Recovery of an MMO Junkie’s “Alternate NEET” and the Question of Responsibility

Recovery of an MMO Junkie is a charming anime about a romance that develops between two MMORPG players, only without the need to trap them in the game. It’s a refreshing series in many ways, with one notable reason being its portrayal of its NEET main heroine.

NEET (“Not in Education, Employment, or Training”) is originally an English term that migrated over to Japan and is one of the many terms used to describe Japanese youths as a way to admonish their lack of drive. In response to this negative image, many anime, manga, and light novels have NEET protagonists rise to the occasion, get the girl, and save the day. However, even when they’re portrayed as lovable losers who become winners in a new world, they still have that aura of initial failure about them.

However, Recovery of an MMO Junkie‘s main character, Morioka Moriko, is not portrayed as being a sad sack who never went anywhere. Prior to her becoming a NEET, she actually had a lucrative office career. While they never explicitly say why she quit, it’s implied that something about the job wore her down over time, and that she left it for her own sanity. Where other series’ NEETS are often presented as people who never even try to enter adult society, Moriko is someone who could have walked down that path but didn’t.

The reason Moriko being a former working adult is important is that NEETs, hikikomori, greeters, etc., are viewed as irresponsible and lazy, as if their lack of employment and romantic success falls squarely on their shoulders. MMO Junkie suggests that maybe there’s something wrong with the corporate and societal culture that grinds people down. It’s similar to the arguments we see about millennials, except it’s been going on in Japan for even longer.

The English title, Recovery of an MMO Junkie, can sound misleading. It’s not about an MMO player getting over her online addiction, it’s about an MMO player using an MMO for self-therapy to help her recover her life. When she worked, it was her nightly reprieve. When the job became too much for her, she needed more extensive healing. Even adults need time to recuperate mentally and emotionally.

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10 Years After: Ogiue Maniax 10th Anniversary

10 years. What kind of fool keeps blogging about anime for an entire decade? It’s a milestone, but not the end of the journey. Still, looking back on my time here, there’s a lot to reflect on. That’s why I’m devoting this celebratory post to writing a not-so-brief history of Ogiue Maniax.

The Birth of Ogiue Maniax

Back in 2006, I had already been interacting with my fellow anime fans online for years. Long, essay-style forum posts were the norm in my communities, and it was just fun to read and write them. However naively, it felt like we were pushing critical thinking about anime and manga. However, the spaces in which I wrote began to dry up, or saw a new generation of moderators too afraid of what outsiders thought, shrinking beneath the judgment of their peers. I wanted a place where I could write what was on my mind.

At first, I didn’t think to start my own blog, and tried my hand as a “guest contributor,” a charitable term for “asked friends if I could post stuff to their sites.” The otaku news blog Heisei Democracy agreed to post an odd essay I had originally wrote for class, titled “Moe as Commodity”-—perhaps more relevant a topic today than ever before. Shiro, who ran the blog Toward Our Memories, offered me a chance to write about Gurren-Lagann and its connections to giant robots of years past. It was thanks to these opportunities that I thought maybe, just maybe, I could go off on my own.

I did not write the first anime blog, of course. The “scene” was well established when I started, with many more cropping up alongside my own. However, as I began to write in those early days, I noticed a tendency for other bloggers to slow down. Sometimes it had to do with real life—something I understand more than ever 10 years later. But in other cases, I heard a common refrain that there simply wasn’t enough to write about. Too many anime were too similar. Yeah, there’s some good stuff, but how much is much is out there, really?

I saw this as a challenge. I truly believed that there was always something worth writing about when it came to Japanese pop culture, and I wanted to see if I could keep it up. My ideal was to publish at least one post, long or short, once a day for seven days a week. It was an odd thing to get stubborn about, looking back.

While I’m no longer writing every single day of the week (I simply don’t have that amount of time or mental energy to devote to Ogiue Maniax), I think I’ve kept the flame of that original desire alive. Sure, I’ve sometimes talked about things that aren’t strictly anime or manga—esports theory, fandom and politics, and mahjong—but I see those topics as an extension of how I’ve grown as a writer, scholar, and human being. Anime isn’t isolated from the rest of the world, and even the decision to draw back and “heal” through media interaction carries effects and consequences.

Blogging as Blessing

Reaching a greater level critical thinking and expressing it through Ogiue Maniax is itself the product of the good fortune that has come from blogging. Back when I first started to gain some traction among online fans, I actually ran into one reader named Erin. At the time, she and her boyfriend (now husband) Noah had their own anime podcast called Ninja Consultant. While I’m naturally introverted and loathed the act of networking, meeting Erin and Noah was enormously beneficial. I didn’t even really consider it networking; it was just meeting new people. That encounter helped set me on a path to working various media jobs over the next few years, and was a catalyst for positivity in my life.

