Review/discussion about: Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta?
When I used to play World of Warcraft heavily, I would always set aside time for a female Draenei player that I fast befriended.
We would often just sit in Ironforge, using the emote phrases to goof around or talking to one another in our party chat. I was not smitten with her, but, being a teenage boy who managed to form a close bond with a girl who also had an interest in the same exact hobby, I will not lie and say I did not enjoy making her laugh.
I never did learn much about her, though. If she had her own family or what her age was. In fact, I cannot even say for certain that she was a girl.
That situation – a male playing a female character (and vice versa) – is a strange and possible one that comes with the territory, and, depending on the people and feelings involved, it can make for some awkward and embarrassing moments.
Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta? shows this outcome all too well.
Netoge (needed to shorten the title at this point) stars Hideki “Rusian” Nishimura, a high-school dude who plays the new hit MMORPG Legendary Age. After mustering up the courage to ask an in-game (cat) woman to marry him, said woman reveals that she is actually a he in real life. Completely taken aback, Rusian chooses to never trust “girls” online ever again – until a certain healer confesses to him in return.
While the show’s title and its opening set of sequences may lead one to believe that the game itself is the primary factor, that notion is hardly the case. True, the show attempts to balance both elements – the game world and the real world – throughout the season. But, when the magic subsides and the shield is lowered, Netoge is very much more focused on life outside of the game.
Ako makes this idea more than obvious. An entire club is dedicated to rehabilitating her uncommon warping of the two worlds she inhabits. Study groups are formed, classes are skipped to support a girlfriend, and dangerous, criminal activity is (almost fully) carried out.
In focusing on the real, Netoge impresses upon not just Ako but also the audience that life is different than a game. Not that life isn’t like a game, for it can certainly feel that way sometimes (e.g., getting a “lucky drop,” learning a new skill, etc.). But rather, life, in contrast to any game, has consequences, reactions, and outcomes that have purposeful impacts on both the person and the people around him or her.
This idea is nice, but, unfortunately, Netoge seems to forget its own premise. The whole “no girls exist online” motif quickly gets dropped beyond the fourth episode or so since Rusian and Ako become (more or less) a couple.
The same goes for the need to differentiate reality and the game. Once their club becomes official and the anime finishes with the introductions, it focuses more on the romance and the game itself. Both of which have their own issues.
For the romance, it is simply weak. Not very many personable moments exist between Rusian and Ako, and, even when they pop up, they almost always get exploited for comedic or non-serious developments.
For the game, it does not hold much relevance. As was said, reality is technically more important, but the anime does not contrast the two sides enough to accentuate either. Take what the characters normally do: talking at a table in their local tavern rather than adventuring.
The final arc is particularly strange. It drops the focus on Rusian and especially Ako in favor of this cultural-festival dilemma. Yes, the game finally takes the forefront as opposed to being just a “background” element, but the conflict itself does not serve either the point of the narrative or even the characters themselves. No matter how game-centric it all happens to be.
It also does not help that the ecchi material – some nakedness here, a bath scene there – has next to no meaning for Netoge beyond existing for viewing pleasure. I.e., the sexual content is, overall, unimportant.
Even so, the disparity between the game world and the regular world allows the anime to champion the notion that just because something is not “real” does not make it any less valuable. Winning a tough fight on their own or falling in love are just as real as watching fireworks beneath the night sky or receiving some words of encouragement from a close friend.
Regardless of where the events take place.
Netoge falters hardest when it comes to its art and its animation.
To be fair, the character designs are pleasing. Glistening eyes. Attractive figures. Lots of vibrant colors (e.g., pink, orange). It also helps that the anime (at least near the beginning) had some cleverness in the portrayal of both Schwein and Master’s male, online personas. Master’s outfit becomes particularly risqué as a jab towards female armor in video games, and Ako’s frilly, pink dress suits her cutesy character well.
After the designs, however, Netoge encounters trouble.
Because the anime does not have much diversity when it comes to what actually goes on in the game world, the backgrounds and locations within Legendary Age are sparse. When in doubt, the show continually goes back to the same corner of that local inn, and, even when the crew does manage to venture elsewhere, it is more than likely lots of stone walls, open plains, or other low-detailed areas. The opposite of a video game.
