Sword Art Online Ep. 21: Tentacles out of nowhere

So this is the first thing I see when I start up the episode… is this what we’re gonna do this afternoon, SAO? Are we gonna fight?

Plot summary: Kirito and Leafa reach Arun, the capital city of ALO. Since a server maintenance is about to start, the two of them decide to take a “short” break. Meanwhile, Asuna has broken out of her cage, and stumbles across a room full of trapped consciousnesses being experimented upon. She finds a console that could help her log out, but she gets caught by pink slugs (yep) and nearly gets tentacle-raped in the process (double yep). In the end, the pink slugs put her back in her rightful place as the damsel-in-distress. During this time, the ever-productive Kirito takes Sugu with him to visit Asuna in real life, but somehow, neither Kirito nor Sugu have yet to realize that they’re both playing ALO together. When they later log on to continue their journey, Yui suddenly tells Kirito that she can sense Asuna’s player ID above them, so Kirito takes off flying like a fucking idiot.


• Well, we’ve given you the obnoxiously green, so here’s the obnoxiously bright:

World-building at its finest! Oh wait, you mean MMO players wouldn’t want to spend most of their time in a city so annoyingly radiant?

• Leafa: “That’s because you were showing off by giving all your money to Sakuya. You should have saved money for an inn.” Wow, that makes Kirito’s actions from last week even stupider than before! I’ve got my true love to save, but here, take literally all my money! How would you feel if you were in Asuna’s shoes right about now? The answer is nothing, because it was a trick question; Asuna only exists in the world of wish fulfillment, and thus she has no personality!

• But why is Leafa griping? Did she give up all her money too? Or did she just not bring any because Kirito was supposed to pay for it?

• Speaking of Asuna… you get to see her go full Solid Snake:

Only in SAO would the villain be too dumb to assign people to guard Asuna’s cage.

• I like how she freaks out at an empty hallway. Three cheers for our heroine.

• Here, I’ll take a break from bashing the show to do a bit of interpretation. When Kirito hears that Sugu didn’t get to bed until 4AM last night, he tries to play the big brother role but quickly realizes how hypocritical he sounds: “Don’t spend too much time on it. Not that I should talk.” As he says this, he stares into his own reflection in a bucket of water. He then reaches for it, but his reflection disappears as soon as the surface of the water breaks and ripples. Both his words and his actions, I believe, lead to two different interpretations that are both plausible, and because they are both plausible, for once, the anime actually delivers some sort of psychological tension.

One moment from the very beginning of the series has always stuck with me: Kirito admitting that he feels more alive in an MMO than in the real world. So here he is in real life, reaching for what is supposedly his true self, but it dissolves. Has he spent so much time online that his real persona barely exists anymore? I mean, this kid doesn’t even go to school or has a job. All he does is play games, but on that note, this is where the other interpretation comes in.

Think of how the reflective surface represents not just a mirror in this very moment, but how it also resembles a computer screen. Perhaps what he sees is not a reflection of real-world self, but one of his online avatars. Kirito tells Sugu that she shouldn’t spend all her time online, knowing fully well that he just spent all night playing yet another MMO. He wouldn’t warn Sugu, however, if he didn’t know at the back of his mind that spending all night playing some game isn’t right. So when he reaches for the reflective surface of the water, think of it as him trying to reach out to a computer screen — trying to reach out and touch his online persona.

So wait, you might say, either the reflection represents his true self or his online self. It can’t be both! But that’s exactly the point. This is where the tension comes from: Kirito doesn’t know where his true self exists anymore. It is neither in the real world, nor is it in some video game. At the start of the series, Kirito would’ve likely said his true self existed online, but now? He’s on a virtual quest only to save something very real: his true love. What would make this all extra poignant is if Kirito’s quest to save Asuna actually had sense of urgency to it. After all, what does the quest do? It cuts through the existential angst; the search for genuine companionship and love helps him get over his cynicism.

