After meeting Yuuki’s guild, Asuna tries to have a leisurely stroll through a generic MMO town. On the surface, she seems rather happy and pleased with herself. After all, not only did she just make some new friends, she has the golden opportunity to lead a raid group. It’s like she’s gone back in time to the old Asuna — y’know, the one that wasn’t just a waifu. All of a sudden, she is forcibly disconnected from the game. The screenshot above is apparently what this experience looks like. It’s just astounding how lazy A-1 Pictures has become. They don’t even try to do anything cool or trippy with it. You literally just zoom out until white nothingness completely surrounds you. In any case, our heroine wakes up to see her mean, old mother glaring at her. God, stop telling me to get a life and worry about my future! I joke, of course… somewhat. I don’t believe in arranged marriages, but other than this issue, Asuna’s mother isn’t really being unreasonable with her demands. And just look at Asuna’s reaction. She sounds like someone who has just been violated. No, your mom unplugged your game. Moms have been unplugging games, TVs, and computer monitors for a long time now. They’ve done it so much that I don’t even see it as a big deal anymore.
Not only that, Asuna lost track of time and forgot all about having dinner with her mother. Put yourself in the mother’s shoes, then. You see your daughter — who, I must add, is two years behind most of her peers thanks to the Aincrad incident — spend all of her day playing these VRMMOs. It’s not even like, “Oh, I’ll just park myself in front of a TV and play games all day, but I’ll answer you if you call to me.” No, Asuna becomes completely unaware of the real world when she plays these games. Asuna also has to lie down in order to spend time with her virtual friends. Like I’ve said in the previous post, you hurt your physical body in order to level up or gear out your virtual body. It doesn’t matter what the author intended. I don’t care if his intention is to portray a universe where the virtual world is merely just as important as the real world. Rather, we should pay attention to what he ends up accomplishing. And what he’s accomplished here is a story where these characters necessarily kill themselves in the real world in order to indulge their virtual personas.
Asuna is so addicted to these games that she even forgets to eat. So what would you do if you were in her mother’s shoes? She’s watching her own flesh and blood suffer, so of course, she’d try and take control of her daughter’s life. Asuna’s mother might not be the most affectionate person out there, but man, most mothers’ hearts would ache at the sight of their child just laying there, motionless and reacting to no real world stimuli. And that’s the kicker! If the virtual world is really just as important as the real world, then you wouldn’t have to choose between the two. Instead, you’d be able to balance your responsibilities between the two worlds. But the virtual world is actually more important, because these characters become so wrapped up in it that almost nothing in the real world can even reach them. The only way for Asuna’s mother to get her daughter’s attention is to literally “pull the plug.” Again, forget what the author intended. Focus instead on what he actually accomplishes. I say “almost nothing” in a previous sentence, because you can apparently shake and jostle a VRMMO player, and in doing so, they’ll get some in-game message telling them to log out and check up on the real world. But think about it. Why is this actually preferable? You’d rather your mom shake and jostle you like you’re a dead corpse? Really?
Not only that, according to her mom, the last time this happened, it took Asuna five whole minutes to wake up. Five minutes of vigorous real world stimuli to bring her back to life, so to speak. That’s ludicrous. What if the house is on fire and you’re being choked out by the smoke. Smoke is nowhere near as vigorous as a concerned mother shaking your lifeless body. Would you just die, then? Asuna whines that she has to say goodbye to people and such, and if you pull the plug on her, she can’t do those things! Man, it’s not like we no longer have phones. Oh right, not everyone will know your phone number. But even then, it’s not like we no longer have chat clients. It’s not like we no longer have Skype-like programs. For fuck’s sake, if you want to say goodbye to your friends, you can still do it outside the game. Asuna and a lot of Sword Art Online apologists act as if all these various means of communication have instantly disappeared simply because VRMMOs now exist. Social media will continue to exist even if VRMMOs become a reality. Asuna doesn’t sound like a poor child who has to deal with her uncaring, cruel mother. Instead, she sounds like a addict.
