Sword Art Online II – Episode 14

Sorry I didn’t post this on Saturday! I’ve been absolutely buried in previews the last couple days, which I’ll link again later – so far, I’ve watched and written about fifteen new shows, including two double-length episodes, and all but two of those shows came out over the last three days. So it’s been a time! I’m also putting the finishing touches on a Zankyou no Terror piece, so that should also be in the near future, as well as my first ANN full show review.

Anyway! I actually really liked the conclusion to the GGO arc. It wrapped up both the themes and characters with a great deal of thoughtfulness and a lack of melodramatics. Nice to see SAO doing good.

Sword Art Online

21 thoughts on “Sword Art Online II – Episode 14

  1. Sinon has really been the lone-shining star of this arc for me. It’s really a shame that my previous experiences with this show have ruined any chances of enjoying any possible lead-character chemistry. Even if there were even romantic feelings on her part towards Kirito, THIS actually has some reasoning for why.

    • Yeah, Sinon has been doing great goddamn work for this series. Hopefully the show can take whatever it’s learned in this arc and keep applying it across the next one.

    • I have to agree with you on Shinon. And… also the rest of it. One more thing: too much butt shots.

  2. Copied from the comment section since no one wants to engage my opinions

    Not really a fan of how the writers here tried to give depth to Kyouichi and Souichi after they had already been taken down. Instead of making them feel like complex individuals it sorta came off in the same way as those scenes at the end of every Scooby Doo episode where the bad guy is revealed and the gang gets debriefed on everything that happened. It feels more as if the intent was to clear up any possible plot-holes then to actually write interesting characters. The conflict is over, Death Gun is gone, I have no reason to give a damn about these individuals as people anymore. Too little too late. Still better then “I forgot why I trapped 1000s of people in a death game” or “because I’m an asshole-ish megalomaniac who likes to rape”. So it’s an improvement. Also Kirito blocking the needle with an electrode was kinda bullshit, but whatever.

    • I was okay with that – I didn’t think that was so much about making them feel like complex characters, and was more about using them as a final point to articulate all the stuff about identities Kirito and Sinon have been going on about. They were basically the cautionary tale to Kirito/Sinon’s positive one.

    • I have to agree with gedata here, I did find it odd and artificial. All of a sudden i was forced to accept an explanation about why the bad guys did all their horrible things and i felt like the show wants me to feel regret.

      On the other hand, I also agree that there were actual points that helped formulating the message. For example the scene where Kirito was asked if he wants to read the letter – that certainly did make me think that the virtual world is real too. The letter comes from someone who we only know from the virtual world and reading his letter is literally like him transcending the virtual into physical. Kirito listening to the letter was interesting and it gave me complex feelings. Suddenly i could feel the subtleties of virtual vs real and the realities of both merging.

      But i still dont think the info dump wrap up was handled well. As i said, i feel like Im supposed to care and emphatize with the guys. See them also just as victims.

      During the explanations, there was that scene where it was explained that it was all a game to them and we were shown how discussing the murder plans took real form – the boundary of game has been crossed, although with them not noticing.

      How insane do you have to be to not realize you are planning to murder several people. No matter how immersed in the game (oriented at killing people) you are there i no way you can just get confused as start killing for real. How can you even start discussing it rationally and then become insane in the process. I cant accept this.

      In short, the justification of their actions is breaking my suspension of disbelief and at that point the show crumbles apart.

      i vaguely remember reading article about kid threatening taxi driver and stealing the car, later explaining his motives as trying out GTA in reality. This supposedly resulted in banning the game in that particular country.
      My point is that maybe there are people that would get confused about something so obvious (to me), but for me, doing game stuff in real world is stupid and so were the explained motives in SAO.

      Then again, i find lots of things stupid, things that occur normally, like buying iPhone or having facebook account. Might just be me.

  3. I enjoyed this episode but there were some small details that really pissed me off. Kirito introduced Sinon to two of his female friends from SAO, but he neglected to mention one of them was his girlfriend. Asuna also does not bring it up. Seems like something you would tell a girl to prevent them from getting the wrong idea, especially after you spent a few hours in a virtual cave with her resting her head on your lap. Kinda feels like the author left it out just so he could make it a problem later, and that disappoints me. What disappointed me almost as much was Agil not even getting an introduction. Clearly only Kirito’s harem is a priority in this show.

