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Recovery of an MMO Junkie (Net-juu no Susume) is a TV anime based on the manga of the same name which is being serialized on web-manga application comico. The anime has attracted attention by releasing the DVDs simultaneously to the anime’s broadcast.
The story revolves around Moriko Morioka, who has chosen to live a NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) lifestyle after quitting her job at the age of thirty. She spends her days playing an online game as a handsome male character called Hayashi. Moriko is able to live a fulfilling online life with Lily, a beautiful girl avatar whom she met in the game.
In real-life, Moriko unexpectedly meets a handsome, blond-haired green-eyed man called Sakurai, and gets closer to him little by little. Little does Moriko know, Sakurai is, in fact, the very same person who plays her in-game partner Lily…
In this interview, I asked Satoshi Taira about his thoughts from his point of view as a producer of the original manga publisher, comico.
Could you tell us how the anime adaptation of the manga was materialized?
The start of the manga Recovery of an MMO Junkie coincided with the start of the manga app comico. I had the idea to adapt the manga into another medium right from the beginning of the manga’s serialization because it has a unique storyline with cute characters. I was convinced that the audience would be able to relate to the characters quite easily. We explored the possibilities of an adaptation, not only into anime but also into a live-action drama, games, and so on. We even considered a hybrid adaptation of anime and live-action in which the characters come and go between an animated world and the real world. However, the idea was eventually turned down as it might not have been as smooth as we had hoped. Consequently, we decided that the best medium for the story would be anime, as it’s the only medium where we could naturally transition between the real world and the game world, and the audience could relate more to the characters.
We wanted to focus on female gamers, and even the front covers of the anime scripts were designed to look like a ladies’ magazine as a kind of in-joke.
I thought players of MMOs were mostly male.
They are. Obviously, the anime’s main target is anime fans of both genders, therefore it also takes male audiences into consideration. It’s not just a simple love story but depicts the fun of playing games along with Moriko’s human side in order not to exclude the male viewers.
What did you pay attention to when adapting the manga into an anime series?
I always respect the original authors’ thoughts towards their works, as I’m dealing with works into which they have poured their heart and soul. I myself am a big fan of the manga, therefore I wanted to make fans believe in the anime. I considered things such as, ‘this character wouldn’t say something like that’, or ‘that character is saying this, but must be thinking the complete opposite.’
There are anime works in which the characters come and go between games and the real world. Were you aware of them?
I wasn’t because I don’t think that Recovery of an MMO Junkie is an action anime, but a human drama. It focuses more on what happens in the real world, rather than the game world. We depict the avatars in the game in a way that can show what their real-world counterparts are doing in front of a computer, like clicking the log-in button and typing on a keyboard to chat. We are careful about minor differences in how they speak in the game to imply that they are avatars in the role-playing game and operated by the players in the real world.
Are there things that exceeded your expectations in the anime series?
It has to be the voice-acting of Mamiko Noto. Her voice-acting at the audition was brilliant and enhanced the human side of Moriko, to whom the audience can relate. Ms. Noto is usually typecast as beautiful girl roles, so we asked her to act like a sloppy, unkempt girl in sweatpants when she was at the recording. She managed to meet our request and even added her own human side to Moriko. I was really pleased to cast her in the role.
The anime series is heading towards its climax now.
We tried to make a cliff-hanger ending for each episode, like in the ‘Getsu-ku Dramas’. It’s a Japanese abbreviation for getsuyou kuji, which translates to ‘Monday 9 pm’- the time when most popular dramas are airing. ‘Getsu-ku’ are generally romantic TV dramas that reflect contemporary trends. We apply their strategy of cliff-hanger endings which make the audience wonder what will happen next.
Moriko was pessimistic about the real world and dropped out from reality to become a NEET. However, she has become positive about her life again by making connections with other players in the online game. The anime also shows her relationships in the real world, though. Anyway, the story judges neither NEETs nor online games and depicts the process of the characters accepting each other. The characters, especially Moriko, gradually change from edgy personalities to lovable ones, which is the strongest point of the story.
Crunchyroll joined the production team for this anime, so it was guaranteed to be streamed worldwide prior to its production. Does this change the production process at all?
Crunchyroll sponsored Nanbaka, and streamed ReLIFE in North America. Regarding this anime, they were involved in it right from the meetings on the script. We felt responsible for making the anime series meet a favorable reception in the North America. We usually don’t need to think about scenes which have something to do with, say, religion in Japan- though we racked our brains on how to deal with them. The manga has the English subtitle ‘Recommendation of the Internet Enhancement’. However, Crunchyroll advised us to change the title to a name that can tell the story straightaway to English-speakers. We followed their advice and changed the English title to Recovery of an MMO Junkie. The subtitle of the Japanese anime was also changed to ‘Recommendation of the Wonderful Virtual Life’.
We might have gone for ‘Netoju no Susume’ (the original title written in Japanese romaji) for its title abroad if Crunchyroll hadn’t been involved in it. We changed the title because we wanted to allow audiences overseas to understand what the anime is about.
Next Page: Could you answer the questions from our overseas readers?