Sword Art Online II – Episode 5

And we’re back! I wasn’t really that enthusiastic about last episode, but I think we’re through the exposition now, so things may be smooth from here out. Will there be action? Will there be adventure? Will Kirito overwhelm the narrative tension and drag the whole show down with him? Who knows! Hopefully we jump right into this Bullet of… bullets…

Like, goddamnit, SAO. I know “DEATH GUN” is supposed to be all 2chuuni4u because it’s written in English letters and thus is automatically mysterious/romantic/always fucking ridiculous, but “Bullet of Bullets”? You couldn’t think of, like, one word that compliments “Bullets” there? I’m pretty sure my comment section thought up at least three (Ballad, Ballet, Battle), and they were hardly scraping the bottom of the Barrel of Bullets. Or subbers, even if that’sactually the translation, couldn’t you just, you know, perform a little corrective surgery on this writing here? I doubt anyone would complain.

Alright, forget it. Starting this episode with an open heart and an open mind. Let’s do this, Sword Art Online.

Episode 5

0:04 – Aw yeah, wailing F-Zero guitar music. Time to fill out those forms

Sword Art Online

2:04 – Ooh, fancy. Seems kind Halo-architerure-y. It’ll be nice if the different “rounds” of the Buildabear of Bullets take place in meaningfully different “zones” – a great deal of the “learning curve” of any given shooter is knowing the maps really damn well, though I don’t know if that’s something you could really articulate in a compelling way in fiction



2:43 – Oh man, a future where you can actually hunt down trolls and set fire to their houses? I’m liking this game more already

2:50 – Aw fuck, it’s just for the top prizes? Guess they’ll be playing with a whole lot of Tugg Gentlys and Urr Gheys

Sword Art Online

3:08 – Oh right, he’s not actually here to win anything. I actually like that he was tempted by the call of loot to almost blow his identity immediately. MMO instincts die hard

3:29 – There’s a decent chance this is a very graceful preemptive explanation for why they’ll be running into coordinated teams of opponents later on, which is nice if true

3:42 – Are there any competitive games that actually use a battle royale system? I feel like really old first person shooters did, but they seem to have died off. Easy to see why – it seems pretty difficult to enforce balance or demonstrate clear superiority in a scramble with many ostensibly opposing sides

4:59 – Nice. We’re pretty much immediately getting to the clear central difference in our protagonists’ philosophies – Sinon sees this world as completely apart from the real one, Kirito sees it as either linked or simply an extension of it. Sinon coming to respect his philosophy would inherently lead to her confronting her phobia as the distance that allows her to be comfortable with weapons here disappears. Plot: established

Sword Art Online

5:08 – Meanwhile, Kirito stares blankly

5:24 – Dang, Halo as fuck. Color scheme and everything

5:58 – Kinda weird/interesting that they’re doing this whole sequence of Kirito feeling intimidated by all the players here. This doesn’t have to do with his character design anymore – there’s nothing to indicate this is a gender thing. I assume this is just supposed to build tension for his first fight, but… well, in the context of SAO, it’s kind of hard to generate tension about Kirito succeeding at anything. He’s too powerful for a scene like this to play as tense. It’s not even really his active “fault” at this point – he’s just the kind of variable that shouldn’t really exist in a dramatic narrative

6:21 – This is fantastic. A nice demonstration of Sinon’s confidence and control of the situation, and a nice bit of worldbuilding that rings totally true to gaming. Why would you show the opponent your strategy before you absolutely have to? Every minute of knowledge you give them is a gift you’re giving away for free

Sword Art Online

6:37 – Looks like operation “lie to girls to gain their trust” has hit an unexpected snag

7:10 – WAH WAH

7:21 – Of course. Gotta have the pan down

7:22 – Yep, yep, also butts. Get it all out, SAO

7:39 – Yep, there it is. You can always count on anime for those fresh gags

Sword Art Online

8:42 – Oh god, he’s already gotten her to the “don’t get the wrong idea” part of the relationship. It’s all over now

9:50 – 3chuuni5me

9:55 – I don’t think she was hitting on you, Kirito

10:14 – I see her therapy is going great

Incidentally, that’s only a joke I can make because I know enough about her to make character humor jokes. This is a good thing!

