Sword Art Online – Episode 18

SAO crossed some lines last week, and once you’ve crossed those lines, it’s fairly difficult to uncross them. We no longer have the threat of Kirito actually dying to provide momentum, so instead we’ve introduced a crazy man who actively threatened to rape Asuna and keeps her in a cage. This scary man is the threat, the threat which Kirito must vanquish before it can defile his helpless woman.

This is one of the oldest, laziest, most regressive and cheaply founded and identity-diminishing narratives in the Man Narrative book. Sword Art Online is not a good show, and it’s been pretty happy to revel in lonely guy power fantasies for basically its whole running time, but this is definitely a new low for the series. It’s bad enough that I feel it’s important to actually point it out here in this unusually somber introduction, before I go on to become implicit in trivializing the fundamental shittiness of this author’s choices by making jokes about them. Rest assured, I will make jokes about them! This is some dumb, ugly shit, and laughter is, if not actually an actual doctor-prescribed medicine, at least a nice way of flipping off shitty attitudes to maybe not feel so depressed about them all the time. In trying to create a big scary villain, this author has unwittingly created a much more relevant and believable Bad Guy – the show itself. SAO is the enemy now. Time to go to war.

Episode 18

0:04 – In light of what’s happened to Asuna, maybe it’s time to upgrade Imouto to actual-character-I-remember-the-name-of status. Alright Suguha, looks like it’s up to you to bring some dignity back to this narrative!


0:20 – Hurray, character development. It’s a character whose actions makes sense, and are reflective of their base desires and personality! Wonder of wonders

0:52 – The fact that they keep harping on this tells me this was clearly a thing in the source material, but the show is just not gracefully conveying the joy of flight. It’s telling us these characters really enjoy flying, but it’s not making the experience of that tangible to us

0:56 – On the other hand, connecting this, Asuna’s imprisonment, and Kirito’s feeling of freedom in a virtual world could actually add up to a coherent theme, if the show continues to explore and articulate it

pfff hahaha

1:09 – Gorgeous shot


2:59 – Hey, he’s kinda cute. A shame you can’t date outside the family in Animeland, he might have a shot otherwise

3:47 – Wow, looong still shots in this scene. Guess they used up all the animation budget on Asuna being groped last week

4:03 – And back to this one other shot. Also, author, you can’t use “is overprotective of girls he should really just leave alone” to make this guy look bad relative to Kirito in an arc where Kirito is saving a girl in a cage

4:25 – Welp, that didn’t take long. This arc’s really knocking it out of the park!


4:34 – Sword Art Online you have a problem

4:42 – “Ugh, MORE internal conflict? Well, at least the camera can focus on her crotch and tits. That’ll really help the audience understand her struggle.”

4:56 – This system seems designed to give you a migraine as soon as you activate it. I don’t want my first VR experience to be a barrage of technicolor phalluses

5:45 – Fanservice of all shapes and sizes



It’s kind of strange that they play this as a joke, actually. Is this really any different from “unlike other men, I have TWO swords!”

6:28 – Kinda nice seeing Kirito as the ignorant new guy, though we’ve already seen that doesn’t apply to combat situations. Normally ridiculously competent action heroes are made human by their personal faults, but again, Kirito doesn’t really have those. This show is much more interested in having you “like” Kirito as someone you’d hang out with on a superficial level than letting you know him as a full person. Which is indeed how a lot of people interact with media (“who was your favorite character?” “oh man, that one guy was such a jerk!” “that thing he did was so cool!”), but that doesn’t mean you should write to that instinct. If you write full characters, people will still respond to them, even if they can’t actually articulate why in a narrative empathy sense

7:05 – Man, this show just can’t stop talking about woman-ownership. What a hero Kirito is, saving all these helpless women from all these absurdly written men


7:18 – YEP, HE’S GOT THIS. Is it stories like this that actually CREATE internet Nice Guys? “She has to like me now, I saved from all those other creeps who just wanted her for sex! Why won’t she have sex with me?!?”


7:38 – While I have to condemn his virtual racism, I applaud his dedication to roleplaying the racial tensions of this world

7:40 – Wait, how can he be both indicative of what’s wrong with Spriggans and a renegade who was kicked out by the other Spriggans? Holy shit, this guy’s got racism down

Also, cool friends, Imouto



8:03 – Uuuugh. “Gotta make Kirito seem like a gallant hero somehow… I know, I’ll surround him with insane women-hating cliches!” It’s like how authors who want to write smart characters, but can’t write smart characters, just make everyone around the “smart” characters dumb as hell. If you have to warp the world this badly to make your hero come off as likable, maybe you should rethink your hero a little!

8:41 – “You may have left my videogame party this time, LeafaBut I’ll get you! Just see if I don’t! MWAHHAHAAHAHAH!”

Man, this is so much worse than the first season. What happened? There’s barely any sport in breaking this down – scenes like this are just blatantly nonsense. There’s no horse left to beat!

