I have now passed what I have been informed are both “the low point” and “the high point” of this second arc – The Dream of the Power Fantasy’s Waifu and The Fall of the House of Imouto respectively. If I still possessed the capacity to feel things, I assume this would generate a feeling of accomplishment – as is, much like my old friend SAO, I can only roughly approximate emotions while smiling a little too widely at the camera. However, in spite of me not really being invested in her story, I actually do like Sugu as a character, and I’m hoping the end of last week’s episode will prompt a bit more real life drama this time. Alfheim itself has been a bust, but all the stuff around it has been on a much higher level of writing and direction than Sword Art Online normally musters. Meaning that even though I’m sure this arc’s actual finale will combine everything I dislike about Kirito, Asuna, and the show itself, there’s a good chance Sugu may lend some actual poignancy to the final climb.
Or Oniichan will just give her a hug and then she’ll be back in the harem and this will just end up being one of those “I’ll let Asuna have you… FOR NOW” Anime Things and everything will well and truly be terrible.
0:04 – No matter how well she acts this scene, she’s still saying “I cannot conceive of a sibling relationship that does not involve either total separation or heavy petting.” That is a difficult conflict to invest me in!
2:13 – The first two things that flash in my mind are “INCEST” and Asuna dangling in tentacle-bondage. Choose your words carefully, SAO
2:53 – For once, an anime is actually using “not blood related” in a way relevant to situations actual human beings would find themselves in – feeling a strange sense of youth isolation. You get a point, SAO
3:05 – Character development! And it even reflects on the “any reality is a valid one if your human connections there are valid” theme! BAM!
3:20 – Guess we’re just gonna have the protagonist narrate that theme to the audience now then
3:24 – Nice juxtaposition here. “No point in wondering who someone really is, because they might turn out to be a barely-written antagonist who forgets their own motivation.”
3:32 – Hence “your in-game actions are reflective of your true self.” It works both ways
4:13 – I like this choice. He knows there’s no difference in the two realities, but it might makes things feel less personal for her
5:15 – Yeah I do not envy her the post-incest-confession conversation
5:25 – Oh christ fuck not today kid it has been a ridiculous evening
6:22 – Ugh, these conversations. They show up all the time in fiction, and always seem artificial as fuck. It’s basically one character telling another character they need to be a static character
6:28 – Oh wait right we use this guy to make Kirito look better I forgot
6:55 – Poor Effeminate Rival-kun
7:13 – Now HERE is a venue for MEN
7:16 – RAAAH MAN
7:38 – MAN FIGHT
8:03 – Only those who’ve played THAT MANY videogames can project a true Killing Intent
8:32 – Nice detail. This show has a bunch of well-animated expressions, which are tremendously valuable
9:44 – Dang, this whole sequence is legitimately great. Understated, earnest, actually important to the characters, narrative, and themes. A nice gift
10:19 – Aw, showoffs
Wait… hold on, Oniichan actually DID just give her a hug and she’s back in the harem and Asuna can have him “for now.” GODDAMNIT SHOW YOU TRICKED ME WITH GREAT EXECUTION
10:33 – And Recon gets to be cannon fodder. Nice use of resources, Leafa
11:32 – You’re overdoing it, author
12:22 – You’re overdoing it, show
13:08 – Sometimes it feels like this show’s videogame focus is actually one of its greatest weaknesses. This really is what a lot of MMOs are like – you slamming your way through waves of faceless, meaningless enemies, all of them incredibly weak, the only real threat being the amount of tedious conflict the programming can throw at you. As a gamer, you accept it, because there are either other compelling elements or we just accept a very low standard of dramatic conflict as the cost of actually being the actor in that conflict. But in show form, videogames are boring – this is like wandering into the living room and seeing your housemate killing fodder with his max-leveled character, something even he is probably doing mainly because nothing else has come out lately and no good shows are on. Drama should be specific, distinctive, and weighted down with emotional significance – pretty much none of which is associated with killing waves of videogame enemies. You could probably find ways to avoid that issue of compelling action, but you’d have to try harder than this
14:03 – Welp, time for Recon’s big dumb sacrifice. It’s been fun, dude
14:59 – You beautiful bastard
15:26 – Wait, so there’s a spell you can use to suicide and blow up a gazillion enemies? And the only cost is the usual respawn timer? How has no guild used this to beat this dungeon. The author is aware hardcore raiding guilds basically sacrifice their non-working lives to get stuff like world firsts, right?
15:32 – Oh nooo, he’ll have to go outside and maybe see a movie or something. VICTORY, BUT AT WHAT COST?!?
16:52 – Oh hey it’s you guys
19:15 – IT IS TIME
21:50 – Aw shit here it comes. THE CENTER OF THE WORLD
That was a solid episode! The final fight wasn’t that exciting, but this show’s fights never really are, and the resolution to Sugu’s arc was one of the best scenes in the series. It even ended by both resolving one conflict and building a natural-feeling cliffhanger for the next episode. Things are looking good!