If there was one complaint over Net-juu no Susume that gave me pause to think about, was that it didn’t deliver as a romance show. And I have to agree. It marketed itself as such, set viewer expectations ablaze, only to wrap things up with the OTP holding hands.
Before the show ended, I was contemplating about the kind of ending that I wanted to see. I wasn’t praying for Moriko and Yuuta to hook up, rather I just wanted Moriko to be happy. I honestly didn’t want her situation to change all of a sudden just because she happened to meet a hot guy. Certainly, guy problems weren’t what pushed her down the path of a NEET, and I can tell you from my own experiences love is not what solves these types of problems either. But it’s easy to assume that.
The list of assumptions is lengthier than it seems. For example, does Moriko ever signal, either with spoken or body language, that she is physically attracted to Yuuta? She makes a few observations about his appearance: his blonde hair and blue eyes, not to mention calling him an ikemen. However, it’s hard to call that an unequivocal declaration of lust or attraction. Ikemen, as an ideal of Japanese masculine beauty, is very formalized, to the point it got itself its own term.
Speaking of our pretty boy character, it can’t be a coincidence that Yuuta as Lily performs a very masculinized feminine ideal, while in the real world he is performing the quintessential ikemen. In this way, he clads himself with traditional Japanese gender aesthetics at their extremes at any given moment.
And in that last scene, Moriko still seems quite miserable, despite herself landing a hot, rich ikemen. Moreso, from her words it seems she feels pressured to reintegrate back into society. That’s why the scene doesn’t have them cuddling together by the computer screen, but rather them walking alongside as proper man and woman out in public, while their gender-swapped, improper identities are hiding in the glass reflection.
I suppose this all has to do with the issue of the symbolic order, doesn’t it? Viewers expected Moriko to get herself a man, but by the end their relationship as lovers gives off the impression that it’s still half-baked. So what do our expectations for this relationship say about us? That we don’t care about Moriko’s wishes, even if she gave zero indication throughout the series that she is attracted to Yuuta as a man?
As the old saying goes: maybe she’s just not that into him.
Well, I found the show enjoyable purely outside of the romantic context. The documentary aspect of NEET life was my favorite part, as I’ve already alluded to in my previous post. However, what I found beautiful about Moriko and Yuuta’s story was that it produced a wonderful relationship, the one before they knew of each other’s sexual identity. Those weren’t important. I would also go so far as to say that they both felt more comfortable around each other when their relationship was still online-only. Every scene of them together in real life afterwards just felt awkward.
Therefore, I wish for others to think of this show more as a mischievous play on our assumptions on gender and how society ought to function, rather than a formulaic romance story that failed to achieve its archetypal goals. If nothing else, the outside of those genre confines, I reckon, was a far more positive experience.