Unfortunately, Kirito doesn’t really seem like he’s in much of a hurry, so the end result is that it appears as though he doesn’t give much of a shit about Asuna or anything. I mean, the whole show has been one long series of missed opportunities one after the other. Remember how in SAO, your in-game avatar resembles your real world appearance? Imagine if this had not been the case. Kirito would’ve fallen in love with a female avatar without knowing whether or not it was really a girl in real life. Imagine, also, that after SAO ended, he never met Asuna at the hospital, but he embarks on his quest in ALO to save her anyway. Think about it… he lacks knowledge of his true self, but he wouldn’t know Asuna’s true self either. Yet this need to save and nurture another human soul — the sublime faith in love — helps him get over the fact that he doesn’t know what Asuna looks like or how she really acts in real life. And if he can do that for her, he could certainly do that for himself. His quest in ALO wouldn’t just be a quest to save her but also to save himself.

But y’know, herp derp, we’ll just have Gary Stu dual-wielding and bouncing ambassador tits instead. C’est la vie.

• Okay, enough being all serious and shit. Let’s go back to Kirito being a massive dick:

• The server maintenance is only from 4AM to 7AM. If Kirito really cared that much about Asuna, he’d be back online, but we get to see him and Sugu cook instead. Cool. In fact, he tells Sugu he’s going to head to the hospital. How is that going to help you save your e-waifu? Maybe after seeing all the ridiculous fanservice from last week’s episode, Kirito needs to remind himself why he’s bothering to save Asuna in the first place.

• Haha, this reminds me of the card crusher meme.

• I love how the creators of ALO literally programmed in a room full of floating holographic brains. Just because… it’d be cool and shit, man.

• What the hell? The experimenters have pink slug-like creatures (with teeth, I must add) for avatars? They also can’t just receive a bunch of data in the real world.

They have to log into ALO and stare at the holographic brains to see what the brains are thinking and feeling!

• Sugu: “Hey onii-chan, what about school?” Silly girl, Gary Stus don’t have to go to school. He’ll just become a pro-MMO ga…mer… yeah.

• According to Sugu, he used to get good grades too. Hah, Gary Stu online, Gary Stu in the real world.

• The way the show oscillates between seriousness and mundane domesticity is actually kind of funny. Here, we have Asuna trapped in some terrifying, maniacal brain prison, then we cut to Kirito sitting on a bus to visit his e-waifu at the hospital. If only Asuna knew what her e-hubby was up to, she’d be like, “Fuck, I’m trying to save lives here and you’re just jerking off to me in real life?”

• Whenever shadowy tentacles appear behind you in an anime…

You gotta be fucking kidding me:

So one of them tries to rape her. No, I’m not even joking.

• Sugu: “What a big hospital.” Kirito: “It’s amazing inside, too. Like a hotel.” Okay, guys, we’re not in an MMO anymore. You don’t have to try to impress me with a damn hospital.

• What’s sort of interesting is how the slugs don’t initially recognize Asuna. She’s just some pet project on the side for what’s-his-face… the villain so terribly interesting that I’ve forgotten his name already. Oh right, Oberon the Fairy King.

• Oh, it’s just Leafa crying because she can’t be with her brother. All my cares… nope.

• This grand, glorious music plays when the two of them come a little closer to the World Tree. Kirito even breathlessly remarks… “The World Tree…”

But if you’ll remember, he did the same shit at the start of the episode:

Sorry SAO, but you can’t double-dip. The majesty of the World Tree loses its impact when you keep mentioning it. I can imagine these two pausing after every step just to smack themselves in awe over some virtual tree. Meanwhile, Asuna pounds her fists on the bars surrounding her and screams, “STOP GAWKING AT THE DAMN TREE AND SAVE ME!”

• When you reach the top of the World Tree, you become an Alf. I don’t want to be an Alf. Why would you want to be an Alf?

• Dude, Leafa just told you that there’s an invisible wall to prevent you from flying up the World Tree. Way to waste even more time and energy.

43 thoughts on “Sword Art Online Ep. 21: Tentacles out of nowhere

  1. Lirael

    Honestly, if I believed for one momemnt the Gary-Stu was actually intelligent, I’d say it was a great tactic to give all his money so that the other races would not only fell indebted to him more than they were but also to assist and speed their effort to get everything ready for the World Tree. But of course, this is the guy that after being repeatedly told you can’t just fly up, did it anyway. Ugh.

