Alright, back for more SAO. No big preamble this time – I thought the last episode was pretty solid, and I’d like to see them build on it. I mentioned at the start of that episode that I hoped they offered some context for Kirito’s choices, and I mentioned in the middle of the first episode that I wanted him to have more motivation, and last episode went a long way towards answering those complaints – his feeling responsible for Sachi’s death, and her final wish for him to survive and win, seem like pretty solid motivation. I’m guessing he won’t actually swear off human contact, considering both Sachi’s admonishment to not blame himself and the simple fact that a show where Kirito interacts with no one would be pretty damn boring, but I would like to see the show more effectively and meaningfully portray his alleged anxiety. So far, it’s been limited to him looking nervous for a minute or two before proceeding to be charming and commanding for the rest of any given episode, and if it’s actually supposed to be a character flaw, it has to have, you know, meaningful repercussions.
Alright, I guess that’s my Nice Job and Needs Improvement breakdown for last episode. Let’s Sword Art Online!
0:05 – Late February, now? Man, time is flying in this show. I’m aware it’s a result of the source material’s format, but it certainly doesn’t lend itself to focused storytelling
0:09 – What did I say, SAO. NO KIDS, NO PETS
0:31 – Jeez, playground politics really do reign supreme in this world. Which, if they’re actually addressing in a more than subconscious way, does play nicely into the imperfect escapism of this MMO world. Even if you play games because you want your “worth” to others to be entirely a reflection of your competence at the game, when you actually live in this world, your “social worth” and how well you can relate to others becomes relevant whether you want it to or not
2:12 – Pretty
2:37 – Nice animation in this scene. This show has a very crisp visual style – I’m personally more often a fan of somewhat impressionistic, loose animation for stuff like this (like how Space Dandy does it), but this style is being executed quite well here
3:04 – Oh no the bird thing
3:19 – IS THIS THE END?!?
3:30 – lolno hi im kirito
3:36 – Oh come on. This is a fanfiction entrance
3:45 – More lonely kids. Pretty consistent refrains in this show
4:48 – “Worth through game competence.” Like Shirou’s complaint at the beginning of Log Horizon – people only wanted him for his knowledge. Well, some people are perfectly happy to be wanted for their knowledge
5:24 – THIS SOUNDS LIKE A QUEST FOR A HERO. Obviously, since it was a one-off short story, this was pretty much bound to happen, but… yeah, Sachi’s death clearly no longer a part of the story. Kirito is a generic dude with a black trenchcoat again, not the Kirito who’s defined by the death of a particular character. The events aren’t building off each other, and thus a character story is not being told
Which is awkward, since last episode basically burned a ton of other narrative bridges to make this a character-focused story
Which means it’s now basically just an adventure for its own sake. Which is reasonable, though not something I generally find the most compelling – I tend to consider plot the raw paint with which we create portraits of humans or explore compelling ideas. And even a plot-focused story is only improved by consistent character arcs and ideas
6:34 – That guy’s head is HUGE. Nice to see these two were able to get over their little fibs from the first episode
6:47 – Friggin’ creepers
8:07 – Kirito’s got this. Still kinda annoyed Sachi’s a non-factor now. It’s like this guy is just a new, flavorless character
8:48 – That’s an interesting detail. It being public knowledge makes me think that somebody’ll be forced to kill someone else and thus become a pariah, or something
9:04 – Yes we know. Is he thinking that the player indicator’s a lie, because he “killed” Sachi and the others but still has a green hue? Maybe? It’s weird to know these were all random short stories, and so I’m not sure how much I should assume is subtlety and how much just isn’t there
9:28 – Kirito a dreamboat
9:31 – WHY’D SHE CHANGE THE SUBJECT??? Oh anime
9:44 – They can’t help themselves. Kirito too charming
10:48 – Another cute detail. Although, haven’t these people been in this game for well over a year now? Is what skills even do also hidden information?
11:31 – Silica’s insatiable
11:50 – Hey, there’s a Sachi shoutout
Man, this episode’s just… really boring. I don’t care about Silica, I don’t care about this generic version of Kirito, and this plot seems totally inconsequential. It’s not exciting on a purely aesthetic front (which, if I’m being honest, is basically all I get out of stuff like Kill la Kill), and it’s not really exploring the ideas of the earlier episodes. It’s just kind of existing
12:20 – DID YOU SAY “BORING?!?!?”
12:46 – TIRED OF YOUR SHIT
13:46 – Wait, a literal beating? Jeez, this got heavy quick
14:08 – Pretty. So was this written after the cousin was actually a character? Because it’s kind of strange having this be the explanation, give we don’t actually know any of this stuff
That said, I definitely like the show giving some context to Kirito’s escapism and videogame excellence. A grandfather who doesn’t respect you and a semi-sister you feel inferior to are perfectly good reasons to want to feel strong
14:46 – Not rapey enough, apparently. Classy
15:27 – The flower represents a flower
16:08 – YEAH I’M PRETTY STRONG
16:26 – Those rogues!
16:39 – Yeah, there’s a good use of it
17:21 – OH SHIT IT WAS ALL A CLEVER RUSE
17:57 – Oh man, brutal. But frankly, not particularly different from how trolls tend to always justify their heartlessness – “chill out bro, it’s just the internet.” “You shouldn’t take this stuff so seriously.” Personally, I think the internet just offers a field of low consequences for people to be who they truly are – when people say “I troll because it’s just the internet,” I hear “I’m a bad human being online because I know there I can get away with it.” Obviously the internet will always dehumanize human engagements, but when you step away from your own humanity, you are making a deliberate choice of your own volition. The internet lets you put on all kinds of faces, including the monster that’s always been inside you
Anyway, I like her defense. Pretty much the fastest way to make me find a two-dimensional villain compelling is to liken them to an internet troll
18:39 – God’s gift to gaming
19:33 – Oh my god, I know this feeling. Trying to grind some low-level area and some endgaming asshole decides to make it his personal warzone. MY SPELLS, THEY DO NOTHING
21:10 – So Kirito completely understands all the stuff I’ve been talking about. How strength in videogames is an arbitrary proxy, an escape from a world where strength is measured in things you can’t conveniently grind. Huh!
Well, that was okay. That ending speech by Kirito was heartening – it demonstrates the show is well aware of the more interesting thematic conflicts it could be playing with here. The episode itself wasn’t really that interesting, unfortunately, though the idea of Kirito as an overpowered bounty hunter is cool I guess. If this show is going to get caught up in a lot of vignettes, they really have to be compelling on their own narrative merits, and this one was pretty lukewarm. Not many shows can do what Cowboy Bebop does and get away with it, and Bebop actually had some very consistent characters at its center… along with, you know, fantastic direction, great scripts, a creative aesthetic, a brilliant soundtrack…
Okay, sorry, unfair comparison. This episode was just kinda boring, no need to pick on it.