Sword Art Online – Episode 21

Five episodes to go. That’s less than half a dozen. That’s shorter than FLCL. That’s barely a movie’s worth of time.

This arc has been slow, and bad, and regularly pointless, and gross in a lot of ways the first half never even threatened to be, but…

Five episodes left. That’s doable. That’s fine! And people say this is as bad as it gets, meaning once I’m through this, I can actually look forward to the next season! And those’ll be going up as it actually airs, so I don’t even have to listen to you guys chuckling to yourselves about whatever horrors are still waiting for me. We’ll get to experience it together.

Five episodes left. If we’re going by the current ratio, that means we’ve only got maybe fifteen more minutes of horrible Asuna-assault scenes to get through, IN TOTAL. And hell, she’s actually gotten out of her little cage! I doubt this show will actually let her do anything, but it might mean her next couple scenes will be relatively rape-free, at least.

How have I reached the point where I am comforting myself with sentences like that.

Alright, fuck it. Let’s make it to four episodes left.

Episode 21

0:09 – Man, you really can’t fault the environments in this second act. We have been getting some gorgeous backgrounds

Sword Art Online

0:24 – Oh shit, and we’re already at the tree! PROGRESS! Alright Deku Tree, reveal to us your secrets

0:34 – Another beautiful shot

0:53 – Aw shit dun dun dun

1:36 – The way this place wavers between being an MMO and just straight-up being a fantasy world is kind of silly. What does it matter to them where they log out their avatars for the night? Do you get better rest bonuses for higher quality inns?

Sword Art Online


3:34 – Aaaaaggh fuuuuck oh wait Asuna’s actually escaping

3:39 – Gotta do that arm-flailing anime-maiden run!

4:06 – Man, the programmers of these places are really dedicated to authenticity. Though I can’t blame them – I imagine if I were an evil villain designing my own personal MMO, the interior decor of my secret lair would be a pretty high priority. “But sir, no-one’s ever going to see that content-” “IT HAS TO BE PERFECT”

4:13 – Probably one of the all-time classic anime shots

Sword Art Online

4:54 – They always have her stand like that. Sugu has some pretty distinctive spinal issues

5:33 – Man, it is super-refreshing to be getting an Asuna episode. It’s also nice that her narrative isn’t just “go towards the big game goal!” She’s actually sneaking around, and there’s ambiguity in how she’ll actually fix anything. Hell, even the fact that we know this is really Kirito’s Big Adventure lends an element of danger, because it just seems kind of unlikely she’ll actually accomplish much independently. I never thought depriving female characters of agency would be successfully used to build tension!

5:36 – Our author continues to show a staggering dedication to not understand how developer-side game interfaces work

6:16 – Dang, Onii-blocked by his comatose waifu. I know that feel, Sugu

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6:47 – I like the narrative structure they’re using this episode. Spacing Metal Gear Asuna out with these little casual vignettes kinda builds anticipation all on its own. When you alternate the mundane and the tense, you can really build a “when’s the other shoe going to drop” kind of suspense in the audience. This episode seems much more purposefully designed than the last few

Jeez, I’m barely halfway through my beer. Is this episode going to be good?

7:25 – He’s overclocking their pain neurons! BRaIn sCiENcE!

7:35 – A nice shot. Asuna has a nice design/profile for setting up pretty compositions

7:53 – Goddamnit Asuna, do you WANT him to get away with this? You can’t SAY that!

Sword Art Online

8:09 – The fuck

8:11 – What

8:20 – Wait, aren’t those people? Like, Evileye McToothSmiles’ secret technicians, right? Why are their avatars blob-monsters?

8:36 – Okay no we need to get back to this

8:53 – Nice detail. That’d actually be an interesting social dynamic to see play out

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9:09 – Rockin’ hat, Sugu

9:19 – Wow, I really like this. How indifferent he’s acting towards the events of SAO – this feels like legitimate characterization. Like it’s all something apart from him

9:49 – Holy shit, killing two fantasies with one imouto

10:37 – Unfortunately for Asuna, unlike Kirito, she can’t SUPER HACKING, and has to actually figure out what consoles and operating systems do


Sword Art Online


11:01 – Yeah, that whole outfit’s pretty sweet. Must be nice for the character designers to get to dress someone who hasn’t watched The Matrix fifty times

Goddamnit, I can’t believe I’m reduced to complimenting character fashion sense. Help me

11:30 – Considering how Asuna originally felt about real versus digital worlds, that’s actually a nice detail

11:45 – Sorry show, you’re not gonna convince me just by putting the words in his mouth

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12:13 – Show I don’t I can’t show what are you


SAO why

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12:44 – greatest love story ever help

12:51 – This show is currently playing on Adult Swim to introduce new people to the wonderful world of anime

13:08 – I could ask a number of people that question

13:29 – Sure. Get it all out. Our intrepid author was apparently raised on Bond films and tentacle porn

13:39 – Hahaha, rape!

