to be done (if anything, I sometimes feel that I fail more than ever), my mindset changed, my heart changed, and I took an important step forward.
In MMO Junkie, our romantic leads are doing the same. Sakurai is the good
kid adult, the one that seems perfect and is genuinely kind, but who struggles to form authentic connections. His “growing up” has to do with taking the step forward and both admitting to himself that he needs these real-life relationships and being brave and trying to make lasting connections. Morioka’s “growing up” is about overcoming fear in a variety of ways, including with learning that some people are worthy of your trust, that they’re not all just mean managers and co-workers doing whatever needs to be done to get ahead.
I may not be a gamer like Morioka or Sakurai, but I was just the same as them anyway. I was a twenty-something “playing” at being an adult. I wish I could have told myself then what I know now—becoming an adult isn’t something that happens the day of your 18th birthday. It takes time and effort and pain and life—and that’s okay, because all these things are part of the journey that teaches you what it means to be a grown-up and how you’ll be able to make it as one, fried motherboard, Perma D, MHIL, and all.
You can stream Recovery of an MMO Junkie on Crunchyroll.