Sword Art Online – Episode 14

Holy shit it’s the end of the first arc. I think? We’ve just got the Skull Reaper to go, right? And then dealing with the creator of this world, I assume? Well, I’m ready. Now that I’m in a rhythm, I’m actually having a good deal of fun with this show – it’s not good, but it’s very rarely boring, and its digressions into terribleness (Episodes 10, 12, and that one conversation from 13) are really more hilarious than frustrating. When a show I really like makes a very poor choice, it aggravates me – it’s a choice that will always scar that show, and whenever I rewatch it or show it to someone else, I’ll be very aware that it’s less than it could have been. But when a show I’m just watching to be entertained makes mistakes, I mainly just hope those mistakes are also entertaining. And Sword Art Online is very good at making very entertaining mistakes.

Yeah, this show’s won me over. You hear that, cackling commenters?! I’m having a good time! This show will not break me!

Alright, let’s get the fuck out of Aincrad.

Episode 14


Sword Art Online

0:34 – This is not very exciting, but certainly pretty true to the actual nature of a tank-and-spank. It’s the rare MMO battle that extends beyond “attack this guy a bunch and maybe sometimes wait to attack,” or possibly “attack this guy a bunch and maybe sometimes sleep this other guy”

0:57 – Wow, Skull Reaper not really living up to his name. Like with the death animations, I appreciate how the game kind of undercuts the seriousness of these situations with the condescending “Congratulations!!” text

2:31 – Yesss

3:01 – This is pretty damn effective. It’s not really just a matter of time if there are only so many players who can become proficient enough in this game to even assist on the front lines. And thinking you’re up there possibly killing yourself when your death might not even help lead to escape must be an exhausting feeling

Sword Art Online

3:18 – Oh yeah, that happened. Why are you only concerned about it now, Kirito?


4:01 – Wait, how did you gather that from your duel? The issue in your duel was that you scratched him but didn’t instantly gain the first strike – how is that related to…

Gah, whatever. Internal consistency of plot developments has never been this show’s strong suit, anyway. Shit just happens.

Another missed opportunity game-wise, of course. Figuring out how to act impressively within the strict rules of a game system would be pretty interesting to watch. But of course, that would require the author actually writing clever stuff, instead of just saying “now he can use two swords, Just Because.”

4:18 – Kirito, this is a computer program. He doesn’t have to actually be standing in a physical space to…

Wait, I forgot about the GM dungeon terminal. Okay, never mind, this is apparently a program where the developers actually have to walk around and fiddle with things to administrate.

Sword Art Online


4:41 – I too am intensely interested in this, Kirito

4:52 – Right, of course. Something we as viewers wouldn’t understand, and thus wouldn’t be made suspicious by, so now Kirito can appear to have deduced something that’s really just information that he withheld for whatever reason.

I guess you could argue that he was waiting to demonstrate the GM’s nature in front of too many witnesses to ignore, but in that case, the next question becomes “how would he know the GM’s hacks don’t let his health get to yellow?” That doesn’t really have anything to do with what happened in the duel.

I wouldn’t bring up this stuff, but the show itself is trying to portray this as a clever reveal, and it’s just… nah.

5:13 – Even the GM is mad at Kirito for ruining this show

Sword Art Online

5:38 – I actually really like this idea – that the GM was basically dictating his own roleplaying campaign, using actual humans as players and forcing them to accept the campaign as their actual life. There’s a great story somewhere in that concept

5:48 – THE ONLY THING I COULDN’T CALCULATE. So I guess the moral of the story is being super good at videogames will save the world

5:53 – Wait no that doesn’t even

Well, I guess it is true when you’re playing an RPG that makes itself up as you go along…

6:14 – Why is he even paralyzing them? They can’t physically hurt his character. He’s a GM, he won from the first second

Unless… this is exactly what Kirito predicted

Sword Art Online

6:24 – He’s just improvising, right? He still wants to create a story worth telling, so he’s incapacitating all the side characters even though they’re not really relevant. He’s playing the part of the villain.

