“A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take.” –Cardinal Meymillod
Masato Ōsuki is a high school student who is not particularly receptive towards Mamako, his mother, and her doting ways. When he is assigned to beta test a new full-immersion game, he grows keen on testing it until learning that not only was Mamako also invited, but starts her journey with stats that render him quite unnecessary in most of the fantasy-themed combat. After recruiting the reliable Porta to manage the party’s inventory and crafting, Mamako and Masato also reluctantly take the sage Wise into their group before being tasked with neutralising Wise’s mother, who decided to use her powers to manifest as a minor god and live in the way she could not in reality. When Masato’s group confronts her, Mamako manages to make her stand down, and helps Wise reconcile with her mother somewhat. Later, Masato, Wise and Porta decide to enroll in a school to earn skill points and a chance at better equipment. They encounter the combat priest Medhi and her overbearing mother – Medhi reveals her dissatisfaction at being made to do everything her mother asks of her: it turns out that Medhi’s mother simply wanted Medhi to be happy and was negatively influenced by one of the in-game items. The two depart on good terms when Medhi’s mother allows her to stay with Masato and the others. The group turns their attention towards dealing with Amante, an abberation in the game whose origins are unknown, but whose intents are to eliminate mothers from the game world. After helping a group of players and their mothers out, Masato and Mamako square off against Amante with Wise, Medhi and Porta, coming on top when Masato reaches the top of the tower that Amante had sought to finish and beat her to making a wish, bringing the threat that Amante posed to an end. This is Okaa-san Online (more formally known as Tsūjou Kōgeki ga Zentai Kōgeki de ni Kai Kōgeki no Okā-san wa Suki Desuka?, or Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks?, both of which are titles too long to type), a curiosity of a series whose initial gimmick turned out to hold a much more meaningful and interesting story about the dynamics between children and their mothers.
Okaa-san Online‘s central theme is a very straightforwards – while Masato might be embarrassed to the point of frustration by Mamako’s actions, his experiences in seeing Wise and Medhi’s mothers and their corresponding action also forces him to realise that things could also be a lot worse. Over time, he comes to help mediate these differences, which leads Wise and Medhi to accept their mothers to a greater extent than they had previously, and also helps Masato resist Amante’s intents to wipe his party and bring ruin into their world. For Masato, his journey is accepting what Mamako does for him, and sharing his experiences to help others reach this point. The interactions between children and parents is a topic not often directly covered in anime, usually being a more subtle, secondary aspect. However, Okaa-san Online takes a more open approach to this: by deliberately making Mamako overpowered, Okaa-san Online suggests that parents can trivially solve problems that children struggle to address and show, in particular, that a mother’s skillset is incredibly diverse and varied. Over time, Masato does appreciate Mamako looking after him and his newfound friends, even if he is still dissatisfied with her ability to effortlessly remove all enemies in the game. The parallels to real life can be found quite easily; for instance, I’m not quite so adept at cooking and occasionally butcher something simple like curry by not adding enough water, but my mom’s able to salvage even this without giving it much thought. Of course, experience and persistence allow children to learn, and in time, we become consciously aware of what good parents can do, similarly to what Mamako does for Masato.
Screenshots and Commentary
- My initial inclination to watch Okaa-san Online was motivated primarily by the fact that Ai Kayano was playing Mamako: I know her best as GochiUsa‘s Mocha Hoto, Girls und Panzer‘s Saori Takebe and Nagi no Asukara‘s Chisaki Hiradaira. In mannerisms, Mamako is most similar to Mocha and Ah! My Goddess‘ Belldandy: kind, attentive and skillful with a wide range of tasks, her only fault is that she still comes across as being air-headed and unaware of the situation Masato finds himself in.
- The game that Masato and Mamako wind up in is a beta test of a MMORPG designed to help parents and children get closer to one another. The story skates over the technical aspects of how this game works – Masato is simply sucked into his computer at the story’s onset and is quite aware that he is in a game world. I imagine that, were such a game to exist in reality, much market research would need to be done to ensure role balance.
- For the duration of Okaa-san Online, Masato’s combat is only particularly effective against airborne opponents, while Mamako’s combat prowess have been enhanced to the point where she can do what seems impossible in-game. Her ability to use area-of-effect attacks that instantly eliminate enemy monsters is what lends itself to the series’ title: in Japanese, the series’ full name (通常攻撃が全体攻撃で二回攻撃のお母さんは好きですか?) is twenty-six characters long. The romanised version of this is seventy-three characters in length using Hepburn romanisation and seventy-eight characters if the long vowel sounds are spelt out rather than using macrons. In English, Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks? has fifty-nine characters including the question mark.