    • God, I really hope they don’t turn that into a problem later! My assumption was that Sinon already knew about Asuna, and that the show just didn’t care about actively portraying him telling her. If that turns into a future source of cheap drama, I’ll be pretty disappointed.

      • It’s really odd what they did in that last episode; though I guess they wanted the focus to b on Kirito and Shino.
        In the novel, Kirito convinced Shino to come by asking her if she could convince some people that the two of them weren’t flirting in the cave, and Shino thought it was funny he would be worried about that.
        They also ended up cutting out a lot of Asuna’s lines, probably to center the conflict around Shino and Kirito’s trauma, rather than Asuna trying to be her friend.
        That said, Shino pretty much realized during the conversation that Asuna and Kirito were together. It’s just one of those awkward things that can’t really be portrayed well in animation, I guess.

    • Well one thing to remember is that Japan generally isn’t into big public displays of emotion, and aren’t very fond of overt romantic affection. Another thing to keep in mind is the word that was used, “nakama” not “tomodachi”. “Nakama” can translate to things like comrade, companion, partner and similar words. So word choice is also something that should be considered.

      • Another thing to keep in mind is Japan is very private when it comes to relationships and stuff like that, you don’t just talk casually about it.

  4. Actually…
    That last scene pissed me off.
    Even more than last week, actually.

    I mean, this is no different fundamentally.
    This is a cheap trick to force a reaction

    Kirito and co trapped Sinon in an aabandonned setting and forced her to cpnfront her past.
    The fact Kirito revealed something so important without asking first was also disturbing.

    All I saw is a bunch of self-righteous pricks taking care of something that is not their goddamn business.
    Sinon is visibly shocked by Kirito’s treason (because it is. They took advantage of an emotionally unstable girl to force “hapiness” on her).

    That’s.. not how you do it. They should have ask her first, and convinced her. They’re not the host of one of those stupid awfull TV show.

    But that doesn’t matter, because those jerks will be able to pat themselves on the back while congratulating each others.

    And… Yeah, that’s sure is an amazing thing to tell a little girl. “If that other girl hadn’t shoot the bad guy, you’ll never have survived.”

    You didn’t needed to ask that child (who is moe personified, because of course she is.)
    She already saved a human life, and she comes to an acceptance to her action. No need to have unicorns descend of heavens to fart rainbows.

    There is a really simple message : She should never have to do this, but she helped someone by doing it. Overdoing it causes more harm than good.

    • Oh, it’s definitely a “movie moment” in that you’d never actually put someone through a shocking reveal like that. But eh, in the context of this show, I think an unrealistic moment to capstone Sinon’s arc works out okay.

      • After thinking about it, it does works thematically.
        The fact that she saved life is not the most important element actually (there was no doubt the man she shot was an awfull person. That wasn’t really the problem).
        However, what is truly important is that her mother rejected her (she really was an awfull parent.)
        She couldn’t have any meaningfull relationship if the most important person for her run away and saw her as a monster.
        And now, thanks to Kirito, she is able to make friend and even gained a new family with the Office Lady and her daughter.

        Except they throw a weird, grating message (Wasn’t it the same thing the nurse said ?)
        I feel like she was validated on her choice, when… well, it isn’t the point. At all.(She wouldn’t have nightmare about him otherwise…)

        Besides, the whole premise of that scene is laughably stupid : Sinon follows a stranger she met on the internet on a deserted place to meet his “friends”.
        That does raises a large number of flags. (Seriously, this place may be important for them, but it is creepy for an outsider.)

  5. Looks like I still can’t seem to get on the same wavelength with you as far as SAO II is concerned. After this episode I’ll finally stop watching the show because, even if it’s easy to laugh ‘at’ the show, shit-watching does get old eventually.

    I don’t see how I could call anything in this episode “good”. At best I can I’ll agree that for once Sinon did something on her own but really, that’s about it. The actual execution of anything was still your generic SAO garbage.

    The delinquent girls being so laughably mean that they have no issues pointing AND FIRING a BB gun close range at someones face.

    The ‘sit at a table’ exposition given about the villains when you no longer care about them.

