Sword Art Online – 15

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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

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Cute girl of the week?  Check.
Incessant weeping?  Check.
Preposterously mustache-twirly Scooby Doo villain?  Check.

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 15 [720p].mkv_snapshot_01.07_[2012.10.15_00.39.11]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.

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 15 [720p].mkv_snapshot_01.33_[2012.10.15_00.39.38]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).

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 15 [720p].mkv_snapshot_05.47_[2012.10.15_00.43.52]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. 

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online - 15 [720p].mkv_snapshot_06.42_[2012.10.15_00.44.47]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.

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ED2: “Overfly” by Luna Haruna

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  1. K

    If more Sugou means more hilarity, I don´t mind him around 😛
    Also, I find Suguha adorable. A-1, please develop her character!!

  2. N

    I gotta agree with you Enchou, there is much potential in Kawahara's story, but he just keeps doing certain, lets call 'em, Mistakes.

  3. R

    Imouto is not called Lyfa. It's Suguha.

    This arc will be a bit better if you can stomach the villain. The events of this arc will fit better to the author's current style (seen in AW) and it should also be way easier to translate into anime form.

    ALO will feel more true to the actual nature of the series.

    And yeah, SAO deserves the an award on wasted potential.

  4. R

    >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.

    I'm sorry, but there won't be any heavy lifting in this arc.

  5. J

    Well yes, the scene in which the villain revealed himself in the hospital was horrible. It's a pity, but I guess it's like that GE, SAO isn't the show some of us would like it to be.

    Now we'll travel to Fairy Land, oh god. This show shouldn't be called SAO if the game's cleared pretty early in the story and the kids jump ship to another game. So much fail in here, damn. And let's not talk about Kirito's physical skills at kendo this episode…
    Bad, bad, bad.

  6. A

    "Hopefully that means a reduced role for the Sugou plotline in episodes to come"

    like me, Enzo, you will come to hate this arc soooo much in due time.

    Thanks for your input Enzo. For a while, I've never been able to explain exactly precisely why having a cartoonishly evil villain is considered lazy writing until you brought up the point that it takes no effort to build up its own drama. It's kind of like "I don't know how to write a good story, let's just put in someone we can hate. Yea, that's good enough" This show's devolved into Saturday morning cartoons. It's insulting.

  7. A

    When I read the novel version of this, I just couldn't continue. I've seen my share of perpostorous and ridiculous things but… that was just lame. Admittidly I did (and still do) want sugo to be punched in the face since I find him so damn annoying, but the entire situation just seems stupid. I really barely felt a thing when I watched the episode. I'll probably still watch through this just so I can finish the series off, but this really was a bunch of wasted potential.

  8. H

    "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." That's basically the conclusion I've come to as well, I'll still enjoy watching SAO (and more AW if they make it) but it's always going to be popcorn fluff for me.

  9. H

    God, I hate the obsession that Japanese animation writers have with incest stories.

    If they want to make a story centered around two siblings, why does it have to be incest? Why can't they just feature a brother and a sister (or a sister and a sister or whatever) treating each other like brother and sister? I'm 100 percent sure that interesting stories can be written involving siblings treating each other like siblings.

    And if they are going to make a story about incest, why not straight out make the two siblings blood related? I hate how the incestuous "siblings" very often turn out to be unrelated, blood-wise. Why all this beating around the bush?

  10. A

    That's because in Japan, marriage between cousins is legal although becoming increasingly rare.

  11. T

    "That's because in Japan, marriage between cousins is legal"

    Ah, the go-to weak excuse they always bring up to justify on continuing this trend in Japanese anime. Well done, Anon, well done.

    Now then, they should also continue to hunt endangered whales and tuna to extinction because that's because in Japan, eating those fishes raw is their proud tradition, science be damned. They wouldn't even let them grow back to sustainable level, hell no, because that means that would have to abandon their tradition and will have to eat something else for a few years. There are few stupid shit Japan does -like ALL other countries as none of them is perfect- that pisses me off.

  12. S

    By majority, the Japanese under 35 don't have siblings. Something isn't Taboo to a large chunk of the audience, when it isn't even a realistic possibility.

    A story line like that wouldn't even survive long on a Cable channel here in the States. It's a cheap tactic, but not really offensive to the Japanese audience (apparently) these days.

  13. G

    Well, there's always Fullmetal Alchemist, where Ed and Al are true siblings. Then again, yaoi fanwriters came.