    While the fact that Kirito has been pretty lazy in going to save Asuna all these episodes, this was the most glaring: his waifu is almost being tentacle raped while he leisurely introduces his sister to her commatose body.

    And of course, he sacrificed his time to save some chicks…but what about the Green haired elf that sacrificed himself to warn them? Is he still dangling away in a sewer? Sure he’s the wrong gender for Kirito but Leafa is supposed to be his friend.

    1. E Minor Post author

      I’d say it was a great tactic to give all his money so that the other races would not only fell indebted to him more than they were but also to assist and speed their effort to get everything ready for the World Tree.

      Only if you trust them to actually feel obligated to help you. I’d try to get people’s help, but… giving them all my money? Nah.

  2. Behemoth

    Let me get this straight there’s an invisible wall above the clouds and the trunk if off limits? How the fuck are you meant to get up there then?

    1. E Minor Post author

      If there’s going to be a second season, apparently we’ll meet a heroine who rivals Kirito but she has AIDS. No joke.

      1. Andmeuths

        And there will be Yuri between her and Asuna. And you’d once again be complaining that Kirito is a Sue, and that Mother’s Rosario is a Melodramatic PoS, and that Asuna has now turned into a Tsundere Ojou with Bisexual tendencies…. and this is some unholy crossover between tragedy, Japanese School Girl Yuri anime and Shounen with a bit of Mommy Issues thrown it for the mix.

        (Actually, the thing that will also be in dispute would be whether the concept itself is unholy, or whether the execution of it was abominable. Personally, as a LN reader, I’d say that Mother’s Rosario is closer to Reki’s current standard of writing.)

        Anyway, that’s what it’ll look like, if you axe out her internal thought processes. And unfortunately, I think they will indeed fail to capture her internal thought processes during Mother’s Rosario, if it get’s an adaptation.

        Well… maybe I’m getting to jaded about this, given that SAO has received a severe shellacking at the hands of the Animeblogosphere.

        Ok, more seriously, an SAO Second Season will tangentially touch on the legacy of Aincard. Any more, and I’d be spoiling the end of GGO (and Indeed, the beginning of Alicization, the Fifth Arc) sky high.

        But, I think it’s critical to remember that Kirito spent some of his most formative years trapped in SAO. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that his “real identity”, which in actuality was still in formation when he got trapped in SAO has been permanently shaped by the events of SAO.

        So does everyone, to begin with.

        You do know the author has decided to write the whole Aincard Arc all over again, this time in chronological order?

        1. E Minor Post author

          You do know the author has decided to write the whole Aincard Arc all over again, this time in chronological order?

          Why would I care to know something like that?

          So does everyone, to begin with


          And you’d once again be complaining

          Well, since you dislike reading this blog so much, I’ll help you out!

  3. Arbee

    Your analysis of Kirito and that water bucket made me wonder: How is everyone who survived SAO doing right now? How will they handle two years of missed schoolwork and updates on the people around them? What will they do now that they are now technically strangers in a land that they used to roam? And how can they handle seeing everyone else again in real life where the hell we know that they might not be the same people you partied and loved in the game? these questions should be explored deeply in the anime if it was not about Kirito’s Epic Prowess.

    in fact, SAO’s major problem is the lack of other people’s perspective. What is Klein’s story, how did he made that guild and how did he keep all his guild,ates still alive and in one piece? Why does Lizbeth love being a Blacksmith? how is Silica doing and what is their story with Pina? How did Asuna become Vice Commander? What is the real life stories behind The players Kirito meets and why are they in the game? Because all we get to see is how epic Kirito was in it and everyone else is merely just the reaction. In fact, let us just retitle this as KIRITO Online. because that the perfect title for the plot we get rig now.

    1. E Minor Post author

      What’s even funnier is how SAO defenders say that they enjoy the world-building aspects of the show, but all these questions you’re asking just show that the world-building leaves a lot to be desired.

