And we’re back for more Sword Art Online. The first episode was… alright. I like the visual aesthetic, and some of the game elements were nicely portrayed, but the characters didn’t grab me and the plot seemed pretty contrived. The villain in particular killed my suspension of disbelief pretty much immediately – it seemed like it was supposed to play as serious drama, but his theatrics were just very silly. You don’t need blood rain to sell a crisis! “I’m going to kill all of you” is actually more scary coming from someone not dressed in a robe and wizard hat.
But that’s all peanuts if they use the setup as a platform to actually talk about something. So let’s see where we go from here!
0:07 – 21st century graphics!
0:11 – They skipped a month? Jeez, that strikes me as a bizarre choice. I’d figure one of the most interesting and drama-friendly elements of this would be the initial, panicked adjustment stage – the sense of urgency Kirito had at the end of the first episode was pretty much the best thing in that episode. Really, really weird choice
0:36 – That seems wise. Good to know gamers are as good at cooperation as ever
2:35 – Way to warm up the crowd. I actually like this random, awkward exchange. Seems kinda natural
3:28 – Aw shit he’s gonna get picked last for softball. The worst case scenario
3:34 – Ahahaha. Who could this strange, hooded figure be? Might they be willing to join a party with me?!?
3:45 – Yeah, that’s how this stuff goes. I think it’s actually pretty great to have their weakness be an inability to deal with the playground politics that so many people escape through videogames in the first place
That hood, though. Well, I guess if you were a pretty girl trapped in a friggin’ MMO, you would want to hide your face
4:24 – Oh man who’s this troll
5:17 – So they’re basically making this guy express his argument in the worst light possible (complete with ominous music and MC suspiciously narrowing his eyes) in order to invalidate it, but the crux of it is a pretty fair point, and actually a really interesting expression of how human decency “interacts” with videogames. Why would they trust people who’ve proven themselves uninterested in helping others? Is it just supposed to be natural that in this situation, everyone would act only in their own best interests? Are we supposed to sympathize with MC here just because he’s antisocial? That was his excuse for not working with others – not that he actually earned the right to leave everyone else behind, but that he was incapable of interacting with them.
I find both this argument itself and the fact that the show’s presentation is clearly trying to villainize this guy equally interesting. Do videogames leave a just society at the door? Are we supposed to sympathize with this kind of Randian utopia, where You Get Yours and I Keep Mine? In fact, the beta tester situation makes this even more of a useful articulation of the problems with such a moral code – because it isn’t a fair society, because certain people jump off the starting block with far more resources and experiences.
5:46 – NO HANDOUTS
6:13 – Wait what THEY’RE ACTUALLY DEFENDING THIS POSITION AHAHA. “No free lunches, buddy. We already told you how to succeed!” And the first episode even demonstrated how this system isn’t easy to get used to, and how much it helps to already have hands-on experience in the game! MAN.
That’s FASCINATING. That actually plays into how Objectivism (and Libertarianism) are such popular philosophies among the very young – people who really do think they’ve somehow “earned” everything they’re given, and that a society where every person just worked for their own benefit would actually be both just and a desirable situation. Is that part of the appeal of videogames? Yeah, it actually is, in a very controlled way – because when you have less control of your real life (as young people pretty much always do), it’s extremely comforting and actually empowering to engage in a world where you have absolute control, and all your actions have immediate, tangible results and benefits. Where there’s a 1-to-1 correlation between effort and result.
But of course, in the real world, things are far more complicated. And we even see expressions of that here – Kirito might be really good at SAO, but his inability to speak up for himself and handle a conversation puts him at an immediate, natural disadvantage to those who can. Should he be punished for that? According to a philosophy that says “we’re all dealt the same hand, suck it up,” yeah. So smile at the man defending your right to a societal advantage, Kirito – smile, but know you’re a goddamn hypocrite.
Man, this could even be applied to the toxic sexism of the gaming community. I’d figured that was largely a combination of the demographics skewing young, male, angry and isolated, along with games just not tending to be perspective-broadening cultural artifacts, but this here is championing a philosophy of both entitlement and not seeing things from other perspectives, which generally go hand in hand with any kind of discrimination
6:45 – So all information is immediately made universal? They could do interesting stuff with that
7:06 – This is pretty sweet – I can vividly remember going point-by-point through raid encounters back in my own MMO days. I hope they actually plot this stuff out
Of course, the grim truth about raid encounters is you die your way to a working strategy. So I dunno how that’ll translate here
7:28 – Is this show being intentionally cynical about this? Even with all these lives on the line, you still gotta clarify who gets the loot
7:47 – “Man, I said some pretty silly stuff back there, huh?” This shooow
9:31 – I like this. Kirito’s ability to socialize is pretty much directly linked to his ability to talk about the game. I’ve definitely known people like that
9:36 – I GOTTA LEARN WHO KILLED MY DAD sorry
9:48 – Oh, are we really going deep on this philosophy? “Only those who can seize their own destiny have the right to be human,” eh?
10:40 – Time for a tutorial! Th-then… I was your first time?!??
12:48 – Aw shit, what’s he doin’?! Friggin’ loot-stealers
14:16 – Well at least he realizes it. That’s better than like 90% of League of Legends players
14:33 – Nice! Maybe this show’s politics aren’t self-congratulatory garbage
15:10 – This “switch” stuff is a reaaally condensed version of how MMOs are cooperative games, but it is something
16:03 – There we go. Never underestimate the power of a dramatic entrance
16:53 – Very nice little sequence
17:41 – Frieeendship.
18:01 – Wait, what? That is not very close to what happened!
18:19 – HOW QUICKLY THE MOB TURNS. Seriously, they’re turning absurdly quickly
18:50 – Sort of. You could just explain the situation…
18:53 – Wait is he seriously gonna decide Becoming Batman is the solution here. Well, he is a loner… but still, this is so fabricated
19:19 – REALLY? THIS is his best idea?
20:07 – For someone who’s ostensibly terrible at public speaking, he’s certainly hamming this the fuck up
20:14 – That’s right! Being good at stuff is cheating! That’s what all unsuccessful people think!
I didn’t expect this show to be very good, but this is a pretty incredible kind of bad
20:20 – No whyyy
20:36 – THAT’S RIGHT, KIDS. TRENCHCOAT AND EVERYTHING. He’s the most special snowflake of all
21:35 – Joke’s on you, Kirito. That badass, tormented speech only made you EVEN HOTTER
21:51 – FRIENDSHIP IS OVER
Well, that episode was pretty magical, but not really in the way I was expecting. Not only does this show seem to be predicated on a fundamentally self-obsessed worldview, it’s also just pretty ridiculous. Like with the GM’s speech in the first episode, Kirito’s Batman moment here had me laughing the whole time – I could see him being unable to defend himself, but making a dramatic, evil speech to a bunch of strangers? So they’ll, what, “unite against him?” Does that even accomplish anything? And what was the threat here – a few seconds of grumbling, which the guy who’d handled the last rabble-rousing attempt was probably about to defuse anyway?
Am I supposed to think Kirito’s completely ridiculous? Hm
Anyway, in spite of being much “worse” than the first episode in the technical senses, this one was also far more entertaining for various other, likely accidental reasons. So I’m definitely on board for number three!