Sad Gary Stu in the snow.
Plot summary: The story ends long before the episode ends. There’s probably going to be a money-grubbing sequel.
• Some pretty janky animation to open the last episode of the series. C’mon A-1 Pictures, step your game up.
• I think we can sit here and laugh at the idea that Kirito fights Sugou yet again, but there is actually a lot of potential thematic relevance to the scene that is simply not and will never be realized. The scene doesn’t succeed because the show fails to build up to it in a proper way. At first, the brawl strikes you as rather redundant. I mean, didn’t these two just fight last week? What’s the point of fighting again but in the real world? There is a point, but the story just didn’t make it.
After three years of blogging, I feel as though I tend to repeat myself, but some things are worth mentioning again. And what is that thing I am referring to? Battles are meaningful when they become an externalization of the conflict within the character(s). So how could this have played out in SAO? Ask yourself why Kirito spares Sugou’s life? Is it because it’d be murder? Is it because it’s the wrong thing to do? Is it because he’s so close to Asuna that he shouldn’t risk it? Yes, these answers are all plausible, but in the end, his character motivations are rather vague. As such, the climactic moment is anything but. The rising crescendo of the soundtrack plus the flashbacks of Asuna’s torture should serve as an excellent juxtaposition against Kirito’s mercy, but because his actions here are born out of such vague motivations, the contrast ends up being kind of… lame. And this is because Kirito lacks a truly compelling character arc.
Let’s say at the beginning of Kirito’s journey, he had been this wide-eyed kid who simply wanted to live out his fantasies in SAO. Because of his inability to protect his guildmates, however, he loses his innocence. He becomes withdrawn, a lone wolf, a mercenary who shows no mercy towards anyone he deems evil, etc. But then he meets Asuna, and slowly changes for the better… but not enough. His hubris leads to her “death,” but he learns that she is still alive. She’s just trapped. He goes and save her in ALO, but almost loses himself again to his anger, hubris, what have you. He has an emotional breakdown within the game (this is not a stretch because this sorta happened last week after he saved Asuna), then finally… we have this duel against Sugou in real life. Not in a game, but in real life where it actually counts. And this is where Kirito’s character arc culminates in his final decision to let go. Let go of everything: his anger, his desire to be the hero, etc. He spares Sugou and allows justice to do its job.
Unfortunately, we have the ending, but we don’t really have the body to support it. Some of the things I mentioned above did happen, but not in the way that really defines Kirito’s character. Yeah, his guildmates did die, and it did lead Kirito to lone wolf it up for a while, but the moment didn’t really fundamentally change his character. His personality didn’t change. The way he dealt with people didn’t really change. And this is what I mean: things happened throughout the series, but they didn’t feel impactful. Now, some of you light novel readers will probably chime in and go “It was more developed in the novels!” That’s fine. I don’t care though because I’m only judging the anime. And in the anime, Kirito’s character is poorly developed.
If you look back at Kirito’s journey, it’s really just a mish-mash of adventures that don’t really add up to anything. Even marrying Asuna didn’t really change Kirito all that much. Oh, he tells us that he’s learned people are important even if you don’t know them (or something akin to that), but he’s always been a nice, bland shounen hero throughout the series, so it’s hard to say how much he’s gained anything from his experiences. So when we get to the pivotal scene between him and Sugou, the tension just sort of deflates because it doesn’t feel as though Kirito has reached any sort of destination within himself. It’s just like, “Okay, I won’t kill this guy because… yeah.”
• Instead, we’ll have bullshit like Kirito hearing Yui’s voice in the real world. Yep, ’cause that’s important. That’s the main flaw of the show. It’s unwilling to develop anything. It just engages in superfluous nonsense in an attempt to shock and awe its audience with implied depth.
• I don’t suppose there’s much security at a hospital if a guy can just saunter in and visit any of the patients. Then again, he did just engage in a knife fight with some dude in the parking lot.
• Kirito: “The true final battle just finished.” Oh come on. Could you sound any lamer?
• More superfluous nonsense:
• Sandwich-maker in game, sandwich-maker in real life:
• Kirito: “…everyone at this school was an SAO player.” I was about to say, “Gee, there are a lot of guys in Kirito’s class,” but hey, this makes sense. ;v
• “We totally e-fucked, but holding hands in real life is so hazukashii, ne~~~~”
• This is one boring-as-hell epilogue. Who cares about Asuna’s dad? Who cares what happened to Sugou? It’s all just superfluous details. Characters we haven’t seen in more than a month are suddenly dragged out of the closet for some false sense of finality despite the fact that they contributed little to the narrative in the first place.
• This… this is the final episode:
A whole bunch of dull exposition that only hardcore fans of the series would give a damn about. What they should’ve done was package Kirito’s reunion with Asuna at the hospital into last week’s episode, and turn all of this boring stuff into a special DVD-only OVA. But I guess this is the best way to advertise a sequel. Just make everyone watch it.
• Then some incestuous vibes to round things out. Dancing cousins in the clouds:
• It never ends:
It’s like The Lord of the MMOs: The Return of the Gary Stu. Look
Frodo Kirito, look who’s come to see you!
• Asuna must have been watching when Kirito was e-dancing with his cousin. Talk about awkward. Also, what’s with the new hair color?
• But finally, it ends… wait, it’s over?!