10:28 – Okay maybe now she’s hitting on you

Sword Art Online

10:37 – Ahaha I love him completely refusing to buy into her chuuni-ass persona

10:50 – Jeez, they’ve even started giving the ineffectual male rivals dog names now. C’mere, Spiegel!

11:37 – Goddamnit Kirito

11:58 – This Birdbath of Bullets brought to you by Daft Punk

12:28 – Your cute, cute butt

Sword Art Online

12:35 – oh cool she’s talking about my butt better flirt back

12:45 – dun dun dun

12:48 – Never doubt your powers, Kirito. The world is your holster

13:03 – Another nice game design detail – loading through the pre-arena lobby sequence. I vividly remember waiting for those gates to go up in WoW

13:28 – Immediately suspecting her is a nice direction to take it. And he understands her separation of the two identities, even if he disagrees with it

Sword Art Online

13:38 – Not really sure if this is self-parody, SAO. “My decision to use a lightsaber in a first person shooter has made pithy pre-battle speeches very confusing for everyone.”

13:56 – Oooh, fancy. Looks like my scenery wish was granted

14:53 – Who could have predicted this unfortunate turn of events

14:59 – Maybe if I, like, throw the lightsaber at him…

15:01 – Oh wow, so they’re really going there. Kirito’s a Jedi

Sword Art Online

15:28 – Yeah, wow, this system is really well-designed for what Kirito wants to do. It seems tricky to be fast enough to deflect enough bullets for that to matter, but blocking at least a single bullet seems trivial

15:49 – Trust your instincts, Kirito

15:54 – Or your apparent predator vision, that is good as well

16:14 – I like how they’re handling this. Kinda difficult to visually convey someone “hearing” a scene, but bleeding the color is a fine way to do it. It might be better if they highlighted the things that were actually generating noise in some way, but this still works

17:06 – Aw dang, here it is. The opening of this was paced fantastically. Great sequence

Sword Art Online

17:43 – Sweet

17:46 – Great choice for a POV shot

18:02 – Dang that guy has been gargling in pain for twenty seconds now. This game is rough

18:10 – Yeah yeah do your pose

18:57 – Creepily popping up behind people has to be the best part of being DEATH GUN“You guys want a pizza or something” “GODDAMNIT JERRY STOP DOING THAT” “Call me Death Gun. You guys want pepperoni”

Sword Art Online

20:02 – Well that kind of narrows the list of suspects. Or it would, if there wasn’t already just one suspect

20:28 – Yeaaah this wasn’t the most bulletproof disguise. Especially given Kirito’s rather, uh, distinctive fashion sense. Granted, he did get away with it in Alfheim, so I suppose there is a precedent here

20:53 – Aw daaang

21:01 – If they were going to make a whole thing of this, they probably shouldn’t have given his identity away in the third episode

Sword Art Online

21:38 – Aw shiiit. This is nice – I like them bringing Kirito’s philosophy back to the group that first denied it

And Done

Nice episode! It had solid momentum, raced us straight into the Buffalospringfield of Bullets, and ended with an engaging and well-articulated action finale. It wasn’t perfect, but it did what it was trying to do and kept the story moving. It even has me excited for the next one – I’m not really interested in the Death Gun stuff, but I’d certainly like to see Kirito and Sinon’s next fights. Gold star, SAO. Keep it up.

38 thoughts on “Sword Art Online II – Episode 5

  1. I had to laugh rather hard when Kirito brutalized his opponent over such a long duration with… this uhm… elegant weapon for a more civilized age.

    Reminded me of this shows occasional affection for gratuitous display of violence.

  2. 3:08 Kirito wants the loot.

    Yeah, that was such a nice, small, piece of characterization. About the prizes, it’s only if you want real-world prizes, rather than say, the in-game cash you can exchange for real-world cash. For example, Sinon’s model gun from episode 3.

    4:59 The Separated versus Connected World – Sinon’s Claim

    You’re actually taking Sinon’s claims here to heart. That she says it doesn’t mean she believes it, or that it’s consistent with everything else. She’s constructing this separation, but think of the 2nd episode’s title, “The Icy Sniper”, think of the reticle size. To do well in this game she has to already let it affect her real world, and her real world cool affects how she does in-game.

