Sword Art Online – Episode 6

Part One: Captain

The witness flops over like a manatee in heels, hitting the pavement like a fish hitting an equally hard surface. Her body dissolves in moments, a grim reminder that in this city, even a corpse won’t talk for free. I look to my partner, but he’s already moving, that damn loose cannon out chasing our shadowy perp across the rooftops. “Take care of this,” he shouts, like I’m his goddamn desk jockey, not the commanding officer. And then he’s gone, Batmaning away like this is some fucking game.

Well, it is a game – but not like that kind of game. There’s no second chances in this city, and if you don’t play by the rules, it’s Game Over and a quick trip to the electro-helmet morgue. This is Sword Art Online, and if you didn’t know by now, let me tell you – it’s a serious game for grown-ups only. In this game, losing can kill.

Episode 6

2:34 – I let him have it when he gets back to the room, but he waves me off with a shrug. The kid’s got a death wish, I swear. Me? I’m looking to beat this game, and retire to a comfortable life in the real world by this time next year. I can’t afford mistakes

Sword Art Online

2:43 – Goddamnit, he lost him. Not that I blame him – it’s hard keeping a tail in a world where people can instantly teleport anywhere. Hell, it almost makes you question why we even have a police force

2:49 – For all his tough guy act, the kid still believes in the system. I don’t have the heart to tell him

2:52 – His rage gets the better of him, but the digital walls of this place have little sympathy

3:02 – Our last witness was clearly hysterical – we’d already ruled out ghosts. But knowing that robe was Griselda’s could be a clue – a shame three quarters of all characters in Sword Art Online also wear black trenchcoats with too many belts

3:11 – A frontliner, falling to pieces at the threat of a PK? I wasn’t impressed

Sword Art Online

3:15 – Fortunately, my partner kept his cool. He could fly off the handle, sure, but the kid had good instincts

3:22 – As the witness broke down and my partner fumed, I darkly considered the evidence before us. I hadn’t asked for this case, and I hadn’t asked for this partner – but with my cushy position on the front line gone and my last partner devoured by hobgoblins, it did no good to think of better days

3:24 – Tracing the evidence in my head, I asked my partner a stupid question, just to test him

3:37 – Fortunately he proved himself more than a complete simpleton

3:42 – Wait nevermind spoke too soon

3:47 – I knew that look. That look meant he’d thought a thing

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3:50 – Nevermind, false alarm

4:05 – His thickness was getting to me. I knew I’d really screwed the pooch on my last case, but had I really earned this partner?

4:39 – His condescension bit hard. But it was true – from the front lines of the force, I’d been reduced to packing sandwiches for the department rookie. What a way to end my career.

No, I couldn’t think like that – whatever his feelings, this kid was just another resource to me. Headstrong, violent, possibly a little dim – but he was all I had. I couldn’t think of petty revenge on this kid – I had to keep my eye on the prize

5:00 – More snark. Yes, yes, what a great cook the female officer is – I’m honored to be such a feminine delight to you.

I took the mockery in silence, thinking over the facts of the case

5:09 – Yes, it was petty. But I could only stomach so much

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5:25 – The others had warned me about his Sherlock routine

5:32 – What, was he waiting for a commercial break? What are you talking about. Speak normally

8:13 – Of course! With the introduction of this new information I’d forgotten and now suddenly remembered, everything that had happened began to make sense

The kid was good

8:34 – Of course! How had I also forgotten that teleport animations looked identical to death ones?!