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13:59 – will this show ever end. is this my life now

14:05 – why

14:09 – greatest

14:11 – greatest love story


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14:45 – Four episodes, seven minutes, and maybe fifteen seconds remaining

14:55 – what are you even trying to do, show. what are you trying to say. this adds nothing. it’s just… it’s just…

I don’t even want to talk about what this is adding. It’s increasing the rapeyness tenfold, which most charitably could be conceived of as increasing the perception of Asuna’s helplessness, and thus the stakes.

That’s using Asuna as an object to be raped for cheap dramatic effect. Cool.

Next down the list, it could be reminding the audience out there that if Kirito doesn’t hurry up, Asuna won’t be pure anymore! Holy shit oh wow oh no what’ll we do then.

Yeah, that’s a pretty great “clock” to be going for.

But finally, and, you know what, most obviously, this is happening just because the author fucking likes it. There are so, so, so many ways you could increase tension in this story. There are so many choices you could make. But no, Asuna gets molested by a tentacle monster because for this guy, that’s just a fucking awesome thing to do to your female characters.

Wonderful. Beautiful. Absolutely staggering work by all parties.

I just don’t understand

15:11 – At this point, I only see all of these words as coming from the author’s mouth, and I only see the author as one of those slug-monsters, and maybe that’s just the best way to get through this experience

Sword Art Online

15:25 – show don’t talk about feelings please

15:36 – incest joke

16:20 – great cool that’s the doll we’re fighting for

The show’s not gonna play that scene as a big deal, of course. It’s just a thing that happened to Asuna, and Asuna is just a thing that’s important to Kirito. We shouldn’t get too worked up over stuff like that

17:01 – Why do you put these scenes after your awful shit, SAO. You’ve done it before, and I’m sure you’ll do it again. I mean, I know the answer – it’s because you don’t understand drama and consequences and human beings. It’s because you’re written by a boy who likes stories more than he likes people.

Goddamnit, just go back to Kirito whacking stuff and making girls blush. You’re kind of okay at that!

Sword Art Online

17:14 – SAO I have a real-life problem with you right now so it’s cool let’s just talk about this

17:20 – It’s not even sadness Kirito I just feel nothing how do I feel

17:24 – Yes but what do you do if your author doesn’t understand emotions

17:34 – hold me Kirito i can’t take this it’s so hard

17:48 – we can only hope Sugu we can only hope

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18:50 – The big questions

18:55 – I think you’d get the same answer if you asked any female character the same question

19:30 – How can they just walk around like nothing happened. How can they not know what this story has done

19:53 – Did you guys ever notice ‘Yggdrasil’ rhymes with ‘Rape Castle’

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19:59 – I can barely believe it either

And Done

and done and done and done. Dun-dun-dun, da-da-dun, dun, done.

I just

SAO why do you do these things. Why do you do them. I can’t even…

No. No despair. I have to be stronger than this thing!

We’re gonna make it through this, guys.

We’re gonna make it through this.

Four episodes left. Four episodes left. Four episodes left.

58 thoughts on “Sword Art Online – Episode 21

  1. Four episodes left. Four episodes left. Four episodes left.

    A missed opportunity for “I mustn’t run away! I mustn’t run away!”

  2. You know, after watching this episode, I couldn’t continue to suffer any longer. Therefore, I have watched all the four remaining episodes in one go.

    There is nothing worse than delayed and prolonged suffering.

    • Unfortunately, the time it takes to do these writeups basically prevents me from doing any speed-watching at all. I must watch this train hit the wall in slow motion the whole way through.

  3. “but it might mean her next couple scenes will be relatively rape-free, at least.” Knowing the content of this episode I laughed when I read this part. Welcome to the lowest point in SAO. I would like to hope this scene is the result of the editor saying “if you’re going to have almost rape scenes, then you need to add tentacles to appeal to that audience”. I’ve heard that a lot of the shit we get put through in this arc is a result of the editor basically forcing him to write a sequel he had never planned. Unfortunately even if it’s true, it doesn’t excuse it from being atrocious writing, and just downright sickening at times.

    • So the editor just made him write a sequel? And then another one? And another one? Am I to believe that the editor has been making him continue the series this whole time? Maybe the editor just killed him and is writing SAO himself.

