Sword Art Online – Episode 17

Alright, let’s keep this train rolling! Last episode was ultimately kinda dull, but it had to establish a lot of exposition-stuff that should now let us actually get moving again. It’s looking like Kirito will be able to skip Yui’s lesson in Z-targeting, so hopefully we can just enlist Not Kirito’s Sister into the party and be on our way. Alfheim, ho!

Episode 17

0:22 – Nice to finally be in a game where Kirito can murder to his heart’s content

Sword Art Online

0:34 – “My magic skill’s about to hit 900. I don’t want a death penalty now.” Nice, we’re actually getting the necessary exposition pretty naturally here

0:44 – I like this guy

2:22 – A cheer and a sigh at the same time. Well, I guess we will be seeing Asuna this episode, but…

2:45 – Kirito, it doesn’t make it better if you draw attention to it

2:50 – So I guess Kirito’s personality is at this point just “slightly snarky generic guy.” He’s basically gotten over everything that allegedly defined him, making this story kinda void on a character level. Which is actually fine – though SAO’s finest moments are strangely its little slice-of-life digressions, it’s ostensibly an adventure, and adventures can sorta fudge the storytelling and get away with not having articulated character arcs. They’re much better when they have them, obviously, but it’s better than the show pretending he has a personality and then contradicting that with his actions

Sword Art Online

3:10 – Okay yeah, that is pretty cute

3:33 – “You got LOST?!?! That’s our Kirito!” Anime sure do seem to find slightly unusual things uproariously hilarious

4:00 – Kirito’s magnetism knows no bounds. Women fall helplessly, tumbling end over end in his general direction

4:20 – This is a nice, understandable bit of characterization, and it shows narrative confidence on their part to introduce it now before we even “know” who she is. I can very well imagine Imouto getting into MMOs to feel closer to the brother she lost, or something similar

Sword Art Online

4:35 – We don’t want to deal with no goddamn treacherous Sylph, Kirito! I hear they fart from their armpits and all majored in interpretive dance

5:21 – This show is the lewdest

6:07 – Well this episode’s kinda taking its time

6:37 – This episode’s being kinda boring so far, so I’m just gonna busy myself taking out-of-context screenshots

7:25 – Don’t mind me

Sword Art Online

7:31 – Kinda pretty. Nice song here too, which is basically carrying the “abridged character-bonding arc” intent of this maybe-sexy night flight here

8:29 – I kinda wish they did this more often. Outside of actually explaining and respecting party combat like Log Horizon, showing the HUD is one of the best ways they can keep us buying into the game premise

8:35 – Wow Kirito, your class talents suck ass. Shoulda rolled Undead

9:03 – GODDAMN DIRTY SPRIGGANS. I hear they speak in dubstep and only eat chilled oysters

9:26 – If you say so!

Sword Art Online

10:07 – A bit more of this and I might start to like you, Navi

10:18 – Are they actually gonna give Imouto’s gofer a sad little arc? It must suck having a crush on someone else’s imouto in Animeland

10:29 – I like the cup design. “Wait, how the fuck do you put that down… oh, they gave it little cup-legs.”

10:39 – JUST WHAT YOU’D EXPECT FROM SALAMANDERS. I hear they invented indigestion and never call their mothers!

Alright, I’ll stop

Sword Art Online

11:21 – This doesn’t sound like sustainable game design

11:31 – “First of nine races finally reaches Oberon, other eight-ninths of players immediately reroll as that one.”

12:19 – ESPECIALLY IF IT’S WITH THOSE DOG-MARRYING LESSER FAIRIES

Not that they marry dogs themselves, that is. They apparently just marry dogs to each other, with a little ceremony and everything. I dunno dude, don’t ask me for details, I just heard that somewhere

13:02 – Smart shift in the lighting here. Kirito gets serious, and the room dims and shadows lengthen to match

Sword Art Online

13:12 – And they don’t overplay her moment of realization. Good. Imouto seems to carry some kind of ‘effective storytelling field’ around her – her character moments are much less over-the-top than everybody else’s

13:58 – Another cute bit of dramatic irony

14:09 – And the lighting shifts again

14:14 – Warm now, reflecting the positive shift. A-1, you are doing your best for this show

14:36 – Nice little progression of expressions here

14:53 – Oshit no waaay

Sword Art Online

15:11 – So she doesn’t know, and is just responding to the intensity that reminds her of her brother. Fair enough

15:27 – Jesus christ, could they invent a more devious way of keeping people playing? All games should include daughterus!

