Sword Art Online – Episode 20

Hello hello hello again. I hope you guys enjoyed that last one – I actually had a paragraph written up about how Kirito’s presence kind of destroys the narrative, but decided to illustrate that in a slightly different way. Hopefully that still came across! Sword Art Online is super insecure about making sure you like Kirito, and so it warps everyone else to make sure you understand he is courageous and attractive and a friend to all the woodland creatures.

That post’s format also meant I didn’t actually engage with anything that episode actually did do, but the episode did have a couple moments worth covering. Kirito’s transformation, I’m actually fine with – yeah, it’s ridiculous that he’s powerful enough to take on a dozen other characters, but if he’s going to do that, having him abuse fear and confusion is certainly more believable than having him just be that tough. And his “sometimes I just go crazy in battle” line seemed both good and bad – on the bad side, it definitely plays into his Tragic Hero cliche, but on the good side, it demonstrates the show might actually be aware of how glorifying all of Kirito’s violent exploits is kind of a weird thing to do.

The other point worth mentioning is Kirito’s final speech, about the consequences of your choices in a videogame world. The first arc more or less proposed the point that experiences in a videogame world are perfectly valid, and if it had actually successfully articulated the points its narrative constructed, it would have ended with “sharing these experiences makes them valuable, videogame or not.” That would have actually closed the book on Kirito’s inconsistently articulated loner issues while also illustrating a theme that makes real use of the setting. The first arc didn’t really do that, but that’s just a failing of the writing, not the idea. This arc seems to be continuing into a corollary of that idea – because your choices in a videogame are meaningful, those choices also reflect on you as a person back in the real world. In fact, your choices in a videogame might actually reflect your most true self, because they are the choices you make when given total freedom.

I like that! I really like that thread. I also like that it plays off what Kirito wants to believe – it’s easy for him to say this stuff, because he’s a person who deeply loves videogames and acts like a hero in videogame realities. I like that these points might be true even if he’s articulating them for selfish reasons.

Unfortunately, this is SAO, so I doubt all this stuff is going to come together. But I can still hope, at least!

Episode 20

0:06 – A pretty good “SAO in one image”

Sword Art Online

0:27 – Pretty great face

2:49 – I guess this arc has replaced random vignettes with random subplots. That’s actually even worse, since Kirito really is on a timer right now

2:56 – Wait, what are the risks here for anyone who’s not Kirito? Kirito’s got his waifu timer, but what does it matter if everybody else gets killed by a jerk and has to respawn? Did they mention something last episode?

Oh right, it’s the “stealing their gold” thing. Ominous!

3:18 – It sure is pretty

Sword Art Online

3:32 – “Thanks, Kirito, but you’ve been plenty hero enough. You don’t have to hero anymore today!”

3:45 – “Thanks for your concern, but HERO HERO HERO HERO HERO.”

4:05 – “Goddamnit, if these RPing dorks kill us it’ll take forty minutes to get everyone respawned. IRON CHEF IS ON IN TWENTY.”

4:22 – AND THE SMOKE CLEARS. At what point did this show become a parody of itself?

4:28 – Catgirl’s into it

Sword Art Online

4:40 – The power fantasy is supposed to be the subtext, SAO. You’re not really giving me a lot to work with here

5:03 – SAY YOUR PIECE, HERO. Man, I wish players were this dedicated to the flavor back when I played MMOs

5:43 – It’s not really a bluff when it’s Kirito saying it. Especially considering I can already guess the leaders of any race that aren’t already enemies will turn out to be cute girls. Dem charisma points

5:57 – The rules of diplomacy are somewhat unorthodox here in Alfheim

6:11 – What, are we Mahouka now? “Allow me to explain just how powerful the bad guy is, so the audience will really understand how super strong Kirito can be!” I’d say ‘does this nonsense actually work for people,’ but the sales numbers don’t lie. Hell, even No Game No Life does this – the show just outright says “our characters are super smart!” and the audience goes, “wow, that’s a lot of smart!”

Sword Art Online


6:33 – Oh jeez you guys, I’m not sure Kirito’s gonna get out of this one! The game’s strongest player, you say?! I think we’re in trouble this time!

This reminds me of that scene from JoJo where Dio just could not stop explaining the history and powers of his favorite zombie minions. THE KNIGHT EUGENE, POWERFUL IN LIFE, UNSTOPPABLE IN DEATH

7:23 – Ooh, we are getting some nice animation here

7:37 – MWAHAHAHA. I hope this GM is assigning extra points for authenticity

Sword Art Online

8:35 – This shot is dedicated to Leafa’s butt. Long may it reign!