8:54 – Leafa, you have some weird friends

9:14 – Very nice. And not the standard Fantasy Forest either


9:31 – Really big on freedom in this arc. Just gotta see where it goes

10:01 – So does she feel tied down in her everyday life? Tied down by the accusing eyes of her society? I joke, but hey, if that’s actually core to her character’s arc, it’ll make this a way more human take on the incest thing than we usually get

10:09 – Goddamnit I want a pocket daughteru

10:14 – You clearly haven’t watched enough anime

10:35 – Fuck damnit show stop it it’s working



11:20 – We’ve already got damning evidence that he’s a crazy shithead, but sure, whatever keeps you out of the narrative

11:39 – Ohoho, these silly men who overtly declare they own women. Not like gallant, chivalrous Kirito! All the girls like him because he’s such a nice guy! They want him to protect them!

sometimes i just feel so very tired

12:45 – oh no no no I’m sorry I said I wanted to check in with Asuna last time I didn’t mean it go back to Kirito

12:49 – aaagh nooo i hate this shooow

12:57 – stop it stop that this show is the wooorst


13:12 – yes but i told the readers i’d finish this show

It is just the best that the “Buy SAO DVDs! Available now!” ad pops up right during the assault-porn scene

13:17 – Her heart must be pure for Kirito! Normally this shit is subtext, but here they’re actually directly talking about a woman preserving her “purity” for the man she loves. That’s the threat here – not that she’ll die, but that she’ll no longer be the pure prize the audience wants

13:29 – A good trick for condemning sexually progressive attitudes is to put them in the mouth of your crazy rapist character


14:10 – Seriously it was the best hold on I posted it on flickr


14:25 – MFW when my nemesis doesn’t have the nerve to face me in a fantastical kingdom of my own making

14:49 – It pains me to admit this scene actually has some nice shots. Doing good work with distance and perspective here. This one was also nice, visually portraying how he is omnipresent here

15:34 – Hurraaay. Asuna still doing stuff. Granted, this scene frames it like she only regained hope after learning the Man Who Is Her Reason To Live was still alive, but baby steps

15:41 – But enough of that, time for dragon-lizards!

16:57 – SAO successfully conveying the feeling of wasting days of my life


18:15 – And we’re back with Sugu’s sugus. Man, I can’t stop thinking about those jerk characters that only care about what they can get from girls! Makes me so mad!

18:20 – Bring back that “Buy our DVDs” banner

18:39 – You can’t fight biology, Sugu. Girls and Kiritos naturally attract each other


19:21 – O shit indirect kissu


20:28 – Oh right, she wouldn’t know because she’s never had an oniichan

21:36 – Aw, this is nice

And Done

Dang, this second arc is pretty slow. Not much actual progress this episode – Kirito and Suguha managed to leave the starting town, but that’s about it. Asuna’s arc remains physically uncomfortable to watch, Suguha continues to bounce between being the best-articulated character so far and being the helpless subject of a lecherous camera, and Kirito has the Biggest Sword. I can see why this arc would be considered a disappointment even among fans of SAO – its failings are much more overt than the first arc’s, and the side stories were much more distinctive than this slow-moving and very ridiculous central quest. But for all that, I’m already a third of the way through, and from what I’ve heard, I at least have a completely insane conclusion to look forward to. Guess we’re off to the mines of Moria…

33 thoughts on “Sword Art Online – Episode 18

  1. You know, I wish Asuna would be doing something in her birdcage. It can be anything, even the stereotypically girly stuff in Tangled, but it peeves me to no end that all that Asuna does is sit around and clutch her chest. It adds to that already heavy feeling of ‘all that development/potential from before has amounted to nothing’.

      • Ugh, I just realized that Reki wrote those stories actually about Asuna’s Aincrad development after/while he was writing ALO.
        So again, this is how he originally conceptualized the character.

        Obligatory love interest –> Purity prize –> Wait, I can haz personality in girl!????

        (Also, considering this timeline, he gave Suguha a personality before he did Asuna)

      • “I just realized that Reki wrote those stories actually about Asuna’s Aincrad development after/while he was writing ALO.” – Not the cooking part. He already had the idea that she had mastered her cooking level. Episodes 8-14 (minus 11 & 12) are all from the first book.

        • Unfortunately that still leaves Asuna, as well as the Kirito Asuna relationship, as a pale shadow of itself. Asuna might still be a cook, but without the side-stories backstory, it becomes just another way she’s a Perfect Waifu. (Credit to Reki for using it as a callback with the anti-paralysis potion, though)
          It also gets rid of most of their actual moments of chemistry, other than Asuna teasing Kirito about not having a shield, and Fishing Art Online, if that was part of the original book. The moments left are Kirito duelling twice to “protect” Asuna, aforementioned teasing, Perfect Waifu cooking, and Asuna declaring her intent to commit suicide if Kirito dies. Even Superdickery-era Lois Lane has more meat than that.