The regular world is (relevantly) similar. Netoge shows parts of the school’s classroom and hallways, the clubroom where Rusian and the others play, and the road leading back to their homes. Otherwise, differing locales are rarely shown. And since the designs are so nice, they make the dull backgrounds that much more obvious.
At the very least, the simplified look of the game (when seen from the real world) and the real-life, Ako-featuring between-shots in the interlude for the A and B parts of the episodes (which is quite meta) add flair where it is desperately needed.
Actual animation also fails to hold up. The first couple of episodes, where Ako moves in happy or silly ways, is evident, but, the further along the anime progresses, the choppier the animation becomes. The fight scenes do not have much choreography, the characters are usually just sitting or standing without a lot of hair or eye movement, and the anime simply does not have a lot going on to get its characters moving.
Except for the girls’ breasts; those never stop bouncing.
A case can be made for Netoge being an anime about Rusian. After all, he warms up the audience first with his failed attempt at romance. The rest of the season sees him at odds with his newfound “never trust a girl online” philosophy as well as his budding relationship with Ako.
However, the anime goes from being about “fake” girls online to participating in some guild battles – which subsequently take away from the relationship building and the main motif of the anime itself. Altogether, Rusian’s character does not have much going for him.
So, perhaps obviously, the anime isn’t so much about Rusian as it is about Ako.
Ako starts off in a rough spot. Shy and a recluse, she rarely speaks to anyone at school let alone has any friends she can confide in. So, when their group chooses to officially meet offline for the first time, it is clear how ecstatic Ako is to finally be with people that she can at least hang out with.
Although, she is not exactly of sound mind, for she does not see a distinction between the game world and the real world. She believes Rusian is her fated husband, she refers to Segawa as Schwein, and she does not tolerate “normies” whatsoever.
Her inability to separate the two worlds causes Rusian, Schwein, and Master to band together to form the Net Game Club in an attempt to curb Ako’s delusions for good.
Naturally, that does not happen. She believes Rusian’s confession “demotes” her from wife to girlfriend, and, more startlingly, she does not seem to care much for anything outside of the game because, to her, the game is all that matters.
In essence, she does not swing from one end of the spectrum to the other. But she does, however minimally, escape from her constant, reclusive lifestyle. She starts going to school more. She goes on a sleep-over with the other girls. She hangs out with Rusian and the others at the beach during their summer vacation.
All the while, Ako’s relationship with Rusian is both supported and tested. He visits her house, letting her see the lengths he would go to for her. She instantly recognizes Rusian’s imposter, demonstrating her close connection with her hubby. And they get remarried (in game) in front of all their friends.
By the end of the anime, Rusian and Ako do not follow through on that pivotal kiss. It is also obvious that Ako still has pretty much the same mindset about both worlds being intertwined. And that’s perfectly okay. For where everyone else seeks to explain to Ako that the two worlds are separate, Ako argues (and, indeed, represents) the idea that both worlds are not so different.
Yes, she can get a bit crazy at times, wanting to go all the way with Rusian (in private chat) without a second thought or choosing to reincarnate when Rusian is being “stolen” from her. But that does not make her own perspective (entirely) wrong. To her, the relationships she holds with those online do not lose their authenticity when viewed offline. In other words, the game and reality are one in the same.
Having both sides of the argument – that the two worlds are both different and the same – gives Netoge some clout. Unfortunately, when the final arc arrives, it strangely pushes Ako out of the limelight, reducing her chances at further development and missing out on more exploration for this topic. Nevertheless, her whole character is easily one of the stronger parts of the show.
As for everyone else – namely Schwein, Master, Sette, and Nekohime – they exist purely to help Ako and, by extension, Rusian. Schwein provides the harsher way of looking at the situation (with the occasional sentimental moment). Master supplies them with the gear and the opportunities. Sette gets right to the heart of the matter. And Nekohime simply guides them all from afar.
Given that Ako and Rusian are the priority, it is acceptable that they do not do much else. However, they do not get a pass when it comes to their own interconnections. For while Ako and Rusian clearly hold a tight bond, it is hard to say that about any other pairing.
