Sword Art Online – 14

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Picked a bad week to be late with the SAO post…

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 14 [720p].mkv_snapshot_00.19_[2012.10.08_07.28.35]So – anything happen while I was away?  I have a lot of reactions to that episode, which is more often than not a good sign.  I certainly wouldn’t say my reaction is overwhelmingly positive, but rather this: how great would this ep have been if the previous 13 had been mostly focused on building up to it rather than spending 80% of the time trying to cram as many moe girls-of-the-week and overwrought emotional scenes down our gullets?

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 14 [720p].mkv_snapshot_00.58_[2012.10.08_07.29.14]In other words, the shortcomings of this episode of SAO are not its own, but rest on the previous thirteen.  In and of itself it was a barnburner – a vastly entertaining mess, though riddled with inconsistencies that had me shaking my head.  More than anything it just felt like everything happened – maybe it was because I didn’t know it was coming this very week, but I didn’t get any sense of buildup to everything coming to a head this week.  That undercut the authenticity of the moment for me, which is too bad because this is definitely the series I was hoping I was going to get when I signed up.

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 14 [720p].mkv_snapshot_03.06_[2012.10.08_07.30.19]I was pleased to see my hunch that something was up with Heathcliff was correct – Kirito’s right, that whole duel the first time around smelled funny.  At the time I said that Heathcliff’s moves seemed like an outright cheat, though I didn’t expect it to be so literally so.  Kirito was also right that there’s nothing so boring as watching someone else play a RPG, so it figured Kayaba Akihiko had to be lurking inside the game somewhere – the guy just had to have a sadistic side that wouldn’t enjoy this if he couldn’t be there to watch the worm struggling on the hook.  Akihiko is the most interesting character in the show for me, and I sure as hell hope that little speech in limbo isn’t all we get in terms of exploration of his psyche.  I have a lot of unanswered questions and I’ll be very disappointed if they remain so.

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 14 [720p].mkv_snapshot_05.10_[2012.10.08_07.32.24]The final confrontation was certainly dramatic, starting with Kirito’s reveal of Heathcliff’s true identity.  I have my doubts that someone like Akihiko would genuinely put himself at risk as a “reward” to the guy who outed him (which makes me skeptical about his supposed death) but there are larger matters of consistency that bother me more.  Like, for example, how did Asuna overcome the paralysis effect that was built into the game itself?  And how, exactly, did Kirito manage to come back after he’d died to finish Akihiko off?  I’m not prepared to accept that as simply will power, or the power of love – that doesn’t mesh with the internal logic we’ve been given so far.  Again, I hope there are answers coming, because the conclusion otherwise would be that these things happened because the plot needed them to.

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 14 [720p].mkv_snapshot_07.20_[2012.10.08_07.34.33]We had a very nice farewell scene between Kirito – I guess I should say Kazuto – and Asuna – when both thought their time was running out. So why didn’t it run out – why did they survive (I presume she did, too) when the other 4000 died?  I suppose it’s possible Akihiko was lying about them really being brain-dead, but that wasn’t the sense I got.   And I’ll give you Kazuto being able to stand up and walk under his own power after two years in a coma, but why the hell wouldn’t a nurse come running when all his life signs stopped?  I’ all for suspension of disbelief, but inconsistency is hard to swallow.  The arc-concluding ep certainly delivered the goods dramatically, but it doesn’t seem to have done the heavy lifting in doing so – relying upon a lot of shortcuts and contrivances instead.  I appreciate it for what it is, but that doesn’t stop me from wondering what it could have been.  Much like SAO as a whole up to this point.

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  1. N

    I am sure Kirito and Asuna survived because the game was cleared before they got physically killed. The Nerve Gear doesn't instantly kill you but waits for some time in case one of those Revival items gets used.

  2. N

    Paralysis on the other hand… no, just no… you can't break that… makes no sense, none at all…

  3. A

    Kirito and Asuna were left alive by the creator of the game as a reward since Kirito finished the game, the own creator said this in the novel. They probably cut that in the anime to make people wondering if Asuna is alive or not until next episode.

    We will see the creator of the game again the future.

    The paralise and dead stuff is all willpower. The author loves Matrix, if you already watched Accel world(same autor of SAO) you will see a lot of Matrix stuff there too. In resume willpower(or mindpower) > rules of a digital world.

    I still can't believe that the autor wrote SAO for a contest of a publisher when he was in high school 8 years ago. SAO was suposed to be just 1 book but he won the contest and they hired him to write the continuation as a Webnovel, many years after that(in 2009) when the novel was already famous on the internet they published it as books.

  4. A

    No one hired him to write the web novel. He wrote SAO in that form because no publisher wanted the story (supposedly, it was too long for a light novel). I suppose they accepted to publish SAO anyway after seeing how successful Accel World was.

    On the willpower stuff, bending the rules of the digital world made sense in Matrix because they established that it was possible from the get go. In SAO it's just and ass-pull. The series didn't even delve on that matter before, and suddenly, not only we see two cases of this happening, but Kayaba even say that he wanted to see such a thing happening all along. All from nowhere. That's shitty writing, and it was the same in the light novel.