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8:50 – The evidence of things I’d improbably forgotten or had never noticed just kept piling up

9:02 – Fool that I was, I’d written off her turning to show off the dagger in her back as a dramatic flourish. But no. This went much deeper than that

9:35 – The damn rats had been playing us from the start

9:46 – I suddenly also remembered I could check people on my friend lists’ locations, thus ensuring I’d instantly know whether a murder was real or had been faked

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9:58 – Drop the investigation and go get sloshed early? The rookie was turning out to be a better partner than I’d expected

Part Two: Rookie

12:07 – I opted for a self-effacing entrance – a good chance it would put the killers off their guard, and I wanted to put on an unthreatening impression for the idiots who’d started this mess, as well

12:19 – A lie, of course. Not that it mattered – my opponents were practical men, and if things turned improbable, the odds were still in my favor. Fortune smiles on the man who can calculate the dice

12:31 – Confidence, resolve, and maybe even a little madness. Like you want them to make a move. I assume my partner thought it was genuine arrogance, a thought that made me chuckle. The face is just one more weapon, my dear captain

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12:43 – Predictable

13:02 – Her regret at “deceiving” me was gratifying, if misplaced. The larger pieces had been established the moment she admitted her involvement – after that, all that was left was a little credulous performance to clear up the loose ends, a task my partner was more than willing to lend her honest confusion to

13:21 – One of roughly seventeen possibilities, though admittedly the most likely

13:54 – I gained no pleasure from their astonished stares. Frankly, my own genius was cold comfort to me. Better perhaps to live in their world – a world of befuddlement, yes… but also a world of companionship

14:00 – The lie comes easily. No reason to alarm them with my staggering intellect

Sword Art Online

14:24 – A lie, again. I know what I’d do with a rare item, and I know how I’d convince any given party member that choice was also in their best interests. But would that bring me any satisfaction? Would that make me truly understood? Of course not

14:40 – A simple solution for a simple problem. The elegance surprises me

14:56 – True honesty. A tantalizing thought, but also a terrifying one. The subtext is obvious – the captain’s “I don’t like you anyway” act is as transparent as it is endearing. But how could anything I offer another approach equal honesty? Whatever they gave of themselves, I’d take more – take in my understanding of gesture, of mood, of self. Tragically, such things are forbidden to an ultra super genius such as I

15:28 – I can’t help myself. The performance is too adorable

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16:10 – It’s condescending, I know. But my intentions are pure. She knows all these things – a simple understanding of how SAO’s marriage system works should have resolved this case from the start. And she’s a good enough officer to have figured all this out – but she doesn’t think so. It’s not her intellect I need to support – it’s her confidence

Sure, call it hubristic of me. But I understand these people, even if I can never be one of them. And I care

And hell – I had to admit it, I was lonely. Detective work ought to be a two-man job

16:20 – That’s right, captain. Two dots. Connect them

17:42 – Finally, all the players were assembled. I made a quick scan of his gear, level, build, and talent trees – all roughly as predicted. This would likely play out according to the most probable model

17:59 – It’s tragic to see, and also encouraging. That people can still feel such empathy for others – can assume such an optimistic framework for what humans are capable of. What does it mean, that my own framework is so much more… flexible? In acknowledging the beast, have I taken the beast into myself?

Sword Art Online

18:55 – Revolting, pathetic… and absolutely typical. What a wretched race we are

OCC Aside: Hey look, it’s a moment that reflects on the Kirito-Asuna worldview issue!

19:18 – And with that absurd explanation, my framework for plausible human behavior bends ever so slightly more towards “cartoon villainy.” If that’s what love amounts to for these simple people, am I really so lacking in humanity?

19:29 – The joke’s on him. I may not even be capable of love

…a bitter joke, that

19:41 – The captain’s harsh, unpracticed words startle me back to attention. At least she maintains faith in people. How can I call myself greater, if my own vast intellect only leads to such self-defeating ends?

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20:25 – Her words shock me. Could she know? Know it’s performance, know how much I truly withhold?

20:35 – And for once, I answer without a thought. Foolish. A gamble. Where are my words?!

