And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online? – Review
And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online?:
Original Air Dates: April 7th, 2016 – June 23rd, 2016
Synopsis: Hideki Nishimura is your classic young, closet gamer. Well, maybe worse as he’s the type who falls in love easily, proposing to a female character online who turned out to be a dude roleplaying. Nishimura keeps this secret to himself and decides to never trust another girl online again.
But some time later, a girl confesses her love for him, another party member in his new guild. Nishimura is reluctant, but agrees to marry her in game and treat the whole thing as a fantasy online and not get emotionally involved. But when the guild decides to have a real life get together Nishimura discovers that, Ako, his in game wife, is actually a beautiful nerdy gamer girl that’s in his school!
Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Netoge (As fans often refer to the series) is an oddity among the normal Ecchi fare. It manages to generate some really fun humor that rarely outright exploits its female cast in an effort to generate fan service. Rather the humor stems from the show’s depiction of online gaming and the interactions between its cast members. The gaming humor might limit Netoge’s overall mass appeal, especially with a finale that requires a bit more intimate online gaming knowledge to truly appreciate the nuances of, but what makes Netoge stand out from other ecchi is the heart at its center. Netoge isn’t interested in thrusting tits and ass in the viewers face at all times, but rather building a believable, enjoyable and adorable relationship between the cute but insane Ako and Nishimura. In that spirit Netoge takes a route not often ventured among Ecchi/Harem anime and refuses to thrust each and every girl at Nishimura, instead content to keep the budding love between our two stars. Thanks to that emotional centre, Netoge feels more substantial than the normal Ecchi fare we get every season.
Linny: If you’re someone who dislikes ecchi, especially how it usually devolves into harem, and were skipping this show because of that, you should rethink your decision. As someone who generally dislikes harem too, let me reassure you that there is absolutely zero romantic interactions or pursuing of Nishimura by anyone other than Ako. All the other girls treat him solely as a buddy, and even ones that show affection do so fleetingly. The harem angle is non existant which is good news for those who tire of girls flinging themselves at our hero. And regarding fan service, yes there is definitely some of it in there with the most scandalous and constant example being Kyou’s scanty outfit. The show has an excuse for it but for those that dislike seeing girls in extremely revealing outfits, it’s still an eyesore. On the other hand, there are also moments where the show makes good use of fan service, making it in a clearly comedic manner rather than just a cheap excuse to flash skin. While the show isn’t fan service free, it is definitely more tame and restrained than what one would expect.
Tom: A strong bonus for Netoge is the way it’s crafted and makes use of its characters. Nishimura is extremely relatable for gamers and teens alike. He’s a nice guy character, something many ecchi/harems use in an effort to make their characters someone you can project yourself onto, but Netoge manages to instill personality into him which makes Nishimura feel like something more than the usual “Insert yourself here” leads. It helps that he has a backstory, quite a funny one at that, that enriches the character enough that he doesn’t feel like little more than a self insert. Ako herself is a lot of fun, but might rub viewers the wrong way. Because Ako was designed with the male gaze in mind (this is an Ecchi after all) she can come off as a idealized fantasy for nerds: The eager nerd girl who doesn’t realize how hot she is. But the show doesn’t play it like that, instead constantly pointing out Ako’s major flaws as she’s unable to divorce fiction from reality. It’s not a minor problem, and causes real world troubles that no one glosses over, even if Ako’s got a body many a young man would have trouble resisting. Perhaps Ako works so well because of the efforts of Rina Hidaka (Bakuman, Black Bullet, Kantai Collection, Shokugeki no Soma, etc.) who manages to sell Ako as the adorable, yet twisted young woman that she is.
Linny: Ako’s pronounced and highlighted social awkwardness really makes her stand out as a heroine. Yes, we have had several anime in the past that have gamer girl heroines but they’re usually extremely popular and charming while Ako is this completely delusional and creepy girl who has severe issues separating online and real life events to the point that she physically attacks someone in real life for something they did online. She’s not even that great at gaming, unlike characters like Asuna and Sinoh. Ako is a weird mix of feminine stereotypes and otaku stereotypes which is sure to have both fans and critics buzzing. Critics will have issues with the fact that she’s made to be a shallow girly player, one who prioritizes her in-game appearance and romance over actual gameplay and functionality, and reinforces the stereotype about gamers/non social people having an intense hatred for ‘normies’ while fans will enjoy the fact that she is shown to be actually terrible at social interactions, and not have it dismissed or ‘cured’ with the wave of a wand. And while Rusian (Nishimura) has a lot of the blandness typically ascribed to harem male leads, being generally a nice guy and constantly surrounded by girls, his embarrassing backstory helps to make him instantly more likable.
