Sword Art Online – 13

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_01.34_[2012.09.29_17.12.30] [HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_05.20_[2012.09.29_17.15.25] [HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.51_[2012.09.29_17.30.17]

If you go by the assumption that any episode without Yui is a good episode, SAO #13 was definitely a big improvement.

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_00.21_[2012.09.29_17.03.29]I think I’ve more or less figured out the problems I’m having with Sword Art Online, and they’re not surprisingly similar to the ones I had with Accel World.  It’s a gross oversimplification but I think this is a series written by a very young person, and it’s probably most appealing to very young people – younger than I am, anyway.  Simplicity is a big part of the issue, I think – I might just be too cynical to buy into the emotions in the story.  There’s too much crying, too many long, long shots of beautiful young people smiling beatifically straight into the camera.  And while it might be romantic to believe that Kirito and Asuna could barely know each other yet still be so utterly soul-mates that the cosmic convergence of their twinned souls can change the very fabric of this world – I can’t quite buy it.  I like my romance with a bit more pathos, and find love stories more rewarding if they’ve been earned with a little more hard work and pain.  And while SAO doesn’t have nearly so many out-and-out groaner moments as AW, it also mostly lacks the irreverence of Accel World – this is the better show, but it’s almost painfully earnest sometimes.

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_00.32_[2012.09.29_17.11.28]That said, I remain solidly interested in the mechanics of the world, and the teasing little hints we get that the series is going to step back from the broad sentimentality and really focus on the deeper issues implied in the premise are enough to keep me hooked like the fish Kirito and new friend Nishida (Saito Shirou) were after in the first part of the episode.  I enjoyed the fishing sequence quite a lot until Asuna derailed it with her weepy monologue – it was refreshingly low-key and had the feel of something more important than it seemed.  We spend the last arc looking at one end of the spectrum, the lost children of Aincrad – now we get to see the other.  We had a brief look at some ojii-sans fishing a few eps ago, but it’s through Nishida that we see another type of player – not a hard-core gamer, but someone enjoying the world for its simple pleasures.  Nishida might have been a big-wheel ‘net security expert in RL, but inside SAO he’s ill-suited to do the heavy lifting of trying to clear the game.  All he can do is survive, so he chooses to do so doing something he loves.  Nishida is a nice contrast to all the youthful angst and GAR so prevalent in the series generally.

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_01.10_[2012.09.29_17.12.06]Things kick into another gear in the second act, as Heathcliff calls our young lovers back from Wuthering Heights and onto the front lines, where a party of twenty (from five separate guilds) has been wiped out in a battle with a floor boss.  While the emotions are again played way too broadly, we again get a sort of interesting situation as Kirito tries to play the protective husband and keep Asuna from joining this party.  What strikes me odd is the way she casually refers to “that time a few months into the game when most players went offline for a while”.  Yes, it makes sense – they were being moved into a hospital – but unless I’m mistaken, I don’t think we saw any reference to than on-screen before – and it’s not the first time a seemingly critical events is only referred to in hindsight in an “Oh, by the way” fashion.  I suspect this is an issue with the awkwardness of adapting SAO with it’s weird structure of side stories and such, which jump all over the timeline – but the effect, for me, feels like sloppy writing.  In any case Kirito’s reaction to what Asuna says about their real-world bodies seems surprising to me, because what she says is so self-evident.  Perhaps he’s been living in a state of complete denial about that, though it seems out of character.

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_03.18_[2012.09.29_17.13.22]In the battle that follows, we get some very nicely-animated action sequences as Klein and  Egil join the party (a bit too reliant on CGI for my tastes, but still competently done).  What seems clear is that this “Skull Reaper” possesses an order of magnitude of strength above what we’ve seen from any foe so far.  A sort of giant skeletal scorpion, it quickly adds to it’s kill count of twenty, wiping out several members of Heathcliff’s force in seconds.  Even when Kirito and Asuna join up to neutralize its scythes while Egil and Klein attach the body, the monster’s health gauge doesn’t seem to move much, if at all.  Is Skull Reaper (Kirito seemed to have heard of it already) literally a game changer, or simply the strongest boss the Knights of the Blood Oath (and presumably anyone) has encountered?  The name of the next ep is “The End of the World” and this week is the end of the cour, so perhaps we’re getting ready for our first change of venue in Sword Art Online’s first season.