      • Like I said that’s just what I heard. But it only applies to Elfheim. Supposedly he never planned on continuing the series, but he got talked into it by his editor. By the end of this arc he had an idea of where to go with the series as a whole. But this is just what I have heard, and there is a good chance it’s just something fans say to justify a shitty arc.

    • “I’ve heard that a lot of the shit we get put through in this arc is a result of the editor basically forcing him to write a sequel he had never planned” – Nah, When he first wrote SAO he didn’t have an editor. He started a sequel because he got a surprising amount of positive feedback from the first part, when SAO was just a Web Novel. His editor started making changes, when it came time to publish SAO as a Light Novel.

      I don’t know how many changes were made, seeing as I can’t read the web novel, but I know that this attempted-rape scene here was still present in the original. Though, I think the emphasis on Asuna’s “purity” was probably by the editor, though I’m only guessing here. (Also, he’s admitted that Suguha wasn’t supposed to have massive Sugus, until the editor suggested it,)

      • Ok it sounds like you know what you are talking about more than I do. There is a reason I said that I’ve heard that, and didn’t state it as fact. I take everything people tell me on the internet with a grain of salt, but it seemed like a reasonable explanation for the drop in quality. I’m not surprised it turns out it was just an excuse misinformed fans were using to defend a shitty arc in the story.

      • We can assume he hadn’t planned to continue, based on the fact that before SAO, he had only written one-shot sort stories, and he only wrote it for a contest (he was rejected due to a page count limit.) According to interviews and such, he ended up putting the story on his site (basically just the first novel) People liked it, so he started writing more. This makes SAO his first series, which is probably the real reason for the drop in quality. Inexperience.

        That said, it seems like his publishers liked it enough to get it printed, most probably because of his other work, Accel World.

    • Yeah, nothing can really excuse these choices. I said a couple episodes ago that SAO has now made choices it can never take back, and this episode really piled on the crimes.

  4. 6:16 – Dang, Onii-blocked by his comatose waifu. I know that feel, Sugu

    You know how Sugu tears her suspiciously heart-shaped leaf of lettuce in half when he says that

    Because you know

    Leafa’s heart is broken.

    There’s also that one moment where the only other spriggan in existence and a cait sith are getting all chummy in the background. Can you handle all these cryptic metaphors, man? Think you can understand how deep this show goes? In other directions besides into Asuna?

  5. Congratulations! You have arrived to the actual Worst Part of SAO! We all hope you enjoy your stay, because 24 is the apex of this creation. Good luck.

  6. The scary thing is that I know some females who tried to defend this episode.

  7. Well, the last episode isn’t too bad on its own. But it gets worse before it gets better. I would say just take care of it quickly like a band-aid, but I can’t if I want to read more of these posts.

  8. “And those’ll be going up as it actually airs, so I don’t even have to listen to you guys chuckling to yourselves about whatever horrors are still waiting for me.” Except for the part where the LN readers can still totally do that.
    1:36 Well you hardly want to wake up and find yourself surrounded by enemies right?

    And oh god, I thought this scene was an episode or two farther on, just four more episodes left and I’m like 95% sure the next arc has NO nearly rape scenes at all!

    • Dunno man, coupled with the frankly bad writing style (I think that’s partly the fault of bad fan translators, but still), I don’t think I could suffer through the LNs if I was just doing it for shit and giggles. It takes real masochism or actually liking the stuff. At least the anime is pretty and has Yuki Kajiura music.

  9. all work and no play makes Bob a duh boy all work and no play makes Bob a duh boy aLL wORK aND nO pLAY mAKES bOB a dUH bOY all work and no play makes Bob a duh boy

    Who fucking thought that it would be good game design to make a VR where some asshole can prevent you from logging out by VR-physically restraining you!? This is even dumber than the “sleep duel PK” thing.

  10. “If we’re going by the current ratio, that means we’ve only got maybe fifteen more minutes of horrible Asuna-assault scenes to get through, IN TOTAL. And hell, she’s actually gotten out of her little cage! I doubt this show will actually let her do anything, but it might mean her next couple scenes will be relatively rape-free, at least.”

    As someone who knew what was coming this episode I burst out laughing at this point and didn’t stop until I reached the end of the post (and then some). It never gets old how you go into each episode all gung-ho and optimistic then get crushed by the reality of SAO midway through. Just to check, this is all written as you’re watching the show, right?

    Hang in there, you’re almost at the finish line and I for one have really enjoyed your dissection of this… thing. Probably more than I enjoyed SAO itself. It’s a terrible show, but on a level of so terrible it doubles around and somehow becomes somewhat entertaining. Here’s to hoping that the second season is even more entertainingly awful than the first.

