Sword Art Online Ep. 23: Pointless self-sacrifice

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What does Recon get for trying to look cool? A pointless death. Step aside, non-important character!

Plot summary: After the characters briefly look sad for a bit, Leafa resolves to help Kirito save Asuna anyway. With Recon’s help, they try futilely again to clear the World Tree dungeon, but they nearly fail until two armies show up to help Kirito. As a result, he makes it past the first part of the dungeon, but finds an impenetrable door. Good thing Asuna swiped that digital keycard…

Notes:

• Sugu: “But if I’d known this would happen, I wish you’d kept being a jerk.” But girl, he’s always been a jerk. By the way, this episode is subtitled “Bonds.” Bonds, yo. Incestuous bonds. Sad imoutos pining for their oniichans in the digital rain. As an aside, I can’t recall if it has rained once in this anime. I guess there are no weather effects in SAO or ALO.

• I get that some adopted kids feel like a stranger in their adopted families. This usually occurs when the kid is already… say, ten when they’re sudden uprooted from their home and stuck in a strange place with strange people. Kirito, however, was adopted when he was just one; he didn’t even know his parents, and he didn’t find out he was adopted by his aunt until much later in life. So y’know, I bet Sugu treated Kirito like a brother. I bet her mom treated him like a son. I doubt she got all the love and attention and he got nothing. For all intents and purposes then, Kirito is part of the family. As a result, I find his monologue here incredibly whiny.

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I mean, look at the questions he is asking: “Who is she really? Can I honestly say I know her?” What a load of bullshit. She’s younger than him, so it’s safe to say he’s known her since she was a baby. Does he think he would’ve understood Sugu any better if he was her real brother? Ah, they’re already related, but they’re not super-related! That’s the magical key that unlocks this mystery called loving one’s family. Then Kirito goes on to say, “Maybe that strange feeling of not fitting in was one of those things that drove me to online gaming.” Look, you like games and you’re a bit of a self-absorbed loner. An addiction to MMOs just made perfect sense. Don’t blame it on your family life, which looks and sounds pretty damn cushy to me.

• Kirito: “That there’s no meaningful difference between a real and a virtual world.” Kirito’s referring to relations between people here. In other words, if he can develop friendships with people he’s never met in the real world, there’s no reason why he can’t accept his imouto. Of course, this makes us naturally wonder why he couldn’t come to this conclusion in the real world. When you go to school, for instance, your classmates are people you’ve never known before. You can presumably become close friends with your classmates. As such, why did he need SAO to teach him such a valuable lesson?

Plus, the show never actually does any comparing and contrasting. Since the story has been pretty much 95% in either SAO or ALO, it really only shows you one side of the debate: the virtual world. There’s no meaningful difference between a real and a virtual world? That’s not a stupid thing to say if you can back it up, but SAO doesn’t. Other than the fact that you can die in SAO, nothing in the anime has really shown me that the virtual world should be taken so seriously. I still remember when the anime was relatively young, and I was still rather optimistic about it. In one of the episodes’ cold openings, Kirito got into a bit of an argument with Asuna over whether or not they should sacrifice NPCs in order to defeat a raid boss. Unfortunately, that particular topic was never developed any further. And that’s the problem with this series as a whole. Nothing is truly fleshed out.

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SAO never really explores the issue of the efficacy of simulation, but then all of a sudden, Kirito comes to the weighty conclusion that “there’s no meaningful difference between a real and a virtual world.” It just doesn’t work. Even though death was real, you never felt the palpable sense of mortality hanging over people’s heads. You never really see the video game nature of the game crumble as people got desperate to escape SAO. You never see strangers resort to forming, say, makeshift families to cope with their imprisonment away from their real families. Well, y’know, other than Kirito, Asuna, and Yui, but that was done in such a hack job way. You never see how people lived their daily lives in SAO once the novelty of adventuring faded away. Instead, the show has been one long quasi-harem for Kirito, so sorry, but SAO hasn’t actually done the work.

• Kirito: “What can I do for Sugu?” I dunno, what? “Sugu? I’ll wait for you in Arun…” Does that strike anyone else as hilariously insensitive? I know you’re in love with me, but hopefully, you’ll still help me save my e-waifu!

• Love confessions everywhere. Recon stalks Leafa all the way to the World Tree, then tries to plant a fat one on her. Bro, you’re not the Gary Stu. It was never gonna work.

• Do… do we have time for this?

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Don’t we have someone to save?

• Kirito says that until he saves Asuna, he’s not back from “that world.” But he’s wasting time, so you kind of have to wonder whether or not Kirito really wants to leave “that world.” To compound matters, I thought he just said that there was no meaningful difference between the real world and the virtual world. It would’ve made more sense, then, if Kirito just said, “I tried to escape in the virtual world to avoid the responsibilities of being your brother, but I’ve learned that there is no real world or virtual world. There’s just my world where I have to save Asuna from being NTR’d. Once I do that, I’ll make it up to you.” It’d be honest, it’d show Kirito’s growth as a person, it’d fit in with the themes of the anime, and I could at least respect him for that. Instead, the anime just sounds inconsistent.

• Yui reasons that she doesn’t think the World Tree quest was ever intended to be completed. Well, this is an MMO after all. They want to keep you subscribed as long as possible, and if you can easily beat the game, you’d get bored and stop playing.

• This is where the game crashes because two many units are trying to load, right?

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• Recon: “Why are they targeting us?” ‘Cause Kirito forgot to learn Taunt.