Asuna’s mother then says, “What do you mean, ‘say goodbye’? What takes place in that weird game is more important to you than your real commitments?” The “weird game” comment might be a little insensitive, but she’s not wrong. Again, if the goal is argue that the virtual world is just as important as the real world, SAO’s author hasn’t accomplished this. You still have to eat. You still have to pay the bills. You still have to worry about your health. And to even be crude, you still need to fuck in the real world if you want to have kids — real kids and not magical, expository loli. Until you can one day upload your consciousness into an MMO and live forever in a fantasy world, the real world still matters. All the story has done is say, “Oh, well, you can form meaningful friendships in the virtual world.” Well shit, we’ve known this for a long time now. Ever since the Internet became mainstream, people have been making friends in all sorts of virtual worlds — from MUDs to actual MMOs to just people pathetically flirting with each other on Twitter. If this is the message, then SAO ends up saying nothing new whatsoever. In fact, it used to be that you could die in this anime. In other words, the virtual world actually had real consequences! But that hasn’t been a thing since the very first arc of the very first season. Nowadays, it literally comes down to, “Well, I’ve made a friend.” So again, if the goal is to make the virtual world just as important as the real world, I don’t see it.
Naturally, her mother threatens to confiscate the machine if Asuna screws up again. And you know what? I still think this is reasonable. If you play games so much that you forget to even feed yourself, should you complain if your parents forbid you from playing the X-Box for a week or two? The story wants to make it seem like the mother is this horrible, insensitive ogre, but I don’t see it. I just see a worried parent who just isn’t as affectionate as we expect most mothers to be. But outside that, I can see her legitimate worry for her own daughter: “You lost two years of your life to it. I’d think you wouldn’t want to even see it anymore.” Again, another reasonable statement. I get it. The virtual world is important, so Asuna didn’t really “lose” those two years of her life. She spent those two years with the Gary Stu, so in actuality — in her sad, little heart — those two years were super special. At the same time, however, she almost died because of the NerveGear. She almost got raped because of the NerveGear. She was literally held prisoner by some ridiculous maniac because of the NerveGear. This would’ve been a traumatic experience for most people, but Asuna continues to throw herself back into the VRMMO world. It doesn’t matter if the VR headsets are now safe. Think about how this must look to her mother.
In the end, Asuna petulantly refuses to have dinner anyway. Hilarious. She’s a child through and through. She may be 18, but she’s as immature as a young child who’s throwing a tantrum because her toy has been taken away. Check that. Her toy hasn’t even been taken away yet, and Asuna is already lashing out at her own mother. Again, instead of just stepping up to the plate, and proving to her mother that she can actually be responsible with her life, Asuna opts to play a game all day, lose track of time, and even forget to eat dinner. And why do you suppose the mother pushes her to eat dinner downstairs? Isn’t it because the mother had lost two valuable years as well? Asuna wasn’t the only person who lost two years of her life. Her parents couldn’t spend those two years with their own daughter. Not only is this a significant amount of time, they lost two very important years as well. You’re supposed to be able to take joy in watching your daughter grow up, especially as she matures into an adult, but Asuna’s mother couldn’t do this. She lost that privilege when Asuna got trapped in Aincrad. This isn’t Asuna’s fault, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t seem like anyone cares how the mother feels. She lost two years of her daughter’s life, too. The whole thing is just sad all around.
Of course, I haven’t forgotten that Asuna is unhappy with her home life. I haven’t forgotten that she feels as though she has no control over her future. But this isn’t a case where she’s a complete victim, and her mother is just picking on her. Our heroine isn’t pulling her own weight either. Hell, if she keeps skipping dinner, she won’t have any weight to pull at all! But what does Asuna do? Does she put her head down and try and find a solution to her problems? Nah. Instead, Asuna merely gets dressed and wanders out to some park. It’s cold and it’s late, and that’s enough to worry any parent. Nevertheless, Asuna continues to run away from reality. At the park, she looks at her phone and notices that she’s had some missed calls. Two of them are from her own mother. Take a note of the setting. Even in the real world, our heroine opts to put herself in a child’s playground.
