And You Thought There Is Never a Disaster Bi Online?
Reconciling your fondness of anime can be difficult, particularly if internalizing derisive ‘hide your powerlevel’ conceits happened to graze your conscious at a malleable age, rising to a deafening wail whenever you happen to see someone with Yuri on Ice pins proudly covering their bag. Expressing unabashed affection towards otaku-centric media yields Pavlovian pangs of shame, and as a result I’ve always shied away from anime fans, deathly afraid of the stigma attached. Of being seen as One of Them. Such skittish modes of behaviour similarly seeped into the online communities I frequented, where until this year I consistently expressed reluctance to get involved in channels beyond the safe and distant stream of my own twitter feed.
Over the past few months however a lingering sense of gloom has begun to shroud such interactions, imperviously so, where as I grow closer to people I’m caught between opening up to them and settling for practiced avoidance, firmly kept at arm’s length. Despite having never played an MMO there’s so much about how interpersonal relationships are broached – both online and offline – that capture the difficulties struggling with ostensibly nebulous boundaries in Recovery of an MMO Junkie.
In the throes of vulnerability you want to open up, desperately so, the notion of an incensed tirade or blissful gush over something that happened in your personal life most appealing, cathartic even – but there’s always the scathing voice to keep in mind, chill façades to be maintained and powerlevels to be hidden. It would be remiss to bring personal baggage to otherwise easy-going communities where people want to relax, it sneers. A striking earlier sequence in Recovery of an MMO Junkie depicts Moriko and Sakurai struggling with similar interpersonal-motivated concerns as they draw closer together, mutually mystified at the unique sense of distance yet intimacy that can be fostered via online interactions; where one is pure id, able to be themselves entirely. It results in Sakurai asking the forbidden “you want to know about the private life of someone you don’t know outside a game?”, capturing the level of shameful acuity often inextricably involved in such fraught and complex interplays. There is always that hesitance, that uncertainty. But most of all that keen desire to know more about the people you spend e-time with, because at the end of the day you do consider them to be your friends.
As Moriko navigates the discomfort of her guild betting on her age, an inevitable element of intrusiveness where you feel a touch scandalized surfaces; personally bringing to mind flashes of irritation where despite intentionally culling girlish typing mannerisms all those years ago, being referred to as ‘he’ struck a nerve. You cannot possibly intervene, it feels, adding an element of profound density to what appears to be a relatively simple communicative process. Despite what a cursory glance at its synopsis may belie, Recovery of an MMO Junkie rarely settles for escapist narratives, reconciling the cast’s lived experiences with in-game avatars despite the indescribably twee sentiments, all blushes and flushes on virtual beaches. The MMO bonded over is not a dazzling escape, but a coping mechanism to aid the often fraught everyday where one can simply relax; be who they want to be if needs be, the show itself facilitating rich readings of gender presentation online. The comfort Moriko exhibits upon logging in to Fruits de Mer earns an appreciative nod, the login page’s thrill flutes melodious heralds following a night of draining social obligations.
As one character notes the game provides a unique refuge in that you can be alone, but not lonely. Despite being caught between sincerity and eschewal, interactions are multifaceted, defying conventional modes of interpretation. With online in particular maintaining a level of discretion is imperative, as there will always be information you’re reluctant to broach – and that’s perfectly fine. There’s no point in being caught between two alternatives, instead settling for a comforting compromise which enables you to continue to remain in those soothing online spaces.