Well that was… something. We’ve upgraded from a villain who’s more or less a non-presence to a villain who actively takes pleasure in not acting like an actual human being. In the course of one ridiculous scene, Sword Art Online managed to instantly dissolve any tension this arc could create by predicating itself on the most absurd conflict imaginable. Kirito must now save his helpless waifu from Dr. Evil.
I feel like it must seriously take willful dedication to screw up character writing that badly. This isn’t “I don’t know how to write distinctive human beings” bad – Kirito already exhibits that, and this guy is not like Kirito. This is like that scene in Attack on Titan’s first episode, when the recon group is coming back from a terrible mission, and everybody crowds the streets to see who’s still alive. And one woman comes out to ask what happened to her son, and you think “oh, well, that’s kinda on-the-nose, but sure, they gotta give this sadness an individual context.” And the captain motions to one of his soldiers and says “it’s little Jimmy Stetson’s mom, bring it here,” and the soldier brings over this rag-covered thing, and the lady opens it up and HOLY SHIT IT’S A SEVERED HAND AND AHHHH GOD “THIS IS ALL WE COULD FIND” AND “AHHH HOLY SHIT MY SON IS DEAD” AND “AHHH THAT’S RIGHT YOUR SON IS DEAD GOKU, HEEEEE’S DEEAAAAAAD.”
This is like that except it’s the show’s actual antagonist instead of one horribly directed scene. This is like the actor comes on stage and says “what’s my motivation” and the director goes “alright, you just got back from eating babies, and later tonight you’re going to set fire to some orphanages, and right now you’re mad because you got blood on your shoes from curb-stomping the elderly. Aaand SCENE.”
This is actually pretty great. Let’s see what they do next.
0:23 – You had me at hello, Agil
0:46 – I’d make a joke about them developing a successor to the technology that killed thousands of people, but honestly, that’s actually not surprising to me
2:49 – The Uncola. YOU LIKE IT. IT LIKES YOU. That sounds like a way more interesting boss than any of the ones we actually saw
3:02 – Oh great, my hilariously unrealistic real-world fighting powers will come in handy then!
3:38 – Kirito nooo turn baaack
Kinda hard to share his enthusiasm here. In the context of the VR gear, “a game that makes you fly” is indeed exciting, but our context is really just this as another MMO, and flying mounts aren’t exactly the height of gameplay innovation
4:31 – This is great. Exactly the kind of trick enterprising gamers would try
5:03 – THAT’S RIGHT KIRITO, REKT AGAIN
So wait, Licklips McTwirlstaches is actually holding Asuna’s brain in a little birdcage in the game he’s apparently controlling? Why wouldn’t he just… not… do that?
Oh right, I forgot. MWAHAHAHAHA
5:59 – Is it just me, or has this show really upped the voyeuristic framing for this character?
6:16 – Probably just me
6:33 – Seriously, imouto. Better watch out, that camera’s always watching
7:30 – So instead of the death threat, now we have a time limit. That’s definitely a much trickier element of danger to lend actual weight to – time limits are just inherently very arbitrary in fiction, and so they’re generally combined with other, more immediate dangers
Wait a second, how will finding Asuna in the game actually do anything? Eh, I guess that’s a bridge to cross when we come to it
8:26 – Wait, he thinks about his name, recalls that the villain actually knows him by that name, and then uses that name anyway?
10:39 – Kirito’s sword skills cannot be conveyed through rational numbers
Which is kinda boring, of course. Much more interesting to win with limited resources we can understand than with friggin’ aim hacks
11:14 – Oh no no no no no
11:23 – NO NO NO NO NO
11:38 – NOOOOOooooooo
11:58 – Okay, at least it’s “hyperintelligent emotion-scanning daughteru” and not “uguu~ daughteru”
12:33 – Shut your fucking face Kirito just shut your fucking face
12:49 – Ahahaha so now Yui’s gonna be our exposition-fairy, huh? YUI IS NAVI
13:08 – Oh jeez that’s reassuring
13:13 – “We shut down that murder death game, but tossing all that code seemed like such a waste, ya know?” I can’t imagine that fun fact made it to the box art
13:30 – Yui lewdest daughteru
13:57 – Probably a smart choice, just to keep the story moving. As is reusing the game code, actually, however practically crazy that sounds
15:59 – Nice
17:00 – PRESS Z OR R TWICE
17:52 – Harem intensifies. Wonder who that could be?
18:19 – I like this whiny kid they’re setting up to make Kirito look good by comparison. Devious play, SAO!
19:09 – Welp
Midair combat is kinda messy. Not particularly insightful to say it’s “too floaty,” but yeah, it’s tricky to create much sense of weight and contact here
19:50 – Hm. How does this work? I figure it’d be much more appetizing to just let yourself get killed here, and not give them crap. I guess we’ll have to see what penalties death actually carries in this game
20:05 – Yeah, there we go. An interesting design idea – a PK-heavy game that actually really does punish you for death, and so makes you play conservatively and seriously at all times. That’s the spice of life for a game like Dark Souls, but I imagine it’d be exploited all to hell in an MMO. But it certainly works for fiction
21:50 – It’s like we never left
So many parts of you will always be so foreign to me, Sword Art Online. Like that next-episode-hook. The cliffhanger they end on isn’t “how is Kirito gonna get out of this one,” or even “how will Kirito save this girl” – it’s “tune in next week to see Kirito fuck up more people who don’t stand a chance against him.” Clearly somebody finds that exciting, but it’s gibberish to me. It’s got all the dramatic suspense of seeing if six drunk college kids can successfully tip a cow.
Anyway. We’re back surfing the digital wave again, and we’ve already collected a daughteru and an interim waifu. This was kind of a stuff-establishing episode, so it wasn’t really the most exciting, but I’m hopeful that we’ll soon get to actually check in with Asuna and her charming fiance. You know I love my Mwahahas!