Yeah, that’s actually pretty cute. I’ll give you this one, SAO

7:10 – Yep. It’s legitimately pretty great that his weakness is his passion for the Good Story – that’s pretty much what caused him to do all this in the first place, after all


7:57 – For once, I can blame everything coming down to Kirito going “I’VE GOT THIS” with a helpless girl in his arms on an actual in-story writer, and not just the show’s author

Sword Art Online

8:10 – Hell fucking yeah he’s going to win

8:49 – AGIL IS THE BIGGEST BRO. I knew I liked these guys for a reason

9:00 – I know it is sad, my friend, but the far shores are calling, and the golden ships wait for no man

9:34 – Damnit Kirito, I was trying to forget that even happened

9:43 – YOU WILL DIE AT THE TIME AND PLACE OF MY CHOOSING, WAIFU #greatestlovestoryevertold

Sword Art Online

10:05 – I’VE KILLED BEFORE AND I’LL KILL AGAIN. I kinda like bloodthirsty Kirito

10:17 – Oooh, getting some nice animation this time

10:26 – Wait what does that even mean

10:30 – Oh, it’s “reaction time,” right. HAYAI.

10:53 – Very nice. Great color work in this fight. And this song is awesome

Sword Art Online

11:27 – Oh nooooo

Wait, everyone else should be un-paralyzed too, then. GET HIM

11:59 – I briefly wondered if knowing too much hurt me here, but I don’t think I’d really believe this show is capable of killing Asuna either way

12:24 – Ah, right, her crazy potions

13:02 – This guy’s kind of a jerk

Sword Art Online

13:35 – Welp, guess that’s that then. Sword Art Online: a grim fable about the implacability of digital realities even in the face of human passion and achievement

13:55 – Are they even going to pretend to explain this

14:21 – You apparently just brought yourself back from death through sheer willpower, so I sure fucking hope so

14:42 – I’m not sure if I prefer the cheap but at least final tragedy of a character like Yui’s death or the “he’s the main fucking character of a friggin’ power fantasy, he’s not dead here” artificiality of this stuff. Just clap your hands and wish him back to life again, narrative

Though I guess this one is less “lol wut” than the previous revival, since they can at least say that if the game ends within the three-some minutes or whatnot before brain death, you get away with it

Sword Art Online

15:22 – Kirito has entered the realm of the gods. It sure is pretty!

15:46 – No brakes on the love train

16:26 – Oshit I can see our house from here AS IT DISINTEGRATES INTO THE COSMIC ABYSS

16:28 – Haha such sad puppy faces

17:31 – Alright show, pony it up

Sword Art Online

17:32 – Yes, that is exactly what we ask. Please, let it be “Why does any god create a world?” or something. Just dick us one more time


Oh SAO. Never change

17:39 – WHY INDEED. Dude, you set up an entire 100-floor MMO world for these characters to live in, and even dictated the narrative of the front lines yourself, but you don’t actually have any thoughts prepared for the ending? Oh shit, wait, is this your actual speech? Am I getting trolled with your performance right now?

18:00 – Yeah, I was there too, that was some bullshit

Look, the ending is supposed to be “I wanted to create my own world, one I could control. But ultimately I learned that that’s impossible, not because you can’t create a new world, but because everyone creates their own world every day, through the experiences they share with others. I can’t dictate the meaning people find in my reality, and even my attempts to make hard rules only inspire people to slip between the cracks. I wanted to create my own world, but it was really the players who made this place real.”

Or something. Anything. Look, I dunno, I’m not getting paid to write your ending for you.

Sword Art Online

18:30 – So he wants to get to a castle in the sky, and he tried to create it, but he can’t reach it. So is this about why we play videogames now?

18:37 – Goddamnit Kirito don’t encourage him

18:56 – THAT’S IT? He gets to just wander away and disappear in a puff of smoke after that? You murdered four thousand people. You do not get to walk away triumphantly after spouting three lines of nonsense philosophy

Alright, bring back Kuradeel, I’m starting to miss that guy

19:25 – It’s everything Asuna always wanted

20:53 – Nice effect here. And nice facial animation in general through this part, actually. It’s great when shows choose to focus their animation on that

Sword Art Online

21:20 – This makes for the third ‘whoaaa I’m not dead?’ in a single episode

Nice callback, though

22:20 – Love it when shows use their EDs like this. Big dramatic reunion time!

22:43 – Oh, he’s just continuously walking down that hallway. Somewhat less exciting

And Done

We beat it! We beat Sword Art Online! We’re winners!

I dunno. Got nothing to say. At this point, the show is kind of shifting from “failing to emotionally invest me” to “relying on an emotional investment I’m already supposed to have,” which makes it a little awkward for me as a viewer who’s just sitting here and occasionally giggling to myself. I liked my initial interpretation of the villain’s actions, but then he turned out to be much less interesting. I was enjoying the animation of the final fight, and then the show just dropped the pretense of cleverness and made Kirito immortal. There was just no personality in this ending – it was Ending #37. Bad Guy Wins, Good Guy Makes Comeback, Bad Guy Has Ponderous Speech, Heroes Embrace One Last Time. I said at the beginning of this episode that SAO is “very rarely boring”… well, this episode was kinda boring.

