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!
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
3:32 – “Thanks, Kirito, but you’ve been plenty hero enough. You don’t have to hero anymore today!”
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
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
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!”
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
7:37 – MWAHAHAHA. I hope this GM is assigning extra points for authenticity
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
9:26 – Oh joy. Big sword and dual-wielding. This author just has an endless well of ideas, I guess
10:06 – Kneel, mortals
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
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!
Actually, I like this girl. Someone who’s actually comfortably sexual is way better than “k-k-kissu?!?”-type love interests
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!
20:00 – Nice colors
20:16 – Friggin’ daughterus
20:40 – RUH ROH
21:09 – Noooo. Flee, birds! TAKE ME WITH YOU
21:36 – Lest we accidentally think she’s actually capable of any non-Kirito-centric action
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!