    2. Andmeuths

      Lizbeth: Actually, it’s not the Blacksmithing that’s the reason, it’s the act of running a small business which reminds her more closely of her real life family circumstances. Sadly, she is in the Deban (more appearance!) Squad (and Kirito’s Unrequited Love Alliance – yes, REALLY!) so it’s only mentioned in the LN, in passing. Well beyond SAO or ALO time-frame.

      Silica- In some ways, Pina is a reflection of her Pre-SAO past. She’s an animal lover in real-life to, and owns several pets herself. Again, LN information. Again, She’s in the Deban and Alliance squad, so Reki didn’t decide to go in depth in that beyond passing (IIRC, I believe this from one of Asuna’s musing, in the later volumes, but I might be wrong).

      Asuna: We don’t know how she got to Vice Commander, But the author is currently rewriting the whole of SAO, in chronological order, floor by floor. So, we might eventually see how that happened.

      Klein: Apparently, he was quite a good worker back in the firm he worked at. Good enough that they promptly rehired him soon after escaping SAO. Again, LN information.

      So, there’s alot of world-building, and alot of character sketching out there, but they are all in the LN, and alot of them was put in after ALO and even after GGO (the third arc).

      As for your first question, GGO explores that quite well. Your question is exactly the reason why GGO even took place in the first place, but I wouldn’t say more. If you want, go and read it up in Baka Tsuki, from Volume 5 onward. This fact is also the trigger for Alicization.

      1. Arbee

        @Andmeuths: I can get by your reasoning. But let’s face it, do you think everything that is flawed in the anime will magically be solved by just reading the LN? It would have been great if they SHOW other people’s perspectives in there and why they are in SAO instead of Kirito just magically meeting them and solving their problems. This is supposed to be a LN/Anime that involves an MMORPG and yet they only concentrate the VMMORPG World Building on one Gamer Jesus. (and One Waifu that involves hanging with a Female Gamer who is generally a Watered Down Version of Thane Krios from Mass Effect.)

        Also, we have to see what the Real World looks like somehow. Not everyone who survives SAO can return to their normal lives under a drop of a hat.

        It’s not really world building if all we get to see is Kirito’s World.

        @EMinor: Or maybe the Author just thought “Herp Derp Kirito is Awesome and God. Haters Gnona Hate”

    3. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxD

      This anime is quitting quite a lot from the novel actually, it should’ve been some episodes longer and they should’ve shown and explained all

  4. Ick

    Remember back when people used to compare .hack//SIGN to SAO?

    //SIGN might have been a snoozefest at times (pacing issues everywhere), but at least it was never…this.

    I’ll be back next week to see how SAO outdoes itself, as per usual!

  5. Ick

    And please tell me someone else caught this nonsense so I don’t have to be the only one severely grossed out by an already-squicky episode.

  6. shirayuki75

    Asuna’s so stupid. At least stake out the place for a while before trying to log out, because, in case you didn’t see them, there are some tentacle freaks in the room who can hear your footsteps or the clicking on a computer screen. And those scientists picked some awesome avatars. Online avatars reflect the ideal me, and, of course, I’d like to be a tentacle blob.

    The one part I almost liked about this episode was when Suguha says that she has to keep her feelings for her brother inside (By the way, what kind of game bans discussion about real-life? What if you were talking to your real-life friends?). It would have been more interesting if she can’t reveal that she is lesbian for some girl, but alas, it’s some incest crap, so nobody cares. And she’s acting like it’s the end of the world for her. There are a million fish in the sea, stupid imouto.

    1. E Minor Post author

      By the way, what kind of game bans discussion about real-life?

      Well, it was just etiquette, so I doubt it’s a hard and fast rule.

      There are a million fish in the sea, stupid imouto

      But how many fishes in the sea get themselves stuck in an MMO for two years?!

  7. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxD

    E Minor since you didn’t write a review in Shinsekai Yori I guess you found it good right?
    Well it was a fantastic episode after all

  8. The Real Sugoi Sugoi

    You know, with the prevalence of rape in anime, you should totally write an extended essay about the subject matter. It could be therapeutic, you know, especially since it’s obviously caused you a lot of anguish (it has depressed me too!). Maybe the essay could explore Japanese culture and the way patriarchy manifests itself through anime.