Oh wait oh shit they’ve figured us out

16:01 – I’m pretty sure these characters have spent roughly 48 hours together, but I guess I don’t know what that translates to in moe years

16:34 – AW SHIT HERE WE GO

Sword Art Online

16:37 – SYMBOLISM

Look, you don’t have to include the caged birds as a metaphor if your character is ACTUALLY STUCK IN A GIANT BIRD CAGE

16:55 – Oh my god yes he’s back

16:59 – Holy shit do I ever love evil

17:18 – I guess the moral of the story is game designers are megalomaniac psychopaths

17:37 – Vamp harder dude. So great that they got Dio for this role

Sword Art Online

17:52 – Second greatest love story ever told

17:55 – Asuna he is the best character in this show don’t you ruin this for him

18:12 – DUDE SHOW STOP IT

18:26 – Like, were we not supposed to gather that he’s an evil bad dude already? This is just actually assault-porn at this point. “Better get there fast, Kirito, your girlfriend’s ACTUALLY BEING MOLESTED AS WE SPEAK”

God, what awful, cheap shit

Sword Art Online

18:44 – I assume this is supposed to make me hate this character, but it really only makes me hate this writer. “Aw jeez, I can’t use the death-game threat anymore? I know, I’ll put the female protagonist in a cage and imply she’s about to get raped!” Pretty much the worst, grossest, most trite and character-demolishing possible choice. Asuna is now literally an object Kirito must protect the purity of

19:15 – Oh man good thing everybody updated from that super-dangerous Nerve Gear

19:26 – This writer just can’t fuckin’ help himself, huh

20:06 – Well, I guess this is the show I’m watching

Sword Art Online

20:39 – FUCKING AMERICANS. The turnaround from “rape is a great device to add cheap tension to a narrative” to “those goddamn brain-manipulating Americans” is kind of jarring

21:22 – Why not? Clearly the author has no reservations about it

21:29 – SNUFFLE SNORT GURGHLURGH

22:03 – I hate you, SAO

And Done

Well, that was pretty bad! Most of it was just kind of dull, which is definitely a problem, but that last scene… bleh. I guess this is pretty much exactly what I was warned about, but it’s still just a gross piece of work to see in action. We’ve flown past “I must protect my kawaii waifus,” taken a brief stop at “I must protect my kawaii waifus from Scary Other Men,” and landed solidly in “I must protect my kawaii waifus or RAPE RAPE RAPE.” It’s sledgehammer storytelling propagating a narrative that’s poison in the first place, and it infuriatingly kinda takes the fun out of enjoying this villain’s terrible writing. Fuck it, let’s get back to Imouto’s story!

52 thoughts on “Sword Art Online – Episode 17

  1. Amongst all the terrible scenes with Sugou and/or Asuna in this arc, I’d totally forgotten the one in this episode. That should give you an idea of what to expect from here on.

  2. 14:53 – Oshit no waaay
    I swear that 14:53 really caught me off-guard, I just thought that Leafa would become a new member of Kirito’s harem, in addition to Asuna and Imouto.

    22:03 – I hate you, SAO
    Or more specifically, I hate SAO author’s way of writing villain.

    • It’s not even just his way of writing villains – the choices he’s making as an author are just really gross in general at this point, and further the Kirito-as-savior fantasy in ways that constantly reveal a serious degree of underlying sexism and complete lack of self-awareness.

  3. “15:11 – So she doesn’t know, and is just responding to the intensity that reminds her of her brother. Fair enough” Except for the part where she hasn’t seen her brother for more or less two years (and started playing ALO in the interim, one thing that always confuses me, you create NEW GAMES for the death machine before you see if anyone actually gets out and tells you what it was like?!) and he was pretty distant to her before that. Which I guess could make it better, that she’s just attracted to a dude, but the story tries really hard to frame it as “she’s attracted because he reminds her of her brother”

    Also, it is so much fun to see you go from “this is okay!” to “THIS IS NOT OKAY” every single episode and it’s going to keep on happening! 😀

    • As I recall, Argus was disbanded, and the technology given over to RCT to maintain the SAO servers (and the people connected to them, indirectly). RCT decided to use the technology, with a new headset that won’t kill you, to try to recoup some of the costs involved with maintaining the technology.