8:58 – Someone in the comments of the last episode proposed that this arc is actually about Kirito’s image of himself as a videogame hero, but the show isn’t really challenging that assumption. It’s just loving him for it, so far

9:13 – It’s just shots like this constantly followed by shots like this. Pretty tedious stuff

9:26 – Oh joy. Big sword and dual-wielding. This author just has an endless well of ideas, I guess

10:06 – Kneel, mortals

Sword Art Online

10:10 – Well, fuck

10:46 – I guess this is the shounen power fantasy version of those scenes in Clannad where the music goes SAD SAD SAD and I’m supposed to be crying but I’m instead just chuckling and feeling vaguely patronized

11:11 – We just spent half an episode demonstrating that Kirito is super strong, one of the only things we already knew about him. Pacing!

11:17 – Kirito doesn’t just fight racism, he stabs it with TWO SWORDS

12:21 – BROS

Sword Art Online

12:38 – Yeah I also kinda forgot what we were doing here

13:06 – Wait, there are players who log on to an MMO in order to be Sigurd’s bikini-clad throne-slaves? Jesus christ, these players take their roleplaying SERIOUSLY AS FUCK

14:41 – I like this shot

14:56 – Holy shit, race leaders can do that? Something about that seems ever so slightly open to abuse

16:01 – That’s our Kirito!

Sword Art Online

16:23 – Catgirls are especially vulnerable to Kirito’s charms

Actually, I like this girl. Someone who’s actually comfortably sexual is way better than “k-k-kissu?!?”-type love interests

16:37 – Oh, we’re just doing the harem thing

16:45 – Yep

17:04 – Right, this type. Leafa doesn’t have a chance relative to Asuna, and these girls don’t have a chance relative to Leafa, and it all falls into this wonderful waifu purity hierarchy. No woman who’s comfortable with her sexuality is good enough for this fantasy. But we’re still happy to leer at them!

Sword Art Online

20:00 – Nice colors

20:16 – Friggin’ daughterus

20:33 – Yui has okayed your harem applications

20:40 – RUH ROH

21:09 – Noooo. Flee, birds! TAKE ME WITH YOU

Sword Art Online

21:36 – Lest we accidentally think she’s actually capable of any non-Kirito-centric action

And Done

That episode should have been condensed to about ten minutes, and combined with the previous one, which also should have been condensed to ten minutes. This arc is slow and wandering and pretty much totally lacking in compelling drama. I knew this second one would be worse, but I wasn’t really hoping for “boring” worse. Ah well, only five episodes left. Stuff’s gotta happen soon!

36 thoughts on “Sword Art Online – Episode 20

  1. Videogame reflects your true nature and Kirito “losing himself”.

    Episodes 5-6 where we meet Laughing Coffin had been adapted from a short story appearing in book 8. This is a continuation of the whole deal with Silica and Titan’s Hand, the “Orange Guild”, on killers and abusers within the game, which is what Kirito is decrying against.

    On one ridiculous hand, we can see it in Sugou, who is in the game as he is in real life. The next arc, GGO, will be all about people realizing the way they’re in the game being the way they “really are”, and about PTSD. I wouldn’t call the way it deals with these things “deep”, but it’s there as the main theme of next arc.

    Episode could’ve been condensed into 10 minutes.

    This was the episode where I sighed and my faith waivered, when it first aired. Yes, I like shounen, and I like “cool fights”. I liked the “cool fight” last episode with Kirito turning into Gleam Eyes, and I liked Kirito fighting against Eugene here. But after this episode ended, I sat down and thought to myself, “Shit, in the second half of this episode, nothing happened. Absolutely nothing.”

    The 2nd arc wasted a lot of time, and this episode was bad about it. I also heaved a mighty sigh when we had a really good look at Leafa’s butt after Kirito borrowed her sword, I was like, “Man what”.

    In the underground passage there was a small aside that they cut from the adaptation, which could be seen as closer to Tom Bombadil in LotR. It wouldn’t have added anything to the actual storyline, so cutting it was a solid choice, but filling the rest of the time with nothing didn’t help either. Would’ve rather had a sidestory that breaks tension than nothingness that breaks tension, maybe?

    • Oh damn, I’m actually excited for the next arc, then! Even if the show itself doesn’t really have piercing reflections on the topic, that’ll be a really, really fun thing to talk about. That’s already one of my favorite pet subjects.

      And this episode already basically felt like a sidestory, so I’d probably welcome some Bombadil shenanigans.

  2. I think the anime often forgets that this is a supposed to be a game. Bikini-slaves and whatnot are liberties taken by the adaptation. I also think it’s a bit unrealistic for grunts to dress like faceless grunts instead of having their own personalized adventurer gear. Although maybe it’s a special Salamander uniform they had to grind a month’s worth of rep for and are proud of?

    This is of course the worst arc ever, and this episode is especially pointless.

  3. Since you mention NGNL, actually, at least that one has a very brisk pacing and tends to go quite crazy with the games – while the MCs are overpowered by default (though they do at least have one “Kryptonite” kind of weak point) the way their victories unfold is still a bit more structured than “waves his sword in the air, wins”.

