Sword Art Online – 06

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_05.34_[2012.08.11_15.21.03] [HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_12.05_[2012.08.11_15.27.49] [HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_20.48_[2012.08.11_15.36.49]

There were definitely a couple of head-scratchers in that episode for this viewer…

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_00.42_[2012.08.11_15.16.57]Kawahara Reki is revealing himself to bit a bit of a frustrating writer for me.  There are definite strengths there – a certain likeable sincerity, a deft touch in creating interesting alternative settings and a keen attention to detail for starters.  But more and more the simplicity of the characters interactions both in SAO and Accel World  rubs me the wrong way.  I have no idea how old Kawahara-san is, but his writing has the feel of someone who’s quite young (though heaven knows many older writers give that impression, too) in that he seems to like his emotional palette very black-and-white. 

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_03.14_[2012.08.11_15.18.43]The again, from what I’m told the arc that covered the last two episodes of Sword Art Online is so extensively expanded from a very brief nugget of the LNs that it’s almost anime-original, so perhaps laying my issues with the arc at Kawahara’s feet may be unjust (and unlike AW, there’s no one credited as Lead Writer here).  There wasn’t anything wrong with the premise in and of itself – I liked the first half of the arc pretty well, in fact – and as an excuse to start Kirito (she’s cooking for you, Baka!) and Asuna bonding (maybe that was the whole point) it was perfectly fine.  But I think it really broke down when it came to explanations and resolutions.

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_04.24_[2012.08.11_15.19.54]The basic idea of the entire mystery being a sting operation works well enough.  Yoruko and Kains aren’t dead at all, in fact, but in the midst of a plan to try and ferret out the killer of Griselda, and they’re working with widower Grimlock (Narita Ken).  Their so-called deaths were merely teleportations, timed to coincide with the destruction of the objects they were wearing – quite a clever scheme, actually.  So Kirito and Asuna are merely dupes, though what Kains and Yoruko don’t realize that they’re dupes too, in a larger plan by Grimlock (in partnership with the player-killer gang “Laughing Coffin” that he presumably hired to kill his wife) to silence them forever and put an end to anyone asking questions about Griselda.  So far, so good.

But that’s where things start to come off the rails.  First of all, I take issue with the fact that Kirito and Asuna aren’t the slightest irritated that they’ve been used in this fashion – for high-level players like that (especially one with social status like Asuna) that’s a pretty major insult.  Second, I found Grimlock’s rationale behind killing his wife completely insufficient.  He didn’t like how assertive he became inside SAO so he killed her to preserve the memory of the Yamato nadeshiko she was in RL?  Sorry, not buying.  Worst of all, after his speech to that effect one obvious accusation from Asuna – that what he felt wasn’t love, but possessiveness – and he completely breaks down and becomes a helpless blob.  Seriously – that notion has never occurred to him in all this time?  It’s obvious enough that he’s surely constructed a wall of delusion to shield himself from the truth.  And then – despite the fact that he’s a confessed murderer – Yoruko and Kains ask to take care of him themselves and Kirito and Asuna (who, remember, represents authority within the players’ self-government) say “Sure – no problem.”  And the cherry on top is the completely extraneous appearance of Griselda’s smiling ghost (I’ll apologize later if this turns out to be foreshadowing that players who die aren’t really dead) at the end.

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_05.02_[2012.08.11_15.20.31]There’s a common thread to all those points, and that’s the matter of characters and events appearing to be manipulated for the convenience of the plot.  That happens in every work of fiction, of course, but there’s an art to making that manipulation natural enough that you don’t notice it happening, and that art was not in evidence here for me.  As well, more so than in any prior episode Kirito and Asuna came off as archetypes more than characters, and that’s not a healthy development.  We’re still early enough in the series for that to change, and I think it’s hugely critical that it does if Sword Art Online is going to build any real emotional traction.

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_06.36_[2012.08.11_15.22.06]SAO is definitely a better series than Accel World thus far, but it seems as if the strengths and weaknesses of Kawahara-san as a writer are readily apparent in both examples.  Characters tend be be more fuzzy outlines than sharply defined individuals, and their interactions play out in broad and obvious emotional terms.  Yet the world-building is impressive, and I continue to enjoy the nuance and detail in SAO’s construction that’s missing from the character makeup.  From amusing little things that the “IMMORTAL OBJECT” window that pops up when Kirito slams his fist against a wall to the complicated notion of in-game marriage and how it relates to community property, this is good and often fascinating stuff – and a very believable scenario for what these VRMMOs in our near-future might really be like.  Kawahara has the ability to create grand visions of these worlds, but seemingly not the precise hand to populate them with realistic characters.  That’s the difference between he and someone like Hosoda Mamoru, who created the breathtakingly imaginative VRMMO of “Summer Wars”, but also an even more compelling vision of an eccentric extended family and the boy who crossed paths with it.  And for me, so far at least, it’s the difference between good anime and great.