    …yeah. Anyway, yes, I don't think anime contemplates the possibility of non-incestuous brother-sister relationships. What I find more annoying is that this is basically some kind of very lazy wish fulfillment. That is: "you're a sad and lonely hikikomori? Well, dream of having a cute girl attracted to you ALREADY LIVING UNDER YOUR ROOF, so you don't have to move your ass and go looking for one outside". I think "Welcome to NHK" was right after all: there probably REALLY is a Japan government conspiracy in act to decrease the population.

  14. A

    This episode provided just what SAO needed and incest plot.. gg I'm out.

  15. A

    About sugou and the plot,I totally agree with you enzo.. finally.

  16. I

    I think… I don't think Reki Kawahara is a bad writer. I think that what he is doing with all these moe girls, stupid villains and melodrama is making a story that fits his audience.

    Simply put a lot of people who read light novels like this kind of stuff and he's matching his writing to their tastes. It's not an admirable thing but when you wanna become big that's what you've got to do.

    So he ruined any chance SAO had of become a light novel like F/Z because he didn't have the confidence that he could pull it off and made something less that appeals to more.


  17. You can't know though, can you? Is he afraid to write what he knows he can because he's worried it won't sell, or is this all he has?

  18. A

    Originally, SAO was written as a web novel. He wrote the whole story, up to Alicization, the last arc on series, from 2002 to 2008. It was an independent thing so no one pressured him to write in a particular way. The light novel version, which began publication in 2009 is pretty much the same, so you can't say he wrote it this way just to fit the audience. This is what he wanted to write from the start. From the overpowered MC whom every girl likes, to the cartoonish villains and cheap melodrama, this is both what he wanted to write and all he is capable of.

  19. S

    He wrote this before the Noumi arc in Accel World, I believe, so he's gone to this on multiple occasions. The problem is, even in his own works, he has created better villains without going the cheap "NTR Doujin Fodder" route. And that's all of the depth these villains have, really.

    Maybe a Japanese audience isn't bothered in the same way (staple villain style, maybe?) as a foreign one, which might be why he goes to it. I might be attacked for this, but Kawahara has a whole lot of Michael Bay in him, vis a vis Transformers. He brings a whole lot of interesting ideas to the tables, but he has a bad tendency of throwing in really cheap storytelling tricks to force the melodrama. So, as an audience, you simply have to choose to ignore really stupid parts to enjoy what is that you want to enjoy.

    There's a lot to like in Kawahara's writing. He makes interesting worlds and, some, interesting characters. But when he's being lazy, he gets SUPER lazy. That drives you up a wall after a while.

  20. d

    Enzo, do you ever drop a show's coverage after covering it for 10+ episodes? I don't think you have. What criteria does it have to meet before dropping it entirely? You didn't drop Accel World even though you clearly didn't like it and now this agonizing show's coverage still goes on despite that you're supposed to be busy while adjusting to a new country. This must be due to a principle or something where you covered so much, might as well to do it until the end.

    There are much more deserving shows from "First Impressions Omnibus" to be covered fully than this tired formulaic show, you know? SAO won't change no matter what as you've dully noted and I think you probably are repeating yourself on its coverages these days as there isn't any new thing to comment about this same-old show: and there won't be. I humbly suggest retiring this to short format if dropping entirely is against your principle and give another show deserved full coverage on this show's place.

    Enzo's concerned fan (…admittedly SAO defector :P)

  21. I have on rare occasions, for varying reasons. I am considering it with SAO, TBH. In better circumstances I wouldn't, as there are elements I like and it's obviously a show the readers want to discuss. But with my schedule getting tighter and anime's schedule more packed, it's something that's on the table.

  22. v

    Seriously even Sankarea had more depth for an adaptation for a source that was ultimately an ecchi manga. SAO has all the criteria for Saterday Morning cartoon if it wasn't for slightly sexual or inappropriate content.

    I really think Reki Kawahara isn't a good writer, a good business man but in terms of writing, he's as good as Hiroyuki Yoshino. It's been 15 episodes where we could've sympathise with the main character's plight but the more I see of this, the more I cannot help but roll my eyes.