Not long after, I met through my blogging the woman who would one day become my wife. While writing Ogiue Maniax had been beneficial for a number of reasons, I never considered myself a particularly good writer. I just saw myself as someone who wanted to think more deeply about entertainment and media, with the blog being the conduit through which my thoughts are shared. But my wife helped foster in me an unusual, unfamiliar feeling: confidence. She told me that my ability to make complex and difficult ideas accessible and comprehensible to a wider audience was an admirable skill that reflected both my writing ability and my outlook on life. Last year, I decided to take a Harry Potter Sorting Hat test online and it put me in Hufflepuff, the school focused on humanity and providing opportunities for all. In hindsight, it makes sense.

Eventually, this led me to actually living abroad in Europe and taking my academic interest in manga and anime to the next level. For four years, I poured hours and hours of research into manga to an extent I didn’t even think possible, and it filled both my waking hours and my dreams. Even during this time, however, I still blogged. I looked at all that Ogiue Maniax had allowed me to achieve, and I loved the site too much to want to abandon it, even if might have preserved my sanity more effectively. This is the point at which I had to dial back my daily posts into something more manageable: two to three entries per week. Even with the reduced schedule, the constant swirling of ideas and readings and attempts to articulate labyrinthine thought processes brought about a change in Ogiue Maniax. I found myself compelled to delve deeper into my musings on anime and manga as it relates to not just pop culture or subcultures, but human culture in general. It forever changed the way I approach Ogiue Maniax for the better (at least in my opinion).

A Measured Success

More recently, I started my Patreon, and I make a modest amount every month. It’s not enough to make a living, but it supplements my existing income quite nicely. I’ve never had the largest readership around, and it’s even declined as anime blogging itself has dropped off. The Ogiue Maniax path is certainly not what you should try if your goal is to make writing your career, but I think my modicum of success is a reflection that I’ve held onto those core beliefs that originally fueled this blog at its inception even as I, the anime industry, fandom, and the world have changed. More than ever, I believe that there’s always something worth saying about anime and manga, and I hope that I’m able to inspire others to think the same as well.

Focused practice is supposedly the ideal way to improve a skill; knowing your weaknesses and drilling them into strengths is how one should approach the honing of a craft. I did no such thing. I brute forced it by making myself adhere to a schedule and making myself put out something—anything—on a regular basis. While I don’t always produce the best-edited pieces (a string of typos over the years can attest to that), I like to think that it’s made me unafraid of putting my thoughts and feelings out there in the world. Courage is a flower that needs to be nurtured.

Shout-Outs

Seeing as Thanksgiving is around the corner, I’d like to express my gratitude to the following:

Kio Shimoku: Although I know you’ll never read this, thank you for creating Genshiken. It’s been an inspiration in more ways than one, and has helped me grow as a human being. キオ先生は多分読まないけれど、本当に先生の事、感謝します。『げんしけん』のお陰で人として成長しました。

My fellow Genshiken fans: Whether early on in the blog’s life, or later as I did my chapter reviews, I’ve received much love for my Genshiken musings. Thank you for reading.

MrShadowAnt: My friend for many, many years, you were one of the first people I could truly nerd out with. Thank you.

6th Floor: There are fewer times I look back on more fondly than those afternoons and lunches spent playing games, talking anime, and just being friends. I believe those conversations became a major cornerstone of how I approach the world and my writing. Thank you.

Alain: Thank you, Al, for being someone to bounce ideas off of, and for providing a measured perspective on things.

Anime World Order: To Daryl, Gerald, and Clarissa, thank you for providing a template for how to talk about anime and manga while being entertaining and informative. You’re one of the reasons I even considered starting Ogiue Maniax at all.

Arco: When I think of ridiculously long posts, I think of you. Thank you for writing.

Jeff Lawson: Although you’ve long since left the aniblogging game, thank you for linking to Ogiue Maniax way back. It was the first boost in views I ever got, and I consider it a major cornerstone in the blog’s history.

Shiro: When I first felt that itch to blog about anime, you were one of the first to give me a platform to tackle my ideas. Thank you for providing me that opportunity. That Gurren-Lagann post became one of the two pivotal moments that prompted me to start Ogiue Maniax.

Shingo: Thank you, Shingo. I wrote the article “Moe as Commodity” many years ago at this point, and I think it stands as a precursor to what Ogiue Maniax would become. Also, I want to give an even more personal thank-you for showing me around Akihabara in 2005. I still haven’t forgotten!

