I guess we’re back in fantasy land for now.
— Right off the bat, we’re not in an MMO, but at this point, I’m pretty sure everyone’s expectations have hit rock bottom.
— Apparently, someone has found an incredibly rare sword in ALO. It’s not Kirito, because he was too busy finding hot babes in other games. But the funny thing is that the damn thing has only been found. Nothing else. No one’s actually gotten it. I remember how Absolute Virtue in Final Fantasy XI remained this unbeatable boss for years and years, so it’s kind of the same thing. Absolute Virtue’s loot drops were “found,” but not actually acquired unless you managed to glitch and kill the boss. Too bad that also landed you in GM jail. Long story short, it wasn’t until Square-Enix dropped a ton of hints after a ton of player backlash before people knew how to properly beat the damn mob. Even so, I don’t think I mind this sort of thing in MMOs. I kind of like the idea that there are pieces of equipment so rare, only a few people would ever have access to them. It adds to the mystique of the world. The only problem, of course, is what do you do with the dungeon? Suppose someone eventually clears the dungeon and gets the incredibly rare sword? Now what? Are you really just going to leave an empty dungeon sitting there? It doesn’t make any sense to any MMO developer from a practical standpoint.
— We finally see scenes of an MMO, but… it’s a slideshow. And Kirito’s just narrating. C’mon, A-1 Pictures. Don’t pull a Terra Formars on me. I’ve seen enough slideshows today. No, really, this is an embarrassment. This part can be a montage all you want, but holy shit, at least animate it. You’re a fucking anime.
— So they find a giant humanoid thing attacking a giant jellyfish thing. Leafa, in her infinite wisdom, tells Kirito to save the one that’s being bullied. Sure, these mobs totally have complex AI and can understand what it feels like to be picked on. No, I’m not even being sarcastic. I totally, totally acknowledge that something like this might be possible. Seriously, what if we had the ability to populate our virtual worlds with virtual creatures with intelligence to what you might find in the real world? Wouldn’t that be fucking neat? Wouldn’t that raise moral questions about killing these virtual creatures even if they’re not real and any GM can spawn them? It’s analogous to the Yui being a fake virtual child who nevertheless has real feelings. It’s analogous to Kirito feeling sorry for the NPCs when Asuna wanted to use them as bait in the first season. Remember that? I sure do. But here’s the part that I do quibble with. Again, this part of the anime is a fucking slideshow. Not only that, it’s being narrated in a rather dry, as-a-matter-of-fact fashion. Explore the idea of treating MMO creatures like virtual pets, and whether or not we can feel the same level of attachment to them? Naw dawg, make it a fucking slideshow.
— So they fly up to the sky where they find the golden sword we had just talked about. Just look at Kirito’s face. I wonder if ever looks at Asuna like that.
— Wait, what? He’s been spending all his time in New Aincrad? I don’t know how people have the time to play more than one MMO anyway. By nature, these games are such grindfests, I don’t think I could devote my time to multiple characters across multiple games like that. But hey, this guy is such a poopsocker, they literally had to represent it as him being trapped within a game for years and years. I guess this sort of thing should come easy to Kirito.
— I don’t know why Kirito is so perplexed that other players could find Excalibur, especially when he just sat there and told us how he found it. What? Are other people not special enough to save a jellyfish and ride it to the sky?
— Kirito: “Sugu, there’s more to a VRMMO than looking for rare items.” Yeah, especially when you can build yourself your very own harem — a harem that includes your cousin!
— But then he immediately goes back on what he just said: “But I think Tonkii wanted us to find it, and that’s why he showed it to us.” Yeah! I’m not getting the weapon because I personally desire it. I’m getting it for Tonkii, our flying jellyfish! It wants us to clear the dungeon. So as you can see, going on this quest to get the sword would be a selfless action! Man, I’m such a gracious Gary Stu!
— Seriously though, I like how he has more urgency here to get some fucking sword than he ever had during the entire ALO arc. Remember, kids… a golden sword is far more important than your e-waifu.