      • Personally I don’t think that the side stories added any particular depth to their relationship. It added more on-screen interaction between the two of them but that’s not the same thing as depth. The side stories we are talking about are the Yui thing and the murder-mystery thing right?

        • If you look at my list of moments left, they’re all instances where Asuna is nothing but Kirito’s perfect waifu to be protected by big strong man Kirito.

          While CSAincrad and the Yui side-story aren’t particularly good by themselves, they, the “first meeting” night when they partied for the Level 1 boss, and especially the truncated “clash over NPCs” side-story provide instances of Asuna being her own person, actually showing her stuff as the Vice Commander of the primary combat guild in the game, established as someone who is Kirito’s equal, not MoeChefGirlThing To Be Protected. More importantly, they are the execution of the monologue Asuna gives at the end of Fishing Art Online as to why she fell in love with Kirito: that she was at first desperately driven to escape, but that she was inspired by Kirito’s love of Aincrad to enjoy her own life within the game. Without that backstory, their relationship is essentially “A wild Perfect Waifu appears! Kirito uses hero-aura! It is super-effective!” Even if the little depth that the side-stories provide is little, it’s far better than what was only in the first volume.

      • Oh right, those ones weren’t technically side stories,

        See the author is actually rewriting the Aincrad arc in what’s called SAO Progressive. It’s like a replacement canon. The anime writers actually stole those from that.

      • And I think a lot of stuff happened which was implied, even though it was never explicitly show. Except for that side stories. I am okay with that.

  2. You can see where SAO could’ve been a much better story with some tweaks in focus and a more insightful writer handling Kirito, but the only way to fix ALO is to take an ax to it.

  3. 8:41 – “You may have left my videogame party this time, Leafa. But I’ll get you! Just see if I don’t! MWAHHAHAAHAHAH!”

    Characters in SAO seem to forget half the time that they are actually in a computer game, that they have actual real lives with other concerns. With the first season it was understandable but…

    19:21 – O shit indirect kissu

    A VIRTUAL indirect kiss.

  4. I told you you’d be pleasantly surprised by Imouto. Helps that everything else about this arc is so blatantly terrible. Actually I think this arc could have been pretty good if it had been about Kirito’s post-SAO relationship with his family instead of magical rapists. Well, I guess that would’ve been a different show entirely.

    I think “freedom” actually is the theme of this arc. Although I would have framed it the other way around as “powerlessness”.

  5. Can’t tell if you find Yui cute or not. Not that it’s a very interesting question, as being cute isn’t actually something she does or is relevant to the plot, but she is pretty darn cute.

  6. Besides how gross the Asuna scenes are, the worst crime of this arc is that it’s dull. As the comments for previous episodes indicated, there was at least a lot to talk about during the Aincrad arc. It was often just a few short steps away from good, and the views Reki subconsciously wrote into his work were also interesting to discuss and explore.

    For these episodes so far, beside “Asuna’s scenes are gross, the standard otaku misogyny in this is annoying,” there’s nothing to say. And since you’ve already said it in the post, I literally have nothing to say, except “Yep. It’s bad, all right.”
    Even Mahouka engendered some interesting discussion, at least.

    The power and sexual fantasy aspects of this arc have so thoroughly neutered the storytelling value of the show that whenever you point out things like potential freedom/flying themes or the cinematography, it feels like you had to disengage that much from any normal viewing immersion to be able to notice this stuff, as well as noticing such details as an active strategy to ignore the vile shit going on otherwise. Like noting how a store’s marketting strategies have changed based on their window ads while a mugging is taking place in front of it.

    • Yeah, it’s pretty dispiriting. It’s like commenting on the background music in a snuff film or something – none of this stuff matters, none of this stuff changes anything, the big huge horribleness of the central events just overwhelm all other aspects of the narrative.

  7. “I joke, but hey, if that’s actually core to her character’s arc, it’ll make this a way more human take on the incest thing than we usually get” Aw man, just stop now, seeing you keep thinking that it might actually make a theme work is a little bit depressing!

  8. @2:59 He’s written as a Classical Nice Guy ™. No chance.

    @4:25 ALL the girls except Scilica had a lingerie shot in the book. But then the animation team thought it was a mishap on author’s side and fixed that.

    @13:17. But she ain’t even pure anymore! At least her SAO body wasn’t.

    … You know, just couple of simple phrases like “I like him and I hate you” is more than enough to fix that scene =_=.

    @13:25 IT’S OKAY! YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS ANYMORE! IT HURTS US TO SEE YOU SUFFER! hell no share the pain mwahahah.

    >Guess we’re off to the mines of Moria…

    Fortunately not. Author’s version of Mines of Moria was “go to the cave~be ambushed~ fall into the Netherworld~SAVE THE GIANT FLEA FROM ANOTHER GIANT FLEA~TRAVEL ON THE GRATEFUL GIANT FLEA FOR TWO CHAPTERS~get into the normal world again.” Oh Haruhi what the F.

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