Johnny Trovato: Thank you for believing in me and my Patreon more than anyone. I look forward to your requests every month.

Dave Cabrera: It’s funny how we met years before seeing each other in person without realizing it. You’re definitely one of the funniest writers I know, and as you strive to get out there and make yourself known, it inspires me to push ahead. Thank you, and Rosa GIgantor forever.

Veef: Thank you for being an ally in measured mecha fandom, eager for dialogue and civil even in disagreement. I always look forward to podcasting with you.

Patz: Another robot ally, thank you for helping to show the world that robot fans can be more than their stereotypes. Let’s do more con panels together.

KRansom: Whether we’re working together professionally or just for fun, it’s always great to get your thoughts on goings-on in Japanese pop culture and scholarship. People still read the Nausicaa article we translated. Thank you.

David Brothers: We first met on a fighting game forum, but at some point I began to see you not just as a friend, but also as a writer whose strength of voice and desire to do good in the world was something to aspire to. Thank you for making me want to better myself.

Divine: Thank you for having my back in the Netherlands. I do not underestimate how much it helped to have a familiar face abroad.

My friends and colleagues in Europe: Thank you for challenging me and pushing me to improve how I construct and express ideas.

Mitch: I know life has you busy, but I’m still grateful for when you’d take the time to catch any typos in my posts. Thank you.

Erin and Noah: Thank you for reaching out to me. I still owe you a lunch or dinner or something.

Ed Chavez: You’re still the smartest person I’ve ever known when it comes to manga, and I value our conversations. It’s always a pleasure to pick your brain. Thank you.

My wife: You saw something special in me, and encouraged me to recognize it. We’ve been through some interesting times together. Thank you.

Why the Term “Toxic Masculinity” is a Double-Edged Sword

“Toxic masculinity” is an extremely useful term. It describes a recurring problem with men and boys, which is that the societal pressure to appear and act “manly” can often harm not just others, but the guys themselves. Even the most naturally hyper-masculine individuals can benefit from awareness of this concept because they can at least know that crying, or not being confrontational all the time isn’t a sign that they’re not men. It’s also good for pointing out when media, be it films, video games, anime, etc., reinforce harmful notions of what being a “man” is. Unfortunately, the men who suffer most greatly from toxic masculinity, are likely least receptive to it. I believe the reason for this is that, ironically, the term “toxic masculinity” doesn’t sound masculine enough.

Many phrases that have come out of feminism, or have been embraced by feminists, take on a certain tinge that brings feminists to mind. This isn’t inherently a problem, but whether it’s due to association of just the word choice, it can come across as something concocted in a feminist lab (whatever that might be); perhaps it’s a little too clinical and, well, “feminine.” Part of coming  across as a “man’s  man” is one’s vocabulary, and I believe that the perceived feminist quality in “toxic masculinity” as a phrase prevents more men from using it.

On some level, I want to say, “Get over it and just embrace what the term is trying to say,” but I also understand that it’s not always so easy. Masculinity, toxic or otherwise, is tied to one’s identity. That being said, I think there already exists a phrase that embodies much of what “toxic masculinity” implies that is, for better or worse, more palatable to men concerned about maintaining their image of manliness: “When keeping it real goes wrong.”

Coming from an old Chappelle‘s Show skit, “When keeping it real goes wrong” is used to describe people who refuse to back down in even the most trivial or disadvantageous scenarios, which then leads to dire (and hilarious) consequences. Essentially, it communicates the idea that trying to be “real” 24/7 is a recipe for disaster because the need to have the world see oneself as a proper man who won’t take guff is going to, at some point, end in tragedy.

Do I think “When keeping it real goes wrong” should supplant “toxic masculinity” as the dominant phrase to describe the harmful aspects of male performance? Not really, as it’s kind of unwieldy and doesn’t match 1:1, but I think it has its place. The irony would be that using it could help more men understand the notion of toxic masculinity while also subtly reinforcing it.

I Have a Choco: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for February 2017

February might be Valentine’s Day Month, but how much I’ll actually discuss romance on the blog remains a mystery even to me!

Whatever the situation, I know that if I were in Japan, I’d be giving giri choco to my Patreon sponsors.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Viga

Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Given that this will be the tenth year of Ogiue Maniax, I decided last November to do a Genshiken series 1 re-read. I’ve started with Volume 1, and you should expect to see them come out every other month. (I would have said bi-monthly but that phrase can also mean “twice a month,” so…) I’ve already felt like I’m stepping back into a different world, so I’m looking forward to the next article too.

