You guys are assholes. You know that, right? I get all optimistic and bright-eyed based on one half-decent episode, and the entire comment section starts friggin’ salivating. So yeah, apparently this episode’s gonna be another round on SAO’s wild rape train, or something equally horrible, and I should probably just steel myself for whatever hell awaits, but I’M NOT GONNA LET IT BE LIKE THAT. Sure, the one character whose journey I actually liked is out of the picture now. And sure, the conflict has now likely come down to the three characters who are co-responsible for everything terrible SAO has become. And SURE, Sword Art Online is always at its worst when Kirito needs to be a hero, and this problem will probably only be amplified by the fact that Snidely is such a transparently absurd cartoon villain, and Asuna will undoubtedly end up being used as more hero-fodder in some gratuitous and narratively despicable way…
Wait, where was I going with this.
Alright. Fuck it. I’m ready for this. Positivity, resilience, strength. It cannot possibly be worse than it has been. It cannot possibly be worse than it has been. It cannot possibly be worse than it has been.
Let’s Sword Art Online.
0:44 – Yeaaaah action music. WE GOT THIS. I mean, we’re getting a fight scene at the very least, right? This is the final battle. And the fight with whatshisface from the first arc was at least well-animated!
0:54 – HACKINGGG
1:17 – How DARE he. Stealing my waifu is one thing, but I WAS PROMISED ENDGAME CONTENT
1:20 – Sock him one for me, Kirito. THIS CANNOT STAND
1:22 – Motivation: established
1:28 – Ugh, fine
3:43 – Pretty
3:57 – This show often makes really excellent choices of exactly what to burn their animation budget on. You’d think it’d be the fights, because this is kinda sorta an adventure, but if anything were to “make” this series, it’d be your investment in the characters. And the animation team understands that, and thus while the fights are often actually pretty bare and uninspired, the emotional moments are given an excellent breadth of expressions and fluidity of animation. This arc wasn’t about defeating the bad guy, it was about reuniting the heroes, and so that reunion is given this beautiful panning shot (a really difficult trick in animation, since changing perspective angles means you have to redraw everything) complete with constant expression changes and movement from both characters. Really smart, polished work by the adaptation team
4:27 – -swoons-
4:36 – In spite of arriving at midday, Kirito actually waited until the lighting was exactly right for his dramatic rescue. He is nothing if not professional
5:19 – Look you can only kill a daughteru so many times before your feels-dividends start diminishing
5:43 – Man he must have been polishing this speech for weeks. I am torn between my disgust at stories that use sexual assault for cheap emotional gain and my love of villains who just fucking love evil
And jesus christ how did I not immediately realize that’s Dio’s voice it’s so beautiful
5:51 – Oh right because it’s attached to this dork. Can someone just graft Dio’s head onto this guy’s body?
6:43 – Aw shit it’s Keikako’clock
6:47 – Pictured: Character Writing
7:16 – STOP SAYING THAT ASUNA YOU’RE PLAYING RIGHT INTO HIS HANDS
7:20 – SEE
7:33 – Oh Dio, you card
7:38 – Oh god fucking damnit not again with the restraints whats with this author and the restraints
7:51 – No stop it stop that look
8:09 – Also unacceptable
8:22 – god I hate this show
8:25 – that’s super interesting
8:58 – Hey, it’s like episode 10 and episode 21 at the same fucking time. WONDER OF WONDERS
9:12 – Ah, now I see why this all takes place in a game. It’s so the author can just turn a literal dial to arbitrarily increase the tension. BRILLIANT
9:39 – I lost it around episode ten, SAO. THIS PROVES NOTHING
9:46 – could we just not be doing this right now, SAO. could we be doing literally anything but this
10:21 – Sure. Why not. I don’t care about these characters, show – you’ve given me no real reason to, and you’ve clearly demonstrated that all of them but Kirito are just devices to you. Devices to set up a great, heroic turn from the savior of everyone. Devices that are occasionally useful to demonstrate someone else is evil, but not ones who you’re interested in treating with dignity in either a narrative or human sense. Do what you want with them, show. They are dead to me
10:35 – OKAY I WAS BLUFFING SHOW STOP IT HOLY SHIT HE IS LITERALLY DRINKING HER TEARS WHYYYYYYYY
10:45 – I hope you enjoyed this prolonged sexual assault dedicated to demonstrating the man whose plan is “alter peoples’ brain chemistry to take over the world” is evil
10:49 – You gotta get ’em fresh off the waifu for that new-tear taste
11:14 – Why would you even think that. The moral here is “some people are just really fucking evil, apparently”