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[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_08.36_[2012.09.29_17.18.40] [HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_11.56_[2012.09.29_17.22.00] [HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_12.27_[2012.09.29_17.22.32]
[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_13.51_[2012.09.29_17.23.55] [HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_15.28_[2012.09.29_17.25.33] [HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_16.55_[2012.09.29_17.27.21]
[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_17.37_[2012.09.29_17.28.03] [HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.01_[2012.09.29_17.29.27] [HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.42_[2012.09.29_17.30.08]
[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_20.11_[2012.09.29_17.30.37] [HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_20.29_[2012.09.29_17.30.55] [HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_21.56_[2012.09.29_17.32.22]


  1. S

    I was actually pleasantly surprised Asuna addressed the whole "intubated in a hospital bed for 2 years" issue in the way she did. I'm also impressed by how well they were able to instill the atmosphere of fear by the swift transition from the silly fishing substory.

  2. H

    "as Heathcliff calls our young lovers back from Wuthering Heights " Oh thank god I haven't been the only one thinking that. xD And how much crying was there in the episode? After Tegami Bachi there has to be a ton of crying to annoy me but SAO already annoys me a bit more than that series did….

  3. x

    Episode was really good (by SAO's standard). Ending there left a sweet amount of time for the events to come.

    I liked how fearsome the boss felt. Action anime rarely get to instill any sense of danger on me, but SAO managed to get a "oh shit!, they are fucked" out of me.

    In my eyes, the talk after the round table was good, his body language said a lot about his internal conflict. Now that the game stopped being as "fair" as he thought, fear finally kicked in for him.
    I think that he became more confused rather than getting stuck in a state of denial. That virtual place had been his only reality for a very long time, his avatar might as well be the same as his real body by now. The fact that they were not aging might have created the false hope of living happily in SAO forever.

    This is why I think Asuna's reality check hit him that hard. They don't know how much time left they actually have.

    You asked youself the same many times before too, Enzo. What if life in SAO is even better than the real thing? That scene was meant to address this idea.

    I commented before about the author's mysterious age. If it's true that he was very young at the time of writing this, then I'm just amazed that SAO was the result of a kid's mind. Also, Simplicity might not be so bad as long as you stop expecting Complexity, right?.

  4. The younger you are, the easier it is to convince yourself of that… 😉

  5. x

    There's a saying in my country, "No le pidas peras al olmo". Google says that "You can’t get blood out of a turnip." is the English equivalent.

    This is something that may be wise to apply to SAO. Getting stressed over something it is not will only prove detrimental towards the enjoyment of your time spent on it.

    What I'm trying to say is that there ARE fruits to reap from this series. But those fruits won't be what the trailers (and the fucking hype) promised us.

  6. R

    "Now that the game stopped being as "fair" as he thought, fear finally kicked in for him."

    I don't think he thinks it is 'unfair' now. I think he just has something he is afraid of losing now. He was avoiding getting associated or attached to anyone, but that is what has changed.

  7. D

    Well, I don't have much to add this SAO show except that concur this Enzo's statement: "There’s too much crying, too many long, long shots of beautiful young people smiling beatifically straight into the camera". On that note, Enzo, when you're really busy while moving to Tokyo and have to drop blogging a few shows, could I nominate this show? I much rather see "Uchuu Kyoudai" and "Shirokuma Cafe" continue to be covered (especially now that the latter has been dropped at RC) and maybe Jormungand 2 instead of this.

    Also I might be jumping the gun too soon here since its blog has been posted yet, but just watched "Shinsekai Yori" and… I don't get it! What's with this trend of inserting a bunch of random flashbacks (well random since they don't make sense at all at this point) here and there, thus confusing the audience in the first episodes!! Me very confused!
    All I know is that these Japanese kids have some magical power to move things around, make blood pouring out of random people and kill them like bugs for no reason, and apparently attending a special magic school like some Harry Potter. Oh and some random cat kidnapping dead-weight students and maybe eat them. Eh… also for a second there I thought I was watching "Mawaru Penguindrum 2" (sweet…) due to that background music. What is the sam hill is that slow depressing oldie music anyway??

  8. B

    Did you download Shinsekai Yori? If so, which website did you get it from?

  9. j

    The music is from the beginning of the second movement of Antonín Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 in E Minor "From the New World." The song "Going Home" is based on it.