Tom: Beyond our two leads we have Akane, the resident tsundere and Kyou, the school’s student president. Each provides their own style of humor, with Akane’s brash demeanor in the game and her prickly personality in the real world. Kyou is used as a source of comedy surrounding the gaming community’s ire for premium based players (people who sink real money into the in game market). But outside of this neither gets much development, both remaining as plot tokens to keep new situations flowing in. Particularly Kyou is used in this fashion, the source of finances to ensure our characters have the game tech and opportunity to find themselves in increasingly abnormal situations. Additionally two other characters are gradually introduced and help to bulk up the cast size, but get even less fleshing out than Kyou or Akane, never featuring prominently enough to become core cast members.
Linny: It’s hard to ignore the fact that yes, every other character in the series is nothing more than a plot device at the end of the day, meant to help keep the story moving or provide quick comedic relief. Ako and Nishimura make a great couple and great leads but it would have been nice to have a supporting cast that wasn’t limited to their particular and singular shtick for the entire run. On the other hand, that also means that if you don’t particular care for Nishimura or Ako, then the show is less likely to impress or engage you due to the limited development of the supporting cast.
Tom: Visually I found Netoge to be a treat to watch as they put effort into distinguishing between the real world and gaming world by utilizing separate color palettes. Both palettes are oozing with color in their own right, but manage to sell the idea that our characters exist both in the real world but also in the gaming world whenever they’re playing together. Fan service is on the softer side here as well, content to keep it incidental rather than forcing unlikely situations and accident on our heroes to generate more cleavage and ass. There’s still quite a few suggestive shots, and revealing outfits for our girls to show off their stuff, but you won’t find anyone accidentally face planting into crotches.
Linny: Netoge balances real life and online interactions perfectly, giving us enough of both worlds to satisfy and engage gamers and non gamers alike. Not only that, it mixes both worlds well, such as introducing a story line that causes drama both in real life and online when a hacker manages to infiltrate Nishimura’s account. There are occasional jokes and references that might go over the heads of people who are alien to the world of online gaming but there’s still enough content that would entertain regardless. Also, despite the initial focus on forming a club to help Ako overcome her otaku mindset, the characters seem to admit defeat or forget their objective more often than not. It’s not like they completely abandon that premise but there are quite a few situations that seem to have less to do with helping Ako change and more to do with the gang just having fun under the pretext of club activities. Ako seems extremely comfortable with her guild members and no one else from the start and by the end of the show this hasn’t really changed. This might frustrate those who were hoping to see Ako make more progress than what actually ends up happening, which is to say zero progress.
Tom: As enjoyable as the love story between Ako and Nishimura can be, it ultimately takes a backseat during the later half of the series in favor of a more gaming focused narrative. It’s not to say the love story is abandoned, but the show gradually becomes more interested in playing with its other elements more predominantly, such is the case with the series finale that focuses on the teams efforts in online PvP. It’s a solid finale for the series, but one that comes at the cost of near abandonment for the romance aspect of the series.
Linny: As someone who started the show terrified of its ecchi tag devolving into harem, Netoge ended up one of my favourite shows of the season because of its restrained fan service and its quality humour. The romance between Ako and Nishimura is both innocent and insane and the gaming sections of the show made for a thrilling and amusing watch even for someone less familiar with mmorpgs. Netoge is a sweet little comedy that can be picked up by almost any kind of viewer as it has a lot of generally accessible and enjoyable elements. As for its portrayal of the world of gaming and gamers themselves, it does use a lot of stereotype humour, some for good and some that might irk those who are tired of the media’s less than favourable standing that obssessive gamers are usually extremely anti-social. Unless you are extremely jaded about that, Netoge does maintain such an air of fluffiness through its colours and characters that any negative tones it has can be brushed off as a joke.
Tom: Netoge is based off a presently ongoing Light Novel series and there’s currently no word on if we’ll be seeing a follow up or not. I find myself eager at the idea though and would actually really love more time with these characters as they attempt to help Ako divorce herself between the gaming world. Netoge is one of the few Ecchi anime where I’ve felt there’s an actual heart beneath all the fan service, humor that doesn’t center around tits and ass and strives to have a little more substance than the average fare. I’ll be recommending Netoge as I find it to have been one of the more fun, light-hearted shows available this season.
And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online? is available for streaming via Funimation.com.