      The AmuSphere that Suguha wears is a safe NerveGear. Remember, Kirito asked if he would need a new headset, and Agil told him that ALO is backward compatible. The only reason you would want an AmuSphere is to make sure you’re not going to get brain fried.

      …which isn’t a bad reason. I guess when faced with shelling out the cash for a new toy, Kirito said, “Eh, to hell with it, it’s not like I’m gonna get trapped in a death game twice, right?”

      • Honestly, considering he’s entering a game whose admin is also the rapey creep who wants to marry his comatose girlfriend and get rid of this meddling kid, and who potentially has access to all the code and technology of the previous death game, I wouldn’t be so sure in his place. One little call from the admin console and bang, brain fried, as long as the hardware gives the possibility. Then again, Sugou’s an idiot, so Kirito’s probably right in not wanting to dish out one hundred bucks for an AmuSphere without a reason.

    • Except for the part where she hasn’t seen her brother for more or less two years

      She’s been visiting him while he was in a coma right? Probably had a touch for him since he started ignoring her.

  4. This doesn’t sound like sustainable game design

    Remember who’s in charge here…

    I guess the moral of the story is game designers are megalomaniac psychopaths

    Or hipsters….

    • Speaking of sustainable game design, that doesn’t sound like a specialty of Kawahara. Accel World is completely broken in this sense – it sucks up Accel Points while being incredibly tight-fisted in giving them away. The anime doesn’t show the endless grinding sessions that clearly the heroes must undergo every day, or the immense amount of drop-outs who lose before getting to level 4. It’s matematically near impossible, in fact.

      • Yup. It’s funny that they should be considered “gamer fantasies” – they are closer to gamer NIGHTMARES.

        (though it must be said that the whole purpose and context of Accel World make it necessarily a very exclusive/punishing game. My problem with it is that, making the numbers, it’s not just punishing: it’s mathematically unfeasible levels of punishing.

  5. 2:50 – So I guess Kirito’s personality is at this point just “slightly snarky generic guy.”

    You remember my piece on LN writing, yes? That’s essentially the personality of any self-narrating narrator protagonist. Kirito included. I call it “The Slightly Warily Wry Protagonist.”

    11:21 – This doesn’t sound like sustainable game design

    Eh, Guild Wars 2, and many other games these days pride themselves on players and momentous events changing things forever. Read up on Legend of the Five Rings, a TCG/RPG where whoever won the larger TCG tournaments actually affected the plotline, who lived and died, etc.

    Heck, they wrote 12 endings for whoever won the final of the first world championships, then something different happened and the author (John Wick) actually wrote a new development on the spot.

    Dog-marrying.

    The other ones fell flat, to be honest. This one made me chuckle.

    17:37 – Vamp harder dude. So great that they got Dio for this role

    Actually, he played both roles at the exact same time!

    18:44 – I assume this is supposed to make me hate this character, but it really only makes me hate this writer. “Aw jeez, I can’t use the death-game threat anymore? I know, I’ll put the female protagonist in a cage and imply she’s about to get raped!” Pretty much the worst, grossest, most trite and character-demolishing possible choice. Asuna is now literally an object Kirito must protect the purity of

    Yes, Suguou is the worst. Not the worst as in “I hope someone tortures him” though there’s that. But so terribly written. There’s no defense for Reki’s complete inability to write villains. I think I wrote something about it on Artemis’s list of douchiest villains.

    Most of it was just kind of dull, which is definitely a problem

    I marathoned up to episode 15-16, and then watched weekly. I definitely felt a distinct drop in excitement as very little happened week by week. I still wonder how I’d have felt about the 2nd arc had I been able to marathon the whole show all the way through. Marathoning to me yields a very different experience, especially with shounens. But yeah, I was all “Dude, save Asuna already! Dude, why are you taking so long”, heh.

    • You remember my piece on LN writing, yes? That’s essentially the personality of any self-narrating narrator protagonist. Kirito included. I call it “The Slightly Warily Wry Protagonist.”