— Seven people can ride Tonkii, but they don’t know who to stick in the last remaining spot. Kirito’s rattling off a bunch of names, but it’s fucking obvious who he wants to come with them. He’s just making Leafa bring her up first. Hey, hey, it wasn’t my idea to bring Sinon along! Leafa suggested it! But anyway, it’s to be expected that Sinon would now tag along with the rest of Kirito’s girls like some doll in his collection. This is a harem, after all. And of course, Klein’s there as the best friend who will never get any.
— Yes, let’s talk to Asuna… who just happens to be completely naked. So what does she even do in this sequel? Run to Kirito’s side and get naked, I guess. The duties of an e-waifu are hard. You stay-at-home waifus know nothing!
— The whole scene is dumb, anyway. She bemoans the fact that she wants to see him one more time before she goes back to Kyoto. Obviously, she wants to spend quality time with the guy. She’s then super happy when he tells her about the quest they’re all about to embark on. Can’t she also play VRMMOs with him in Kyoto? So what difference does it make? My point is that this quest isn’t really quality time. The fact that she alludes to her physical location should have been played up more. No matter how real these VRMMOs are, you can’t make up for the intimacy that comes from being together in the real world. She can go on quests with him no matter where she is. That’s the entire point of MMOs. Friends across the world can play together. Sword Art Online should’ve instead explored the idea that she perhaps feels as though their relationship isn’t deepening, because they don’t put enough of an emphasis on what they can do as a couple in the real world.
And it’s okay to include a subplot like this even though I constantly complain about the fact that the Sword Art Online sequel often features its characters outside of an MMO. After all, you’re drawing a sharp contrast between what the virtual world can offer and what the real world can offer. How are relationships impacted by the advent of simulation? Will people start taking certain traditional aspects of relationships for granted when they can rely upon the virtual world for everything? This would be an interesting topic to explore. But as usual, Sword Art Online drops the ball. We simply see the dutiful waifu beam with happiness when she gets a call from the Gary Stu. Besides, even in her private, most vulnerable moment — she’s literally naked and taking a shower — she’s just thinking about the guy. Asuna is a terribly written character.
— New OP time, I guess. This song is less annoying than the previous one, but it’s still not very good.. I don’t care enough to sift through it for clues about the upcoming arc, though. I just think it’s pathetic that we continue to see Kayaba being featured in a less than villainous way. I guess it doesn’t mean dick that he trapped a bunch of children in a video game without any remorse.
— Since Klein’s helping Kirito get the Excalibur, he asks Kirito to help him get another weapon in return. But our Gary Stu just whines, “That dungeon’s so freaking hot, though.” It’s my show! I don’t want to help you get a penis extension!
— In fact, he’s got such a one-track mind. Sinon would also like to receive a legendary weapon, but he complains that she’s only been playing for two weeks. Dude, this is what you do. You help your friends get cool shit, because helping them makes you feel good. But so far, two people have asked for favors, and he’s done nothing but whine.
— Yui finally arrives to tell her “daddy” that no one’s gotten to the mid-air dungeon yet. Don’t worry, Kirito. Your shiny golden dick is still sitting there waiting for you to retrieve it. Please don’t beat your daughter anymore.
— Asuna: “And evidently, it isn’t a very peaceful quest, either.” I wouldn’t expect a golden penis to be easy to get.
— Oh lord, this is incredibly cringeworthy:
Yeah, everyone’s posing with their stupid weapons as a rock song plays in the background. Sinon’s the only one not smiling. Silica’s weapon gets to be on her ass, I guess. Asuna doesn’t even get to pose with her own boyfriend. She’s on the same level as Leafa, the cousin who wants to bang her “onii-chan.” Naturally, the badass Gary Stu stands alone.
— Lisbeth: “In RPGs, the samurai has been a “warrior plus black magic’ class for a long time.” What? That’s not true in any of the games I’ve ever played. What she’s describing sounds like a ninja, not a samurai.
— And now Yui’s explaining sword skills to us. Great. Look what you’ve started, Klein. What does the guy do? Run to Kirito for help. I guess he’s a haremette too. Hey, why do you think Kirito wants to add yet another sword to his collection so badly?
