New arc, you guys. And if this first episode is anything to go by, it’s even worse the previous two.
— Did these girls log into a video game just to do homework? I’m all for the idea that virtual realities will take us to new heights in the future, but some of these scenarios are just downright silly. If anything, it looks like these characters are seriously addicted to these VRMMOs. Log the fuck out. Get some exercise and fresh air. See each other in real life at some other location than that stupid bar.
— Asuna: “Ever since he came back from GGO, it seems he’s been working really hard.” How lovely. The topic quickly turned back to Kirito. Plus, what an absolutely dull way to kick off a new arc. Why on earth do I need to know that they’re studying? Why do I need to know that they’re sleepy? Seriously, who cares? Every scene should be purposeful.
— Even the bartender’s sick of them: “You know, you don’t have to come to a dingy place like this for a date every time.” But he’s right. Kirito and Asuna are in their school uniforms, which means they came straight here after school. They came straight to a real-world bar run by some guy they used to play a VRMMO with. C’mon. I know this is an anime about MMOs, but this can’t be healthy. Every waking moment shouldn’t be about MMOs.
— But of course, Kirito can’t stop talking about VRMMOs because, again, these characters are horribly addicted to this shit: “Compared to your place in Algade, this place is fashionable.”
— Then as this Agil guy tells us his life story, A-1 Pictures lazily pans across still images of the bar. I thought this shit made a ton of money. Did the budget nevertheless get slashed or something?
— Kirito: “Yeah, my desire to return to my family saved me.” Uh, when did that happen?
— Basically, Asuna doesn’t get along with her super-rich parents, and as a result, she didn’t feel as though she fit in anywhere. Then here comes the groooooooan: “But Kirito gave me a home.” You mean that one episode? That one episode out of the entire first season? But that’s the thing. The first season had ample amounts of opportunity to show us exactly why and how spending time with Kirito in Aincrad felt like home to her. But instead, we watched Kirito build up a veritable harem before he even got with Asuna. As such, the “romance” doesn’t really feel authentic. He basically played the field until he settled with the best waifu of them all — the one with the maxed out cooking skill.
— And that’s why the romance here is trash. Even now, Kirito is going around, playing the field and recruiting more babes to his harem. He has agency, and he continues to exercise it. What does Asuna get to do? Nothing… except people’ve been telling me that this arc is all about her… and her right to stay by Kirito’s side.
— So apparently, they can rebuy their stupid log cabin from the first season. Meh.
— We somehow cut to some battleground. Yeah, that’s right, they’re poopsocking on Christmas Eve. You know the animation has gone to shit when you can barely see anything but the characters’ faces. Then colored slashes appear on a black background before you finally see a golem with red scratches all over it. It’s a failure of the imagination through and through. As a series, what does SAO even do well anymore? What is its calling card? It can’t even do action properly.
— Even when Asuna personally enters the fray, she’s poking away at a stationary golem that doesn’t even fight back. It’s so boring. Her triumphant moment is about as good as hitting a training dummy. And the scene has no drama in its composition:
The colors are completely one-note. The background has nothing but some lazy-looking stars for a night sky. I mean, shit, you can’t even make the night sky look nice? Moving on, the worst part is that the framing is terrible. This is just your average David vs. Goliath scenario, but SAO does everything in its power to downplay the drama. You never get a monstrous sense of the enemy’s scale, because the show uses such flat, uninteresting angles to approach the fight. Case in point:
Plus, we get a huge dab of Asuna’s ass, and her outfit obscures everything else about her. So not only does the golem look tiny and dinky, you can’t even see the heroine herself!
— Then what happens next? We literally alternate between these two images:
Where’s the drama? Where’s the drama when all I can literally see is the stab point and Asuna’s grimacing face?
— Do we see Asuna go through the golem? No. We see her after she has already gone through it:
Asuna has also pulled the same pose twice, because we saw something similar earlier:
A fight scene is a story, so when the girl repeats the same pose in the same fight scene, it tells me that this is a boring, repetitive story. Hell, there’s even less to look at now. The golem has turned into nothing but indistinct debris trailing behind Asuna. The background is just completely washed out in white. You gotta be kidding me, right?
— Most of all, this is such an amateurish effort; A-1 Pictures isn’t even trying. They’re just going through the motions, because they know people will give every single one of these episodes a high score anyway. Once you win your core fans over, all you have to do is maintain the same SAO feel. So long as that feel is there, no one will care that the budget has been slashed, the parts are now made out of cheap substitutes, and the show has thus become a cheap knock-off of its own self. McDonalds has perfected this art, and it looks as though A-1 Pictures is doing the exact, same thing. They know what they have on their hands: a burgeoning franchise that the studio can milk for all its worth. SAO has already achieved brand loyalty, so who gives a shit about putting in real effort? Even the soundtrack is the same recycled shit we’ve heard over and over.