    And heck, “The Strength to smile on the battlefield,” which will be a recurring theme. She thinks real world power makes you more powerful in-game, and she wants to take the power she has here back to her real world. There is no real separation, not does she really wish for one.

    Though I guess there is the “It’s just a game!” – though it obviously isn’t, which is why it’s scary to run into apparent gunfire, which Dyne and the others felt. Which is also relevant later this episode, as we saw Kirito steel himself before willingly charging into incoming gunfire.

    5:58 Kirito being intimidated doesn’t create tension.

    The actual point of the scene, which they didn’t really emphasize wasn’t Kirito being intimidated, but that Sinon isn’t, and looks at all these bloodlusty maniacs as little kids that are beneath her.

    13:38 Sinon’s “two personalities”.

    That’d make for three. Her real-world scaredy-cat one, her bloodthirsty GGO one, and the one shared that just wants to have fun, like a girl of her age.

    15:01 – Oh wow, so they’re really going there. Kirito’s a Jedi

    I still don’t get why people keep pointing it out and ridiculing it. Of course if a game has a laser sword everyone would call it a lightsaber, which is what they said happened here. And of course it’d be designed to act like a lightsaber. Games are often about wish-fulfillment, about the dream of strength, or speed, or tactical planning, etc. And the “dream of using a lightsaber” has certain characteristics, and are exactly why the weapon would be made in the first place.

    And sure, also to make Kirito strong 😛

    15:54 – Or your apparent predator vision, that is good as well

    I suddenly remembered how Kirito’s hearing skill being maxed or nearly-maxed was actually mentioned a couple of times, when I’ve watched this sequence. It was relevant twice during the Silica episode.

    18:57 The Name is…

    Is this where you laughed while writing the piece? I chuckled.

    21:01 Third episode reveal

    Anime-only, also took some tension away from even thinking Sinon might be the one doing it here. Also in the novels we see Sinon’s fight before coming back to this scene. Then again, everyone knows Sinon’s not Death Gun, so it’s not like there’s any actual tension there >.> And well, it’s not really a mystery series either way.

    • I still don’t get why people keep pointing it out and ridiculing it. Of course if a game has a laser sword everyone would call it a lightsaber, which is what they said happened here. And of course it’d be designed to act like a lightsaber. Games are often about wish-fulfillment, about the dream of strength, or speed, or tactical planning, etc. And the “dream of using a lightsaber” has certain characteristics, and are exactly why the weapon would be made in the first place.

      I think its because its just so blatant. Plenty of shows have laser swords but manage to not have it be blindingly obvious that they are aping Star Wars.

      Having the humming noise and the distinctive solid swooshes is just a bit too much for most people. Those are really what makes a Lightsaber a Lightsaber, instead of just a “Laser Sword”

      Once they committed to the idea that Kirito’s gonna dominate a FPS with a sword, then having it be a laser sword makes sense, but it just feels like they pushed their luck a bit too much and it comes across as a bit desperate.

    • Their not bloodthirsty maniacs though, so there really shouldn’t be any intimidation factor. And for supposed pros they do make such rookie mistakes like showing their weapons off.

    • Separated versus connected

      It’s a messy situation, and one that my chuuni jokes are playing off of. The mental separation is clearly important to her, and based on things that are mentally “true” for her – the fact that she’s not afraid of guns here, and the ensuing fact that she can be a more confident and happy person here. She definitely “believes” this on an important level, but it’s equally clear that the show’s going to fracture that belief.

      But you’re speaking from a position of total narrative knowledge, so I’m not sure we should go further on this.

  3. I’m absolutely LOVING this season of SAO so far as I said here: http://animeviking.com/2014/08/02/sword-art-online-ii-is-really-good-so-far/

    There is one thing really bugging me, though… the villain. I mean, it can’t be RANDOM FRIEND WHO IS GOOD FOR NOTHING or Sinon from the looks of it, but someone Kirito has met according to him. I really like how they did callbacks to the first arc of SAO in this regard, with that ~evil~ guild I cannot remember the name of.

