(04) MMO Junkie is rape culture

Two guys stalk an ex-coworker in order to get a date from her.

MMO Junkie: joking about sexual assault is always hilarious

Really, wasn’t this supposed to be a relatable cringe comedy about a woman in her thirties quitting her job to become a NEET and play MMOs, perhaps with a bit of online gender swapped romance? How did it get to this?

MMO Junkie: meet uncute

In hindsight things had begone to go wrong since the second episode. In the first episode our protagonist Morioka Moriko, had started in a new MMO role playing as Hayashi, a male knight. She met up and quickly became best friends with Sakurai Yuta, a guy role playing as Lily, a female healer, though neither know of the other’s gender switch. In the second, after Hayashi and Lily had spent the whole night playing together, Morioka literally runs into Sakurai going to the convenience store. She passes out and wakes up with him having taken her to the hospital. When she texts him later to thank him for his help, he asks her out. Which seems a bit iffy: how often do you hit on women you’ve accidentally knocked unconscious?

MMO Junkie: stalking is fine

That could’ve been forgiven, but the third episode opens with Sakurai asking his co-worker about Morioka, as they had worked at the same company, having already stalk^w researched her enough to find this out and find the training manual she had written. Dodgy enough, but then the co-worker tells about the time he caught her crying on the phone, which, yeah. Remember that at this point Sakurai doesn’t know anything about Morioka, or that she’s Hayashi; she’s literally just a woman who he ran into in the streets, nothing more. Even his co-worker Koiwai calls him a stalker at this point, though as the next episode proves, he’s just as bad.

MMO Junkie: Kowai is aggressive

Or perhaps even worse, as he coincidently runs into Morioka at the supermarket, recognises her and talks her into a date. Koiwai is the most problematic character in the series: aggressive, manipulative and not above gaslighting Morioka if it gets results. That he does it for a noble cause, to get Morioka and Sakurai together is no excuse. The scene in this episode where he basically pressures Morioka in going for drinks together was painful to watch and not in a good cringe worthy way. It just came across as low level harassment rather than something romantic. He uses his past acquaintance with her and her admission that she’s jobless and a NEET to browbeat her into accepting, where she herself feels she has no right to refuse.

MMO Junkie: defenceless

Episode five and six is where it all came to a head for me. In episode five Morioka prepares for her date with Koiwai, asking advice from Lily online, as Hayashi, with neither of them yet knowing who they are in real life. However, because of what Hayashi tells Lily about his date, the latter does begin to suspect he is Morioka. When she goes on her date and Kowai doesn’t show up, she thinks she has mistook the day it was supposed to take place. However, it’s strongly hinted that Koiwai had actually set her up. I got the impression his plan all along had been to skip out on his date, to give Sakurai a chance to “coincidently” run into her and go out with her instead. An impression reinforced by how much he talked Sakurai up when Koiwai went on his date with her the next day. Which lead to the sending of the text message and photo as shown at the top of the post. It was at this point I stopped watching the series, as the combination of Koiwai gaslighting Morioka and the rapey text he sent was just too much.

MMO Junkie: no self confidence

One other thing that bothered me about episode 4-5 needs mentioning too. The clerk at the supermarket Morioka shops at had noticed that she was always buying internet money for use in the MMO she played as Hayashi. He talks to her about it, learns who she is then reveals he’s actually her guild master. Which in itself is not a problem, but he then uses this to hassle her a bit about her on and offline life. All with the best of intentions, but still. This is a recurring theme in the middle episodes of the series: he, Koiwai, Sakurai all know more about Morioka than she does about them. Sakurai knows or suspected that she was Hayashi since episode five, but only tells the truth about himself at the end of episode eight. This information disparity means Morioka is continuously in the dark about their true motives. It doesn’t help that she’s already suffering from a low self esteem and has a lack of confidence in herself. You could imagine a Morioka in real life might’ve been devastated to find out that her online confidante was actually the man who was romantically pursuing her. There’s a trust issue here that’s never really resolved.

MMO Junkie: despite everything, a happy end

The series improves a lot from episode seven onwards. Sakurai struggles to match his attraction to Morioka with his knowledge that she is Hayashi, then learning in episode seven that she was also his best friend in a previous MMO. When he finally confesses the truth about him being Lily to Morioka in episode eight, things can finally move ahead and the last two episodes is where they finally and slowly start to develop their relationship, with some last minute meddling by Koiwai. This part was actually quite sweet but came a bit late for me after the unpleasantness of the middle episodes. I get the strong feeling that the writers just didn’t know how to get Morioka and Sakurai from being online friends without knowing the other in real life into a proper relationship, other than to use a hefty dollop of romcom coincidences and third party manipulation by Koiwai, who conveniently knew them both. It’s a pity, because there’s so much you could do with an online relationship moving beyond friendship into mutual attraction and something more, the slow discovery of the “real” person behind the MMO character. Both Morioka and Sakurai are perfectly sweet, innocent cinnamon buns, so it’s vexing that the series had to manipulate them this way to get them together.