To be fair, though, they do hold a commonality between each other: anti-social skills. Schwein desperately wants to lead a normal high-school life, hiding her true passion for the game and her “bad self.” Master, despite her student-council-president title, does not talk to anyone. And Nekohime does her best to connect with her students, but nothing can match the adoration her fan-made guild holds for her.
(Sette is the odd one out because she already is the odd one out. As a non-gamer and straightforward person, she has no trouble interacting with her fellow students.)
Does this make them strong characters? Not really. Mostly because the anti-social angle for them is not so much a prominent theme as it is just a detail to get them all together. But it is still nice to see that, game or not, they are there as friends for one another.
Netoge has a peculiar issue: it relies too much on the cut-music-away-for-comedic-effect technique. For many of the different jokes during the season, they will build something up or go a certain direction – only to halt the building or directing. With the shift comes an immediate drop or change in the music being played. It’s a common technique for the medium, but Netoge does it so much that it becomes noticeable and therefore distracting.
Toshiyuki Toyonaga as Rusian is likewise a problem. Not that his voice acting takes away from the show, but pieces of dialogue are not as strong as others. When he jumps from an aircraft, his hollers and excitement come off as unamused, and, when he gets mad (often declaring that “the game and reality are separate”), his anger does not have the oomph, the irritation behind it to make it believable.
Rina Hidaka as Ako and Inori Minase as Schwein thankfully make up somewhat for his missteps. Ms. Hidaka gives Ako a happy, cute voice that fits the bubbly girl well, and Ms. Minase strikes the tsundere persona with ease.
(As a side note, Schwein’s little piggy sound that sometimes played when she entered the frame or did something noteworthy was a nice touch.)
Some of the tracks from the original soundtrack are also worth noting. The main romantic piece, with its soft piano and sentimental tone, makes it hard not to smile when it is played. The acoustic-guitar track is likewise uplifting. And the little bit of transition music from the A and B parts of the episodes is nice, too. However, the hip-hop track that gets used regularly does not fit the setting and atmosphere of the anime, hurting the OST’s overall strength.
As for the opening and ending tracks, they are a mixed bag. The OP is not very flashy, relying mostly on a pop tune, steady pacing, and somewhat flat singing. The ED performs better with its techno sound-effects and slight variance in pacing, but the singing, once again, is not all that impressive to hear.
There are two main reasons why I liked this one: Ako and the romance.
Ako was cute when she tried hitting the ogres frantically or when she was overjoyed to finally meet the real-life Rusian. She could be funny, too, when doing karate chops in the air or when she made it sound as though her night with Rusian was lewder than what it actually was. And she was kind, accepting the craziness of the others without reservation.
The romance made it all that much better. Tiny moments like Rusian buying her ice cream would make me smile. But grander ones, like when Rusian visited her in her room and gave her his full support, got me audibly “Aww!”-ing on multiple occasions. (Also, that room scene had one of my favorite jokes: where Ako’s yandere tendencies almost manifested as urine for tea.)
I do wish the other characters were more fun, though. Schwein could be silly when Sette discovered her secret, and Master believing that her affluent lifestyle was normal could get me to laugh. But they did not have much of a presence, both influence- and personality-wise, throughout the season.
Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta? provides a thoughtful, if misguided, experience. The contrasting worlds and Ako’s character are strengths of the show, but the subpar animation, the underdeveloped romantic relationship, and some sound-related issues are obvious weaknesses. It’s an entertaining anime, but it lands in awkward territory – with or without female Draenei in the equation.
Story: Fine, while focus gets lost and the heart of the romance beats irregularly, the disparity between the game world and the regular world, and its theme on realness, make the narrative more than just a bunch of comedy and ecchi scenes
Animation: Bad, nice character designs, a more-often-than-not boring artistic direction, and below average actual animation
Characters: Fine, Ako develops as a character and counters the others’ view on their two worlds being separate, with Schwein, Master, Sette, Nekohime, and especially Rusian supporting Ako along the way
Sound: Bad, bad OP, okay ED, okay OST, okay VA performances, and a repetitive comedic technique
Enjoyment: Good, still liked the romantic elements and Ako especially, but Schwein and the others were not too memorable
Final Score: 4/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3