      1. The Real Sugoi Sugoi

        Well, like I said, you could explain some of the common ways that anime is saturated with patriarchy and rape, like how ugly and obese male characters in anime are 70 percent likely to be either molesters or rapists (as in BTOOOM!) or tropes like that. Or how female characters who hate men are likely to be self-hating and evil creatures (as in BTOOOM!). Or how rape is bad in anime not because of the coercion or the destruction of agency, but because of the loss of the social construct of “purity” (as in BTOOOM!).

        1. E Minor Post author

          The problem with a topic like rape and patriarchy in anime is that it’s a very polar issue. You’re either preaching to the choir or just opening yourself up to vehement deniers. I just don’t think this ends up being a very fruitful discussion. I mean, if people need to read an anime blog to recognize patterns of patriarchal attitudes in a very socially conservative country, I doubt I’m the blogger that’ll tip the scales.

  9. etery-chan

    I have confirmed that they indeed live with their mom in that house.
    What kind of mom let her children pull a night tier on net games?
    What kind of mom doesn’t check what her children do?
    Even Sakamoto Ryouta’s mom scold him on dialy basis.

    1. E Minor Post author

      What kind of mom doesn’t enroll her kids into cram school regardless of his wishes? Not a true Asian mom, I’ll tell you what!

  10. Ryruko

    See, all of these snarky (but undeniably true) posts suggest to me that it is about time to drop the series. The worse part about it was that I really liked SAO, they had a good thing going in the first season (though it was a little–well a lot typical).
    If there were a second season it should explore the psychological and emotional effects of being trapped in a game of death for two years. Maybe Kirito could have had some real issues (like anyone would) adapting to normal life, I am not saying he should go all “First Blood Rambo” on the first school bully to give him grief but an edgier character would be nice.

    Why not just have Asuna trapped in the Original SAO because of some program glitch? Then he would have to make the decision of whether or not to go back into the hellish game to save her not knowing if he will be able to get back out once he does. (Maybe Kirito could even ask a few of his buddies to come along with him!)
    Though, no matter how many “what ifs” I ask, the show wont change.

    Play Russian Roulette every time we see some girl blush or hear a Tsun-dere phrase. At least that way the show will have some actual dramatic tension and uncertainty.

  11. Zedrich

    For all the hatemongering i see on here for SAO, i don’t even get it…maybe you lot expected too much?
    I daresay i legitimately liked Sword Art Online from the get-go, and that was from expecting or knowing nothing before watching it all. The focus shifts as the story goes on, from being trapped in a deathgame MMO and working with all your will and strength to survive, to doing the same thing alongside other people, to finding and fighting for things and people precious to you, to going all the way in the span of less than 24 hours *wink wink* (he may have hiccup’d on how he phrased how he wanted to be together with Sandwich-kun by saying ‘want to spend the night together’ but they didn’t let that stop them anyway) and proposing for marriage, even (gotta give a 16-year old the props for having the dedication, guts and balls to do ALL that), to fighting side by side to the very end; and finally, the whole quest of fulfilling the promise he made to Asuna on that fateful day – setting her free from the game and getting her back to the real world – despite the overwhelming odds against him.

    I might be reading into it too deeply, but hey, i enjoyed it all. Besides, i’d bet a billion ISK that none of you would even get past the first stage of all that. Or, at least, that is the impression i get from reading your comments.

    Oh, and inb4 those kinds of things are overrated, you are probably just jaded from overexpectation and overexposure. But then again, that is just my opinion.

    One thing is fore sure – this is a series which will definitely be a keeper and an addition on my recommendables list.

    1. etery-chan

      Good for you, then.
      Wait, wait, wait.
      Who would want to play this stupid game in the first place?
      – The admin can trap you and prevent you from logging out
      – The admin can design so that you are feeling pain for real
      – You have to wait a long time to respawn, and you respawn in the same place where gang-banged.
      I wouldn’t play even if somebody paid me one million, My life is more precious.

    2. E Minor Post author

      For all the hatemongering i see on here for SAO, i don’t even get it…

      All the complaints are detailed in the posts.


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