This is the ninth post in this year’s twelve days of anime challenge. Tomorrow: disappointing sequels.

Ouran High School Host Club’s rape culture issues

Ouran Highschool Host Club: rape threats as argument

That was the moment I found the metaphorical turd in the punch bowl and realised that there was indeed a shitty taste to my refreshing harem rom com anime series. A pity, because up until then I had been enjoying the story about a scholarships tudent at a very elite highschool who is mistaken for a boy and financially blackmailed into working for the school’s host club after she broke an expensive vase –nobody in Japan has heard of insurance or the story would’ve been over before it could start. Until then I could sort of ignore the sexist subtext behind Ouran High School Host Club, but when you get rape threats (fake or not) used to “prove” to our heroine that she’s a girl and should be more aware of that, a line is crossed. Though a certain amount of sexist assumptions is a given in a shoujo manga and for the most part it’s not that noticable in Ouran High School Host club, this particular scene and episode made it hard to continue with the series.

Ouran Highschool Host Club: not a strong sense of gender

What made me keep watching was Haruhi Fujioka, the fish out of water at the very rich and very elite Ouran High School and also the one sane woman in a bunch of amiable idiots, often the unwilling centre of their plans. She’s interesting because she isn’t the usual blushing heroine existing only to be romanced. Not bothered by which gender people see her as, she passes as male in school and the club to be able to be a host and pay off her debt. And I uses “passes” advisedly, as there is something genderqueer about her, especially at first. What’s refreshing is that she doesn’t change that much over the series even when she becomes more lovey dovey.

Ouran Highschool Host Club: girls cannot fight guys

Is episode eight then just an isolated misstep, just a bit of awkward sexism, excused by the quality of the rest of the series? Not entirely. The idea that Haruhi should keep remembering she’s a girl and act like one crops up in other parts of the series as well and is one of those pernicious bits of gender essentialism that anime & manga, especially in the romance & harem genres, seems extremely fond of. In the context of the episode it also comes across as victim blaming, of Haruhi being responsible for being thrown off a cliff or of being threatened by rape because she trusted her friend and “wasn’t cautious enough”. That’s not something you can defend no matter how good the rest of the series is.

Your Happening World (July 14th through July 22nd)

  • 1974 -1986: A Spotlight Chronology (work in progress/draft) | Bits of Books, Mostly Biographies – What is perhaps most notable in placing a series of press reports on abuse scandals over any period of time is that there’s a lot of shock and outrage and not much action from anyone in a position of duty, responsibility or power to do anything except to apparently express more shock and outrage, this time on our behalf, before swiftly moving on. Something the collection of press reports at SpotlightOnAbuse ably demonstrate and which forms the spine of this chronology.
  • BBC – Blogs – Adam Curtis – WHAT THE FLUCK! – That at the same time as the police pursue the dodgy private investigators, like AIS, who are bugging and hacking their way into thousands of peoples' lives, the very same police – along with the security services, GCHQ and the NSA – are doing exactly the same to millions of other people. The only difference is that it's legal – because the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act of 2000, and other laws, allow them to do it.
  • How to find the missing Buk system | KoreanDefense.com
  • i believe you | it’s not your fault – Can we use our collective life experience to be a safe haven for kids who need it? Can we tell stories and answer questions and offer solidarity and resources and maybe break some cycles before they begin? Can we do it with humor and transparency, and without coming across like dorky, hand-wringing moms? After all, so many of us are still those kids. So many of us will always be those kids. Well, we can try. … We’re just people who’ve been through stuff, and we’re here. Ask us anything. It’s not your fault. We believe you.
  • Rick Remender, Alleged Statutory Rape, and Jet Black – If your discomfort with the whole Captain America #22 issue is simply the fact that sex had happened between two consenting adults in the presence of alcohol, this isn’t for you. You’re free and completely entitled to hate that and view it with great disdain but my attitude and problem with the fandom is not because of people finding issue with that overused plot device to get two people to finally be comfortable enough to do it but because of people making claims that Jet Black is 14 years old (when she’s not) and thus stating that despite her even saying she’s beyond those years to dare accuse Remender writing a statutory rape scene and faulting Sam Wilson as a rapist. If you had any of these thoughts, this is for you. Before you continue your crusade, please at least let me provide you with some facts.
  • The End of Fan-Run Conventions? | Cheryl’s Mewsings – My point is, however, that there is no upside to running fan conventions anymore. There is no satisfaction in a job well done. The only probable outcome is that you will spend the weeks after the convention dealing with angry and disappointed attendees, and avoiding social media because you don’t want to have to read the awful things that are being said about you.