Speaking of Genshiken, I also wrote a little post comparing Kasukabe Saki to Love Live‘s Nishikino Maki. The latter’s cooldere attitude reminded me of Madarame’s fantasy version of the former.

Perhaps the most important post I’ve written this month is on the subject of butts in anime. In it, I detail increasing presence of large rears in Japanese animation, and put forth my own hypothesis on why this has occurred. The seeds of this post have been germinating in my head for a very long time, even before Ogiue Maniax ever began. If you want to see more content like this, let me know. I just hope it doesn’t take me another 10 years to write one!\

I was also sad to see the end of Soredemo Machi ga Mawatteiru aka And Yet the Town Moves. It’s a very unique series in a lot of ways, and I look forward to seeing what the artist does next.

On the video game side, I’ve written a couple of posts thinking about what how players view competitive games, and what they can potentially do to both bring in a bigger audience and keep them from running away in fear.

As for this month’s Patreon-sponsored post, I looked at the subject of babies in anime and manga. My rating of babies is based on how much they make their parents suffer, I guess. If you have a subject you really, really want me to write about, it’s just a one-time $30 pledge.

If you’re wondering why I have it at that price, it’s just because I don’t necessarily want the blog to consist primarily of requests as opposed to my own ideas. That being said, I am considering maybe offering a poll with three or four topics that can be voted on with Patreon pledges. Is this an idea readers would be on board for?

Overall, I think this was a pretty solid month. I don’t have a wholly solid idea of what’s going to come next, but it might be a bit less review-heavy compared to this one.

 

 

 

 

New Year, New Look: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for January 2017

The Year of the Rooster has arrived, but given the tumultuous nature of 2016 it’s hard to be…cocksure.

Bad jokes aside, it’s time to look backwards and forwards. And as we enter this new year, I’d like to once again express my gratitude towards my Patreon sponsors.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Viga

Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

You might have noticed things being kind of different. Half on a whim, half as a result of ruminating on the dated look of Ogiue Maniax for the past year, I decided suddenly to change the look of the blog. While I think ultimately it’s the content that matters, I got the feeling that people were turned away by the fact that the site looks like it’s from a decade ago (which it pretty much is). This is actually the first aesthetic change I’ve made in a very long while. The last time was when I moved from Blogspot to WordPress back in 2007!

I’d like to know you think about the new look, so feel free to drop a comment. In fact, don’t be afraid to tell me what you’d like to see out of Ogiue Maniax. I can’t accommodate everyone, of course, but I’m still keen on finding out what my readers think.

Given that the end of the year just passed, the blog has been full of reflective articles and the like. Check out my picks for best anime characters of 2016, read my Anime Secret Santa review of Queen Millennia, and take a look at what’s in the final volume of Genshiken. I also took a picture showing off in part one of my Christmas gifts: Nendoroid Shidare Hotaru from Dagashi Kashi!

I also finally got around to reviewing the first volume of the fantastic Ojamajo Doremi16, the light novel sequel to the beloved early 2000s magical girl anime. And leading off from November’s post on the latter part of the original Aikatsu!, I wrote something about Aikatsu Stars!

And over at Apartment 507, I discuss both the end of Sabagebu! and what this bizarre survival game-themed manga brought to shoujo manga, as well as some of my favorite anime openings that came at the tail end of 2016.

The last article I’d like to mention is my very first of the new year, about the manipulation of time in adapting manga to anime. I think it’s a good way to start off 2017, personally.

 

 

Understanding “Safe Spaces” as Expressions of Ideals

In observing the interactions and conversations about social justice and related topics, one thing that becomes increasingly apparent is the stark difference in perspective that can come from being a minority vs. a majority. In particular, the criticism of “overreaction” is a fascinating one to explore, because of how it can lead to the idea that “political correctness” is causing more problems than it solves. However, what I find is that the issue isn’t so much that people are oversensitive, or even that the other side is composed of monsters, but that there is a particular approach to life that is implicit in the actions of many who take can be thought of as “overreacting.” I call this “externalization of an internal ideal.”

Before I continue, I want to say this: although I’ve actually been thinking about this subject quite a bit, it’s Duncan “Thorin” Shields’s recent video above arguing how the media is all too eager to create outrage that has prompted me to really commit my thoughts to text. This is because, while I don’t agree with some of the key points of his video, he at least lays it all out such that it promotes debate and discussion. And even if I’m not of a similar belief to him in certain respects, I still highly value his work on eSports and continue to watch his videos regularly.

At one point in Thorin’s video, he mentions the Donald Trump “pussy grabbing” scandal, arguing that the outcry against it was exaggerated to an absurd extent. This is not because Thorin is defending sexual assault, but that the way in which Trump was speaking was in the context of a private conversation between men where the objectification of women is par for the course. The idea laid out in this minor point is that Trump’s words should have been a surprise to no one, so to respond with shock and horror is to willfully ignore reality.

