Another episode! I know, it’s crazy – actually timely updates on this wild ride. Last week started off with a nice bit of slice of life before being derailed entirely by a nonsensical Cute Thing, which is a new and interesting method of SAO self-sabotage. Having Kirito and Asuna adopt a child-minded girl they found in the woods certainly wouldn’t have been my first choice, but hey, I guess we’re rolling with it. We have graduated from a series of unlinked vignettes to… a series of incoherent narrative twists. This is progress.
0:14 – So is this gonna be the episode? Kirito and Asuna learn about this orphanage-thing where kids are being protected, they go back and forth over leaving Yui here versus protecting her themselves, they eventually decide they can do more for everyone on the front lines, that gives them the resolve to rejoin the fight? I guess that doesn’t really deal with how Yui’s not actually a real person, so it’ll be a bit more complicated than that
1:03 – I actually really like this detail. This was a new MMO, after all – it’s not like everyone in the first wave was going to be old enough to handle a situation like this. We’re very naturally being introduced to an element of the emergent society that actually makes perfect sense, and helps it feel more like a specific, thought-out place
1:36 – I’m glad that the entire guild isn’t made up of crazy evil people
4:03 – You think you’re pretty clever, huh? “We tried to give things to people equally, but this only ended up empowering people who don’t want to try hard, and without an incentive to try hard, we’ll never accomplish great things.” Scintillating metaphor, Two Years Worth of Glop
Man, power fantasy politics. I guess they’re the same in anime and the real world
4:29 – Oh no! Not that guy!
4:54 – It’s cool, apparently second-in-command is more of a ceremonial title
5:47 – Well, that settles it!
6:05 – That’s actually kind of a nice line. It will look lovely on his tombstone
6:10 – This seems like a strange line to square with Kirito’s only piece of character development (which you’d think would make him hesitant to bring people he loves into dangerous dungeons), but hey, that cute little girl did say she’s trustworthy
6:51 – This will end well. I wonder what Yui-related secret we’ll discover at the bottom of the well
Incidentally, I’m calling shots like this mainly because of this show’s tendency to force narrative in ways that don’t come naturally. Normally, conflict should come about because the base variables of a narrative naturally arrange themselves in a way that that conflict is unavoidable – so, like, how pretty much every step of Kyouko and Sayaka’s stories in Madoka is inevitable purely based on the personalities of those two characters and the way they reflect each other. Here, it’s more like “oh no, how could they have prevented this… oh, by not doing that strange thing they did earlier in the episode that apparently was designed to lead to this”
8:00 – Earn your children’s respect by showing them how good at videogames you are
8:56 – This is pretty great. These two do have some chemistry, and it’s nice that we see them interact with each other in all sorts of moods. This episode’s been pretty good in general so far, actually
9:33 – You guys love cute shit, right? These scenes that serve no purpose but appealing to the Loves Cute Shit demographic are kinda funny to me. It’s like a three minute mecha transformation of cute
10:08 – Nice shot
10:40 – Booooss Tiiiiime
11:32 – I appreciate the gesture, but that cannot be an effective fighting stance
11:33 – Well, that ended predictably
12:20 – Yep
12:28 – whatamievenwatching.jpg
12:36 – MOE BEAM
12:52 – I’m right there with you dude
12:58 – Seriously, though. Is this supposed to be… cool? Gratifying? Funny? Sometimes I just don’t understand what a person buying into this show would actually be buying into at any given moment
Oh! Am I supposed to be surprised that Yui is secretly some kind of god-child? Right, that’s maybe not supposed to be just something I’ve been waiting to have happen all episode
13:09 – I’m gonna miss this guy. He was all right
14:03 – Aw shit, meetin’ the architect
14:40 – Hmmm. That’s interesting, though I’m not sure I want to dive into it unless the show itself does. It’s a neat base concept though – this entire world is dictated by a shifting, almost conscious AI construct, and in reflection of this, even the human beings within this system are treated as elements of the construct that must be managed on an emotional level to stay in balance with all the stat-managing.
That’s actually really clever. And it casts the “artificiality” of this world in a whole new light – perhaps the very fact that lonely people can find emotional comfort in games is itself the most unreal and artificial thing about them. It’s “managing” their emotions in the way it manages everything else, in sharp contrast to the blunt chaos of the real world. The constant refrain has been “this world is artificial, but my emotional response to it isn’t” – well, if your emotional response is being dictated and massaged by the program itself, maybe even that is a lie
16:25 – Wait, our heroes are even mentally godlike? Goddamnit SAO
16:57 – Lady, after everything else we’ve been through, an empathetic AI gaining sentience is the least of my concerns
17:22 – No matter what happens, you’ll still be our terrifying mind-reading electric daughter
18:40 – Ahahaha, we’re pulling a full Maeda. “We’ll love you forever, moe daughter. UNTIL YOUR UNTIMELY DEATH THREE MINUTES LATER”
18:43 – I don’t think you understand what kind of story this is, Kirito
19:01 – onooooo
19:23 – its so saaaad
Look, I’m not a heartless person. I actually get choked up about all kinds of shows. But this, right here? This is waving a puppy in front of your face and then chucking it off a cliff. It’s not tragedy – tragedy requires humanity, and we were only introduced to this girl last episode, and her personality so far has been “cute and helpless.” This is Pavlov’s Blob
20:16 – Aw yeah, TV hacking! I love this shit!
20:47 – Wow. Uh, I guess Kirito’s really fucking good at hacking
21:26 – So I guess I was half-right. They have to beat the game so they can recreate their electric daughter
Well, that was some saccharine bullshit. I actually liked a lot of the first half, and the stuff about player psychology was really interesting (although the show itself didn’t actually explore what makes it interesting, but what can you do). But pretty much everything related to Yui was everything I dislike about Jun Maeda’s storytelling – you introduce cute, helpless things and then run a car over them to make the audience cry. It’s trite and fake and condescending.
Fortunately Yui’s dead now, so hopefully we can hit the gas and finally reach that first arc finale. Two episodes to go!