20:47 – Far too much honesty, far too much assumption

20:51 – And the thought is dropped. I stare, mind racing, before realizing I was overestimating. She was just talking about herself, of course – it was an honest question. I have to stifle a laugh

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21:00 – An unnecessary olive branch. Clumsy, but endearing

Must I call it clumsy? It’s just direct. I need to stop that

21:22 – And then something completely ridiculous happens

21:46 – “Not bad for your first case, rookie,” the captain gruffly declares. At that, I have to smile

21:50 – “I think this partnership may work out after all.” Could it? I have to admit it, I enjoyed the change of pace

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21:59 – Maybe I do. People are too simple and too inexplicable all at once, but perhaps it’s time for a change of pace. I think over the numbers for a moment, and then give a gruff nod. Super genius or no, company isn’t the worst thing in the world

And Done

I slam through the door, upsetting the rookie from his nap on the front desk. “Break’s over, partner. Three players from the 12th floor say their friend was killed by giant mantises in the Underdark.”

“But there aren’t any giant…”

“That’s right.” I cock one brow at my partner as his eyes narrow in thought, Murder.”

48 thoughts on “Sword Art Online – Episode 6

  1. “Three players from the 12th floor say their friend was killed by giant mantises in the Underdark.”

    I almost thought you were about to Spoil SAO’s current arc, Alicization, for a moment there.

  2. If you rewrite the entirety of the Light Novel as Sword Hardboiled Online, well, sir, thou shall have my gratitude. I might even enjoy the story. I mean, Draggle’s erotic fanfiction rewriting wasn’t bad, but this is just so much stylish.

  3. This was great to read. Somehow it reminded me a lot of the Tracer Bullet stories in Calvin & Hobbes.

  4. The witness flops over like a manatee in heels,

    That line is too perfect, where did you steal it from?

    So, given the tone of this piece…would you say you’ve gotten to the point where you can’t take this show seriously anymore? Because it really feels like you can’t take this show seriously anymore.

    On another note, I’ve been wondering…how much do you think other people’s constant complaints about the show in the comment sections, skewed your perception of SAO? Do you even think it’s affected it?

    • I made it up!

      And nah, this isn’t the end of actually taking the show seriously – I just didn’t want to let an opportunity this good go to waste. This episode was bad, no question, but like the prior episodics, it’s just one more bad episode, not the downfall of the entire series.

      As for the other comments, there’s no way it hasn’t adjusted my perception or at least expectations in some ways. It’s hard to theorize about what themes might become relevant when commenters just tell me what’s going to happen.

  5. Ah yes, the familiar feeling of taking an idea and running with it as far as you can just because.

    Since it was lost in the um… narrative you were telling, I can’t tell if you realize or not that food is one of Asuna’s character development symbols (also seen in episode 2). It basically represents acknowledging life in the game as having some meaning (because otherwise it’s a complete waste of time). Stop and smell the roses kind of thing, This also contradicts the timeline of her character development, but that’s just the sort of thing you come to expect from this.

    • Also it makes her the perfect waifu. Good waifus know how to cook.

      (honestly, acknowledging that life is kinda worth living even inside the game is cool and dandy, but if you’re not only trapped in a death game, but play as a front liner, I still think spending your hard-earned EXP/skill points/whatever to max your Cooking skill has to be one of the worst builds ever. I guess that boring stuff like Long Swords, Dodging, Armor, Critical Hits and the likes just doesn’t cut it)

      • Eh, I’m pretty sure cooking is a side skill that’s leveled independently. Haven’t actually read LN, but I’ve played enough video games.

      • They don’t spend much time going into it, but it seems like one of those “you level up the skill by using it” things, not a point build system. In other words, it doesn’t waste her total combat potential, it wastes her time as she spends time cooking instead of fighting monsters. Which makes her rant to Kirito last episode kind of nonsensical.

  6. 10/10 would possibly buy for collection purposes.

    If people’s equipment were so susceptible to that kind of damage, you could potentially go around stabbing people in the clothing and they wouldn’t know because you don’t feel pain in SAO. Would there be countermeasures in place to ensure that everyone’s clothing was safe in the safe zones? Well, we didn’t see any when our hardboiled P.I. duo Kirito and Asuna took up the case. Maybe it’s that players can only damage their own equipment? That would be really stupid if it were true.

