And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online? (2016)

Episodes 01 – 12

From Online Wife to Real Life

There’s a widespread belief amongst gamers that there aren’t any women in the online community, meaning that if someone claims they’re a girl, or uses a female avatar, they’re probably lying. Based on a light novel series written by Shibai Kineko and illustrated by Hisasi, And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online? aims to debunk this popular opinion in an entertaining and insightful way. Originally titled You Thought Your Online Game Wife Wasn’t A Girl? or Netoge no Yome wa Onna no Ko Janai to Omotta? in Japanese, the show centers on a group of avid teenaged gamers who play a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) called Legendary Age or LA for short.

‘So what if it’s nice outside. We can game with the windows open.’

Our protagonist is an ‘open-otaku’ first-year high schooler named Hideki Nishimura, who plays LA under the moniker of Rusian. A powerful male knight in the online world, but by no means a super-star, we first meet our hero when he’s part of an in-game guild called Ally Cats, made up of three other players whom he assumes are dudes. We quickly learn, however, that Nishimura, just like most others, is inclined to believe that players who use female avatars (especially those who claim that they’re girls in real-life) are simply fibbing, this due to an awkward experience he had in the past. Be that as it may, Nishimura gives in when one of his guildmates, a cutesy, klutzy healer named Ako Tamaki, proposes to him, asking to become his cyber wife (even though he suspects she’s a guy).

Soon after, the foursome decides to meet up IRL (in real life) at a nearby café after realizing that they’re all from the same area. Much to Nishimura’s amazement, though, his guildmates turn out to be girls, all of whom attend his school. Ally Cats’ guild leader Apricot is purple-haired school council president Kyō Goshōin, while swordsman (or woman) Schwein — who didn’t realize that her alias means ‘pig’ in German — is a trendy twin-tailed blonde named Akane Segawa, who goes around boasting that she hates otakus (think your classic tsundere character).

‘For the loot!’

Although Nishimura’s in-game wife Ako (thankfully) happens to be a girl, she’s got a major problem in that she can’t differentiate between the game world and reality, and thinks that Nishimura is her husband for real. And so, in order to try and solve this little conundrum, the group forms a gaming club (Modern Communications Electronic Game Club) at their school to help Ako, who’s just as infatuated with Nishimura in reality, learn to separate the digital world from the physical.

Directed by Shinsuke Yanagi, who worked as an animation director on the similarly themed Accel World (2012), And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online? does a great job highlighting a lot of truths about the gaming community. For one, it’s nice to see a series that candidly illustrates how people with social anxiety use the online landscape to escape, and how difficult it can be for these folk to slide themselves back into reality. Additionally, there’s a plot thread on the dangers of Internet safety, which encourages viewers to think twice about entering passwords or personal details into public computers. The show also addresses the hard fact that some female gamers choose male avatars when playing online in order to be taken more seriously, a concern that’s hardly presented in anime. Given all of this, however, the series is still light and breezy and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

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With that in mind, there’s a ton of fun to be had when the troupe attend an internet-free summer vacation training camp (hello obligatory swimsuit episode — fan service is light, albeit satisfying for a show of this ilk) or have a go at a military-type first-person shooter called Ultra Force for a bit of variety. The last three episodes are also stellar, with the Ally Cats taking part in a PVP (player versus player) battle to represent their school for the annual culture festival. Furthermore, it’s refreshing to see how the quartet interacts with one another differently depending on their environments, be it Legendary Age or while sitting beside each other in the clubroom.

The artwork and animation by Project No.9, Ro-Kyu-Bu! (2011), is bright and colorful yet kinda basic, while the characters themselves, although somewhat one-dimensional, are interesting enough, at least from a design standpoint. While the principal pair of Nishimura and Ako feel as though they could’ve been copied and pasted from any other anime, it’s the secondary players that really pop, and shed light on some rarely seen concepts.

It’s all fun & games until someone can’t respawn.

Bad ‘mama jama’ Segawa, for instance, pretends to be a ‘normie’ when socializing with her peers at school, hiding her love for Legendary Age to keep her reputation intact, her arc showing viewers that it’s okay to enjoy whatever hobbies you’re into and that any passion (no matter how nerdy) is something you shouldn’t be ashamed of. Student rep Goshōin is another solid inclusion, writers using her character to expose those well-off players who use real money to purchase premium in-game items to boost their abilities — let’s face it, we all know a ‘Wallet Warrior.’ Moreover, Apricot’s combatant outfit (a green scarf that barely covers her chest) is pretty killer!

Other players of note are Nishimura’s glasses-wearing teacher Yui Saitō, who becomes the club’s advisor after it’s revealed that she plays Legendary Age, too, veiling under the guise of a kawaii cat-looking teen named Nekohime. Another standout is Segawa’s pink-haired buddy Nanako Akiyama, who finds out that her BFF is a gamer, eventually joining the LA community as a scantily clad summoner.

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Bookended by a pretty standard opener, ‘1st Love Story’ by Luce Twinkle Wink☆, and closer, ‘Zero Ichi Kiseki’ by Yoshino Nanjō, And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online? has more on its mind than just frothy entertainment, the series giving those who aren’t that way inclined some insight into the gaming/ online world. Sure, the whole thing can feel a tad generic, but if you’re like me and enjoy both gaming and anime, seeing these passions enthusiastically overlap with this amount of care is a bona fide win, which ever way you look at it.

3.5 / 5 – Great

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online? is released through Madman Entertainment Australia