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.
0:11 – AND WE’RE BACK. MORE SKULLS
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
3:18 – Oh yeah, that happened. Why are you only concerned about it now, Kirito?
3:51 – AW SHIT. THE GM’S BEEN PLAYIN’ THEM FOR FOOLS ALL ALONG
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.
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.
5:38 – 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
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
7:54 – YESSS. LET’S SKIP TO THE ENDING
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
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
9:43 – YOU WILL DIE AT THE TIME AND PLACE OF MY CHOOSING, WAIFU #greatestlovestoryevertold
10:05 – I’VE KILLED BEFORE AND I’LL KILL AGAIN. I kinda like bloodthirsty Kirito
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
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
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
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
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
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
17:35 – AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
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.
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?
18:56 – 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
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
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
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!