  23. h

    Hey, vincehwr, I dare you to write this content in RC's SAO post. I dare you! I guarantee you that your post will get buried under negs so fast, most won't even see your post, aha ha ha ha. You will get 90+ negs in no time while getting 2-3 thumb-ups (but do it right after the post gets posted when the fanboy mob is in full-force. Otherwise, you will only get 40+ negs)

    For all Anonymous trolling once in a while here, I like Enzo's self-regulated system. Surely beats bully fanboys' hissy mob at RC, which kills any criticism or frank discussion on their favorite show's shortcomings. (on the other hand, write meaningless fanboy one-liner stuff like "I love this show!" or "best show ever!!" or "Asuna love forever", your post will get 50+ likes and get upgraded into green column.)

  24. v

    The funny thing is I already wrote on RandomC in a different name, I made my post ambiguous enough that no one realised the negative tone to throw me ton of negs. I know Crazy Otaku fandom too well that I changed my tone when I posted there. My opinion still stands even more seeing how many people keeps defending that anime.

  25. B

    "(Koyasu Takehito doing slimy like only he can)"

    Well, he did play Lucifer in another show, so I guess he's qualified for it at least.

    Only emotion I felt with this episode was mild disgust when Sugou was practically molesting Asuna in her sleep, that was hella creepy. Mostly though, basically just like you said Enzo, the whole idea of her father marrying her off while she's in a coma is so utterly absurd that you just can't take it seriously. Her father didn't seem like a bad guy by and large so the thought that he'd agree to this situation is totally laughable. I honestly was confused about what was going on at first because I didn't believe any writer could possibly expect his readers (viewers now) to buy into this. So much wasted potential but at least between this and Accel World we are getting a good idea of what this writer's capabilities actually are so if LN reads hype any future works of his we can confidently laugh in their faces.

  26. Q

    You better drop SAO Enzo from what I see… Your review this time certainly sounds pretty negative and that can make people who likes SAO uncomfortable

    And that hospital scene, I don't think It's necessary and I just ignored it
    Maybe things like incest, overpowered protagonist, melodrama and other things are very attractive and popular for people there (Japan)?? The LN sold like hotcakes there and sales for all volumes has reach 1,3 million ++
    I don't know if the LN is so much better than the anime or not, but that sales clearly illustrates that SAO is very popular in Japan
    SAO anime unfortunately not made for people outside Japan imo

  27. D

    Hey, Qrit. Asking Enzo to drop SAO because it sucks is one thing, but because his take on it is making people who likes SAO uncomfortable?? LOL!! Don't read them then; no one forced you or anyone else to read them! Or argue why he or anyone else is wrong if you must! But this is quite silly.

    If you want a cheerleader camaraderie of fanboyness on SAO and can't stomach ANY criticism of it when it's valid, please go to RC's blog and stop bothering Enzo! Thank you!!

  28. G

    I'm from Italy and I don't especially like mafiosos playing mandolinos to their mums and eating pizza in my shows either.

  29. C

    Other books that have sold millions: Twilight, Harry Potter…

    Popular is not equivalent to good. (Look at Infinite Stratos.) There is such a term as 'appealing to the lowest common denominator'.

    Frankly, the biggest issue this series has is, precisely, the sheer wasted potential. Nobody would care either way if it was trash being trash – more than enough of that is churned out in spades by publishing companies all around the world looking for the next Twilight. The problem with SAO and its sequels is that it's a genuinely interesting concept, with just enough thought behind it – that degenerates into trash in actual practice.

    Like this episode. I actually liked the first 10 minutes or so – the direction and art were beautiful, the conversations realistic, the constant little behavioural ticks of Kazuto still being too used to SAO well-woven. (And his voice actor did excellent work in this episode.)

    Then what will obviously become the driving point behind the rest of this arc showed up in the form of a ridiculous plot conflict and a stock bad guy more smarmy than Noumi and I was reminded that yes, this is Kawahara Reki writing this after all.

  30. E

    Yeah. The wasted potential of SOA. Nobody would hate, let's say, Kono Naka ni Hitori Imouto Ga Iru, because the basic premise itself is already f*cked up.

    This villain is even more vomit-inducing than Seiji Noumi. He's a business man, he's way too old for Asuna, he kissed her hair like a pervert he is, he touched her lips with his dirty finger, he licked his own lips with a fugly face, what could be worse? Please, be subtle for a bit, SOA. Strangely enough, I don't really care about the incest thing, because most other shows do it too. But this vomit-inducing villain is too much for me to take.

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