    Btw, I don’t really agree with the theme of actions in a game reflecting morality. It’s silly as fuck because I could be doing lots of things for the sake of role playing and just entering the spirit of a part of a world different from mine (ok, not role-playing to the point of being a bikini clad slave, but still). If I’m a Dark Warlock of Kuhl-Gul I’ll probably be a dick and eat virtual babies for breakfast because that’s what being a Dark Warlock is about, not because I’m a terrible person. Escapism and catharsis go hand-in-hand – in fact, that’s the very crux of escapism. Which isn’t in itself a bad thing either until it becomes a way of life.

    • Since you mention NGNL, actually, at least that one has a very brisk pacing

      To be honest, yes and no. It has episodes with brisk pacing, but then it has episodes where essentially nothing happens, often going “lots, nothing, lots, nothing”. And no, an episode where nothing happens but the last 1 min has a cliffhanger is still a “nothing happened” episode, they just try to use the cliffhanger to make you forget everything prior 😛

      Real people, online person.

      Eating virtual people is one thing, but you’re interacting with real people online in such games, and how you treat them is indicative of you as a person, not how you act about NPCs.

      • True, sometimes NGNL does lag behind. I guess I tend to forgive it because well, when nothing happens plot-wise, there often is comedy or otherwise loud and sparkly stuff. It’s kinda hit-and-miss, but still far from the snorefest of these episodes of SAO to me. Not a great anime by any means, but it’s entertaining and that’s more than many LN adaptations can manage. I’d put it on the same tier as Hataraku Maou-Sama (better in its high moments, worse in its low ones, especially when it does its crudest jokes).

        As for the issue of interacting with people online, I’ll steal your answer: yes and no. Certainly if I interact with people online I can be a dick to them and that’s not a sign of good personality. Griefers and ragers on games like League of Legends are your typical example. But here Kirito interprets the game actions in a literal way. Stabbing people from behind may be an horrible thing to do IRL and a dishonorable thing to do in many combat scenarios, but if you’re a Spy in Team Fortress 2, that’s what you do. I wouldn’t want to play if there weren’t adversaries willing to play super-dirty against me: as long as they don’t cheat, that’s part of the fun.

      • I’m pretty sure that’s not what Kirito is saying. He has nothing whatsoever against any of the Salamanders and indeed praises them for doing whatever they can to try to kill them and undermine the Slyphs. The show even emphasizes this repeatedly (also part of his super-nice-guy characterization). He’s just saying that betraying people’s trust is always going to be betraying people’s trust. If you’re a enemy agent sneaking around stabbing people from behind, then sure whatever that’s your job. But if you decide you don’t like your allies and betray them for personal gain then you’re a jerk. If you intentionally hurt your own team because you think it’s funny you’re a jerk.

      • If I intentionally hurt my team because I think it’s funny it could actually be funny. Unless you’re competing for the World LoL championship, or simply playing with total strangers, then you’re a jerk. But the point is, it’s part of the game. It all is. To me, this logic sounds like you’re taking the game too seriously either way. Thrash-talking and insulting someone is one thing – that’s bad because it refers to the real life person, not the game character. But anything that is allowed by game mechanics is fair game imho. Which doesn’t mean I’d do anything (I’m not much of a multiplayer gamer anyway), but simply that I wouldn’t judge anyone for doing it.

        For reference:


        Some of these combine genius and dickishness in equal parts. But whoever thought to crash the WoW funeral for a fellow guild member who had died IN REAL LIFE? Yeah, that was a terrible person.

    • It’s pretty interresting how a show can reflects his MC’s personality.
      That’s why the MC choice should be given more thought.
      NGNL is really unequal,and self aware, and crude at time.

      NGNL has a pretty fundamental difference with SAO and Mahouka.
      It’s more about the world being amazing, than the MCs.
      Sora and Shiro actively despite the real world (everything related to it are their main weakness, to a truly debilitating level). Sora can only interract with others by using manipulation
      They says many time they have no desire to return to it, and wants to stay it forever. They are only great at one thing, and they have a whole world bending to the only thing they’re good at.
      It’s escapism in its purest form.
      Tatsuya wants to preserve the status quo.
      SAO have Kirito being actually awesome as well IRL (maybe to a lesser extent) And in this ark, he’s fighting to save Asuna in the real world (not discussing the implication here).

      • Yup. If I had to say, out of the three shows, I think NGNL has the most interesting things to say about escapism and hikikomoris – to the point of being actually a bit of a self-satire of otakus for otakus. Then again there’s the fanservice (which sometimes still manages to be creative and funny, but still), and the loli MC (which imho isn’t really much focused on/sexualized, especially if compared to other shows, but you can’t deny that it’s there for a reason, most likely). But yeah, it has an interesting undercurrent of bitterness and self-loathing that is most evident when Sora is forced to talk and think about himself.