    Not to mention that the teleport particles look nothing like the destruction particles so I have no idea what Kirito is talking about. And that horses no longer exist after this episode. And Ghost!Griselda’s only purpose in the story was to prove Kirito wrong about ghosts. I think I went into maximum nitpick mode when watching this episode, which seems to be a lot less gratifying than how you chose to cope with it.

    Oh man, next episode. Oh man. Can’t wait for that one.

    • “they wouldn’t know because you don’t feel pain in SAO”

      You’re the second person I’ve run into who’s said this. What is the basis for this assertion? As far as I could tell, the only time Kirito mentions explicitly not feeling pain is when debuffed with paralytic toxin. ALO explicitly mentions pain absorbers also.

      • I think he might be referring to the first episode when Klein gets headbutted by the boar right in the crotch. At first he reacts as he normally would when taking a crotch blow, but then he realizes it doesn’t hurt like that. I don’t think there is a total lack of pain, but it’s certainly not going to be groin pain levels. I think some people misinterpreted that to mean that pain does not exist, but throughout the show we see several charters visibly in pain when they get hit with strong attacks.

    • Just one thing. It was not that the teleport looked like destruction, it is that they timed the teleport to happen when the destruction of the clothing happened. Destruction of a person and equipment looks the same.

      As for equipment durability in general, I agree that it seems kinda out of nowhere, but it is something that comes up again in the series, they don’t just write it off. I’ve been told it’s explained a lot better in the novels, but not having read them I can’t personally vouch for that.

      • The particles for teleportation and destruction/dying do not look the same. You see that wavy blue aura around the assailant Kirito chases on the rooftops before he teleports, and it is a recurring concept observable when characters are moving in between floors. That’s not the same as when people/things faze out and then explode in iridescent triangular confetti. Yet when those two people “died”, the particles only show that they died. Maybe it’s just a case of inconsistency with the animation, but that kind of visual cue is crucial for the mystery and especially for SAO’s in-game mechanics and I find it hard to believe that they would simply omit that kind of clue.

        Here’s another thing. Don’t they have to speak to the teleport crystal in order to teleport? How were they able to do that without both holding the crystal and speaking to it?

    • I could only shake my head when Ghost Griselda showed up. Really, SAO? REALLY?

      And yeah, this mystery’s construction was utter nonsense. It completely fails according to both schools of mystery writing, and doesn’t seem to add much worldbuilding-wise anyway. Just an extremely poorly written piece of work altogether.

      • Pretty sure the book had a lot of information about the game itself, but the anime completely stripped that out. Hell, in the book, they actually went down to the first floor, to see the “Monument of Life”, which was a stone that displayed the name of every player, and marked off their names when they died, giving a time-of-death, and cause of death. “Caynz”‘s name was similar enough to someone else, whos name was romanized as “Kains,” and died on the same day, the previous year, and the cause of death was Piercing DOT. The anime completely cut this part out, as well as a lot of inner-monologue, that the author uses to build the world (as well as cutting out various other scenes, that were just retro-active foreshadowing and such..)

  7. This is better than that write-up of Chuunibyou that included a sanwitch making tutorial. It actually managed to make the story of SAO good, because you manage to rationalize the character’s odd decisions and thoughts. Keep up the good work, Bobduh.

  8. Here I was thinking that sheer stupidity of having a ghost appear in a video game would be enough to make you break genre and have all the characters start freaking out in true psychological-horror fashion over the appearance AN ACTUAL FUCKING GHOST!

    • Reaaally didn’t think they’d go there. The mystery itself may have been nonsense, but this episode still found plenty of ways to surprise me.

  9. For all that the actual execution is pretty uninspiring, I’m unreasonably fond of these two episodes in the abstract. Put simply, they’re quite strongly about being in a game instead of merely in some sort of odd fantasy setting since the core of the story is all about exploiting game mechanics and the very unreality of Aincrad.