- Such a lengthy title would be a nightmare to type out and spell, so for convenience’s sake, I’ve opted to refer to the series by its short name, Okaa-san Online. Once Masato is consigned to his fate as being underpowered compared to Mamako, they begin finding a party. Porta is the first to join: a petite, pink-haired girl with a knack for inventory management and crafting, Mamako immediately takes a liking to her. The team then looks at Wise’s profile. While competent, Wise’s temper leads Masato to turn down her application. It turns out Wise had transformed herself into the application, and proceeds to lay down a physical beating on Masato.
- Okaa-san Online was initially marked as a promising series after it started, but the second episode had more than one viewer wondering if the series would go down a more degenerate path. It is the case that Masato and Mamako get into some strange situations: they encounter one monster whose attack is a slime that destroys armour, and after a chaotic few moments, Mamako manages to eliminate it. While drawing some ire from viewers, I’ve felt that Masato’s reactions make it very clear that Okaa-san Online will not go in those directions.
- Masato finds himself embarrassed beyond words when Mamako experiments with different loadouts, including one gear-set that leaves very little to the imagination. I never did get how games justify giving such sets the same defensive properties as full plate armour: in the titles I play, armour looks identical for male and female characters. On the matter of games, this weekend, I took the Ghost Recon: Breakpoint open beta for a whirl after learning about it, but found myself unimpressed overall: there will be no dedicated talk for Breakpoint. A snowfall had also slammed into the area, dropping upwards of 15 cm of snow over the past two days, and while this weekend’s been relaxing (I warmed up with fried chicken yesterday evening and spent much of the day taking it easy), one hopes that there will still be a milder autumn for October.
- The first major challenge Masato’s party deals with is Wise’s mother, who went rogue after learning of her superior specs in the game world. Masami Shirase, one of the staff members who frequently appears to provide information and support, informs them that Wise’s mother is beginning to disrupt the beta testing itself, and so, the team sets out to stop her. Mamako manages to very nearly single-handedly rectify the situation, creating an opening that Masato uses to finish things off. In the aftermath, Masato and Mamako share a moment of joy at having helped Wise to reconcile somewhat.
- Medhi’s arc is introduced next: after Masato, Wise and Porta decide to enroll at an academy to gain skill points, they encounter the combat healer Medhi, who is soft-spoken, friendly and also excels at most everything that she does. With a warm smile and shapely figure, Masato develops a minor crush on her and wonders if she’s the heroine of his story, although he quickly realises that Medhi’s got her own set of problems to deal with.
- Both Medhi’s mother and Mamako mess with their respective offspring’s school life in strange ways: Medhi’s mother stacks the deck so Medhi can demonstrate her superior understanding of the game world to further her power, while Mamako is happy to don the outfits that students wear and blend in with them, to Masato’s embarrassment. Things reach a breaking point during the simulated culture festival: when Masato and the others try to befriend Medhi and encourage her to take her own path, her mother intervenes, leading Medhi to manifest as a dragon rivalling Smaug in destructive capabilities.
- Mamako and Masato wind up resolving things, and it turns out that the equipment Medhi’s mother was given slowly corrupted her personality, amplifying that which was. Once this staff is destroyed, Medhi’s mother realises that her Tiger Parent approach was ineffectual and decides to immediately deactivate her blog on parenting. While she’d only wanted the best for Medhi, it came at the expense of her well-being. This approach of parenting is supposed to be common in Asian families, known as Kyōiku mama in Japan, and while a high pressure approach increases technical success in life, this has a mental toll on children.
- Being Asian myself, I consider myself most lucky in that my parents took a more effective approach: they expected me to approach everything I did with a genuine effort, and then the results would be secondary to the effort taken. The end result was that I would find success in most places where I did my best, and where I was met with failure, I would learn to find another way. I therefore argue that the Tiger Parent approach is ineffectual, since it creates the illusion that failure is something that cannot be recovered from. Back in Okaa-san Online, the end result of Masato, Wise and Porta’s time in school is that Porta gets what she came for, while Wise and Masato get screwed by the RNG gods.
- When it comes to luck in finding cool stuff for games, mine is strictly average, but application of effort, I’ve managed to turn things around in my favour on some occasions to reasonable success. In The Division, for instance, I did manage to acquire a complete Classified Striker’s Battlegear along with The House and Bullfrog thanks to a combination of spending time in the legendary missions and Dark Zone, plus luck with the RNG gods.
- When informed that there’s a strange situation afoot, Mamako decides to form a guild after learning of what it would take to take a tower and reach the top, where a prize awaits successful players. They learn of one Amante’s plans to eliminate mothers from their world, a rather brazen desire that seems only one step removed from Thanos’ plan to wipe out half the life in the universe. Their initial efforts are met with resistance, as players have allied with Amante. Mamako’s approach towards defusing and understanding the situation results in a group of players who no longer wish to serve Amante.
