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.
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
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
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
9:27 – Er, nine and a half minutes
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
13:25 – Oh dang, we character developing now? “I thought I could overcome this game’s limits and do anything I wanted.”
14:11 – Something something hubris?
14:38 – Sure, why not
15:22 – Cheap shots aside, it’s nice to see Sugu really doing something
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
17:26 – None of what will end. What are you actually referring to that she would be aware of
17:34 – AW SHIT HE SAID IT
18:05 – THAT’S RIGHT
18:10 – Alright, I’m entertained
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
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!
22:00 – Seen Some Shit Rating: 8/10
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.