Sword Art Online II – Episode 21

This episode was basically Sword Art Online in a nutshell. Fun action setpieces that are sometimes undercut by their own lack of tension, self-indulgence that makes it very hard to take seriously, and massive butterfingers when it comes to emotional drama. In light of that, my review gets a little bit meta in its thoughts on SAO as a thing I’m approaching as a critic. It’s hard! SAO is fundamentally “bad” according to a great deal of what makes stories effective in a general sense. SAO don’t give a fuck.

Sword Art Online


“Even you can’t fight this many people at once, right?” “I don’t know. I’VE NEVER TRIED.”

More of the bullet-dance from GGO. Nicely directed, if absurd

“Even the fastest magic is slower than an anti-material rifle’s bullet.” Goddamnit Kirito

“I’ll buy you three minutes! Get into the boss room!”

Well, it’s brief. Just a few minutes of Kirito being awesome

Nice fight animation. I was a little worried when it looked like the first sequence would just be “heroes attack enemies that just stand there and take it,” but then it jumped into a lovely sequence of cuts of Yuuki fighting. There’s a great rhythm and beauty to her fighting style – she makes it look more like dancing than fighting, and that was strongly conveyed through the animation. It actually seemed a little stuttery, but the strong key frames kept the motion of the characters parsable

Man, this episode is just dedicated to the characters being cool. It’s just a music video of the characters

Asuna blows people away with the force of her charge. Lol

Hard not to see this as very silly

There’s no effective drama here, and not that much animation to focus on – this is the show just being as much of a power fantasy as it possibly can

“There are things that can be shared only through fighting” again

“Once this battle is over, tell me about yourself.” DEATH FLAG WAH WAH WAH

Some decent animation here too

It’s very strange watching this show after Log Horizon, particularly comparing these last two episodes. Log Horizon was all about creating a parsible fight – we actually understood how raiding worked, and the show constantly played off our existing knowledge to create tangible drama. Here, it’s all about theatrics and “feeling.” There’s no weight to much of anything, it’s just emotional stuff

The jewel between its necks is the weak point! Okay, so they’re actually improving on the first season. Nice

“Leave it to me, Sis!” Oh shiiit

Really amping up the Yuuki drama suspense

“You’ve traveled through a lot of worlds together” Also playing that up. Asuna values escape

“I want to talk with you more, Yuuki.” They’re playing up the death flags like crazy, but not actually giving us a reason to be invested in this girl. It’s pure narrative contrivance

5 thoughts on “Sword Art Online II – Episode 21

  1. When a shows oversell its drama, it consider that all his viewers are colossal idiots who needs everything to be explained in details.
    It’s honnestly pretty insulting.
    That was one of my major concern with Black Bullet, actually, which decided SAO was to subtle.
    In me it either royally pisses me off, or makes me laugh nervously.

    I was reminded of this even more with this week’s Mushishi, which can evokes so much with so little effects.

    • “Overselling its drama” is pretty much the only thing I remember about Attack on Titan at this point. So easy to do, so devastating to a show’s emotional effect.

  2. “It’s honestly pretty insulting.”

    All i can say, SAO is even beaten in the fanservice aspect and as a hilarious absurdity now that Cross Ange is here.

  3. Although I understand and agree with your opinion of cheap emotional engagement tactics in SAO, I think your criticism for this specific sequence may be a little too harsh. Unlike the VAST majority of the characters in this show, I’ve actually really enjoyed what we’ve seen of Yuuki’s character. I think she has personality and an actual sense of endearment, unlike most of anything else brought in by this irritatingly bland show. By Sword Art Online standards, I think the amount of dramatic potential for this arc is fairly strong. Furthermore, the animation quality and production value throughout these last few episodes have been outstanding. I’m still waiting to see how they finish this arc out, but I’ve liked what they’ve done with it so far.

    • I do like what we’ve seen of Yuuki, I just don’t like how heavy-handed all the tonal hints have been. Replace all the ominous foreshadowing with a couple unique and character-building moments between Asuna and Yuuki and I think we’d be in a much better place right now.

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