Sword Art Online – Episode 22

I announced last episode’s post with the line “I hope you like suffering,” at which point it suddenly occurred to me that Sword Art Online is kind of more clever than it realizes. Normally “I hope you like suffering” is used to refer to shows that contain suffering – shows wherein the characters themselves actually suffer. Sword Art Online certainly has plenty of that, but what I was actually referring to was that the process of watching it is suffering. And now that I’ve realized the relationship I share with this show, I think I can almost appreciate what it’s forcing me to do. Sword Art Online is the cartoon villain of this story – Sword Art Online is punishing me, and last episode was clearly its cruelest attack yet. But as the show itself constantly demonstrates, cartoon villains only really do evil things so the hero can look awesome defeating them. And if Sword Art Online is the villain of this story, then fuck it, I’m ready to be the hero.

So thanks for being such an unrepentant, terrible dick, Sword Art Online. All this despair, all these awful narrative choices and gross abuses of your characters – they’ve all set you up as a horrible, monstrous creation, and I’m ready to look awesome striking you down.

Cue the goddamn hero music. Four episodes left, Sword Art Online. Let’s dance.

Episode 22

0:23 – An accidentally great “SAO in one image”

Sword Art Online

0:46 – Please, give me this one

0:53 – Lovely

3:07 – I’m not scared anymore, show. What else could you do now that would possibly hurt me further? There’s nothing left to take

4:06 – Kirito, this may be difficult for you to understand, but there are actually problems you can’t solve by punching them

4:39 – And while we’re on the subject, not all objects do things when you poke them

Sword Art Online

4:47 – Dang, good thing Asuna had one of those lying around

4:54 – Oh right, she must have kept the one that she found last episode just before… just before…

5:29 – This show is so friggin’ confident in its own mythology. It just kind of gets worse the further it goes along, as it makes greater and greater assumptions of dramatic investment on the basis of its flimsy dramatic premises.

Which is one fundamental reason why the first arc was much better – because of the vignette structure, it at least had to attempt to induce dramatic investment every couple episodes, as opposed to just assuming the audience is 100% on-board with how serious everything is and how much we’re supposed to care about these characters

6:01 – You can’t help me any more, Leafa. If you followed now, you’d only be putting yourself at risk of being gallantly saved by me

Sword Art Online

7:07 – I hope something eventually happens this episode

8:01 – Oh man, it’s like those sweet laser-sphinxes from Neverending Story

8:11 – Is his plan here really just “be the main character as hard as I possibly can”? Or are we supposed to be assuming he’s acting irrationally because Greatest Love Story? Or is Kirito being irrational something we’re supposed to assume is part of his character?

I almost want to think it’s the third one, because he does crazy impulsive stuff pretty often, but unfortunately that always works out for him, so it doesn’t really work as a character “flaw.”

8:40 – This episode has been nine straight minutes of Kirito flying forward and posing heroically. Kirito and Asuna’s love has nothing on this show’s love for itself

Sword Art Online

9:27 – Er, nine and a half minutes

10:22 – Alright, I think I get the gist of Kirito’s plan now

10:39 – Still not sure if they’re actually doing something with Berserker Kirito, or if that’s just meant to be an endearing character trait

12:09 – Is this a shoutout to the Mass Production Series fight? Bold reference, SAO

Very nice animation throughout that sequence, incidentally. It’s just Kirito chopping up a bunch of robots, but it does look pretty!

12:27 – Shit, it is referencing that, isn’t it? They’ve used like five of the same shots

Sword Art Online

13:25 – Oh dang, we character developing now? “I thought I could overcome this game’s limits and do anything I wanted.”

13:56 – Alright now we’re just getting a greatest hits montage

14:11 – Something something hubris?

14:34 – Something something “I don’t have the right to die selfishly for myself”?

14:38 – Sure, why not

Sword Art Online

15:22 – Cheap shots aside, it’s nice to see Sugu really doing something

16:32 – Yeah jeez Leafa what were you thinking

16:57 – Is the point here not that he’s being really selfish? Because he’s clearly being extremely selfish and short-sighted and generally kinda stupid.

