Sword Art Online II – Episode 4

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.

Episode 4

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…

Sword Art Online

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

Sword Art Online

2:37 – Thanks, subbers

2:57 – Oh my god is he gonna speak with this voice the entire season that is not allowed

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

Sword Art Online

3:37 – But hey, they are having this guy already aggressively getting up in his personal space

Man, SAO is so good at baiting more interesting versions of itself

3:54 – Don’t think I missed you there, Tales ad

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!

4:18 – Or I guess we could do a bunch of panning stillshots of Kirito looking harassed and uncomfortable that works too

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

Sword Art Online

4:36 – It must be nice to live in a world where you can always just ask a main character for directions

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

Sword Art Online

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”

6:23 – Yeah Kiriko, what brings you to this festering shithole I spend all my time in

7:51 – How good are either of those at stabbing people

Sword Art Online

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

9:30 – Man, I really hope Sinon gets to keep her personality

9:40 – Awkward cowboy robot best character

Sword Art Online

10:17 – And here’s the explanation for Sinon’s first shot/second shot conversation from the second episode

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

11:50 – At least awkward cowboy robot’s still winning the psychological battle

Sword Art Online

12:34 – Can he join their party now like in Jojo

13:02 – The fastest in the west

13:08 – Sinon this is probably the kind of thing you’re gonna have to get used to

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!

13:50 – Alright Sinon we get you’re jealous, no need to trot your game minutiae cred

Sword Art Online

14:26 – Friggin’ nerds

14:54 – NOW we’re talkin’

15:08 – It’s like coming back to my stabby home

16:28 – Nobody claps for me when I practice my lightsaber moves 🙁

17:31- In tonight’s episode, the part of fanservice will be played by gunservice

Sword Art Online

18:43 – In this episode, Kirito plays a casino game and then goes shopping for twenty minutes

20:08 – Welp

20:37 – In this episode, the climax arrives when our protagonists discover they are almost too late to hand in an important form

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

Sword Art Online

21:57 – This is a pretty cute shot, actually

And Done

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.

49 thoughts on “Sword Art Online II – Episode 4

  1. Boy is Kirito going to be surprised when he takes his pants off and realizes this avatar is just really flat-chested!

    But I joke.

    I was confused as to why Kirito danced around the question of what game he came from. Its not like ALO is some huge secret, right? And it would even be true! Its not like he has any reason to say he started in SAO.

  2. GGO Developer: But sir! Our laser sword and motobuggy development teams are woefully behind schedule. The beta testers unanimously hated them, citing both as unnecessary niche mechanics to the core game and woefully implemented. Shouldn’t we take them out?

    GGO Project Lead: No. The Chosen One will need them.

  3. Just for reference, the explanation for why Kirito can ride the car at the end is because he owns a vintage motorcycle in real life. I always thought it was funny how the author crammed a bunch of somewhat childish “cool” stuff onto him. Like the black coats.

  4. To be honest I’m preferring the pointless dialogue heavy episodes to the action filled ones. I already know who is trying to win, so I have a better time trying to imagine the better version of SAO it constantly teases rather than the action heavy stuff.

    I wonder how much of the fan base is annoyed that their badass male hero suddenly has a female body?

      • Actual slice of life tends to bore me pretty quickly unless it’s insanely good.
        But apparently this show demonstrates that I like ordinary slice of life if it takes place in a setting where you normally wouldn’t expect to see slice of life stuff play out.

        I just enjoy listening to Sinon’s exposition much more than watching her vapid gunplay or her over the top traumatic past.

    • After the second episode, well-executed action seems like it may be one of the strengths of this season, so we’ll see. And there are different kinds of “pointless” – I liked season one’s slice of life “pointless” more than this exposition, for example.

  5. I actually liked this episode quite a bit. The city got a nice feel to it, the authors love for Kirito was more fun than distracting this time around, and as long as everything takes place in a peaceful enviroment we don’t have to sit through any empty, one sided fights.

    Also, I couldn’t stop thinking about how hilaroius it would be if Kirito decided to trade Avatars with the guy from the beginning.

  6. I honestly loved this episode for many reasons I’ll try to sum up below:

    • The world design
      Sorry, but I just love it.
    • The “I wanna buy your account guy”
      This helps flesh out the world more, by showcasing that much like in ours there are people buying/selling accounts. It also shows that Kirito is RARE

    • The sexism
      Yes, this sounds insane. But this is, still sadly, a very common problem in online games. Women tend to be treated very differently. This, along with all the other details, shows that Kawahara seems more aware of games this time around.

    • Kirito hiding his identity
      It’s smart as he probably wants to hide himself. It’s not like in ALO where he goes all out with information (though it was mainly to Suguh- Leafa)

    • The cowboy “gamble”
      Not only do we learn about the gameplay once again – oddly enough I saw people still not understanding it after ep 2 – but we also see an outsider’s perspective. Once again, something very common in reality and in games. Oh, the solution was to think ahead? Of course the people in GGO wouldn’t think of that as they are used to the prediction lines. Reading your opponents is still a very difficult concept to grasp for many but the more professional players, at least in a… good way.

    • The lightsaber
      It’s supposed to be a “support item”, but it’s very expensive. Kinda interesting, in my opinion. Makes me think Kirito is just going to show off the potential the developers had hoped for pure speculation (though the fact it makes me think like this is… good)

    • Riding the brike
      It’s just a callback to him being used to his scooter. “Almost no one” feels a bit silly, though, as I think at least a reasonable amount – if still in the miniority – of people are able to drive in reality.

    There are more things too. But really, GGO is miles ahead in the details. Reki Kawahara seems to have thought this world out. Just remember the details to “light guns” (or whatever it was, plasma?) which calls back to episode 2. And so on.