Well, I guess that kinda suits Aincrad itself, then. Either way, we’ve finally escaped our first digital utopia, and Kirito’s off to reunite with his kawaii malnourished waifu. The love story continues next time!

48 thoughts on “Sword Art Online – Episode 14

  1. My headcanon, or: how I would have rewritten this episode in 3 steps.

    1) Callback. Asuna recovers from paralysis not because of WILLPOWER but because Kirito gives her an item that cancels out negative statuses thanks to the fact that THEY ARE MARRIED HENCE THEIR INVENTORIES ARE MERGED.
    2) Callback 2. When Kirito dies, he’s revived by Klein – WHO HELD ONTO THE REVIVING ITEM FROM EPISODE 3 ALL ALONG.
    3) Motives and final speech. Kayaba is wired onto the system like everyone else. How would he have avoided being found and have the police kick the way to disconnect everyone out of him otherwise? He is connected and he can’t be disconnected lest he dies, hence why no one dared trying – fearing he could bring the secret of how to stop the game in his grave. And when he dies in-game, he dies in reality too, like everyone else. SAO is just the most elaborate suicide in history.

    Now prepare for the real fun to begin.

      • They probably cut it so that what happens at the end of the second arc makes a bit more sense. Granted, what happens is still BS, but A-1 Pictures lessened the impact of the stupidity if only by a fraction.

    • Yeah, I’m honestly surprised that there weren’t a whole lot of callbacks. To me a lot of the earlier episodes of the first arc seem to either explain or hint at various things that would (presumably) become important later. Heck, I expected a major plot twist that would encompass everybody and utilize every trick that SAO had shown the viewer. But instead the show decided to roll down a hill it couldn’t climb back up at episode 10.

      1. Unfortunately, she’s still paralyzed, so she’s still not allowed to use that item.
      2. Unfortunately, Klein is also paralyzed, so he’s still not allowed to use that item.
      3. Unfortunately, his real body is paralyzed; let’s extract and create the Auxillery Brain.

      But yeah, I’m a hundred percent sure that the people in the real world should not be dumb enough to not know how to manipulate currents to short-circuit the NerveGear.

      And paralysis is bullshit.

      Confirmed on Saint’s stream.

      • A. I was thinking more of an item with a permanent effect. Like a ring or an amulet. Dunno if sharing inventories = able to equip said item.
        B. True that. Well, they could have done without the paralysis anyway.
        C. Wut O_o?

    • Wow, damn, you fixed the ending. And it’s not like the bullshit way they resolved this was actually plot-critical or anything… this would only significantly improve the story. You’re hired!

  2. I think you might me surprised over the second arc in the beginning, at least (bar a few things). Felt rather fresh and fun for all it’s worth.

    … then, of course, it somehow became even worse than the first arc.

  3. “this is apparently a program where the developers actually have to walk around and fiddle with things to administrate”

    Like Dennou Coil! But less awesome.

    You know what bugs me about this episode? They should have brought Kirito back to life with that special revival crystal he gave Klein after killing Santa in episode 3. Seriously.

      • That sidestory hadn’t been written yet so it didn’t exist when this ending was written. The anime writers are even worse than the original writer, which doesn’t help since it wasn’t exactly a masterpiece in the first place. They add more plot holes on top of what there already were.

      • That’s odd. That was a sidestory? So was it supposed to be like Contagion where they showed the origin of later events at the end to resolve the “mystery”? Kirito got the crystal pretty much right after his apparent formative event when Sachi died, almost as a direct consequence of that.

  4. I think your first interpretation of the villain is correct, he’s just not the sort of person to explain himself eloquently. I think you shouldn’t take what he says too literally. Or the story seems way better and makes more sense if you don’t.

  5. The “coming back from the dead” ending thing was pretty stupid. It would have worked perfectly fine if Kirito managed to score a hit on him just before he died instead.

    The issue in your duel was that you scratched him but didn’t instantly gain the first strike – how is that related to…

    I don’t think the scratch is important.

    I figure that the way the “first strike system” works is that the first clean hit you get the other player knocks his health down to 5% or whatever So if Kirito actually managed to hit him, he health wouldn’t actually go below 50%.