17:07 – Okay, cool, the show’s not just on his side here. I honestly can’t tell what’s supposed to be romantic/heroic and what’s supposed to be an actual narrative conflict – I’ve basically lost contact with how I’m ever “supposed” to feel about Kirito, so it feels like I’m watching aliens with six eyes and three noses express six-eyed, three-nosed emotional cues I can’t translate

17:12 – Girl, last episode you were heartbroken over Onii-chan. You gotta get your feelings straight here

Sword Art Online

17:26 – None of what will end. What are you actually referring to that she would be aware of

17:28 – Okay now you’re just saying things


18:05 – THAT’S RIGHT

18:10 – Alright, I’m entertained

Sword Art Online

18:18 – Man, some imoutos can’t catch a break. Her psychiatrist is not gonna believe this one

19:09 – Oh god, I’m already cringing

19:14 – Really nice shot

19:18 – C’mon Sugu, just think of all the sibling bonding we can do now that we have so much in common

19:52 – Man it is just the face parade today

Sword Art Online

20:15 – This is a really good episode of Days of Our Lives

20:55 – Yeah Kirito, why the fuck were you being so nice to your sister if you weren’t planning on reciprocating her forbidden love?!? Explain that!

21:17 – God damn his powers. No matter which path you take, all roads lead to Kirito

21:41 – The flight/freedom thing actually works quite well with Sugu feeling trapped by her own feelings. And that scene was actually handled perfectly well, too. It’s really just the context of this show/Kirito’s Powers, plus the naturally artificial nature of these incest conflicts, that really kills it

But yeah, this incest sideplot is definitely the best thing going on at the moment!

Sword Art Online

22:00 – Seen Some Shit Rating: 8/10

And Done

Well, that episode was… just kinda boring, actually. Almost the entire first half was Kirito running towards the door, and then he whacked some robots, and then he found out his sister’s in love with him. The drama bit was actually handled nicely, but it is beyond impossible to feel invested in someone else falling in love with Kirito at this point – that ship sailed three harem members ago. There wasn’t really anything overtly bad in this episode – it was just one more in a long line of them that probably should have been half an episode instead. But the end’s in sight, now. I could probably trip entirely at this point and still skid my way across the finish line. I’m going to make it.

25 thoughts on “Sword Art Online – Episode 22

  1. I’ll say this, Taketatsu Ayana goddamn sold that scene. Yes it was ultimately stupid, forced, idiotic drama, but by god she delivered the hell out of it.

    Respect for that.

    Also its pretty amazing that it took this long for him to finally mention to Leafa what he was even doing.

    • Yeah, it was a solid performance. I wish she didn’t have to carry the whole thing by herself – this context is just impossible for me to take seriously.

    • Yeh isn’t it kinda weird how little these characters talk about the topic of this main quest of Kirito? He wants to rescue a very important person but for some reason they never even happen to mention the name? Or why Asuna has to be rescued in the first place?

      Well maybe it’s Kirito’s irresistible charm that puts all focus on him, who cares about some rival girl?!?

      As far as this episode goes, the ‘twist’ revelation was pulled of decently actually.

  2. I think this was one of those best episodes of the second half. Savor it more :p

    But yeah, this incest sideplot is definitely the best thing going on at the moment!

    Probably not too many anime which you can say that seriously.

  3. There’s a moment in the final episode where you can see a very good direction the story could have taken the incest subplot, and it’s along the lines of what you’ve noted in this episode, but it’s all muddled up between muh waifus, muh power fantasy, muh bewbs, and Sugou. As a result, the subplot just doesn’t fit in the grand scheme of things. Which is a shame because it had the potential to be quite fascinating.

    BUT STILL I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU’RE STILL MISSING THESE DEEP SYMBOLISMS. The Spriggan from earlier with a different girl with the Cait Sith from earlier watching in the background? Can’t you recognize all this meaning and significance they put into this incest subplot?