• I like how Recon says the enemies are now targeting them, but then he and Leafa share a relatively long conversation where no one gets attacked.

• Y’know those ambassadors that Kirito saved? And how he gave them a ton of money? They finally show up fashionably late to help out. Two things though. First, it would’ve been nice if Kirito had actually planned this, i.e. I’ll save these two nations so they gotta help me. Instead, he’s just stupidly lucky. How did they know he was even attempting to clear the World Tree at that exact moment? Secondly, poor dumbass Recon sacrifices himself just a minute too late. That’s hilarious. He blows himself up and for nothing. But I guess he got to look cool for a second in front of Leafa.

• It just seems kind of silly to me that Kirito ascends to the final level alone. If the bottom was so goddamn difficult, why assume that the top is any easier that Kirito can clear it all by his lonesome? I mean, I know he’ll succeed ’cause he’s the hero and all, but why is this necessary? Why not just have the armies continue going up with him? There’s teamwork in other shows… shows full of GAR. Why does Kirito have to lone wolf everything?

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20 thoughts on “Sword Art Online Ep. 23: Pointless self-sacrifice

  1. Ian Caronia

    “Why does Kirito have to lone wolf everything?”

    Let’s put it this way: He’s on a quest to save his e-waifu, right? Well, how badass would he look with an army at his back when he went to save her? Yeah, it’d be smarter, but how would Asuna lavish him with praise then? She’d have to thank OTHER people, man. OTHER. PEOPLE. Might as well share Asuna with them as well!

    Screw that. He wants that praise and thanks all to himself, even if it means letting go of the greatest advantage he could have. I mean, what kind of badass rolls into a hardcore climax with an army? Losers, that’s who!

    -Recon dieing for no reason made me laugh far more than it should’ve. When Kirito tries stuff like that he either berserks out into a giant beast or becomes an “immortal object”. When someone else tries it they die horribly and without purpose.
    SAO is always good for a laugh.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Let’s put it this way: He’s on a quest to save his e-waifu, right? Well, how badass would he look with an army at his back when he went to save her?

      Pretty badass. Lots of badass guys were generals. Are you calling the Desert Fox a wuss? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

      Reply
      1. Ian Caronia

        I was being sarcastic, broski.
        Plus, it’s a known fact that those who even think the Desert Fox was a wuss instantly change gender and sexual preference as cosmic punishment.

        Reply
  2. Arbee

    What a way to show an episode about bonds to a man who never seems to bond or forged a genuine connections with anyone in SAO and in ALO that does not involve his ego and a pair of lady lumps. Also, is it me or do anime characters playing MMOs would always have some deep reason on playing MMOs? What happened to playing MMOs fo fun or interest? Because Kirito doesn’t seem like he had some srs realtive close family issues and he seems to be doing okay for himself IrL.

    Recon cannot get special friends or skillz! He no have lady lumps and he has a dingaling! Kirito ego no want dat!

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Also, is it me or do anime characters playing MMOs would always have some deep reason on playing MMOs?

      I dunno… MMOs aren’t super popular in Japan. Other than FFXI and PSO, the country hasn’t really developed any other AAA MMO titles. That might play into why MMOs need such an excuse for people to play them.

      he seems to be doing okay for himself IrL.

      Nuh uh, he totally feels like a stranger in a home that he’s grown up in since he was one!

      Reply
      1. Arbee

        Other than FFXI and PSO, the country hasn’t really developed any other AAA MMO titles. That might play into why MMOs need such an excuse for people to play them.

        Since the anime shows nothing but the good, positive things of playing an MMO (and how playing MMO will get you lots of hot gamer chicks) Imma guess that SAO is one big Advertisement for Otakus to play MMOS?

        Nuh uh, he totally feels like a stranger in a home that he’s grown up in since he was one!
        I don’t see it. He didn’t seem to have a shitty non-traumatic childhood, Sugu said that he did have good grades, I’m guessing he might have a few friends here and there in the real worls, and after the events of SAO he is still accepted into his home instead of outright banning him to ever play the NerveGear and force him to start building a life in the real world.

        In fact, it would be more reasonable if Kirito playing video games is the cause of his uneasiness and being a stranger instead of making video games the effect of his problems.

        Reply
        1. etery-chan

          This whole advertisement is a scam then, ha ha ha.
          It’s not like they can be similar to Gary Stu.

  3. Lirael

    You know what would have been awesome? Kirito saying all that stuff about always feeling like a stranger outloud and Sugu yelling that he’s just using the fact he’s adopted to justify the fact he’s always been antisocial.

    With this epsidoe, the flashback with their mother telling Sugu how Kirito found out he was adopted while laughing at it becomes so much worse.

    Also I think he said something like “A person’s true personality is what you see”. Oh dear, this could lead to so many problems…

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      You know what would have been awesome? Kirito saying all that stuff about always feeling like a stranger outloud and Sugu yelling that he’s just using the fact he’s adopted to justify the fact he’s always been antisocial.

      That’s not realistic. Cousins dealing with incest is realistic!

      Reply
  4. etery-chan

    The heroic music is totally a mismatch with the stupid duel.
    No, calling that atrocity as duel is very painful already.
    Also they spun around for a long time there, just like mosquitoes in mating session.
    Who didn’t faceplam there?

    Reply
  5. shiizumi

    Hmmm. Well if you read the LN, you’ll know that Recon buys some time for the Sylphs and Caith Sith to arrive. He contacted them (as far as I remember). So yeah.

    Reply

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