Sword Art Online II – Episode 8

And we’re back! Last episode was kind of a breather/intermission piece, apparently matching the beginning of this arc’s second book, but hopefully this one will put us back in the action. I feel like the more the show dwells on slow Kirito drama scenes, the less it’ll hold together – the show’s production is solid, but its writing is still bad, meaning the more propulsive scenes are generally going to be the highlights. Which is a frustrating thing to admit, because Iwant this show to work on an emotional level, but I feel like that would require both better writing (though it has been improving!) and a legitimate acknowledgement of ALO’s existence. I dunno. Tough place to be, SAO, but you’ve dug yourself this hole. Let’s see you lightsaber your way out of it.

Incidentally, SAO posts are going to undergo a shift next week, as… well, you’ll see. So for this current series, I’d like to say it’s been a weird, weird pleasure to write these for all you guys. Like Kirito, I hope all of you continue to strive for the horizon… even if, unlike Kirito, you actually have to work for it.

Episode 8

0:08 – So help me god SAO if you stretch these minutes into another episode I am pulling the plug

Sword Art Online

0:43 – Another nice city shot. I’m not sure if this is intentional or not, but this place actually does feel much more like an MMO hub city than an actual city – the architecture is frilly and inconvenient, the streets aren’t built for commerce, and the buildings don’t really feel “lived in.” At its best, this show should be able to contrast the emotional questions of the validity of the characters’ actions with the constant little ticks of game design that keep people from truly buying into a digital world as real

0:51 – Oh shit, it’s kaeeeede again! Good to see that kid made it through

0:53 – That Death Gun’s a cunning one. Kirito’s gonna have to use all his wiles to counter an opponent who knowsnot to use his damn name

2:55 – Sinon needs to invest in the other half of a pair of pants

Sword Art Online

3:41 – That’s right show, keep on baiting me with that timer of yours

3:59 – Nice worldbuilding fragments

4:07 – You gotta have that special something to be a real Gun Gale Idol

4:17 – Oh shit, it’s Cowboy Dan and AquaMarine! Man, the gang’s all here

4:35 – Aaand… pompadour eyepatch vest dude? Loot fashion has not been kind to Jeff here

Sword Art Online

4:59 – GOD DAMNIT KIRITO. Why did I have to mention Gun Gale Idols…

5:11 – Beginning to think you’re fucking with me, show

6:01 – I get that they’re explaining this so the audience has some sense of the conflict’s scale, but this seems like a terrible design for a competitive tournament. Certainly fun for the spectators, though!

6:55 – I like this choice a lot. It works in a game sense, by keeping the game moving, preventing camping, and allowing for both the hunting of others and the setting of traps using your last known location, and all of that also lends itself to dramatic narrative turns. This helps

Sword Art Online

7:26 – All the Recons in the world can’t keep Kirito’s actions from often being creepy and unacceptable

8:04 – How can you not trust those eyes???

8:44 – I like that Sinon’s actually calling him on his evasiveness. He deserves it – last episode, both Sugu and Asuna basically declared they trusted him completely, and he clearly isn’t actually worthy of that trust. His entire presence here is an act of serious selfishness

9:20 – kaeeeeeeeede

9:54 – So he’s telling Sinon he’s either big into roleplay or an actual crazy person

Sword Art Online

10:45 – Alright, good, she’s actually drawing the inference he’s kind of making unavoidable here

11:25 – Seriously?



That is… damn, that’s brazen, SAO. But you know, I have heard a cool way to make viewers like your show is to visually reference other, better shows they could be watching instead

I mean, the reference almost kinda sorta works??? That scene crops up at a time when Asuka’s disconnecting from her identity as an Eva pilot, and Rei tells her to treat the Eva as a real person, so…

Eh. Whatever, SAO. You wanna reference Eva, you go and have fun

12:21 – Yessss

Sword Art Online

13:50 – Cowboy Dan! We’re getting some pretty decent animation to start this Birkenstock of Bullets


17:33 – The heat distortion is a nice touch. They’ve set up this whole situation pretty effectively, actually

17:41 – Very nice shot

Sword Art Online

18:08 – They’re doing nice work with the shadows here, too. The visual design and action-scene pacing of this second half has been solid in general


18:53 – Now would be the time to shoot him in the face, Sinon

20:37 – SAO doing its best to be equal-opportunity here

I’m actually enjoying these two shooting the shit about what in-game explanation there could be for everything going on. The show has done the groundwork at this point – this game is pretty much parsable as a game, and so it’s enjoyable to hear about the various pieces moving around