I think Thorin is right in a certain sense, but I also don’t think that this is automatically a problem. Although some might navigate their lives by saying, “This is how the world is, so I’d better figure out how to best work within those restrictions,” others might instead think, “I want to live my life as if the world is at the point I wish it to be.”

Let’s put this in the context of minorities. When it comes to the dictionary definition of a “minority,” it would only make sense that they would feel like the world does not cater to them. If there was a world where the population was 99% majority and 1% minority, then mathematically it would be unlikely for this minority to gain much traction. And yet, that does not mean someone who is a member of a minority should only ever be able to feel like they are excluded from the majority, that they cannot act as if they are the default or standard. If there is a black person, or an Asian person, or a gay person, or a transgender person, and their mindset is to behave as if they are not an outsider, that they are not the “other,” then I think that is a perfectly fine way to live.

This is also why I think the idea of “safe spaces” is often misunderstood. Sometimes you’ll see them characterized as “hug boxes,” or places that prevent people from learning to overcome adversity. If the “real world” is where iron sharpens iron, then safe spaces are supposedly sites of stagnation for individuals and groups. But their ideal function is to be a place where one can feel “normal,” that they are not some deviation that must inevitably be compared to what is most common in society. Why shouldn’t women want a world where they’re not judged first by their looks, even if the first thing we tend to notice about people is how they look? Why shouldn’t a racial minority get to spend some time without being implicitly judged by their skin tone and the cultural stereotypes they carry?

There is a downside to all this. If you live by trying to externalize your ideals, you risk creating a false perception of the world, especially if you ignore the need for reality checks. However, if you take the world “as it is,” then you might end up reinforcing hierarchies if the desire to fight is absent. What I think is especially important in the former’s case, and why I think the notion can seem so foreign to certain people is that it carries a kind of utopian desire. Rather than simply imposing one’s will upon the world and forcing it to obey, it’s a mark of a hope for a better world. Instead of the world telling you how you are, you tell the world how you are. Even if people “shouldn’t” have been outraged at Donald Trump’s words, they want the world to be one where implied sexual assault is admonished. Only by understanding this perspective can discussion really begin.

I am not someone who believes “overreaction” does not exist, or that it is a wholly unfair criticism towards liberals. It is all too easy for even well-meaning people to have knee-jerk reactions, not understand the context of a situation, and then ride their anger without looking back. Nevertheless, I do think that this desire for an ideal world is not simply a pipe dream or a refusal to acknowledge reality. The better way to look at it is as a wish for the world to be a better place starting with one’s own mind and body.

‘Tis the Seasoning: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for December 2016

Is it December already?! It actually feels like I just got done writing the update for November, and now we’re at the end of the year. Much love to all of my sponsors on Patreon for being with me for the entire year!

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Viga

Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

November was the 9th anniversary of Ogiue Maniax, so I wrote my thoughts on how the blog’s been going and where I think it’ll head next. I’ve since reflected a bit further on what I said there. While I primarily look at Ogiue Maniax as a place to share thoughts and ideas, I think I’ve been a little sparse in terms of denser, heavier content as of late. I’m looking to write better and with greater insight as I move forward, but also balancing it out with shorter, lighter posts, much like a three-course meal.

It was a long time coming, but I finally posted my feelings on the dismissal of Precure as insignificant because it’s not Sailor Moon. As a fan of both I feel like this is a recurring issue, and I hope that magical girl enthusiasts and just anime watchers in general can come to appreciate Precure better.

I also began my pseudo-series of posts about characters I love, with Inukami Kyouko from the volleyball manga Shoujo Fight. As Ogiue Maniax was built on a foundation of character appreciation, I felt that it was kind of a nice return to my roots, so to speak.

This month’s Patreon-sponsored post sees me tackle the third season of Aikatsu!, which passes the baton from heroine Hoshimiya Ichigo to young upstart Oozora Akari. I mostly talk about the idea of switching protagonists and how the series handles it.

Finally, I want to give attention to something I wrote the day before the US presidential election. Even after all the chaos that has ensued, I want people to read it and perhaps take it to heart. I think it is all too easy to want to silence others if one believes others to simply be hateful and ignorant, but that merely creates greater animosity in my opinion. It’s ostensibly an anime-related post because I talk about Legend of the Galactic Heroes!

Look forward to the rest of December’s posts! I’ve got a new Anime Secret Santa review on the way, my annual “best characters of the year” post, and more!