There comes a time when you think you know what you are getting in an anime and are later disappointed in the outcome. You hear about shows that are hyped by a ton of fans, only to watch it and not understand why people are enjoying it so much.  On the other side of things, you also come across a show not thinking that you’ll find it pleasing, and it turns into something enjoyable (almost like a diamond in the rough). That’s the feeling I got after finishing And You Thought a Girl is Never Online?. While I looked at this show as a typical harem anime that involved MMO’s, it is funny, endearing, and a downright treat.

In this series we follow Hideki Nishimura (AKA Rusian) as he plays the famous MMO Legendary Age. Instead of getting trapped in the game he plays, like we’ve seen so many times in anime, Rusian plays with his guildmates as any average kid would. We watch as Rusian, Ako, Apricot, and Schwein perform raid battles and defeat monsters (or try to). During a late-night session of gaming, Apricot (the guild master) decides that the guild should meet up in in real life (IRL). Reluctantly the guild members agree, with Rusian fully expecting them to be male. Before joining the guild, he proclaimed his love for a character called Nekohime and was rejected after Nekohime admitted to being male. So Rusian waited and later found out that his guildmates are acquaintances he knows from school (one being the student body president and the other being another popular classmate), and they all happen to be girls (which includes his in-game wife, Ako). It’s then that the group realizes that Ako doesn’t differentiate between the game and real life and treats Rusian as if they are husband and wife. This, of course, leads to hilarity through 12 episodes as the group tries to break Ako of this delusion.

Seeing how Ako is in the real world Kyoh/Apricot creates the Net Game Club at school, for them to not only play Legendary Age together but to help show Ako the difference between real life and the game. This leads to a ton of mishaps where Ako gets confused and causes trouble for her guildmates (such as nearly attacking a teacher and not going to school). The rest of the guild wants to help Ako become a more functioning member of society, but it turns out that this could be the most challenging task in human history. Ako doesn’t enjoy the real world and finds it a genuinely depressing place, but it’s up to Rusian and the rest of the club to prove that real life isn’t the worst thing in the world (even if they all think it is).

I liked how hilarious this series was. The humor never felt cliched or forced like you get in some anime. Many genuinely funny moments were memorable for me, such as during episode nine, when Kyoh/Apricot delivered a terrific line when asked how “normies” can say such uplifting things, to which she replied, “they haven’t been broken down by life yet.” That is the mentality of those who do not enjoy the lifestyle of “normies” and it was perfect in this anime. Another great scene was when we weren’t sure what Rusian was drinking during episode five when he visited Ako’s room. Whether the subject was about video games or real life, the jokes hit a lot more than they missed, which wasn’t something I expected.

I also enjoyed the group dynamics as the story developed. While I think that Rusian and Ako are the two that will end up together, I do see some elements of love and potential jealousy between Kyoh/Apricot and Schwien/Akane. Each had their private moments with Rusian which could be interpreted as having feelings for him, but it wasn’t as if it drove them to try to come between Rusian and Ako. So instead, they both try their best to help Rusian get closer to Ako in real life, and get Ako to see the difference between the game and real life. Which in turn made the group of friends even more endearing. It was easy to root for the love between Rusian and Ako to grow, especially when characters in the show were rooting for it too.

Watching the group work together and strut their stuff was amusing. I couldn’t get enough of Kyoh/Apricot gushing over the mystery of “loot boxes” and purchasing premium items in the game. It got to a point where even Rusian and Akane/Schwien would despise her for being able to buy all of those expensive items. It was also fun hearing Akane/Schwien talk about how good she is at killing monsters, or when she had to try and conceal the fact that she is actually into MMO’s. The two brought a balance to the show, with Rusian being an all-around good player and Ako being unable to figure out what to do in the game.

The subject matter in And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online? was something of a surprise. While this is a silly/harem show, I found the idea that gaming can be an escape (and one that Ako took very literally) something that anyone who games a lot knows. I was not expecting to do any self-evaluation when watching this series. We can lose ourselves in games, and it’s important to unplug and engage in real life, too. I can easily relate to the main cast with how they feel about the real world. Sometimes we might have to hide what we love and deal with situations that aren’t enjoyable (like when Ako was gets questioned about Rusian from classmates). But that doesn’t mean we should shut ourselves away and get lost in something we love. We need to have a balance, or we might never leave our comfort zone to become a better person.

