And I’m back for more Sword Art Online. Which I now know will continue to be episodic for a while longer, and continue to not really build on the character of Kirito as presented, and… well, a whole lot of other stuff I shouldn’t necessarily know. You guys are merciless in your comments – I try to be fair to this show and come at it from an honest perspective, but at this point I think it’s gonna seem great just by comparison with the grim spectre you’re all painting in your reflections.
Anyway. Last episode wasn’t good – it basically discarded all the character development of number three, and instead focused on a new vignette that didn’t really amount to anything. As I said at the end of that post, if you’re going to make your show a series of vignettes riding on plot alone, those plots better be goddamn fantastic – you can’t rely on building tension and character focus if nothing’s building and your characters aren’t consistent or deeply articulated. Apparently I’m now entering a two-parter, which I’ve heard actually elaborates on this world’s society in a fairly interesting one. I’m very ready for that – most of this show’s best moments have been when it hinted at the larger world Sword Art Online has become, so a more full exploration of our not-so-artificial society seems like a solid choice. Let’s get to it!
0:02 – March 6th, huh? So this one’s actually only a couple weeks after the last episode. Hurray for continuity!
0:04 – HOLY SHIT CONTINUITY. Klein AND Asuna? Good to see some familiar faces
0:42 – That’s… true, right? They’re just bits of programming, responding to certain commands with certain responses? Given they’ve been in this world for well over a year now, this probably shouldn’t be an open question – there’s no “are we monsters ourselves?!?” tension if the answer is just “no, that’s silly”
0:47 – Asuna always refers to herself this way. Exposition!
1:12 – All our friends! Very happy to be back with these guys
Though I guess it means the long-term consequences of Kirito’s episode two speech didn’t really hurt him that much. Guess it’s just the lowbies who harbor resentment towards the “beaters,” then? But in episode three, the leader of their mini-guild was all about how brave and noble the front-liners are. So…
Alright, I guess I could eventually stop doing this. People just tend to say and do things in this show, events don’t actually have repercussions. Storytelling!
1:17 – Pff, THIS guy knows what’s up. Can we just follow him, instead?
4:07 – Kinda funny that this is generally the sort of language you use to make someone stop playing those damn videogames. Almost darkly comic, that – it’s pretty much a truism that the more stock you put in seeking icons of accomplishment, the less you’ll actually grasp happiness, and that you kind of have to chill out and enjoy life as it comes to stop being stressed all the time. But that generally isn’t translated into “waste all your time playing videogames” – there’s sort of an unspoken assumption there that “enjoying life as it comes” involves magically appreciating life in the way that’s popularly defined as fulfilling – actively participating, engaging with others, enjoying the world around you. And now these two are engaging in that argument on the next level down, where Asuna’s demanding he seek those icons of success even in the game (in order to eventually be able to engage with the socially-accepted world again), while Kirito is perfectly happy to embrace everyday happiness in his current mirage. So does this justify gaming, or does this counter the “learn to be happy with what you have” philosophy?
On a personal note, my psychology doesn’t allow me to avoid the struggle. I only feel happy when I’ve just completed something I consider worth making – I am extraordinarily bad at smelling the roses
4:34 – Oh god here we go again. Kirito just too damn sexy
5:16 – Pretty
5:59 – So she’s just a textbook tsundere. Bleh
6:44 – Okay, this is incredibly awkward exposition. Sometimes you have to accept a little gracelessness in the exposition just to get some information to the viewer, but these two are straight-up reciting information they both know at each other. Gotta do better than that
Also, guess these episodes are gonna be about a murder, huh?
8:36 – Murder mystery, I guess. Quite the convoluted kill here
9:31 – You’re a loose cannon, but goddamnit you’re the best we’ve got. Partners?
10:03 – Man, identifying key witnesses is so easy in anime-land. You there! With the pink hair, single oversized bracer, and talking bird!
10:50 – I love how they share a meaningful look after that revelation.That’s right, he was killed by… someone. Ghost kills: ruled out
UNLESS THIS MEANS HER BUTT WAS THE KILLER
11:15 – See? Crazy eyes.
11:54 – Goddamnit man, we’re partners now. The past is the past
12:25 – I have to say, the concept of sticking a random murder mystery/crime procedural in the middle of this show is pretty adorable. I admire the strangeness of the choice, at least
14:08 – The bastard’s leaving us a message. But that just might be the clue we need to crack this case wide open…
14:31 – Was the killer… ASUNA’S butt? This just keeps getting dicier
15:11 – She knew Grimlock? KNOWING LOOK
15:45 – Is this episode supposed to be exciting. Because this is pretty much the least interesting episode of Law & Order I’ve ever watched. And even Law & Order was basically designed to be a show you have on in the background while making spaghetti
16:07 – I like the base concept of this all revolving around things the players invest real significance in because they’ve had to accept this world as their reality, but as an observer, I’m just not invested in the same way
16:25 – GRISELDA’S THE KILLER
16:38 – A good alibi. Almost… too good
17:06 – This is not subtle visual storytelling, show. It’s either directly telling us she’s the killer, or directly lying to us so the killer will come as an artificial surprise
AND EITHER WAY, SHE’S THE KILLER
17:29 – An interesting distinction to make. These people really are “in the game” in all relevant ways, right? I suppose that, just like with the bad guys last episode, there’s always a weird blurring of the line of what roleplaying means in the context of this reality
17:52 – Don’t trust her for a minute, heroes! She wanted Griselda for herself!
19:05 – They’ve certainly got the aesthetic of this genre down pretty well. The weather, the creepy shots through windows to make it feel like the characters are being watched, the unnerving low-angle cinematography. It’s a very tired story, but they know the tools
19:43 – That’s part of why people like games! Getting back to the ideas I kicked around in the second episode, the illusion of a level playing field is quite the drug
20:53 – THE KILLER WAS EVERYONE
22:01 – DUN DUN DUN
Well that was pretty silly. Wasn’t really expecting this show to suddenly veer into C-tier CSI shenanigans. This is almost purely plot for its own sake right here, and the plot just isn’t that substantial – even with actual crime scene drama shows, the appeal is largely in spending time with characters you already know and like… even when done well, it’s a pretty dire genre. And you have to be good at that kind of writing to do it well, too – you can’t just send the characters on a treasure hunt where one clue has the name of the next clue written on it.
If this actually were revealing a great deal more about their world or philosophy, I’d probably be less forgiving of the plot being so bland. But it’s really just occasional cute details here, and Kirito and Asuna are possibly the least interesting characters in this show, so they’re not giving me much to work off of.
Well, it’s still pretty, at least!