But still, the VRMMO world needs you, Kirito! Oh, you’re a girl now… And there’s another girl with you that isn’t Asuna. Hm. Hah, joke’s on the new girl, though. Why would you fight a swordsman up-close with a sniper rifle?
— Welp, let’s take a look at our new virtual world. I guess we’re going for a futuristic, dystopian feel this time around. At least it looks a little more complex than the first season’s generic, one-note cityscapes.
— Right off the bat, some guy on a stream declares, “The idea that agility is the only stat that matters is only an illusion.” I should hope so. Why would you play a game where only a single stat matters? That sounds pretty poorly balanced to me.
— Gun Gale Online. Yeah, that’s the name of the game. It’s not that swords are suddenly passe, though. It’s just that guns are cool, swords are cool, and a cool badass would naturally wield both, right? Right.
— So some mysterious guy gets up, shoots the image of the cocky asshole who’s been doing all the talking, and somehow, the cocky asshole looks ill before disconnecting from the MMO. Uhhhhhh, that sounds all mysterious and attention-grabbing, but really? Another game where people can die from actions in the virtual world? Or is there going to be a twist this time around?
— So what does this evil guy call himself? Death Gun. Yeah, that sounds like something a five-year-old would come up with.
— We return to the real world where Asuna is awaiting someone, probably her boyfriend. She stares up into the sky and ponders, “What’s the difference between the real world and the virtual one?” That’s what you guys should have explored for the entire first season, but Gary Stu power fantasies were just too hard to ignore, I guess. Plus, the entire question went out of the window after the SAO arc. C’mon, they took away the gimmick that really mattered: dying in game meant that you’d also die in real life as well. ALO thus felt like nothing more than Kirito’s carefree romp through the faerie kingdom. Then after he was satisfied wasting time with his cousin, he finally decided to save his precious princess. He only dragged his ass for 13 or so episodes. In any case, at least the threat of death seems to be back with GGO… But meh, back to the original point, I doubt the bigger question of the efficacy of online worlds will be explored with any depth. The story never gave it much attention the first time around, so why would anything be different now?
— Our smart-ass Gary Stu finally makes his appearance with an overly simplistic answer to Asuna’s question: “The amount of information. That’s all.” But anyway, it has almost been a year since they last escaped from ALO? And she still calls him Kirito-kun? And he still doesn’t embrace her the second he sees her? What sort of couple is this? I mean, just look at this greeting:
You guys had virtual sex, but you can’t even hug each other in the real world? Maybe they didn’t have sex, but she literally stripped down to her bra and panties when they were trapped within a game. And yet, their greeting is so cold and distant in the real world. Oh, I’m sure it’s all hazukashii~ as fuck to hug and kiss your girlfriend in real life. So there you go; there’s your difference right there that has nothing to do with “the amount of information.” Virtual worlds somehow lower our inhibitions. Virtual worlds somehow allow us to ignore the social mores of our culture.
— Asuna: “And I see you’re wearing a lot of black today.” Black is badass, yo.
— So this place has its own closed network… that’s not as unlikely as you think, but whatever, man. I’m sure this is probably all foreshadowing, but still, Kirito is making a big deal out of nothing.
— Wow, this episode is putting me to sleep already. I realize it’s like “catching up with your ol’ buddies” for fans, but a walk through a park? Please, I just woke up and I already feel like tucking myself back in.
— Kirito: “I think I’m going to go from a player to a creator.” Let me remind you that our Gary Stu came to admire and respect Kayaba, the asshole who trapped ten thousand people — from adults all the way down to young children — in his game, by the end of the first season.
— So what do you want to do, Asuna? Kirito just talked about his future aspirations. What are yours? Asuna says, “I want to stay with you forever, Kirito-kun.” Right, you just keep dreaming big, Asuna. Girls don’t need to have career. She adds, “It’d be great if Yui-chan could be with us here, too…” Oh, our virtual loli daughter. How could I forget.
— Man, one day, there’s going to be a breakthrough in technology, so that holding hands in a virtual world can feel the same as holding hands in the real world! Then you and I can stop holding hands in the real world like chumps and hold hands in the virtual world like badasses! Who’s with me? Eh? Eh? Here’s the thing that gets me about the virtual reality discussion in SAO. Yes, the amount of information isn’t the same, but why are we so focused on making things the same? We’ve already seen that the virtual world can be made fantastical. You’re fighting dragons. You’re a lame-ass faerie flying through the sky. You can fight off ten people by yourself (knowing SAO, however, Kirito can probably fight ten people in real life by himself too). The virtual world is unique because it’s unreal. And here we are, talking about how we can replicate the exact sensation of hand-holding. It just feels… small-minded and boring. What if you could use virtual reality technology to open up new modes of sensations that go beyond our five senses?
What’s even sillier about it, however, is the attempt to bridge the gap between the real thing and a simulacrum. Even if holding hands in a virtual world feels the same as it would in the real world, at the end of the day, you still have to trust a machine to relay the correct information. And that alone creates that unbridgeable gap. You have to fool yourself into thinking that the intermediary — an intermediary that you may not necessarily have any control over — doesn’t exist. If you acknowledge the intermediary, then you acknowledge that any “personal contact” between two people within a virtual world is actually a threesome, so to speak. The machine becomes an undeniable entity, the “substance” between persons. There’s nothing like that in the real world. So again, the amount of information is a simplistic answer made pretentious by Kirito’s rather know-it-all attitude.