Despite this being an anime about school kids playing MMO’s, there was a surprising amount of action. Of course, this occurs as we observe our gang play Legendary Age (as well as an FPS for an episode), but it was pretty neat seeing some action to go along with the typical antics of a slice of life anime. Toward the end of the series, the siege warfare PVP event provided a delicate balance that kept me interested throughout the entire series. I wasn’t expecting this show to be one of the best romantic comedies that could also keep me on the edge of my seat, but the action gave it more flow and held my interest even more.

There were some things that I found either conflicting or odd while watching this show, starting with the fanservice. If you want to have a fanservice show, that’s fine, and I typically enjoy that kind of anime. But I wasn’t sure how far And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online? was willing to go. At points, I thought it would be tamer, due to the overall tone of the show. We see very little covering Apricot’s torso, especially when the character switched genders after Rusian discovers who’s behind the character. And the camera shots of the female character’s lower body during the beach episode was jarring, to say the least. It made me wonder where we’d be going, and during the girl’s sleepover episode it became quite raunchy. While you don’t see any anatomy, you come very close to it, with the girls chasing Ako to make sure she doesn’t video call Rusian. The exposure of the girls seemed off for a series that wasn’t billing itself as that kind of fanservice anime.

Also, I found the whole situation involving Rusian and Nekohime to be upsetting, including when the player mentally destroys Rusian’s view about falling in love, and the when we find out that Nekohime is Rusian’s homeroom teacher. I’m okay with teachers becoming friends with students, as I had done when I was in school. But when she called Hideki Rusian in class, that crossed a line I’m not so thrilled about. It came off as unprofessional, and while this isn’t a serious anime, I didn’t like how that played out, especially with the extent that Nekohime played video games at school with the students.

Overall, I’m very impressed with the casting Cris George did with this series. I felt that the main cast sounded precisely the way that these characters supposed to. Dallas Reid was a perfect choice to play Rusian, as he has the lungs to be the straight man in this anime. Trina Nishimura using a more cutesy voice instead of the femme fatal one was a nice change of pace that shows how versatile she is. Jad Saxton is easily one of the more flexible voice actors FUNimation casts, and having her as Akane/Schwien (with the rambunctious attitude) was perfect. There were times where Mallory Rodak seemed stiff or monotone as Kyoh/Apricot, but it wasn’t often enough to be a huge issue. Rounding out the cast with Monica Rial and Tia Ballard made the entire anime sound tremendous and an English dub that I think many fans can enjoy. It also sounded a lot crisper than it did while watching the “Simuldub” (as I remembered), which also made this release even better than before.

The release includes a few commentaries, one video, and one audio, and the video was a blast to listen to. Hearing stories from Trina Nishimura, Dallas Reid, and Cris George was intriguing, even if it didn’t offer much in voicing the series. It was refreshing to hear how they enjoyed dubbing episode five, which they felt was the funniest due to Ako being naked when Rusian walks into her room (after Ako’s mother gave him the key to her room), and leaving fans in suspense as to what Rusian was drinking in her room.

Overall, I’m pleased to say that I enjoyed And You Thought a Girl is Never Online?. If you are in the mood for a slice of life/harem anime, then this series is one of the first ones you should see. Not only does it have the typical antics that slice of life fans enjoy, but it offers some action that might interest those who aren’t as big into a slice of life series. The primary cast dynamic is a treat, and you don’t have to worry about all the girls fawning over Rusian (as that doesn’t happen). It’s just a group of friends trying to help one another be better people while playing MMO’s in the process.

Rating: 8/10

Pros: Surprisingly deep for a romantic comedy/harem anime; truly funny moments throughout the series; more action than I’d expect showcased in the game; main characters group dynamic was pleasant to watch develop.

Cons: This series couldn’t seem to make its mind up on how far it was willing to go into being an ecchi series; some “interesting” camera angles; Nekohime’s relationship with Rusian.

C.J Maffris is an editorial writer for Feel free to follow C.J on Twitter @SeaJayMaffris