    The tl;dr version: this is where SAO probably tries hardest to do something interesting with its setting and premise.

    • I like the idea of what these episodes do, at least once we’ve accepted that these vignettes are what SAO is absolutely going to be doing right now. But outside of Kirito-Asuna bonding (which I think they do well enough), I don’t feel like they made Aincrad feel more “real” to me. If anything, I feel like the arbitrary answers this episode provided made me feel like the world’s just being made up as it goes along.

  10. A dark night in a game that knows how to keep its secrets, but on the twelfth floor of the Aincrad Building, one man is still trying to find the answers to life’s persistent questions. Kirito Noir, Private Eye (PIANO)

    You had the ridiculous metaphors trope covered, but it was missing the lovingly absurd description of a female. I guess this episode didn’t have as many butt shots, but also that role would be more for Asuna’s noir voice here than Kirito, and so out of character. Ah well. (“The stripes on her pants curved over domes so round, like overturned bowls on the table to show how well the soup had soothed the belly, the same as how my soul had sighed at the sight of her.”)

    Hardboiled Captain was pure hilarity. Brooding self-diagnosed-sociopath woobie Rookie was pretty good, too, although that half risked Poe’s Law. Personal amusement was at its greatest when your incredulity at some of the fail started showing through and breaking character voice, because even the best polish noir can offer isn’t going to alchemize the turd. But so shiny.

    And DAMN, that last scene in the “And Done” is a show I’d watch.
    “There are two kinds of folks who sit around thinking about killing people: Psychopaths and gamers. I’m the kind that pays better. Who am I? I’m Kirito. I really am ruggedly handsome, aren’t I? “

    • Hah, yeah, I was also a little worried about the Kirito shtick – it was a more weird and specific parody playing off gamer narcissism, so I was worried it might come off as a little too sincere. There are certainly enough books and shows that actually are about the smartest, most handsomest loner cop slash vigilante crime fighter slash genius detective in town…

      • The “problem” was that Kirito was basically that character already, whereas part of the humor in Asuna’s noir voice was the contrast.

  11. Wow, this happened faster than I though it would. It is not the first time a blogger starts writing SAO fanfiction due to the inability to cope with such retarded script, but most people start giving up either in the horrendous second half or in the merely pathetic daughteru arc.
    It was still a nice read.

    • This is actually less me giving up on the show entirely than me just finding the idea of noir cops SAO really, really funny. I take my opportunities where I can find them!

  12. This is amazingly hilarious to read. My only comment is about the “ridiculous” scene at the end, with Griselda’s ghost.

    The author went ahead and wrote a short-story, that ends up explaining that (Why would you need to explain this?) which is basically, Digital Ghosts of players

    • It’s funny – I was making the ghost jokes throughout because I figured they were an indication of poor writing, since the idea of ghosts in an MMO is so silly that the characters even imagining they could be haunted felt immersion-breaking to me. And then to actually have an MMO ghost appear… yeah, I didn’t have any words for that one.

  13. Nitpick, but it hit me. I think this type of write-up, I do miss that it doesn’t have an OOC: Episode Summary, to see what you actually thought of the episode. I mean, if you do something like this for an entire show, no one would know how you actually feel about it.

    • I’m planning on doing that briefly at the beginning of the next episode. Rather keep this post as in-character as possible

  14. I think this is my favorite post on your blog yet, and let me join the ranks of the other commenters that the ghost was one of the dumber moments in the entire series. Like it opens up so many ideas, what if people who died WEREN’T killed in the real world but forced to linger as ghosts, unseen by everyone else and unable to interact for the entire time? Imagine how much that would break them and mess with the people who believed they were dead the entire time!

    • Glad you liked it!

      And yeah, holy shit that ghost. Does the author not realize his choices matter? The existence of ghosts is kind of important… it basically throws the entire nature of their world as a “death game” into question.

      But nope, he’s just read a bunch of stories where the protagonists actually get to see the “spirit being put to rest,” and so that’s what he does here. Fantastic.

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