— It’s hilarious how he looks across the room and sees nothing but female faces staring back at him. No, no, no, the hilarious part is how they’re actually females in real life too. Uh huh, sure.
— Kirito thanks everyone for coming. In fact, he’ll find a way to express his gratitude in the future. Oh, like helping your friends get the weapons they want? Just a thought…
— This is what Sinon has been reduced to: a mere catgirl that Kirito can now toy with whenever he pleases. Man, Asuna, you were right! This sure is quality time that the two of you are having!
— Still, I’ll give credit where credit is due. We actually see a potentially captivating MMO locale in this week’s episode. That was one of the big problems with the GGO arc. MMOs are full of interesting locations, but GGO had nothing. And sure, you can call it an MMOFPS all you want, but at least have some nice set pieces for people to look at. Unfortunately, the previous arc was unimaginative from start to finish. It’s not like the frozen landscape you see above is mind-blowing either, but at least it’s a fucking start.
— Leafa simply whistles and this calls Tonkii to her. Hm, she’s lucky no one’s killed it yet.
— Yo, this thing ain’t even cute. But still, even this blatant rip-off of an elephant is something different to look at. I’m not saying GGO should have had flying elephants, but c’mon, at one point, Death Gun rode a fucking horse to chase our heroes down. Where’s the imagination?
— You can totally fit more than seven people on this mount. Of course, we only arrived at the figure seven because that’s all the haremettes Kirito has for now. Yes, I now consider Klein to be a haremette after what we just saw in the previous scene.
— As they fly to the dungeon, they see players taking advantage of a jellyfish-tyrant duo to hit the jellyfish. I would expect this sort of thing to happen all the time in MMOs, though. Of course, the point here is that everyone feels sorry for the jellyfish, but why? This is a question that Sword Art Online should try to answer, but it seemingly can’t. It merely touches on the issue and nothing more.
— Plus, who is Sinon talking to? Leafa’s boobs?
— All of a sudden, this lady appears behind them. She’s Urd, Queen of the Lake, and she has a quest for them. She wants them to save the land from the tyrants that we see everywhere. Yui suddenly interjects to say how this NPC isn’t using a set response. Oh my, this NPC’s request is coming straight from her e-heart!
— Again, if this is something that’s totally possible, i.e. emergent AI within a complex VRMMO, I really wish Sword Art Online would actually delve into it. Can simple NPCs suddenly just “evolve” like this and acquire sentience? I don’t know, but it’s the sort of sci-fi topic that captures the imagination, doesn’t it? In Sword Art Online, however, topics like these are merely touched upon and nothing else. There’s just so much wasted potential in this goddamn universe.
— Case in point, Yui flat out tells Kirito that Urd has acquired artificial intelligence. It’s just something that’s stated. It’s not explored, it’s just a matter of fact.
— Then we get some backstory about the location, how Excalibur came to exist in said location, blah blah blah. Just standard RPG lore, really. The problem is that this lore ends up taking up a significant chunk of the second half of the episode.
— What is happening during this scene, though? Is Tonkii just floating still in midair?
— Oh, but it gets worse! The evil tyrant king wants to eventually cover all of ALO in snow! And other adventurers have been tricked into doing his bidding. He didn’t offer them the chance to win Excalibur at all. He’s just using them to commit mass jellyfish murder. In other words, talk, talk, talk, talk. But hey, I wouldn’t have expected any less from Sword Art Online.
— Of course, I can’t help but think that Miss Urd here needs a better advertising campaign. If you’re in such a dire situation, why are you appearing to just one group of adventurer? Even if you argue that the other players won’t believe her, it doesn’t hurt to try.
— Finally, our heroes reach the floating dungeon, but the episode is practically over. We’ve done a whole lot of talking and touched upon some interesting ideas, but that’s pretty much does it for the new SAO episode. Plus, I’m not sure we saw Asuna and Kirito interact with each other whatsoever. So much for that quality time.