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[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_09.10_[2012.08.11_15.24.39] [HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_09.59_[2012.08.11_15.25.42] [HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_10.14_[2012.08.11_15.25.58]
[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_11.05_[2012.08.11_15.26.49] [HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_12.27_[2012.08.11_15.28.27] [HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_12.41_[2012.08.11_15.28.41]
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[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_18.52_[2012.08.11_15.34.52] [HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.25_[2012.08.11_15.35.25] [HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_20.18_[2012.08.11_15.36.19]
[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_21.30_[2012.08.11_15.37.31] [HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_21.49_[2012.08.11_15.37.49] [HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_22.15_[2012.08.11_15.38.32]


  1. V

    Yeah I agree that the execution of the resolution was particularly weak.

    Anyhow, I don't find it surprising that Kirito and Asuna didn't really feel betrayed when they found that it was all a ruse since they figured out the motive behind the elaborate act. Kirito especially seemed to be relieved to know that they didn't die since he abhors death. I'd say the same goes for Asuna.

  2. A

    Also, it's not like they were targeted for this. They only wanted to trick Schmidtt, and it was just a coincidence that Kirito and Asuna were nearby and decided to play detective. Knowing the outcome of the story, go back and rewatch the part where Yoruko excitedly says "you know Schmitt?" I think the original plan was just to create "rumors" that would eventually reach Schmitt, and the idea of people playing detective was just a lucky accident. So in that sense Kirito kind of inserted ''himself'' into their plans and they had to improvise from there.

  3. Z

    It would also be a bit hypocritical for Kirito as he himself used Silica earlier to catch some other criminals. But as said, they weren't really the targets of the deception. The fact that Yuruko let Asuna add her as friend should also help as Asuna would realise Yuruko was alive as soon as she checked her friends list, if they had failed to figure it out before that.

  4. N

    Supposedly one more EP and we get back to the real story and leave the side stories.
    And I still stand by my opinion that they should have left SS's for later or something: Side Story is a Side Story (and often most interesting to the fans), not necessarily something that should simply be thrown into the main plot for chronology's sake.

  5. J

    Well, I liked it. Kirito and Asuna made me chuckle once or twice, and it still feels like SAO is building up, what with the contant introduction of new elements – marriage, assassin clans, ghosts.

    It still is as cheesy as it can get – but, strangely enough, I find myself enjoying it just because of that.

    Man, I'm enjoying Kirito's VA. He's the tragic hero, the detective (lol @ "Dante-kun"), the funny timid guy.

    Also liked how the ED song played a few seconds before the episode ended~

  6. C

    I've liked SAO so far, but this was just a bad episode. Not only was the motive of Grimlock extremely weak (really? because she's braver?), the atmosphere and execution in the latter half was haphazard. Asuna breaks him down with one question and they ride off in the sunset like the Lone Ranger.

    It would have been much better if they had stuck with the money motive, but I definitely feel that Kawahara Reki sidelined that so he can give Asuna depth as a character. Unfortunately, it didn't work and the whole episode felt completely ridiculous by the ending.

  7. S

    Grimlock is just crazy, that reasoning doesn't make sense at all. Yeah I agree with you Enzo that it really broke down when it came to explanation and especially resolution

    But, other than that I really enjoyed this episode, mainly because of Asuna and Kirito, and there are many things explained such as marriage system, teleportation, expiration, laughing coffin, etc.

  8. K

    Considering that these are side stories, the weak resolution to them doesn't bother me too much. I'm still more invested in the Kirito/Asuna relationship, so I really enjoyed the increased screentime they got together.

    Here's hoping the writing/ execution of the main story will be an improvement from these side stories.

  9. Z

    Ah, Enzo you got it the other way around. This isn't expanded from the novels, it's compacted. In fact, several of your objections steem from the removal of things from the novel.

    The anime is of the show not tell style and you have to watch and think carefully to notice everything that is going on. It also wont explain things, so you will have to take things on faith like in a fantasy story. The novel on the other hand is a hardcore sci-fi story where mechanics of what is going on is explained in detail.