Sword Art Online

20:53 – Classic horror movie trick. The protagonist reorients themselves from a detail, and suddenly the monster is there, in the frame, mocking the idea the protagonist can actually have any control of their surroundings

And Done

Fair episode this time! The first half was kinda iffy, but at this point, all the bits of worldbuilding the show has done are paying off in the action drama. Unlike the first season, we’re not just getting scattered details this time – they’ve more or less defined the rules of a parsable game, and having various characters fight each other instead of Kirito means there can actually be back-and-forth. Plus the dramatic framing is just much better this season, as well – as soon as the show shifts into action-scene gear, shots become more purposeful, pacing becomes tighter, and the show just works together to create a stronger mood. This time they even introduced some horror-film tricks, building up the reveal of Death Gun across that entire final scene. The longer this show stays in action-movie mode, the better off it will be.

27 thoughts on “Sword Art Online II – Episode 8

  1. It’s probably going to stay in “Action movie mode” for several more episodes to go, probably until GGO is done, with the “after-effect” section notwithstanding (ala when they all went to Agil’s cafe at the end of the first season).

    Even the more quiet moments will probably mostly stay in that mode.

    Also, who doesn’t reference NGE these days? Nisekoi went much farther with referencing elevator scenes from NGE, going as far as to actually have the same symbols/names appear in it.

  2. It’s a great sign that you did things right, if twenty years later people are making references to your work (even more if a lot of people actually recognize it!). I just hope Sinon isn’t given an Asuka like treatment later on.

    I’m assuming that in the word of GGO, no one has access to web based dictionaries, so Kirito couldn’t quickly make a search of the names of the 3 new guys and find out that “Sterben” means ‘to die’ in German. Very subtle indeed.

    • All that part was pretty well done, actually. From Pale Rider being the too pefect to be real ennemy, to Sterben’s name being mispronounced as “Steven”.

      Not the most original thing, but always effective.

    • All three of the names are references to Death. Pale Rider is another euphemism for the Grim Reaper, Juushi X can also be read as GUNDEATH X in Japanese, and Sterben means ‘to die’ in German as you pointed out. This doesn’t really narrow it down at all.

      Would it be rude of me to point out that you did in fact have access to web-dictionaries before you made that comment? The lesson here is that its easy to get distracted by what you do know and forget to look at what you don’t.

  3. B0b of bullets.
    And unrelated to the review, have they announced how long this season will be? Not following the show but it certainly feels like it’s building up to a climax in the next two or so episodes and I can’t imagine them not milking this cash cow even more….

  4. I get that they’re explaining this so the audience has some sense of the conflict’s scale, but this seems like a terrible design for a competitive tournament. Certainly fun for the spectators, though!

    I actually thought that was a great idea. I’d like to participate myself ;_;

  5. 6:01 – I get that they’re explaining this so the audience has some sense of the conflict’s scale, but this seems like a terrible design for a competitive tournament. Certainly fun for the spectators, though!

    (emphasis mine)

    That’s probably the point. It seems like the purpose of the tournament is less as an activity for the players to participant and more as an esports-type spectacle to advertise the game. Which makes good business sense!

  6. You have no idea how happy I was to see your reaction to that elevator scene. I was fuming when I watched it. More like flabbergasted, actually. Even worse, I was horrified to see that quite a few people on Reddit were actually PLEASED with it. I’m very relieved to see that I’m not the only one who had a… shall we say, “negative” reaction to it.

    Unlike a lot of other Eva references I see, this one just seemed… pretentious. Extremely so. Like they were trying to draw a parallel instead of throwing it in for shits and giggles, which is the route I see most other shows take when they reference Eva.

    Then again… words cannot describe my love for Evangelion, so there is always the possibility that I’m looking too far into this and/or being hyper-sensitive.

    • I don’t understand this reaction. Yes it referenced Eva, but… So what? It was for a few seconds, and it’s not like the scene itself was out of no-where.

      • For me, it was more like an elitist knee-jerk reaction than one that I can actually support with… well, anything.

        I think I’ve been looking too much into the it, which is probably because of the atmosphere in the scenes both before and after it. It seemed to me like they were actually going for some kind of “Hey look, we’re cool! We can do this too!” type of thing instead of the usual “Eva lol” type of referencing I see in other shows.

      • The problem is not which anime the scene referenced. Not at all.

        The problem is that the scene was trying to be ‘deep’, abusing the reference, without doing any work itself. (at least that is what the criticism is about)

        This is why i dislike references (ignoring comedy), lot of the time its is a cheap trick to gather popularity and attempt to hide bad execution. By borrowing from other works like this, there are several things immediately gained, while almost zero loss. The work is catering to wider audience, pretends to pay homage to other works, doesnt have to deal with problematic scene on its own and go for result with guaranteed lvl of success.