    • As others have said, it’s less about the character doing bad things in a videogame, and more about doing bad things to other human beings in a videogame. Which becomes more clouded in a game like this which encourages PvP, but it’s clear here that Kirito is not willing to make that distinction, and that the show is far more interested in the general concept of virtual morality versus real-life morality, and virtual selves versus real selves.

      • Yeah, I’m just arguing that since the writer (for his own admission) knows jack of actual games, he simply reduced this issue to a mere “you do bad things in a game = you are a bad person hurr durr” while the truth is a bit more sophisticated than that – there are in-game actions that qualify you as a bad person, they’re just not as obvious as Kirito makes them.

      • The writer of SAO doesn’t play games? Really? Wow, I thought he had MMO games down pretty well.

  4. To go with your mentions about how this arc really does have pretty scenery, this is also the arc where Kajiura Yuki woke up and actually wrote some decent music. I honestly couldn’t tell you a damn thing about the music in the Aincrad Arc, other than being rather generically Kajiura-ish, but the music in the Alfheim arc is actually really good!

    Granted it still doesn’t hold a candle to her .hack//SIGN work, but then again, the show in general doesn’t hold a candle to .hack//SIGN.

    • Yeah, some of these songs have been solid. I can’t imagine what it’s like to compose for something like this.

  5. When MMO were a bit newers there was a tons of players rocking female avatar and dancing in underwear for cash. So those slaves standing there are no surprise hehe.

    And yea anime purity complex is one of the most annoying trend I find. Well it’s also very present in society…

  6. 4:05 – “Goddamnit, if these RPing dorks kill us it’ll take forty minutes to get everyone respawned. IRON CHEF IS ON IN TWENTY.”

    I think the last is out of the way so it gets a few hours to get there? These people do have real lives. If if it takes a few hours to get there, it might not actually be easy to get everyone together at the same time.

    That said, I’m not really sure about how the in-game communication works. Is it really necessary for people to meet up in person to talk? Can’t the guild leaders just PM each other to talk about important things?

    How Suguha and her short friend communicate when he’s doing the spy thing?

    16:23 – Catgirls are especially vulnerable to Kirito’s charms

    Funny thing… unlike Aincard people’s characters don’t reflect their actual appearance. That catgirl could be a fat old lady, or a 10 year old girl, or even a man. Though there is an issue with the voice…

    • Well, VR has some sort of voice modulation stuff. It doesn’t have to be your own voice. Kirito isn’t even supposed to look or sound the same (in fact, according to original art work, Kirito even looks black.)
      ALO also has a gender restriction thing, that works by scanning your brain, and determining your gender like that. (of course, there are bugs where your gender is confused, apparently)

    • Yeah, if this were actually important, the easy route would just be to have the leaders PM each other, maybe even talk on the phone or something, and then finalize stuff in a safe, convenient location. I don’t think we’re supposed to think about this situation too deeply…

  7. “13:06 – Wait, there are players who log on to an MMO in order to be Sigurd’s bikini-clad throne-slaves? Jesus christ, these players take their roleplaying SERIOUSLY AS FUCK” I feel like I saw an explanation once that cleared up if they were real players or like, props you could buy (which would be pretty fucked up now that I’ve typed that out). Hell, I’m trying to figure out how you convince ANY serious MMORPGer that “instead of customizing your fancy outfit you need to dress in this uniform which makes you a mook” but I wondered that during the first arc as well (and I see from the comments I’m not the only person thinking this).

    Man, I’m realizing how much more fun this series it would be if it was like, a short poking fun at how SERIOUS BUSINESS some people are about video games and how it matches/contrasts with them IRL.

    • Yeah, this show is like three steps short of true satire, which is almost a shame. The worst part is that it often seems like it actually wants to be that, too – it wouldn’t even have to really change its themes.

  8. Ugh besides everything already on SAO we’re getting a harem too? Why do you do this to yourself bob. Did you murder someone? Commit unspeakable acts. Why the self-flagellation a la SAO.

  9. Last Ep’s post served to make me (an amateur writer) extremely humbled and/or jealous.
    No comment on the actual topic, as I can’t say anything about it. Nothing more needs saying.
    As for this ep… see previous. ^^;

  10. That episode should have been condensed to about ten minutes, and combined with the previous one, which also should have been condensed to ten minutes. This arc is slow and wandering and pretty much totally lacking in compelling drama. I knew this second one would be worse, but I wasn’t really hoping for “boring” worse. Ah well, only five episodes left. Stuff’s gotta happen soon!

    Yes, I totally agree with you. Contrast with the feeling in the first arc, when we had a whole new world to explore, this second arc is boring, there is nothing worthy of discussing.

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