  10. A

    Now, I haven't seen the new episode just yet, and I'd be happy to comment again if my thoughts changes, but I disagree with the notion that just because it didn't make sense that it's automatically worthy of criticism. After the first episode of Steins;Gate, everyone was confused as hell! but the story built upon itself to bring back the first episode, which made it awesome. Now, if you want really horrible flashbacks, might I direct you to the final still frames of the first episode of Guilty Crown? That was poorly done insomuch as it wasn't to add mystery as it was saying in a loud whisper, "pst!! In case, you have DVR, this is what we will be showing you at some point in the future!!" *wink wink nudge nudge* And it was a bloody contrivance that really didn't belong in the episode.
    Now I'm off the see the first episode of Shinsekai Yori! I'm actually really excited (maybe it was Enzo that recommended it?)

  11. Patience, Grasshoppers. I'll blog Shin Sekai Yori tomorrow – let's keep this on topic.

  12. J

    Well, I never expected to end up loving SAO this much after last week. It was an episode that entirely focused on SAO's strengths: the MMO slice of life, the boss raids. It was a real throwback to episode 2, but I didn't mind. Asuna's monologue did felt dragged out and out of context, but it's better than nothing I guess.

    Real good action here, both with the fish and Skull Reaper. That fishing scene did have me laughing out loud too, when they introduced that new OST song. I wish all SAO eps were more like this..

  13. Good action, but a bit too heavy on the CG for my tastes. It's personal preference.

  14. J

    Don't worry, I'm actually with you on that one. Right now, in my opinion, CG hasn't caught up with 2D animation, not to the point where it can seamlessly blend the two elements. If it were up to me, I'd always have some good 2D sequence like, say, BONES or (old?)GAINAX fluid, rather than UFOtable-F/Z CG sequences.
    It's personal preference.

  15. Z

    " It’s a gross oversimplification but I think this is a series written by a very young person, and it’s probably most appealing to very young people – younger than I am, anyway. "

    I think you got that reversed Enzo as I have found that it's generally the younger viewers who has issues with the SAO setting. Now you seems to have more of an issue with the characters rather then the setting, but that seems to be more rare as most complaints are usually about plot hole this or plot hole that.

    The only common complaint I have seen about the characters would be that some think that Kirito is a Gary Stu, wich is odd as being good at A computer game while having a general interest in computers and computer programing is hardly all knowing. It's not like it is hard to find real life people with that set of skills.

    Anyway, I don't think you need to find a logical reason for your dislike of the series. It's just that it rubs you wrong somehow, it happens.

  16. My main reason is very simple and I've made it clear – I'm not crazy about the way the characters are written and the dialogue is often excruciating (and that leaves off last week, one of the worst anime episodes I've seen). I love the setting and I like the show when it focuses on the implications of the premise – I just think it bogs down where the characters are concerned.

  17. S

    I don't get why some people are fussed over "CGI" in animes. Animes do not even look real in the first place, why would CGI be detrimental in any way? I mean, in movies CGI often makes for a surreal and synthetic impression, but so do cartoons.

    Can you give me an example or something? The action in this episode I thought was stylish with some nice clips and cool stills. I couldn't care less if CGI was involved.

  18. J

    Well, this is just me; I don't know about Enzo or anyone else, but the reason why I'd rather not have CG in my anime is because when I see those scenes with CG objects move around, it feels out of place. There are studios that manage the use of CG rather well, the first example that comes to my mind is UFOtable. Even so, I'm one of those guys who says 'If it's not broke, don't fix it'.
    If you're going to include CG, then I'll demand the best CG, in which you can't tell what's 2D or 3D-made. It may sound harsh, but it's the way I like it.
    You talked about movies and cartoons, and well, the thing is I'd like them to keep it like that: movies have awesome CG and special effects; japanese cartoons have awesome traditional animation…don't let that art die!

    Sometimes change is for the better, sometimes it's not. Your choice.

  19. B

    I don't dislike this show as much as you seem to, Enzo, and I actually thought this episode was pretty good aside from the Asuna monologues. But maybe I only think this episode was pretty good because last week's episode was so terrible that this one looks like the work of a genius in comparison. Either way I'm happy to see main plot stuff happening, the Yui sidetrack was too much, I'm ready for them to clear some freaking floors.

    Boss that one shots people in a game where death means RL death is pretty BS though.

    Major flashbacks to The Lurker Below when they were fishing up the lake beast lol. I was ready to yell "jump in the water!" at any second.

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