  6. This was the episode that broke me. Not because it’s dumb. Not because it’s terrible. Not because it’s cheap and lazy. Even though it is all of those things, it broke me because it’s insultingly transparent. The biggest, and arguably only, question of the story, “why does SAO exist?”, is answered with an implicit “to give Kirito something to do”. The villain of this story could have just as easily been replaced with the technobabble from a Holodeck episode of Star Trek. Say what you will about stuff like Index or Mahouka, at least those have the decency to pretend to actually be about something.

    • It’s like the author himself forgot the theme the show was building towards, or just wasn’t actually aware of it in the first place. This series composer should have been way more ruthless…

      • I think that most, if not all, of the social/communal/self-built truth stuff that the show tries to explore are just kind of incidentally inherent to the overall gamer fantasy, and not really a purposeful element of the story. Asuna doesn’t learn to value her time in Aincrad because Kawahara wants to say something about constructed realities, but just because that’s how people in these kinds of stories are supposed to act.

        I agree with you though, one of the most disappointing things about SAO is A-1 Pictures’ decision to double-down on the otaku/gamer dollars rather than trying to rewrite it for more wide-audience appeal.

      • I think you would have to do a major rework of SAO to “fix it”. And there is no guarantee that the show would be better.

        I think someone asked the author about the criticisms leveled at SAO, his response was something like “you write something better”. The anime writers weren’t will the make that gamble :p

      • @moridin84-“You write something better” Source? I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard him say anything close to that. He’s admitted that SAO is flawed, and has actually told people not to think too much about what happened at the end of SAO.

      • The first article sources the Crunchyroll article. But… the CrunchyRoll article doesn’t say what he said. It looks like, judging by the “Update”, and some of the comments, there was a mis-translation/misunderstanding somewhere. That said, it does seem he responded negatively to criticism, but I don’t know enough (any at all) Japanese to know what he said in the interview.

  7. The poofing sound of a potentially great character disappearing in a puff of smoke

    I think Kayaba had the bones of a great character. Kayaba’s motivation is grounded, is something most people who have concocted elaborate imagined SOASE scenarios, opened up Halo Forge, or the starcraft world editor can relate to, and one that holds the foundation for a lot of interesting drama. Of all the things SAO tried, and stumbled at, Kayaba was the most ambitious, though I suppose that makes the stumble hurt more.

    • If the show had actually made any indications of being about that stuff, sure. But yeah, they just introduce him and he has his speech and then he goes away.

  8. Alright, bring back Kuradeel, I’m starting to miss that guy

    cackles to infinity

    Oh, they’re bringing him back, alright. WITH TENTACLES.

    • Okay, technically the tentacles aren’t his. Fine.

      Oh, they’re bringing him back, alright. WITH MALICIOUS LICKING.

    • Man, I am excited to see how bad this can really get. I was honestly kinda disappointed with this finale just being Poor Writing Bad – I wanna see Hilariously Ill-Conceived Bad.

  9. The bit with Asuna “sacrificing” herself was particularly dumb an inane, and seemed to only be there so both her and Kirito could hear Kayaba’s non-explanation.

    Others have hit most of the high points, especially regarding dropped plot threads (from sidestories, but still, ADAPTION)

    It was just all so very, very dumb.

    And I was rather mad about this episode at the time too.

    • A lot of what happened in this episode kinda felt like moments where the author thought “well, now this happens in stories” without considering why that happens in stories. “Oh, here’s the part where the heroine sacrifices herself. Here’s the part where the hero has a heroic comeback. Here’s the part where the villain makes his big speech.” All this stuff happens pretty often, but it has to actually be reflective of what the story has done up to that point – it doesn’t work just by existing.

  10. “I guess you could argue that he was waiting to demonstrate the GM’s nature in front of too many witnesses to ignore, but in that case, the next question becomes “how would he know the GM’s hacks don’t let his health get to yellow?” That doesn’t really have anything to do with what happened in the duel.”
    IIRC, there was a one-off line sometime before the duel that Heathcliff’s HP bar had never gone below green so it’s possible that Kirito went “hey I got first hit but it didn’t count, and his HP barely goes down in a fight anyway, OH SHIT THAT MIGHT BE CONNECTED AND NOT JUST A ONE-OFF BUG” but that doesn’t actually fit with the flow of the writing.

