We’re going back in! But honestly, what’s even the appeal anymore? What made the original arc even potentially interesting in the first place was that people could actually die in real life if they die in-game. Had the story ended there, you might even argue that there was something poetic about it. What do I mean?
Kirito repeatedly chose the virtual world over the real world. This is particularly evident in the way he dragged his feet throughout the first arc when it came to clearing the floors. Likewise, he tried to convince Asuna to run away from it all so that they could live out the rest of their lives in some dinky hamlet. Unfortunately, Asuna is a real person. Throughout his journey, Kirito chose to avoid teaming up with people all because of that one unfortunate incident with his former guild. As such, he constantly relied upon SAO as a means to escapism.
Imagine, however, what Kirito’s leadership and uncanny understanding of the game could’ve entailed had he not constantly “lone wolf’d” it up. He could’ve helped others train, developed better teamwork, become stronger and faster, etc. How many more allies would Kirito have had by the end of the arc had he not decided to tread it all by his lonesome until he met Asuna? With more people to rely upon, might Kirito have set his hubris aside and not attacked Heathcliff head on? Kirito chose, however, to indulge in his escapist fantasies, and thus he lost Asuna. Lesson learned, story over — a poignant reminder that the simulacra can never give you true love.
But we can’t have that. Unfortunately, Kirito’s a Gary Stu, so now he’s going to embark on yet another grand adventure with hot babes. Sure enough, he’s going to save the hot babe by the end of it all, and the inevitability of this conclusion is just a bit depressing, isn’t it?
Anyway, without the threat of danger, Alfheim Online is simply another game, except one in which a single person gets to save his e-waifu. I suppose that is what’s at stake, but unfortunately, who gives a shit about Kirito and his e-waifu?
• Welp, here comes another show with a lecture. This time, we’re going to sit in a bar and world-build. Exciting. We’ll just give you scrolling shots of the world, ’cause that’s always fun to watch.
• “Supposedly, there’s a limit to how long you can fly, so you can’t do it forever.” Oh God, it’s Aion all over again. Aion was such a fucking bait-and-switch. Herp derp, an MMO where you can fly! But only in designated areas and only for a short period of time unless you dump tons and tons of kinah (the game’s form of currency) into flight potions. What a horrible decision. People played the game in the first place to fly, not to dink around on the ground 90% of the time.
• This is like anime’s The Human Centipede, huh? When the load gets too heavy, the bottom person falls off.
• Asuna is literally in a bird cage. SYMBOLISM GUYZ.
• Well, it’s a good thing Alfheim Online doesn’t have perma-death. Kirito’s cousin can’t even swallow correctly.
• You figure there’d be a mini-subplot where Kirito’s aunt tries to destroy the NerveGear headset because she doesn’t want her nephew to fall into the same trap again, but nah. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any adult supervision in sight.
• We actually get to see a bit of the character selection process. It would’ve been interesting had Kirito decided to disguise himself, but nope. Gotta be Kirito — and he must not have been that famous, because nobody took his name — gotta play the race wearing all black clothing because I’m dark and mysterious!
• “Your character’s appearance will be decided at random!” = Look exactly the same as you did in SAO, except with spikier hair. I don’t think you know what the word ‘random’ means. Yes, I realize that AO simply merged Kirito’s appearance from the old game with the race he chose here.
• At least the first thing he checks is to see is if the logout option exists. I thought that was a nice touch. See, I don’t bash everything about the show!
• Everything from SAO carried over, including his stats. Great, Kirito doesn’t even have to try and he’s already a badass in this game. And also, magical loli out of nowhere! Have a tear-jerking reunion between a “father” and his “daughter,” two people who barely know each other, but they spent a few days eating spicy sandwiches, so they’re really close now.
• Yui exists to be yet another mouthpiece for the story’s exposition. Since the bartender dude wasn’t going to follow Kirito into Alfheim Online — plus, he isn’t a magical loli — it’s only fitting that someone else take the role of lecturing us on our new virtual world. I mean, the only other thing to do is to actually show us Alfheim Online in a compelling way that doesn’t require extraneous character dialogue, but that’d be too difficult!
• Dirty loli:
• Kirito physically strains himself when trying to delete a bunch of ?????? items. Hm.
• My reaction to the mahou shoujo transformation sequence?
• Dirty Kirito:
• “Even after SAO was cleared, Asuna never woke up in reality,” says the guy who willingly plunges himself into another virtual world after being trapped in one for two years. /snicker
I mean, he could try to inform the authorities that Asuna might be trapped in yet another game, but nah. SAO fans will just hand wave this off too: “No one will believe him! No proof! The evil guy can bribe people! We can’t possibly check to see if Asuna’s NerveGear might be transmitting info to some other video game, and investigate why this is so!”
• So then we meet Leafa fighting off a bunch of people. Her enemies corner her and one of them suggest that they kill her just because she’s a woman. MMO players are classy. Since death doesn’t really matter in AO — yes, I know there’s a death penalty but that isn’t the same as permadeath — this scene has no drama. Oh well, just die and respawn, right?
• I like how when the evil guy charges at Kirito, Leafa’s first reaction is to wince. Way to go, heroine.
• Since all his parameters carried over, Kirito is so awesome that he can just fling weaklings back. Man, that is lame. There’s no tension when the main character can just push the “I win” button. Why did the author decide to have the powers carry over? Kirito has a week to save his girlfriend, right? Imagine if he has to poopsock against time to become strong enough to save her, but he only barely manages to accomplish this. At least there’d be some suspense. You could even contrast this with the way Kirito dragged his feet in SAO, which took two damn years. All of a sudden, world-building is out the door. It’s a race against the clock!
Or imagine that Kirito suddenly has to recruit a lot of people to help him because he’s no longer the strongest badass ever. With just a week to save Asuna, he doesn’t have the time to be a Gary Stu. This would contrast his new quest with his lone wolf experiences in SAO. At least there’d be some form of character growth. Where’s the excitement if you’re just going to cheat code your way through everything?