11:19 – Oh, is this the theme now? Is this what we’ve decided this arc was actually about? Author, you gotta pick your theme at the beginning of the story. You can’t just tell a story about waifus and warfare and then arbitrarily have the protagonist SAY “gee, that sure was an interesting reflection on trade politics in the West Indies!” If your protagonist has to tell the audience what your story was about, your story quite likely was not about anything
11:47 – Wait, who is he talking to now. If he’s talking to who I think he’s talking to I am going to throw up in my mouth
11:57 – GOD FUCKING
12:00 – Time now for an inspirational speech from the dude who killed thousands of innocents and then forgot his own motivation. And who… apparently lives on in Kirito’s heart? A glitch in the matrix? Fuck it, sometimes old bad guys come back as motivational good guys, so that’s what we’re doing
12:17 – meanwhile
12:28 – Kirito I am going to kill you
12:45 – So I guess Kirito’s secret weapon is an inspirational speech from a mass murderer, and now he can stand in the super gravity. You know, that’s actually more of an explanation than his last random revival, so I’m gonna take that as a win
12:54 – Oh dang, that’s actually legitimately solid. I mean yeah, “administrator password what’s that lol” etc, but at least it’s a variable we knew about that could conceivably be used to get the upper hand here, and even puts his SAO-knowledge to use
That’s right, wrongeverytime’s got all the classy jokes
14:15 – Wait seriously you have to do your stupid hero thing first? I thought the one thing we just established was that you’re not…
Oh wait no, that was just to set up the murderer guy’s motivational speech. Kirito wasn’t actually at fault after all!
14:24 – WHAT in the FUCK Kirito. I was just kidding about that “you are a crazy bloodthirsty psychopath” stuff!
HOLY SHIT GAMERS HOLY SHIT I AM SORRY ABOUT EVERY SOCIOPATHIC THING I HAVE INSINUATED DO NOT COME TO MY HOUSE
14:56 – Yeah, APPARENTLY YOU DO
15:04 – Sword Art Online’s blind, absurd, legitimately frightening double standards in a nutshell. Just like how it plays up waifu purity on the one hand and leers at its characters on the other, just like how every other male character is designed to ‘control’ women in contrast to them willingly fall into Kirito’s arms, here we have Kirito not being a psychopath… because he’s Kirito. Just because. Because he says so. Because he’s the one we’re supposed to like, and so we get to cheer when he fucks up bad guys.
Not that stuff like “waifu purity” wouldn’t be toxic if the show weren’t being hypocritical about it, of course. But come on, keep your grossness straight, SAO.
15:28 – Yeeep
15:31 – So this show actually assaulted one character so it’d feel good when the hero tortured another. It used the cheap shorthand of “villainy” that is bad-rape-writing in order to make this somehow an Okay Thing. Show, that doesn’t justify it. That multiplies the badness
15:40 – Haha! Yes!
15:58 – You get ‘im, hero!
Holy shit. Wow. Wow. Wow. That was so, so very fucked up. I didn’t… I mean, I knew things would get bad with Asuna again, but I couldn’t… how could I have known it would… like, that’s far beyond any of the negative implications I was…
This show is really, really popular. That means… that definitely implies a lot of people just found this scene awesome, right? They didn’t see anything wrong with what just happened here?
I’m gonna go sit down for a while.
17:23 – I’m sorry Asuna, but as long as one gamer draws breath, this will never end
19:06 – Oh shit it’s the actual sequel
What can I possibly say to express how soul-crushing that episode was on every level? The first arc had bad writing. Lots of bad writing. It had no focus, inconsistent characters, ineffective melodrama, and constantly bent the narrative to make Kirito look good. The ending was a clusterfuck of things happening, the villain had no motivation, and the story didn’t really end up being about anything.
This wasn’t bad in narrative craft ways. Well, it was, but those aren’t important. This was bad on a holy shit I worry about the person who wrote such things level. Using the female protagonist as a “goal” to be won, and then abusing her just to ratchet up the tension? Taking advice from the game-obsessed psychopath who caused the first tragedy? And then gleefully cutting the villain to pieces in order to get your revenge?
That was really, deeply weird. Like with episode 10, it’s weird seeing these characters do these things and then just smile at each other, like nothing really happened. Does this writer see less humanity in these characters than I do? No, it’s really just that he doesn’t see any of these choices as meaningful ones, as anything more than What Stories Do. And in the end, it doesn’t really feel like this is about violence being “justified” through heroism. This feels like heroism as an excuse for violence.
I feel like I got a look into this writer’s dark heart this episode. And this writer is a scary place.