It’s that time again. I’m actually kind of excited at this point, you guys. Episode two was a solid action vignette, episode three was an okay character-building episode – this season is showing off a whole new side of Sword Art Online! I originally picked up the first season in large part due to an abiding appreciation of schadenfreude (which paid off both through the show itself falling apart and me falling apart watching it), but if season two just wants to be a reasonable adventure show with high production values, I am very ready for that as well. STRIKE UP THE BATTLE MUSIC.
…that’s the battle music? Alright, sure. Let’s Sword Art Online.
0:18 – “Aw shit, we gotta finally show Kirito in the game? Guess we can hold out for one… more… cold open…” Well, I guess “baiting conflict progression for three straight episodes” is one way to make me miss Kirito…
0:33 – This world design is a nice start. SAO’s world design always seems to shine when it comes to cities – the cities were the highlight of Alfheim, as well. They’re never more than shiny backgrounds, because this is really a character story, but the prettiness is certainly appreciated
0:39 – And we’re back. Look at your hands, Kirito! For old times’ sake
0:43 – I like it. Part post-apocalyptic wasteland, part cyberpunk, part gothic architecture. Nice aesthetic
0:56 – YEAAAH. Those are… some scrawny-ass hands, Kirito
1:00 – Oh boy
1:05 – My little power fantasy can’t be this cute. Damnit, it’s gonna be hard to rag on this guy if he’s this adorable
2:37 – Thanks, subbers
Goddamnit Kirito, fifteen seconds in this world and you’ve already ruined everything
3:02 – Maybe these character models are actually a cutting commentary on the distance between haves and have-nots even in digital societies. Keen point, Sword Art Online
3:21 – I’d say “that’s a shame” because it actually could be pretty interesting to have Kirito experience life as a girl in his own universe, but I doubt this show would really take that to good places
Man, SAO is so good at baiting more interesting versions of itself
4:03 – Alright are we actually doing this SAO? Seriously, “gender politics in online spaces” is way more interesting than “I gotta beat DEATH GUN.” Let’s go with this!
4:28 – Another nice background. The various pieces of this aesthetic work well together – I like the ornate architecture contrasted against the minimalist digital displays
4:47 – This thought never occurred to Kirito in the first season – is this realization actually coming from his experience so far in this world? As in, seeing things from a woman’s perspective has actually made him more sensitive to their lived experience? Dang SAO, you really are full of surprises
5:04 – Kiriko a cute
5:30 – Well, that didn’t last long. From “jeez, I should probably try to not be a creeper in games” to “I know, I’ll lie to this girl to abuse her trust by acting like a helpless feminine stereotype” in about fifteen seconds. I knew you were in there somewhere, SAO
5:45 – Our hero
This is actually pretty typical anime nonsense, but it kinda stings coming directly after a brief moment of assumed clarity. Nope, we’re back to Kirito ruining everything…
5:51 – More great backgrounds
5:58 – SAO still #1 at naming things. Though I guess I should be thankful it’s not just called “GUN THING”
9:15 – Lady, this is the same Kirito who super-hacked a daughteru out of a exploding terminal and came back from death BECAUSE HE REFUSED TO DIE. I think he can handle your little casino game
9:26 – I guess they’re using Kirito to fill the Klein “explain this to me and the audience” role this time, though they kind of don’t need to – the second episode made this game’s combat system pretty clear already
10:37 – You get ‘em awkward cowboy robot
11:40 – The secret is in the Naruto arm-wings. Gotta minimize that digital air friction
11:47 – Holy shit, Kirito has discovered it’s harder to hit a moving target. This changes everything
13:02 – The fastest in the west
13:27 – Holy shit. Kirito, are you… are you implying that if you… if you predict an opponent’s behavior, based on the choices you assume would be intelligent from their perspective… you can… that means…
I joke, because it’s kind of hilarious that serious game players would be stunned by the concept of reading an opponent, but hey, at least the show is acknowledging it’s a thing that exists!
14:26 – Friggin’ nerds
14:54 – NOW we’re talkin’
20:08 – Welp
21:32 – There’s the SAO we know and love – Kirito doing something awesome while a girl clings to his waist and monologues on how difficult what he’s doing is
Well, that was… not the best. It had a little bit of Sword Art Online’s old standard problems, but it was mainly just another big ol’ exposition episode. Nothing exciting happened, nothing really moved forward – Kirito really just learned how to play GGO for twenty minutes. Additionally, a lot of the stuff we saw today was revealed much more gracefully back in the second episode, which makes this one feel even more superfluous. All in all, not a particularly graceful production – it strongly reminded me of Alfheim’s serious pacing issues.
We’re through it, though! Kirito has successfully lied his way into Sinon’s good graces, our heroes are on their way to enter the Gun Thing, and Kirito is all set to demonstrate that at least one person can bring a sword to a gun fight. Hopefully next episode has some entertaining bullet-dodging action.