    How Sinon doesn’t even consider those guys as all that bad, coming up with seemingly apologetic reasons for their behavior. Like what the fuck, did you not see his crazy face and attempts at raping you? I’m surprised you can deal with all that so calmly like it’s no big deal. Your own friend turning out to be a rapist-murder-crazyface…

    But hey, the arc is over so her psychological issues are easily dealt with! An actual gun to the face? Eh, she’ll easily manage to remain collected now it would appear. Previously even a finger was enough but after being saved by Kirito it’s a matter of hours to finally overcome your deep rooted problems /s

    Towards the end Kirito then fixes her last remaining issues with the usual heavy-handedness. I always felt way this show encourages us to rejudge Kirito and Sinon for killing people fell completely on its nose when it’s so abundantly clear that they did the absolute right thing in their respective situations. How’s one even supposed to feel bad for those murderers when they’re always portrayed with a completely bloodlusty crazy-face? Subtlety anyone? No, ah right, its SAO. Now we don’t even have Sinon come to terms with that herself after applying the slightest bit of logic for once, it requires a mother and child (incl. a fricking drawing) to understand that.

    If instead she had come to terms with it herself by drawing some obvious conclusions and THEN meet up with that family as a therapeutic method to slowly overcome the trauma that’ll obviously not just immediately disappear once you’ve come to terms with the past events, that would’ve been something.

    Instead our Gary Stu leads the way and arranges shit behind her back which is questionable in the first place but the show is obviously not aware of that.

    Now complaining about scoring is not something I want to dive into but seeing an ‘A-‘ applied to this episode…I don’t know. But then, reading your article, I just can’t seem to agree with anything you mention or value it similarly. Like, it sounds like you really enjoyed the table discussion about the villains thematically when I thought that it fell completely flat.

    • You did point out lots of stuff that bothered me. Im glad im not the only one. Actually, i also can not take this show seriously. Im trying every single episode, believe me. I enjoy few moments here and there and also the production values sometimes.

      To answer some of your points:

      The delinquent girls: why would this show try to be so obvious. No person would do this. Way beyond overblown drama.
      I do want to mention Shinon was not okey, she was playing tough, later she is shown barely walking, but yes, the alleviation of her phobia symptoms all of a sudden is… weak. They had to compress such developments, as time is precious, which is producer’s own fault of course. (i hear next week is recap episode).

      “Towards the end Kirito then fixes her last remaining issues with the usual heavy-handedness”
      And as it was pointed out earlier here, they actually gave her trauma instead. Of course they fixed her up with the family talk ( I fast forwarded that part, no way it would make sense – because the premise of the scenario already doesnt).
      Why is Kirito’s group playing the psychiatrist? After playing the policeman? Why is Kirito being the good guy, when he is clearly crossing the line. Who gives him the right to make an unannounced therapy session for Shinon, telling his friends all about her, when he knows exactly how she feels and how insecure she is about these things. This is not – its for her own good case. You dont do exposure therapy to your friends when they have disorder like this! Why would he not tell her about Asuna being his girlfriend ? How can they all act so mighty and laugh in her face.
      When Shinon’s face warped in shock back there, so did mine. I was disgusted.

      The worst thing is that instead of Shinon running away and cutting ties with Kirito’s group, she will gets fixed and thankful to them. This is so wrong!

  6. It’s a small step.
    This was the episode title, but it really fits this whole ark perfectly.

    It still is as heavy handed as ever. Their was an uncomfortable rape scene. The girl fell for Kirito and he solved her problems.

    …Except she wasn’t a sitting duck the whole timeand took care of her issue (or at the very least tried.). She was a more fleshed out character, with legitimate personnality and life outside of Kirito (Some of the best moment of the ark are thank to her.)

    Kirito was still the best, but they tried to make him more human. He had weakness and couldn’t have won along.

    The villain were laughably evil, but they had more realistic motivation (Well, they HAD motivations this time. Which is a huge progress). And that thematically fits the moral of the show.

    The author is progressing and maturing as a writer. This is promising.

    Knowing SAO, there is high chance all our hopes will be crushed on the next Ark, though…

  7. This sounds like it could have been a great movie a la Taxi Driver, if the entire arc had been shot from the brothers’ point of view.
    It also sounds kind of like Phantom of the Opera, where Kirito is Raoul.