  4. Yeah Kirito, why the fuck were you being so nice to your sister if you weren’t planning on reciprocating her forbidden love?!? Explain that!

    Has anyone photoshopped Sugu with a fedora before?
    Also yes, anime might be the only place where the Nice Girl is a thing. Amazing.

  5. That revelation scene – and the argument that followed – was actually potent stuff. In a different show, one more worthy of investment, it could have been vastly more powerful, which kinda says something. So at least we know Sugu’s VA was giving it a real effort.

    • Yeah, it was played very well. If that had come at the end of a first-arc vignette, it could possibly have been the series’ strongest moment – it’s let down by context, not execution.

  6. “Or is Kirito being irrational something we’re supposed to assume is part of his character?” I think that’s it, although you’re right that he usually succeeds for it too….

    As for berserker Kirito, I have a weird thought: we never saw really anything like that in the first arc right? I’m wondering, between when the first book (erm, you know what I meant, the plot-y part) was originally written and this arc, was there a super popular character pop up in the manga/anime world who was prone to berserker fits? I think it’s too early for Attack on Titan but I almost wonder if it’s just aping another story since it does come out of nowhere (and if it’s because “I won’t die for real” it doesn’t fit in with his determination to not let another party member die, though this series is anything but consistent).

    • The only character I can think of who’s famous for going berserk while trying to save his lover from being raped is Guts from Berserk, who also goes by the moniker ‘The Black Swordsman’ and has a sword that looks really similar to the one Kirito is using.

      • Berserk did cross my mind but I thought that was TOO blatant (and it wouldn’t have to be for the same reason here, I was just thinking of someone with the same character trait in general, that they tend to let loose a bit more than usual in a very violent sort of way).

        • Isn’t it somewhat of a shounen trope, though? The hero gains new power, but it’s one so overwhelming that they enter a berseker state, and later they have to learn to control it. Naruto and Kyuubi, Ichigo and his inner Hollow.
          The Starburst SCREAMMMMM HAAAAAHHHHHH seemed to have shades of that, but I always thought that was just the show being a drama queen as usual.

    • When you think about it, most people coming out of Sword Art Online probably have PTSD. This whole thing will actually be plot-relevant for the next arc.

    • Don’t think the first book really showed him in some sort of “berserk” state. Though, he describes that in almost all his fights, he feels like the world around him has slowed down. That’s about it.
      Like Guy said, it could be PTSD, but it’s bizarre that so many of SAO’s survivors were deemed mentally healthy, even Kirito.

    • It was kind of a “thing” in that he definitely did seem to enjoy his big fights, but that seemed more strictly for the audience’s benefit than an actual character beat. Which only makes all of this that much more confusing.

  7. One thing I realized is that this writer seems to really love the “wings as freedom” trope. In Accel World it is played both better and more blatantly – since the avatars there are the reflection of a player’s insecurities and fears, Haru, the MC, who’s short, chubby and full of complexes has an avatar which is tall, slender and has wings that make him able to fly above anyone else. So basically the MC is the only one to possess an unique power by virtue of being the most psychologically frail player in the game! …you don’t get much more obvious than that.

      • The MC was one of the things I liked about Accel World. He has all the charisma of Ikari Shinji and not even half of his looks, which makes him a rather bold choice for this kind of self-insert fantasy (cue a lot of people dissing the show because the protagonist was a “fatty”). There’s still a lot of power fantasy going on, a love triangle, some loli fanservice (sigh) and at least one comically evil villain (who is partly justified by being a kid and a bully though, so his irrationality isn’t entirely out of place), but the show definitely has a better overall handle on its themes, plus it provides some genuinely engaging action sequences – battles where there are actual stakes, where defeat is a possibility, and where winning comes with more cunning strategies than just “I’ll swing my sword really REALLY hard”.

        On another note, it is set in the same universe, some ten or twenty years in the future (the NervGear makes a short cameo-like appearance), and it is a common fan theory that the main love interest, who’s also the most OP character of the series, is actually Kirito and Asuna’s daughter. So there’s that.

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