    Either way. What bugged me was the villain, or Death Gun rather. His speech pattern. It’s… slow and the lines are almost robotic. It’s very simple things such as “Are you? Y/N Please repeat! You just used? Y/N?”. This… bugged me. A lot. I mean, it could just be played for suspense, but…

    • It’s definitely intentionally affected in a way that would make it hard to have an actual conversation with the guy. Which makes me think it’s just a mask that we won’t actually be dealing with once he becomes more than a grim bad guy in the distance.

  4. I thought it was OK that they revealed his identity. Kirito’s reaction to him worked better for me that way, since he saw through Sinon’s chuu2 persona but didn’t assume Death Gun was just some kid trying to be edgy by wearing a skull mask.

      • “Chuunibyou” – Roughly translated to “Middle Schooler’s Syndrome”, though shortened to “chuu2” (ni = 2)
        Basically it’s a sort of parody condition in anime (and some times in real life?) where people act… well pretty much the way Death Gun talked in episode 1 of this season. Look up “Chuunibyou”

      • I was just borrowing Bobduh’s phrase. It meant she was acting tough and angry but Kirito wasn’t intimidated and saw it as posturing. Death Gun was acting similarly, maybe even in a more overblown way, but Kirito didn’t see through him.

    • I’m fine with the reveal in a narrative sense, because it’s good that Kirito has this information to go on. Just didn’t really like the execution of that scene, particularly given what we already know.

    • I saw it, but it could really mean anything. Does him being there demonstrate he’s not Death Gun? Was that shot supposed to make us feel suspicion before he disappeared and Death Gun appeared? Is he controlling Death Gun, or is there some larger group involved? I don’t really trust the intent of that shot, given what we know.

  5. Did anyone else think that the sequence with Kirito flashing back and seemingly surprised (perhaps even terrified) that Death Gun was a fellow SAO survivor was a bit overcooked? Like how the scene with Sinon holding her model gun was definitely overdone?

    • It could be because in an actual game that’s often a terrible idea – when you jump in the air, your trajectory becomes 100% predictable until you hit the ground. Snipers love it when people jump in games like Halo.

  6. But I was promised a train-wreck =(.

    First time watching SAO (the first season vitriol was too much for me) and I’m pretty impressed with the visual direction. From the art direction to the overall pace of the transitions from frame to frame. It’s very easy on the eyes. Now if only Kirito didn’t make me cringe.

    • Yeah, SAO has always been a polished production, and this season has significantly improved the action scenes, too. The writing’s easy to rag on, but it’s certainly a nice thing to look at.

  7. It just occurred to me that we need more Hard Boiled Detective Kirito since that’s /literally what he’s doing here/, although Asuna was the more hardboiled of the two….

    Boardgame of Bullets.

  8. Yeah another solid episode. I think having Sinon in the show helps it a whole lot. She isn’t just serving as a tool to make Kirito look awesome, yet, and that actually makes me look forward to what the show will do with her. Having a character out of the need to always act for Kiritos sake really balances his power and blandness out a lot, to point where you could even produce some actual tension.

    Oh, and it occured to me how DEATH GUN could be operating his assasinations. This epsiode had a surprisingly big focus on that fact that you have to enter you real life adress when participating in a professional tournament, and we know that the bad guys from SAO 1 were a somewhat large organization with pletny of members, so…

    • Yeah, she’s actually bouncing against Kirito a bit. He was getting the best of her this episode, but that was actually reflective of what the show’s doing with her character, which is nice.

  9. that ep was good , kirito is not THAT op…not yet… im looking forward to the next ep to see shinon fight style with her sniper , and it’s only me or i think death gun was pretty good in this ep , i know it’s a cliché villain but i do’t know why i liked him in this ep x) , and that (little)plot twist: sao survivor it was a solid ep anyway .

  10. “Kinda weird/interesting that they’re doing this whole sequence of Kirito feeling intimidated by all the players here.”

    Well, he is in a pretty differet game that the ones he’s used too, after all.

    But I actually thought he was mostly pretending. His real goal here is to observe all the other players to know which one could be death gun.

    • I think it’s actually what Guy was talking about, and that it was just setting up the first beat for Sinon to knock it down in the next scene. But yeah, this is also a reasonable assumption.

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