- Despite being a formidable villain in terms of raw power, Amante is very quickly reduced to a puddle of tears whenever Medhi comments on how her clumsiness will leave lasting damage on her figure. There is some truth in this: idiosyncrasies in Amante’s character leave her vulnerable to her own shortcomings despite her power, and because of this, audiences are never too sure as to how seriously they should take her.
- Having helped the male players break free of Amante’s influence, their mothers decide to show up as well to help out. Because their approach is rather unique, the end up casually moving through the dungeons and even stop for a casual lunch break that throws off Amante’s game. The fun and games continue when Amante decides to compete, one-to-one with Mamako, in a range of household tasks like dishwashing and laundry. Mamako handily wipes floor with Amante’s ass owing to her superior experience with common tasks.
- When a series of traps deprives the characters of their armour and forces them to fight in naught but their undergarmets, only Amante reacts with any degree of embarrassment. Medhi and Wise have both become accustomed to Masato seeing them sans clothes thanks to Mamako’s preference for discussing things in the onsen, and so, exhibit no reaction. Thanks to Masami’s intervention, the others are spared of this fate: ever fond of finessing shirase (知らせる, literally “to inform”) into her sentences as a bad pun on her surname, Masami appears at various points in Okaa-san Online to provide updates. She’s a rather amusing character for this reason, and I’ve become rather fond of how she speaks.
- If I had to guess, Amante is probably an aberrant boss whose parameters were not finely tuned, allowing her to run wild and create chaos in the game world. Incomplete programming would then account for her contradictory personalities and clumsy nature. Stopping her thus becomes motivated by the need to prevent her from disconnecting or disabling the accounts that the mothers have, which would in turn defeat the purpose of the beta test’s goal of collecting data.
- When Masato and company reach the top of the tower, they find that Amante’s already neutralised the boss monster here. They begin to engage Amante in combat but find her power overwhelming. In the end, it takes not force of arms, Masato’s recollections to distract Amante, and Mamako’s use of one of her own abilities to fry Amante. Deciding it is pointless to fight on, she runs off to the final section of the tower, where the special wish-granting podium is held. In order to beat Amante to the punch, Masato wishes for fresh eggs, recalling a prediction of Wise’s that ultimately turns it into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- I found that all of Okaa-san Online‘s characters were quite likable, and while the stakes were never too high, watching everyone learn and grow with one another made this series fun to watch. Between Wise’s tsundere personality, the adorable air that Porta has and the curious combination that is Medhi, it was entertaining to see how the characters bounce off one another. Okaa-san Online seems to escape the harem genre, as Masato’s mind is only ever really on not being embarrassed, and while he did join the game world with the aim of meeting someone, these thoughts are shelved once he begins learning more about the game.
- Okaa-san Online was a very pleasant surprise, and earns a B+ grade (8.0 of 10, or 3.0 of 4). Despite being rough or protracted in some areas, as well as having modest visuals, the series does a remarkable job of bringing the characters and their adventures to life. With Okaa-san Online in the books, we now enter October and the fall season. I intend to watch Azure Lane, Rifle is Beautiful and Kandagawa Jet Girls, as well as write about them in some capacity. As well, I do have plans on watching and writing about Hensuki at some point in the future, and finally, I will be looking to wrap up Blend S soon for the next Terrible Anime Challenge.
Ultimately, despite Okaa-san Online‘s premise being ripe for presenting a certain brand of visual humour (and the first few episodes do in fact do this), Okaa-san Online turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable for its presentation of family dynamics using the isekai setup, a genre which has stagnated somewhat thanks to increasingly derivative stories being told and for a refreshing, honest perspective on parenthood’s challenges. While Okaa-san online may not go into the same level of detail as a parenthood guide or deal with every aspect of parenthood that parents go through, it manages to cover a few details, from parental irresponsibility to the Tiger Parent mindset and present plausible solutions towards these issues. The thematic elements in Okaa-san Online are respectable and solid overall, with the more dramatic moments being well-balanced with the comedy and situational irony. Even though the anime itself is not particularly noteworthy with its animation or art, the story and voice acting does give incentive for one to pick up the series. I would recommend this series to fans of the isekai genre, as well as those who are looking for something unexpected. Finally, while Okaa-san Online‘s anime adaptation may have ended for the present, the source light novel is still ongoing, and the possibility of a continuation will likely be contingent on how well the anime does with respect to sales. This is a fun series to watch, and I could see myself picking up a second season if one were to be made.