    The “Kirito lying” was a bit silly, although I could see myself doing that just to keep the flow until I got the information I needed… but Kirito never tried to clear up the misunderstanding afterwards, so this irks me a lot. Hopefully next episode >_>


  7. “the second episode made this game’s combat system pretty clear already”

    Whoa there, Bob. This is shounen, remember? You can’t just go around implying things through visual cues and incidental dialogue! If you don’t overtly explain every fundamental minutiae of the story, the audience might have to think about stuff on their own. And we all know nothing good happens when you combine Sword Art Online with thinking.

  8. The prediction line mechanic is really frustrating. It doesn’t need to be there, and it wouldn’t be an issue of the author wasn’t so preoccupied with making Kirito look cool. He has to use a sword, so of course there’d be a system that’s basically designed with him in mind.

    It frustrates me because it’s not even lazy writing like coming back to life through sheer willpower. It’s building an entire world off of the protagonist.

    • It doesn’t strike me that way at all. Seems to me like it’s a clever way to make bullets very lethal while still giving people a chance at longevity in a firefight. If you’re complaining that the lines are just there for Kirito to dodge, I doubt Kawahara even needed to go that far to make Kirito come out looking like the best gamer ever. I’m pretty sure he’d find a way to dodge bullets even without prediction lines–I mean, he’s basically not even using them anyway.

      • Hmmm…true enough. Kirito probably wouldn’t need them.
        And the fact that they only stay up for a split second means that players can’t effectively dodge each bullet. I think I’m just too caught up with comparing this to real shooters…but I guess players wouldn’t be respawning every five seconds in GGO.

    • The prediction lines in Wildstar are pretty well received. I mean you get to react to your opponent, which means you get to play against your opponent instead of just having a stat-check or getting insta-gibbed. The alternative is slower projectiles, but that’s kind of lame if they’re using realistic guns.

    • As Chaos says, a similar technique seems to work pretty well in Wildstar. I’m not against the idea, it just seems silly that top players in a game you can play professionally haven’t realized you play the opponent, not just the game.

    • There is a pro community, but the payout is small potatoes. It’s enough to buy two weapons. Why waste time on a non repeatable payout?

      I mean yeah, Kawahara did it to make Kirito look good, but I don’t think it reflects badly on the GGO community that they hadn’t beaten it yet.

      I think it would’ve been as effective if Kirito had lost and Sinon lent him money. He could still learn from the mini game about prediction lines, but he wouldn’t come off as painfully awesome.

  9. i hated this ep i don’t know but seeing kirito just ruined the hole thing ,and, im afraid that shinon will be ruined too by his presence because i felt that she’s more “happy” with kirito and that ladies and gentlemen it’s bad T-T

  10. I’d say you’re not giving it enough credit. I felt for a minute or two it dragged on, but this episode layed out a real distinctiveness in the mechanics and overall atmosphere of GGO. Also, Kirito didn’t suck the life out of the dialogue. Surprisingly, the series has actually gotten more energetic in a lot of ways with Kirito showing up in GGO, and he behaves with a lot more personality than he ever has even if he’s still not all that thrilling.

    Also, Sinon’s characterisation didn’t go to shit because she’s infinitely better with guns and that probably means she’s going to be almost if not just as useful as Kirito.

    • Hopefully Sinon being a sniper means her skills will actually compliment Kirito’s in a way beyond “she heals him while he kills everybody.” It does seem like they’ve set up the ground rules to make for a more interesting conflict this time.

  11. It’s pretty fucking nice to see Kirito being the one sexually harassed by the non-Kirito, inadequate male side-characters. Does that make me a bad person?

    9:15~Silly Sinon, nothing’s impossible for Kirito-sama

    16:00~Fucking light sabers. Kirito too OP

    Well, at least Kirito sucks at something (shooting).

    Overall, I liked it a little more than you, probably. I was entertained, and that’s more than I could ever ask for from SAO. One question, however: Is there going to be any thematic meaning on Kirito being a girl (or at least looking like one) in the video game, or is this just going to be joke and plot convenience?

  12. If anything, this episode felt a lot better to watch than the last two. I like Shino better than Kiriko and all, but they could have saved all of her stuff for a later episode and we wouldn’t be missing out one bit, because almost none of what we know about Sinon previously applies in this episode.

    Robo Joestar for best SAO 2014. Truly the hero this show deserves.

    • This episode pushed the plot forward more, but I don’t really tend to care about the plot in this show – I just think the show was better at the things it did in the last couple episodes than what it was doing here.

      And Robo Joestar better be the final boss, or the last-act mysterious ally, or SOMETHING.

  13. As some guy wrote in a forum somehwere, ‘this trap version of Kirito is going to launch a thousand pieces of fanfiction and doujinshi’s’

    • I would laugh so hard if this female model flipped his agency field’s effects so that females either hate him or want to be him, and BRINGS ALL THE BOYS TO THE YARD. BOYS LOVE ONLINE YEAHHHHHHH

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  15. I’m surprised you’re quite so down on this episode. To me, it had much more of a sense of momentum (albeit very deliberate momentum) than episodes 2 or 3, which seemed like a total detour from the plot. Had this been the second episode, I think it would’ve been entirely acceptable pacing-wise.

    Or is it that this episode was relatively light on action (that minigame surely doesn’t count as much of anything) and hence it didn’t really hold its weight for 23 minutes? Last episode had a tense flashback; episode before that had a lot of action. I don’t measure plot progression exclusively in terms of action, though with a series like this, it wouldn’t be unfair to put a lot of emphasis on it.

    • As I said to Appropriant, I think this episode did have more momentum, but it just didn’t do what it did as well as those two episodes. It moved things forward, but not gracefully.

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