— And what’s their reward? A generic landscape:
This is the height of kitsch. The horribly misspelled word in the background that they’ve kept from the first season. Then out of nowhere, the fucking loli fairy parks her ass in front of the entire image and smiles at you. She can’t even be upright or anything. Your own daughter is on all-fours for God only knows why. She’s just so happy to see her e-parents buy a log cabin. Ahhhh, I’m in hell. This is truly hell, isn’t it?
— Also, in an MMO, there’d be a race against other players to claim these player-owned houses. Good thing SAO has no such competition. We wouldn’t want any of our characters to actually have to break a sweat.
— Everything is overly dramatic as fuck, but they can’t even execute that correctly:
The key to the log cabin literally has to float down from the skies and into Asuna’s hands. But look at the goddamn key. Look at it! It looks like a key for some personal jewelry box, not a house. Even something that’s supposed to look dramatic is done horribly.
— There are so many things the story could’ve done to make this scene feel more meaningful. The fact that the log cabin still exists in its entirety is actually a misstep. All we see is our heroes defeating a golem to reach this area. Like A-1 Pictures, it thus doesn’t feel as if Kirito and company have put in any effort to reclaim their oh-so-special home. Imagine if the log cabin was no longer there. Imagine if our characters had to gather material and actually craft their log cabin like how it’s done in an actual sandbox MMO. Make the characters work for this shit, man. By working for this shit, it actually means something. And in turn, getting their home back will actually mean something. At the moment, it means nothing. They poopsocked through Christmas Eve, floated through some generic forest landscape, and found their log cabin just sitting there, waiting for them. Again, the drama was there for the taking, but the story does its best to downplay it.
— Asuna cries tears of happiness. How does that work? Does the VR headset detect your emotions and somehow translate it to the video game? Or did Asuna literally type out “/happycry?” I hope it’s the latter.
— Lisbeth: “I wonder why looking at that makes me so sleepy.” I concur. Watching this anime makes me more sleepy than any bottle of Nyquil could.
— She then tells Asuna all about Zekken, some awesome duelist. No imagination here. Just exposition straight from Lisbeth’s mouth. This is boring. Next.
— Unfortunately, there’s no next. We’re sticking with this bullshit story. Not only that, we get to see all these generic goobers attempt to court Asuna because she’s a rich girl in high society:
Thankfully, they all approach her in a line, so she can turn them all down at the same time. Her kokoro belongs to Kirito.
— Again, the story doesn’t even try. Right off the bat, we’re led to believe that these guys are assholes. It’s like the story has to allay our insecurities. Don’t worry! Asuna-waifu won’t dare cheat on you! See? They’re all jerks! There’s no threat here!
— There’s snow all around them, but Leafa still wears that shoulder and cleavage-bearing number. Apparently, it’s not so cold after all.
— Generic cake shot to accompany our equally boring talk about this Zekken.
— How can one person bogart a sword skill to himself? Why does it matter if he refuses to teach anyone else how to perform said sword skill? With MMOs, people will eventually figure everything out, including the game’s many damage formulas. More importantly, I doubt this fact will change whatsoever even as MMOs get more and more complex. I thus find it hard to believe how anyone can have a unique skill all to himself.
— And again, this is just a bunch of characters sitting around in a room, going on and on about this Zekken. Their words are accompanied by still shots of half-eaten caeki. This is so dumb. Shit, if you’re going to adapt this in the lamest way possible, I may as well just read the light novel.
— But I won’t. There’s no fucking hell I’d do that.
— Apparently, even Kirito lost to this Zekken. BUT DON’T WORRY! HE TOTALLY WASN’T SERIOUS ABOUT THE FIGHT. The show’s insecure as fuck, basically. Kirito can never lose. If he loses, it just means he is dicking around. In other words, he fought Zekken without his awesome duel-wielding powers, so the results of their duel aren’t even legit. All you Kirito fans out there can rest easy. Don’t fret. Your Gary Stu is still a beast.
— Leafa has a different account of the fight–… ah man, I don’t care. I’m done. Fuck the rest of this episode. Why should I waste my time watching this shit when A-1 Pictures is going to be this lazy? Characters sitting in a room, chatting it up for more than half the episode. What a joke. I’m going back to sleep.