  5. A

    The scene for Kirito's final attack should have been changed. For example, they could have done it as a final strike, his sword travelling towards Kayaba as his hp decreases, then his hp reaching 0 before his sword strikes and him resisting death for another second due to Asuna's words or some flashback scene to complete the hit.

    That would not have seemed so out of place as the reformation scene

  6. t

    It was a good episode right up until Akihiko could give NO REASON (no REAL reason anyway) for a sadistic experiment that killed 4000 people.

    If I was Kirito I would have been screaming in his face at that point. He seemed to have a grand plan when he was in disguise and then the game ended and he had NOTHING to say. Argh!

    It was a good twist though, even if there was no buildup to the end of the game. I don't know if me being unprepared added to it or not…

    And not to worry Enzo – I could wait a long time for my favourite anime blog. Even on an ep like this!

  7. R

    That's SAO most glaring plothole. He forgot about his motives.

    The second one (anime-only) is why a girl like Asuna is there, playing a VRMMORPG.

  8. A

    I don't think it's a plot hole. Personally it makes him a lot more interesting that he doesn't quite know how to describe why he did this. Of course, this kind of characterization has the caveat that we'll need to see more of him from a third person perspective, since clearly his first person perspective wasn't very helpful.

  9. t

    Honestly, I don't see how a character lacking any sort of motivation is compelling, particularly given the scale and immorality of his enterprise, viewers at least should get a refusal to explain himself or some justification.

    Not some weird soliloquy about a castle.

  10. A

    Hey, Richard, that seems like plain sexism. Why shouldn't she be playing a VRMMORPG? There're plenty of other female characters there, why not ask the same question about them?

    I think the motive's more explored in the book… Might have been simple curiosity or something, don't really remember…

  11. A

    Kayaba's motives are a running theme in the later arcs.

    My basic impression though was that Kayaba was a Chuyuuboni who had the ability to turn his delusions into a terrifying reality.

  12. R

    So wondering why the 2nd main lead got her hands on the game is sexism? Alright, let's ignore that lack of backstory because the character in question a girl.

    Let's go with "The reason I logged in to SAO was to meet Kirito!" as she said a few episodes ago.

  13. M

    If im not mistaken, the one who bought the nerv gear was her brother but he wasn't around at the start of the game so she tried it out of curiosity.

  14. A

    That would be an interesting topic of discussion: "How would you have done SAO differently?" Not so much as a criticism (Lord knows everyone's run that to the ground), but more as a creativ excercise.

  15. M

    Reki (the author of SAO and Accel World) himself seems to be answering it though — see SAO Progressive, which is the rewrite project he's doing.

  16. t

    Makes me wish they'd waited on making the anime if he's rewriting to eliminate some of the inconsistencies

  17. R

    I had a discussion with some fans where I explained why it didn't meet my expectations. Why the trailer lied to us and why SAO choose the easy way out.

    I'm no writer nor novelist, but this is what I was expecting after the trailer:

    – Kirito is not a solo player. He's an accidental young guild leader like Jack in LOST. This fact changes everything from the start. Maybe he was pushed by Asuna into it.

    – Story centered around MMORPG guild relationships and internal conflicts. Kirito learning how to lead, Asuna and other recurring characters (Sachi, Klein) helping him out.

    – Those character have a decent backstory. Their own fears and strengths. And for fucks sake, give Asuna some backstory.

    – Kirito needs to take many moral decisions: how to deal with other guilds; what to do with PKs; how to train people into playing the game better; how to deal with the losses, his own grieving and the difficulties with guild's morale; how to convince powerful solo-players to join his guild.

    – The guild eventually grows a lot it has over 100 members by Floor 50.

    – Asuna would deal with the conflict that her feelings may become a distraction to what Kirito has to do as a guild leader. She would feel guilty about pushing him into grabbing such a big responsibility. But maybe that's exactly what he needed, someone who he could show his weak side too. He's just a young kid who's good at videogames, he was not ready to be in charge of so many lives.

    – Or something like that. A survival/MMORPG anime.

  18. A

    – Asuna HAS a backstory, which unfolds over the later arcs, culminating in the powerful Mother's Rosario arc, which IMO is Reki at his best. Kirito's backstory get's flashed out in ALO.

    – The main divergence would have either taken place at the time of Klein, or with the Black Cats. Had Kirito revealed his level…. had Sachi survived, etc, etc….

    That in itself is Fanfic fuel, but we'd have to wait for Progressive to write a good one.

    – Read: The Army. Same problems.

    – Just write that fanfic now, would you?

    – Hopefully, Progressive would go down that road. The initial stories of Progressive (Aria, Rondo and Monochrome Concerto) is likely closer to what you envisioned. Especially Aria, which in the Anime was butchered to Kingdom come.

  19. A

    There isn't really an easy way to fix this. I don't think it's a… particularly bad story, but the total length of the franchise led me to believe that it would be a grand adventure rather than a brief love story and two boss fights. That is what I thought was the only real let-down of this episode.