      Another Dresden Files fan o/

    • I don’t think it’s just Reki’s inability to write villains, though. I think the problems with Sugou are actually reflective of the problems with Kirito, and really his problems with writing characters in general. He can’t define full people, he can only define them in opposition to “better” or “worse” people.

      As for marathoning versus not, I’ve now switched from watching this show once every week or two to watching it at more or less a me-marathon pace, and this second arc definitely feels like a step down. There is just not that much happening, and not in a SoL way, in a bad pacing way.

      • Well, it’s an idle wonder, to me, until I get hit with a case of memory-loss.

        And no, I hardly think of what you’re doing as a marathon 😛 Though I know to you it’s as close as it gets. And even for me, I wonder how it’d have been, not marathoning this arc, but marathoning the whole show in one go.

        I wonder, his characterization is standard LN-level, for better and for worse. His villains are… worse, definitely worse.

  6. Suguha, for all the lingering camerawork, does have the closest thing to an actual, believable character arc. Of course, its only believable in the context of Anime/, but it actually is pretty well done. There is a scene towards the end of the arc that I would list as one of the best things Taketatsu Ayana has ever done.

    Anyway, the way the show treats Asuna in this arc is truly indefensible on every level, and what really ruined the show for me. Without this stuff, it would merely be a fairly dumb action show, but this is actively, intensely gross and offensive.

    • It is actually hard to watch this because of this Asuna stuff. Like, this is a big power fantasy shounen, I get why a lot of people would have liked the first half. But this is so bad, and so gross, and it is just impossible to look past. You can’t handwave stuff as vile as this!

  7. I’m not really sure how you bought into their relationship in the first place where pretty much all their problems are external and generated. This isn’t how any semblance of human relationships work. By creating these external threats, the show allows Kirito to swoop in “save the princess” each and every time and we all know that’s how we solve problems. I’m not asking for goddamn Blue Valentine but at least give me 10 Things I Hate About You.

    • This arc makes me feel like the author has actually gotten worse at writing character drama. There was never much chemistry there, but this… yeah, it’s just setting up hoops to make Kirito look good jumping through.

      • Honestly I think the first season writing benefited from a interesting premise that let us overlook the bad writing and created situations that artificially showcased a semblance of character.

      • This arc is bad and the author knows it’s bad. It’s basically a forced sequel by a guy who had already used up all his idea for these characters. The next few arcs focus less on Kirito and then he suddenly jumps into a completely different story that has nothing to do with anything. Unfortunately the anime only gets far enough to show the series at its absolute worst.

        Seriously, this arc is simply terrible.

      • @clarste: “This arc is bad and the author knows it’s bad” – Pretty much. Before this point, the only thing that existed was the first book. Im pretty sure when he started writing this, he hadn’t even written Lisbeth into existence yet.

        My understanding is, that he continue to write a sequel, because of the positive feedback on his site, and it turned out like this. Up until SAO, he had never written anything more than one-shot stories and such.

  8. Haha, of course this is what you wanted the dadgame article for, I should have known. Holy balls is this show ever getting bad though.

  9. It’s kinda impossible for Suguha not to know Kirito real identity. I mean the name is a combination of his given and family name, Kirigaya Kazuto, he has used it in the first game and became somewhat well known with it (for beating the game) and surely… he talked to his sister and parents about his experience? I mean some at least? I mean we did get a timeskip but c’mon…

    • I think there was a comment in the first crazy villain scene about them not releasing information about the SAO event, but yeah, you’d think he’d say a thing or two to his actually family.

    • He didn’t tell his family anything. Asuna’s dad (and by extension, Sugou) knows the name because he’s connected to the SAO incident.
      Also, it’s not exactly easy to guess what “Kirito” means, unless you already know his real name. Suguha doesn’t.
      It also seems that Suguha doesn’t even know he was one of the top players in the game. Kirito just seems to be keeping everything to himself.

    • It’s not really communicated well but he was kind of traumatized by the whole experience.

      He was almost killed a few times, saw dozens of people killed (some of which were friends) and even killed people himself. And his girlfriend is in a coma.

      On top of all that, he was effectively living in a fantasy land fighting monsters for 2 years, coming back to the real world was a real culture shock. Especially when he’s a “hero” in the game and wakes up to find himself in a body which can barely walk.

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