    “Oh SAO. Never change” Man I have been so looking forward to your reaction on his reasons why since it goes against everything you enjoy (based on your anime reviews). And it’s yet another great example of “I can see what the author was going for, how after so long everyone’s goals change/vanish” but the contrast between his in-game self and real-world self was just too big for me (plus, considering he was controlling his avatar the whole time, how did he even continue to muster up the emotion to care about this two years in?)

    I am also proposing we let Higgsbosoff become the head writer on the show this summer.

    • Well, thanks for the trust :D. But considering that I’ve been spoiled about how in this new season Kirito is going to have a FEMALE avatar… heh. You don’t want to leave a genderbent Gary Stu in my hands. It wouldn’t end well (not that it will either way).

    • Man, if that’s what he was going for, he actually could have connected that to the stuff the show has actually supported, with how people’s human connections here make this into a valid reality. You sculpt your own realities, and find meaning in new things, and that could have been reflected by him as well as by the protagonists. Missed opportunities as far as the eye can see…

      And yeah, Higgsbosoff has apparently got this. His finale is way better than this one.

  11. “Wait, how did you gather that from your duel?” – The legend by the players was that Heathcliff’s HP bar never hit the half-way point. So Kirito assumed the immortality on him just prevented his health from going that far.

    “Wait what does that even mean” – “Sword Skills” are pre-programmed abilities in the game, that strike much faster and stronger than a normal sword swing. Against monsters they’re perfect, as the monsters aren’t programmed to know the paths to most of the Sword Skills. However, against players who’ve memorized most consecutive-hit Sword Skills, it’s problematic, because at the end of each Sword Skill, there’s a set amount of time where you’re frozen (hence the concept of the “Switch” play-style that SAO players use, to keep a player from being attacked while stunned) Not that the anime cares too much about Sword Skills, and instead shoves them into the background.

    “Are they even going to pretend to explain this” – It’s not as crazy as him coming back from the dead. The anime didn’t do a great job of making clear what happened here. In the novel, his avatar had died, but he hadn’t yet broken apart into polygons. Instead, at the last second he decided to stab him. Still crazy, but yeah.

    • Welp, these all seem like clear failings of the adaptation then. If any of this was going to be relevant in a dramatic sense, it should have been made clear by the narrative. I guess this one’s A-1 Pictures’ fault.

      • For the most part, the only problem A-1’s adaptation has had, is omitting some of the more important pieces of Kirito’s narrative. Every now and again they’ll include a piece of Kirito’s inner-monologue, but only when there’s no other choice.
        I recall reading a review, that this was one of Director Itou’s problem with SAO, as he followed a “Show, don’t tell” method of story-telling

  12. My personal explanation for what actually happened here is that Kayaba beat Kirito fair and square (answering something that Kayaba was curious about) and then decided to give up because his great master story he’d planned had been spoiled. Since Kayaba is only mostly a jerk and does have a sense of the dramatic, he used GM powers to revive Kirito and let Kirito ‘defeat’ him; it was simply a better story than having Kirito die and then Kayaba saying ‘oh what the heck, we’re done here, you’re all free’.

    (Even if Kayaba killed Kirito his in-game life was basically done no matter what, so there went a lot of his fun.)

    As for Kirito and his apparent awareness of how GM characters behave in SAO: my explanation is that GM staffers were present in the beta and so Kirito got to see how their characters interacted with the world. My understanding is that real MMOs sometimes have GMs play special game-blessed characters for special events and so on, and also sometimes show up in the world to troubleshoot things. A MMO beta seems like an especially good time to have this happen and to see it.

    I’m calling these personal explanations instead of theories because I’m sure they’re wrong and absolutely not what the writers were thinking. I just have this compulsion to make things make sense.

    • I can’t think of a show that has forced people to work harder to make sense of it. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle with only two thirds of the pieces included.

  13. Look, the ending is supposed to be “I wanted to create my own world, one I could control. But ultimately I learned that that’s impossible, not because you can’t create a new world, but because everyone creates their own world every day, through the experiences they share with others. I can’t dictate the meaning people find in my reality, and even my attempts to make hard rules only inspire people to slip between the cracks. I wanted to create my own world, but it was really the players who made this place real.”

    Nice, if we gather all the comments of Bobduh, they will become a SAO Fix Fic.

    Verdict for the first arc: Inconsistent story, ideas are not well-thought, but still leave some emotional impacts on me. It isn’t super horrible like the critics have said. I decided to continue my suffering =)

  14. On the other hand, SAO does make a pretty good AMV/MAD. It feels like the biggest substance of the show is its aesthetic rather than its actual story.

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