    I don't care at all about small inconsistencies on the game mechanics, or even the characterization issues– that stuff seems small to me compared to the thought that the author never intended to develop SAO's universe beyond floor 75. That the reason the actual battle mechanics were never explored in depth was because there never were any. That the reason they married so early in the story was because the story ends 2 episodes later.

    To me, that's the single most uncomfortable thing about the series. The fact this is a short, 1 volume story that was built up to be something much bigger.

    Anyways, I can only hope the next part of the story will actually merit an entire cour, rather than 6 episodes of content and 8 more of padding.

  20. R

    Enzo, Kirito's death was Kirito's imagination. It's the same scene as EP1.

  21. R

    And now you can understand why it was aired in chronological order.

    Vol 1 ends right there. Vol 2 has Sachi's, Lizbeth's, Yui's and Scilica's episodes. Imagine if we had those right now? 6 episodes of girl-of-the-week action after this cliffhanger where we don't know what happened to Asuna, who died earlier than Kirito.

    Even the (now grown up) author recognized Vol 2 is another case of bad writing, and apologizes about them in the Author Notes.

    >Besides that, there's one more thing that I must apologize to everyone about.
    >Even though the four female characters in this book are all different female players, their male counterpart, as discussed earlier, was always Kirito-san.
    >Even though there is no way for me to explain myself to everyone properly on this point, I painfully excuse myself, and ask that everyone please use the "even though the criminal and victim change every time, the detective is always the same person" mindset you have when reading detective novel series… you can't do it right? Sorry, sorry.

    Complete notes: http://pastebin.com/6p3iM4Gu (you can read them now)

  22. B

    It did seem a little… anticlimactic. Probably this cour had way way too much filler. I hope the next arc is better because so far this show has not lived up to it's hype AT ALL.

  23. R

    Next arc should be a better watch. The following material is way easier to translate to anime.

  24. A

    I doubt it will be a better watch. Aincrad might be amateurish in its writing, and full of plotholes and such, but at least it was a lot less generic than Fairy Dance. Even the antagonist of this arc is more your generic villain, and let's not even talk about what happens with Asuna. The whole thing is a pile of cr@p.

  25. M

    it's true that every thing happened too fast.. we have the impression that it wasn't build at all. it the same effect as when reading the books. Maybe the writer wanted it like that for the fun of it.. saying there is 100 floors, so we are kept waiting for the final battle on the 100th floor, but.. surprise!! it's on the 75th floor.

    how Asuna overcame the paralysis effect and how kirito "come back from the dead" (he didn't die technically speaking) may seem strange. I agree with that. but in the book it didn't have this effect on me. it's more detailed. and as the books go, the write is developing many details, especially in the 9/10th books, that may explain all of that.
    and if you think that akihiko is awesome now, wait and see 😀

    and they may seem that there is too much plothole in the anime, i assure you that the Light Novel (translated by Baka-tsuki) is well structured. I advise you to read it. it may correct many misconcept the anime couldn't express very well

  26. A

    "And I’ll give you Kazuto being able to stand up and walk under his own power after two years in a coma" I've broken my right femur when i was 12, and after being in bed for 3 months straight, I could barely stand up let alone walk. I don't think Kazuto should've been even able to sit up after being bedridden for 2 years.

  27. I know, but I was trying to be charitable about something there…

  28. D

    This is anime guy's….

  29. A

    I had a feeling you might have mixed feelings on this episode and since I know where this is going next (I haven't read the novels, just a summary) I have a feeling you might not like it either. Of course, I only know so little, so I can't be sure.

  30. h

    As of this episode, I must say SAO seems to have fittingly "Chaged into Immortal Object."

    Take that exactly as written — SAO is charging ahead with its momentum, but remains an inconsistent mess while doing so.

  31. C

    ….ugh. That was…. just bad. And… bad. And… ugh.

    1. Such a fearsome boss last episode! The first time these people really seemed to be in any believable danger! (Because every single 'dangerous' encounter before that just seemed like a badly scripted event)… Finished before the opening song even plays.

    2. Attempting to stab a leader on what seems like the spur of the moment. Apparently, from comments elsewhere, this is actually properly covered in the novel, so I won't place this at Kawahara's door, but the anime utterly failed to convey any kind of reasoning to it.

    3. Kayaba doing the smarmy evil overlord exposition thing. Have a bit more dignity, for crying out loud.

    4. Good lord, the Kirito/Egil/Klein lines felt like total soap opera material. It was like a rerun of Days of our Lives or some random Korean daytime drama.

    5. Given Accel World's whole Incarnation thing, it's not actually that surprising that it would be possible to break the rules of the game with willpower. It's still lazy and poor writing and clear deus ex machina. And you're going to tell me that in two whole years, with countless people undoubtedly facing all manner of extreme circumstances and the fear of death, that no one ever exhibited this same ability to 'break the rules' before?

    6. Way to have no motivations, Kayaba. It's like the writer decided he couldn't come up with a convincing motivation for him and just plain gave up.

    …seriously, why do people like the SAO novels again?

    On a side note, Enzo, I'm actually kind of surprised your response to this was so mellow, compared to how you've ripped on other shows that (in my opinion, anyway) were equally melodramatic and yet still more capably written and directed than this show managed to be. Tired from the move? 😛

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