    Thus we don't get to hear the characters thoughts either and you have to observe how they act to get any hints to what the characters are actually thinking. One thing to note as a small hint is that the relationship between Asuna and Kirito changes quite a lot during this short arc.

  10. A

    Grimlock's motive would have worked just fine if Griselda wasn't his real wife and he killed her just for the item drop. It would have been in-line with what point the rest of the episode was trying to make. As it was, his motive came out of nowhere and completely went against the feel of the entire arc. It's fine to make a point that Grimlock didn't really love his wife properly, but it would have been so much more believable if his motives were materialistic and pragmatic, ESPECIALLY because that was Grimlock's only appearance. We knew nothing about his character that suggested that he was that off-the-rails. And yes, and Griselda's ghost was a pretty stupid point to add in at the end.

    Other than that, I would say the mystery was pretty satisfactory. It really used the constraints of the MMO system really well in the sense that these sorts of shenanigans could only happen in a video game universe. I agree that the character interactions are really subpar – but they're pretty much the only thing letting down SAO at this stage. At the same time, I never thought of this series as a character-driven story to begin with. There are some stories which are driven by their settings and use the characters as set pieces, and right from episode 1, it was clear that SAO was that kind of story. In fact, as these side-story episodes have consistently shown, focusing on the characters have worked to the series' detriment, and would probably feel that way no matter how competent the writer was at portraying human interactions.

  11. A

    "Grimlock's motive would have worked just fine if Griselda wasn't his real wife and he killed her just for the item drop. It would have been in-line with what point the rest of the episode was trying to make."

    If that's what you think, then I have to say that you missed the entire point of the arc. It was never about money, for any of the characters. Not even the assassins were doing it for money, since it's clear that killing people is simply a game for them. The point of the arc is the same thing they were talking about in the beginning under the tree. Kirito takes the opportunity to take a nap on a nice day, Griselda took the opportunity to grow into the role of a proud leader and a warrior. Asuna scolds Kirito for wasting his life in a fake world, and Grimlock kills Griselda for "living" in a world that he couldn't bring himself to live in. In terms of realism, it needn't be said that he also felt emasculated, etc etc.

    Even the topic of "what would you think if your wife showed a side you never knew" could be said to be analogous to the accepting the reality of the world they find themselves in. Most people wanted to play the game, but as soon as it became something they didn't expect (the death part) started to hate the game entirely. By contrast, Kirito managed to find love for it anyway. His awkward speech about loving "all of her" is perhaps an exaggeration, but accepting the parts of your significant other that you don't like and loving her anyway is a reasonable theme.

  12. A

    Episode 6? What?

    Why do I get the feeling that I've watched 20 episodes or so in SAO.

    I liked the last part (after the ghost appeared). The speech of falling in love all over again.

  13. A

    Sigh, this episode is yet another one where it suffered from content being cut. Contrary to what OP have heard, the LN actually has more to offer rather than being expanded upon. For instance the revelation from Grimlock is especially weak and skin-deep, he just came into the scene and start blabbing about why he'd done it. Really!? That's how you handle a confession from someone who's trying to kill all three of his ex-guildmate to cover up another murder he helped? Pathetic. I'd thought giving this story a 2 episode time-frame would be enough to deliver.

    Given what I've seen of SAO anime adaptation so far, I remain convinced that it would have far greater benefits to lengthen the stories into more episodes. From what I've read of LN I can say that SAO is about people, about what they would do when trapped in a world free from law and with death lingering over them. The stories, including side-stories, are therefore heavily invested in character development. However, I haven't seen much character development in SAO anime so far. For instance,

    *Slight Spoiler*

    this episode marks one of the first time you would heard of Laughing Coffin (at least chronologically), one of the largest and most feared Player-Killing guild. Their existence is not only tied with the main story, but some of their members are also presence throughout several other arcs of SAO. Yet this episode treats them like they're just some plot device that's never to appear again.

    *Spoiler End*

    I can understand if time constrain made A-1 to simplify this part, but there are parts where the brevity hurts the story (i.e: Grimlock's confession, how to get Grimlock to confess), lowering the overall quality of SAO and preventing it going from good to greatness. This episode marks another one where my single-line comment would be "disappointing", making the total count up to three along with episode 2 and 3. Sigh.

  14. e

    the girl in the next episode will be a very big part of the main plot in fact she will join kirito and asuna in the main plot and from what i seen in the preview they will animated the ice dragon the walk in the snow and kirito outfit.here the link for the next episode http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJ-x-5bN68w&feature=channel&list=UL

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