  11. Virtual rape.
    It’s virtual rape here.
    Well… Obviously, there’s the psychological care, but that doesn’t seems to be what the author is going to here, so…

    I don’t… I just don’t get it. It’s more pathetic than anything.
    Either it’s a computer program and then it’s just sick, or those “guys” are the lamest persons on Earth.

    Well.. Don’t worry, you can smile again.

  12. This should be the lowest point in the series. No wait, the second lowest. The LOWEST point is on Episode 24. Have fun.

  13. This is definitely the worse part. Episode 24 was just too over the top. Also it doesn’t result in a RESET. Nor does it raise your hopes by having Asuna do stuff before destroying them.

    8:53 – Nice detail. That’d actually be an interesting social dynamic to see play out

    You’d think so. Unfortunately there are no WAIFU’s to rescue there.

    Maaaan. Remember the ALFO arc makes me awfully cynical about SAO.

    • This arc makes it particularly hard to feel generous towards this show. I actually prefer being kind of fondly critical of it, so hopefully the next arc doesn’t get quite this irredeemable.

  14. “11:45 – Sorry show, you’re not gonna convince me just by putting the words in his mouth” – Well, there was a short side-story the author wrote that apparently showed Asuna was likely able to beat him in a fair fight. (though he ended up using a faint to catch her off-guard and land one hit)

  15. I forgot to ask, but what do you mean by:

    4:54 – They always have her stand like that. Sugu has some pretty distinctive spinal issues

    • My guess it that most shot’s of the character have her posing in a fanservice-y way (camera angle emphasizes her breasts/butt/etc).
      I find it sad a lot of shows do that. So few series that have female leads that don’t end up sexualised. Heck, I’d be fine if it made sense in the world, happened rarely/once and was dealt with like it would be in reality.

    • They pretty much always have Sugu stand with her chest pushed forward as much as possible, which looks really unnatural.

  16. How someone can consider it appropriate to casually input some tentacle rape scenario into this type of show is actually impressive. That this then however even passes over into the anime adaption without a bunch of people going “Wait, this is actually fucked up. Why would we do this? It’s not even beneficial to the storytelling!” – just wow.

    Then again, No Game No Life had a casual nude 11 year old sister with very sexualized camera direction scene. No big deal, fan service like that… right?

    • Nanana’s Buried Treasure seems almost tame in comparison.
      And that’s the one who ended a battle with bondage, and have that Pick your Fetish OP.

      And it also respects its female character better (even if it’s mostly with Tensai, and the fact Dark is a guy).

      That really pains me to says it, because it’s in no way a good show (It was a pretty pleasant comfort show, but it’s still a VN fantasy), because you have to go pretty low to accomplish that.

      • Coincidentally I just finished Nanana a day ago, as the series ended and I watched the majority of it at once. After the first 4 episodes I thought it was at least fun so far. Have to say it really lacked a good structure, went all over the place with its characters and had a few really needless fan service scene, such as the one you mentioned. That said, it’s execution was somewhat decent and the fan service not as gratuitous. In fact, the whole “trap” stuff was kinda hilarious and I can usually just roll my eyes at that whole ‘trap’ idea.

        If only SAO had anything it would execute decently. But alas, it’s nothing (for me anyways).

    • Yeah, it’s just normalized, I guess. Stuff like this doesn’t set off any writing/character-portrayal alarm bells.

  17. Man, reading that intro was just sad. You sounded so uplifted, Bobdub, and we knew that only misery was in your future. It’s like watching a sick kid talk about his dreams, only for the rest of us to remember that the kid’s cancer will leave him a silent corpse in the next few days.

    It’s kinda like that. Only, you know, with more anime and less death.

  18. rofl, I was waiting for you to reach this episode. I’m one of those guys who has the ability to just turn off his brain and enjoy the emotional ride and pretty colors (or is it that i have to consciously turn my brain on? Hmm…)… but that tentacle rape scene… yeah. Pretty pathetic. Even I was like “seriously, anime?!”

    Bonus points for the fact that you were really enjoying the episode up to that point. It’s like the show is deliberately trolling us… and if there’s anything I enjoy, it’s watching someone else freak out at an author-troll. For instance, I thought the second season of Haruhi was mildly interesting from an animation perspective (same events, but different animation styles, different orders, different emphasis, events didn’t always repeat perfectly, etc)… and then I got to the Internet to check out what everyone else thought of it. ROFL.

    • This second half did that a whooole bunch – pretty great first half leading into truly awful second half. SAO huge troll.

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