The Authenticity of And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online?
Quick note: Gamer terminology incoming. There is a glossary of terms with definitions at the bottom of this page!
"And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online?" (AKA "Netoge no Yome") begins with a strong premise; how many girls actually play online games? And how many female avatars that you meet in online games are actually males in real life?
Hideki Nishimura, the main protagonist, has been burned by cross-playing in the past. He fell in love with a cat girl healer he had met in the game, only to be rejected by her because she was actually an older man in real life.
This single event changes his entire perception on in game relationships. He continues to log into the game to have fun with his guild, but he has now built a strong separation between the game world and the real world.
It’s a strong premise but sadly doesn’t hold up even past the first episode, which in my opinion is one of the weakest episodes in the series. That first episode is filled with fan service shots, unnecessary use of gamer lingo like “Shortening my life like a DOT!,” and the reduction of the main cast to “death to the normies” gamer stereotypes.
The first and second episodes made me drop the series entirely when it was first airing, yet after I returned to the show to give it a second chance, I was pleasantly surprised by its sincerity.
After “And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online?” gets its shtick out of the way, the actual conflict begins and the heart of the story is revealed to be pretty strong.
The main heroine of the story, Ako, is a healer who falls head over heels for Nishimura, a tank in the online game they play together. The two end up married in the game and when their guild decides to arrange a real world meet up, Nishimura realizes Ako believes they are married in real life as well.
This setup makes for a fun rom-com, but Ako’s inability to separate the game world from reality becomes the central focus of the rest of the series, with her guild mates creating a club with the goal of, well, “fixing” her.
Ako is immature, dramatic, constantly lost in fantasy, and often putting herself in danger through her own naivety. She refuses to make new friends and misses school constantly. Her number one priority is the game.
And that’s why I had to keep watching this series. Because it turned out that Ako was me.
I started playing online games at about thirteen or fourteen years old. I was young, my home life wasn’t anything to gloat about, and at that age I still had imaginary ideas to keep me company when I was lonely. I had a mind ready for make believe, a state of waiting to be rewritten in a way, to become someone else and live another life.
And so online games hooked me immediately and I quickly became Ako. I took all of my in game relationships seriously. I was loyal to a fault but also impossibly cheery. I wasn’t very good at the game but I was chatty and made friends way easier in the game than I dared even attempt in real life.
The game world was such a lovely fantasy where it felt like everyone could start on equal footing. It was a place of forgetting who I was and celebrating every little moment, every new piece of gear I earned or skill I mastered.
It was also the place I retreated to when things went wrong, just like Ako, who hides herself away in the virtual world whenever she is upset about her real life.
There is an especially disturbing episode wherein Ako disappears and threatens to “reincarnate” her character in the game. She hints to Nishimura that she might “reincarnate” in real life too. Nothing is explicitly stated in the episode but the warning is enough to get the message across.
And I’m kind of horrified to admit that I had a few online gaming moments to mirror that too. One evening my friends caught me in the middle of a field in game, purposefully getting murdered by monsters over and over, losing XP every time I did, eventually leveling myself down. I don’t remember what it was about anymore, but at the time I had felt like I needed some sort of divine punishment.
This series is chock full of tropes and shtick but it also frequently addresses the obsession, the delusion, the dark side of being unable to separate fantasy from reality, and those moments resonated with me so much.
That’s not to say that the series shuns gaming entirely or online friendships. Actually the series spends about an even split of time between the real world and the game world and emphasizes the positive relationships that you can build too.
There is a real sense of camaraderie in the guild the Alley Cats and Nishimura encounters even more in game characters that give him advice on real world problems or even put their own reputations on the line to help him.
There is also a beach scene, a bath house scene, a cultural festival scene… You know the drill.
It doesn’t exactly have the storytelling of a show like MMO Junkie and it did leave me yearning for an anime that would actually tell the story of girls online, but if you’ve ever been addicted to a game, if you’ve ever made friends online, if you’ve ever even a little bit wanted to be like Ako and just forget reality, you might just find something here for you.
Recommended for fans of: romantic comedies, fan service, gaming culture, series with happy endings.
Cross-play - In this series it refers to someone who plays the opposite gender in the game. Example, a female in real life making a male character in the game, or a male in real life making a female character in the game. It’s a very common occurrence in real online games too, though the terminology may differ.
Healer - a character job in games referring to someone who specializes in casting curing magic on their friends and keeping everyone alive.
Tank - a character job in games meant to be on the front lines of battle, a defender to take all of the heavy damage so their other teammates can live longer and get more hits in.
DOT - An acronym standing for Damage Over Time. Usually an effect like poison that continues to hurt your character little by little until you heal it or you die.
Normies - Not an actual gaming term I’ve personally heard anyone use. However in this anime it refers to “normal people” who don’t play games, watch anime, or otherwise indulge in fantasy. Most of the classmates featured in the show are “normies.”
Guild - An organization of people formed in an online game, like a club. Members can be invited or kicked out of a guild. They tend to play the game together often. It helps to join a guild and have people around to play with rather than playing alone and always searching for help from strangers.