        It is similar to the ‘average’ shows that overuse popular tropes and lose creativity, because they sacrifice the potential to be good in order to lay down bottom popularity limit – they know they are average and they are fine with it.

    • Im a huge fan of Evangelion myself, but in all honesty, i didnt notice the scene until i read about it here (i wasnt watching alone this time, maybe thats why, or maybe because im taking this series half seriously).

      I am not sure if the similarity was intentional.

      The resulting juxtaposition of SAO and Eva still concerns me however, needless to say that my reaction is purely negative. But just like you, i might be too involved to see things clearly.

      In my opinion, the scene in SAO is oddly short. If i was referencing Eva, i would make it longer to more bring out eva’s style and i would get rid of the music which in this case carries over the lingering atmosphere from previous scene and (in my opinion) disturbs this one. It is overly cheerful, and i think it was supposed to intensify the emptiness and distance between the characters. The music also continues into the dialogue later, which makes the silent part look like a half-assed cut in.

      For that reason we are shown the floor position of the elevator that indicates just how long the two of them are staying passive. That is weak (and also breaks the duration of the scene in half). The result is, that without the floor numbers, the silence and atmosphere of the scene doesnt feel very unnatural or uncomfortable (which it should). It quickly becomes like that, if we consider the real time (in their world, not screen time) it took them to start speaking, but it is not emphasized enough.

      So, what is even the point? It looks to me like both Kirito and Shinon are simply contemplating, each on his own, about his own problems, more having to do with mental preparation for the tournament.

      Scenes like this should (i believe) hint at real personality of the character, because the awkwardness of the situation should soon become hostile and introduce hopelessness or frustration to the character by him being unable to cope with the tension leading to display of some sort of defensive behavior (nervousness, frustration, open confrontation, etc). But we dont have much of that here, perhaps only both of the characters looking for shelter within their own minds, but the following dialogue contradicts this. My guess is that Kirito is supposed to come off as mentally stronger type (lone wolf) who can cope with 20 seconds of elevator silence, and Shinon as someone who turns her frustrations and fears into obsessions and stubborness shown by her refusal to interact with Kirito.

      But then their following interaction ignores all of the impact (no matter how you interpret the scene). Shinon continues her delusions about own self-importance and Kirito continues to play along (agreeing to her terms), affirming her whims and illusions along with his status of a good guy, playing on all sides at once. The ‘depth’ of the previous situation turned into Shinon supporting Kirito’s position as a sole important being in this series (she apparently values beating him as the ultimate achievement) and Kirito being badass by being able to ‘handle’ traumatized girls while staying focused on his own goals.

      So, regardless of what the interpretation of the elevator scene here should be, both character’s personalities are virtually nonexistent, broken by constant shifts and pressure to conform to what story and fanservice requires and comparison to Eva will meet my ridicule.

    • It does seem like they were trying to actually draw a parallel, but I wasn’t that offended by it. I mean yeah, SAO’s pop lit and Eva’s a holy text, but at least the parallel they’re drawing kind of makes sense!

      • Well, as i said – i wouldnt even notice if it wasnt pointed out. I even think think the similarity is a coincidence. But i do believe the scene could be much improved.

        I havent read the novels, so i do not know how this was handled there. I would be interested in reading this particular part.

      • The novel didn’t give much detail to that scene actually.

        As we arrived at the simple elevator at the corner of the huge bar, Sinon pressed the down button, the metal gate let out a creaking sound as it slid aside, and the elevator appeared. The moment we entered, I was the one who pressed the bottom most button.
        In this cramped space that’s had an imaginary descending feeling and the sound of machinery, a soft voice rang.
        “I know you have your own difficulties.”
        Behind me, Sinon seemed to walk towards me, and there was something pointing at the center of my back. That’s not a muzzle—but a fingertip.

      • TUSF – thanks for the material. The anime scene appears to be an addition to the original content.

        How do you think the scene should be interpreted? (or anyone.. if you have your own interpretation, im interested)

      • Now THAT would have been smart of a videogame themed anime!

        …so of course it can’t be true. The only actually informed non-Japanese gaming references I’ve ever seen in anime were in No Game No Life.

  7. i wonder if they will adapt the long arc many fans talk about mother rosario or will only adapt side story called caliber

  8. Pingback: Summer 2014 – Week 8 in Review | Wrong Every Time

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