I used to have a sign above my desk that said, “It is what it is” and the people who worked for me were more than a little sick of hearing that phrase, I’m sure. I still trot it out when the moment fits, and watching SAO seems to be a perfect candidate.
OP2: #2: “INNOCENCE” by Eir Aoi
Cute girl of the week? Check.
Incessant weeping? Check.
Preposterously mustache-twirly Scooby Doo villain? Check.
I think I’m just going to have to accept that SAO is never going to be what I want it to be, no matter how many tantalizing glimpses it offers. There’s such a good show buried inside all the clichés and clumsy character interaction, but no matter how long I wait or how I want it to, I don’t think it’s ever going to truly break free. If you throw a bird into a fish tank, it’s hardly the bird’s fault if it drowns – it’s your fault for not understanding what it was you were dealing with.
So where does that leave us? The reset button has been hit, though this part of the story will be considerably shorter than the first one. This week’s moe girl at least has the virtue of being more than a one-off – she stars in the OP and ED after all. It’s Lyfa, the imouto who’s actually a cousin that we met back in the first episode. I’m sure we’re going to get a lot more backstory on her, but we know she loved kendo – and she’s damn good at it – and she’d be a brocon if Kirito were actually her brother. Her role as his rock of support is one major part of the episode, the other being the reveal that Asuna is still unconscious in a hospital (as are 300 other SAO survivors), where she’s visited by her father Shouzou (Yamaji Kazuhiro) and one of his employees, Sugou Nobuyuki (Koyasu Takehito doing slimy like only he can).
Sugou is really emblematic of so much that drives me crazy about Kawahara as a writer. Why is it necessary to rely on characters so hilariously evil? The face-licking, the hair-sniffing, the thumb on Asuna’s mouth… Come on – Noumi was bad enough, now this? The whole situation – a father is actually going to marry off his comatose daughter? – is so silly that it’s impossible to take seriously. There’s a good story in people trying to adjust to a real-life that’s perhaps not as pleasant as the simulation they were trapped in, but this whole subplot with Sugou feels completely unnecessary to me, an excuse not to do any heavy lifting to create drama.
This being the series it is, at least at least we as the audience will be able to escape to a VRMMORPG, as it appears that Asuna is trapped in another one – this one a sort of elves and faeries sort of place, apparently (with Kayaba behind it presumably). Hopefully that means a reduced role for the Sugou plotline in episodes to come, though I’m assuming that this part of the story won’t take place entirely inside the game, since Lyfa seems poised to be a major character – though perhaps she’ll be part of the VR landscape this time. Given how things look in RL, I’ll take my chances with this new VRMMRPG sight unseen.
ED2: “Overfly” by Luna Haruna