— We suddenly cut to a scene in which Kirito goes to meet some guy by the name of Seijirou. If you watched the terrible Extra Edition OVA, Kirito spent much of it recapping his experiences in SAO and ALO to Seijirou. Welp, I guess he is going to tempt our Gary Stu back into the dangerous worlds of VRMMOs. Sure enough, he brings Kirito’s attention to the guy who had been killed at the start of the episode. Apparently, the cause of death was “acute heart failure.” No signs of anyone breaking into the victim’s apartment, but eh, that could always be a red herring. There’s lots of ways to enter a person’s apartment without leaving behind any obvious clues. But y’know, maybe I’m giving the story too much credit. Maybe even after the SAO tragedy, these developers are dumb enough to create yet another headset that can kill people. But that just seems almost too dumb of them.
— Oh goodie, GGO is apparently a game with an e-sports scene. This is going to be good.
— The guy who died at the start of the episode isn’t the only victim. It seems as though someone is going around killing VRMMO nerds. Not only that, both victims mentioned so far appear to have been shut-ins with messy apartments. SAO can’t even pretend that VRMMO players are well-adjusted individuals… besides, y’know, our badass Gary Stu who even has a girlfriend in real life! Maybe that’s why he wants to move their relationship to the online world so badly. So he can rub it into everyone’s faces that he has the real thing, but he’s going to now fuck her virtually.
— It’s hilarious. A bunch of women nearby gives the two of them death stares because, well, who wants to hear about dead bodies and shit when you’re eating pastries? In fact, why did Seijirou invite Kirito here of all places? Well-adjusted individuals, indeed…
— So according to Seijirou, the Amusphere is supposed to have preventative measures to prevent people from dying! Something must have gone wrong somewhere. Even so, let me just ask this kid, who’s neither a scientist, a doctor, nor a game developer, if he thinks a bullet fired in a virtual world could possibly stop the heart of a person in the real world. Surely, Kirito is such a Gary Stu, he would know. Look man, he beat two MMOs. TWO! He’s therefore an expert on this shit.
— The two of them both come to the conclusion that it isn’t possible for the a virtual bullet to kill someone. And that is why Kirito should log into GGO and make contact with this Death Gun! I mean, I know you’ve already been through two dangerous MMO experiences. Not only that, this latest situation will definitely endanger you as well. but… you’re the hero, aren’t you?
Won’t you, Gary Stu, go back down the rabbit hole? Seriously, though, can Seijirou not hire anyone else to do the job? Does he really have to rely on a kid? Yes, yes he does. This is anime, where only kids can save the day.
— Y’see, Death Gun only targets high-level PVPers. And hey, who would be such a badass that he would instantly become GGO’s best PVPer as soon as he joined the game? Only Kirito!
— Kirito’s right! He can’t just log into GGO and instantly match-up against people who are making a living out of this. But then he’s wrong, because logic only applies to the real world and not a Gary Stu fantasy like SAO. As a result, you just know for sure he will log into GGO and instantly match-up against people who are making a living out of this.
— Seijirou’s solution is to make Kirito a pro, basically. He’ll pay the kid to dive into GGO. Goodie. I wonder if our wholesome boyfriend, however, will discuss this with Asuna. Sure, sure, he ultimately gets to decide what to do with his life. But at the same time, when you enter into a relationship with someone, you take on certain responsibilities. And I’d like to think one of those responsibilities is to not unilaterally decide to endanger your life in yet another fucking VRMMO. Plus, it’s not just Asuna he should be worried about. What about his aunt who had sheltered and cared for him when he was stuck in a vegetative state for god only knows how long? What about his disgusting, incestuous cousin/sister? Surely her feelings matter as well!
— Right, GGO’s main company is in the United States, and their contact info is thus confidential. Those irresponsible Americans! I highly doubt any company out there has that much pull, but oh well. That’s fiction for you.
— Will you go, Kirito? Will you go back? We have to go back! We just have to!
— Alright, we’re back to Kirito’s date with Asuna. Okay then. They start talking about space and time and I just… I just can’t.
— Asuna: “And a certain person made it explode midway. Without waiting to see the end.” Yeah, Kirito, you inconsiderate jerk! The other 6000 survivors wanted to see the end!
— Kirito looks as if he’s about to say something important to Asuna. Gosh, it wouldn’t have anything to do with his potential dive into GGO, would it? Kirito then quickly changes the subject. Yeah, she doesn’t need to know, responsibilities be damned.
— We then cut to a badass sniper in GGO by the name of Shinon, but how badass can she really be when the camera lingers on her crotch? Literally, the camera can’t tear itself away. It’s ridiculous. The saddest thing, however, is that they can’t even get her ass to look right. In fact, she looks like she has no right buttock. They made sure to render the curvature of her mound (I’m sure there’s a better term for what we’re seeing, but I’m not trying to be technical here), but then her right ass is nonexistent. Makes sense. Anyway, she’s just going to fall in love with Kirito so whatever.
— She then takes a shot, and then the episode comes to an end. Welp, that’s the first episode for you. We sat there and watched Kirito sit and talk to people for the majority of it with only scant bits of action to bracket those riveting discussions. Sword Art Online II has come right out of the gates with… a leisurely saunter. Oh man, I’m sleepy.