    Where is the Fight Club AU where Kirito is the Tyler to Kyoji’s narrator?

    It’s almost too easy to compare SAO to western media’s explorations of adult-chuunibyou, (men struggling with society-imposed definitions of masculinity, and further interacting with it through fantasies) except that SAO makes Kirito the protagonist and villainizes the Nice Guys. Hrm.

    • Also, is there something to be said for how Kirito is literally a NTR villain made the hero? (Does The Book of Job count as the the Ur-example of NTR?)

  8. I really liked the episode as well though it would have been nice if some Sinon’s thoughts could be heard.
    Like in the novel (though I guess it might just be difficult to fit it in or so. I don’t know?):
    “That’s right. I still have a lot of things I want to ask about GGO. Please be friends with me, Asada-san.”
    Asuna gave a steady smile before stretching her right hand out on the table. After seeing that white and tender hand—
    Shino couldn’t help but feel somewhat intimidated.
    Friends. As the word entered her heart, she felt a burning sense of yearning, but also a sharp pain and anxiety.
    Friends. Ever since that incident, she had yearned for them many times, but got betrayed just as many times, until she finally told her heart that she should not wish for such luxury.
    I want to be friends with her. To hold the loving hands of this girl called Asuna, to embrace her warmth. I want to go out and play with her, to talk with her, to do what normal girls would do.
    But in that situation, it would be a matter of time before she knew that Shino killed before, that her hands were stained with blood.

    She was scared that Asuna would give her an irritated expression. To touch humans—such a simple act would likely be something that would be eternally denied to her.
    She thought that she should just head back like that, that the mere words of ‘being friends with her’ would be enough to warm her heart for a while. As she got ready to apologize—
    This little muttering made Shino waver because of her shrinking consciousness. Her body jerked, and she then looked at Kirito beside her.
    As they exchanged looks, Kirito nodded his head slightly but firmly. His eyes were telling Shino that it was alright. Thus, Shino turned her eyes back to Asuna as if she was hypnotized.
    The girl was still smiling, and her right hand was still shown in front for Shino.
    Shino’s arm felt as heavy as a lead block. However, she was starting to fight against this shackle as she slowly, slowly lifted her arm. Compared to isolating herself because she didn’t want to doubt others or was scared for being betrayed she would rather trust others and be hurt by them. That was the first time Shino had this thought ever since that incident.
    It felt like Asuna’s hand was far away. As the distance was closed in, the density of the air increased, feeling like there was a wall to bounce Shino’s hand back.
    However, her fingers finally touched the other party’s.
    The next moment, Shino’s right hand was tightly cupped by Asuna’s hand.

    That warmth really couldn’t be described with words. The warmth that was passed over started moving from the fingertips and up the arms, shoulders and entire body before finally melting Shino’s frozen blood.
    Shino subconsciously exhaled. To think that it would be that warm. She had long forgotten about something—a human’s hand touch can move the soul. At this moment, Shino felt that this was reality. She realized heavily that all the fear she used to have, how she continued to run away from this world, she was finally tied to this real reality now.

  9. I really didn’t like this episode, and I can’t exactly put my finger on why other than that I might have been feeling burned from the last one. I’m at least pretty sure that’s the reason I ended up being unhappy with the heart electrode thing; normally that kind of thing doesn’t bother me, but the fact that it could have been avoided by just having Sinon get away from Shinkawa without Kirito’s help got on my nerves.

    I did like what they said about the elder Death Gun brother and how he’d been changed after leaving SAO, but I was a little surprised that it seemed like they just decided to go with what they said about Shinkawa doing it because someone said his GGO build was bad.

    The way they closed off the the characters was also fine, but I guess it just seemed like a lot of points they’d already addressed? I was surprised that I was more OK with Kirito admitting that he just told everyone about Sinon’s trauma than I thought I would be, which might be either because I’m expecting that sort of thing by now or because they got Sinon’s reaction right (shocked and a little mad) in at least the first few seconds of that scene.

    This wasn’t something that bothered me, but I wonder why the other girls who hang out with Kirito didn’t come at the end?

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