Stray notes & observations:
— Yuuki drags Asuna to meet her guild face to face. I wonder why. Well, at the end of the day, this is a story about a VRMMO, so they’ll probably just do something like fight a raid boss.
— Even this guild has to be generic in its composition. They all fall into neat, cookie-cutter archetypes. The brash hero, the shy guy, the motherly-sounding girl, the older-looking guy with a square jaw, so on and so forth. We don’t really have to learn any of their names, because outside of Yuuki, none of them will receive any significant characterization anyway.
— Yep, they want to beat a floor’s boss monster. If they wanted help, why wouldn’t they just post a guild recruitment? And if the the candidate has to be someone who can go toe-to-toe with Yuuki, then why did they skip Kirito over? Oh, the nerve of these people! Don’t they realize they just passed up the golden opportunity to work with the Gary Stu? But seriously, if you’re looking for a new member, it seems silly that you would test the extra person on just their ability to duel. Being able to tackle a raid boss requires so much more than just the ability to 1v1 someone.
— The gimmick here is that Yuuki’s guild wants to defeat a raid boss with just seven people. Now, in SAO, a full party is made up of exactly seven people. Seven. Isn’t that such an odd number? More like Kirito’s harem + Klein equals seven people, so they just decided to roll with it. Then they decided to double-down on this stupid idea, because a raid group is made up of a whopping forty-nine people. Yeah, seven groups of seven. It’s just ridiculous.
— Lemme offer some context for the non-MMO readers in the audience. Raids are supposed to be these epic boss fights in MMOs. World of Warcraft‘s old raids used to be 40-man, but they scrapped the idea because it was often a logistical nightmare. WoW is arguably the most successful MMO out there, so it’s not like there’s a lack of players or anything. Recently, Wildstar tried to bring back this hardcore WoW flavor by also doing 40-man raids, but I hear they’ve given up on the idea as well. So as you can see, as much as everyone wants these epic boss encounters to be super epic by having forty people pile onto some poor Olden God, it’s just not realistic. Some MMO veterans with rose-tinted glasses will say that 40-man raids represented the golden days of MMO endgame, but they will often fail to mention that they were likely students with no obligations back then. Few people can really afford to raid for four hours with thirty-nine other people anymore. WoW raids these days are what? 25-man at the highest level? Hell, Final Fantasy XIV raids consist of only eight people. Anyway…
— The idea is that you’re supposed to marvel at Yuuki’s ambition. Wow! Tackling a 49-man raid with just 7 people! That’s insane! Or, y’know, that tells you that the raid is poorly designed. Often times, a raid will require that many people because of the mechanics. There will be adds, tank swaps, so on and so forth. If seven people can do the job of forty-nine, then this raid boss is a joke. But of course, we just saw how boring the previous arc played out. Thrym was supposed to be a raid boss himself, but he was as lame as can be in execution. Anyway, Yuuki’s group has already challenged previous raid bosses with just six, but apparently, another guild keeps beating them to the punch. Well then, we’ll just add one extra person!
— According to one of them, they’ll only be able to play together until the spring. Uh, why’s that? Someone’s going to die or something? Well, Yuuki starts staring solemnly at her drink as Siune states this uncomfortable fact:
Yeah, Yuuki’s terminal. Oh well! If she’s not going to be a part of Kirito’s harem, she may as well have a short shelf life! That’s hilarious, though, isn’t it? Asuna actually has an opportunity to befriend someone outside Kirito’s harem, but it’ll be a limited time affair. Better make good use of your time here, babe. You ain’t befriend anyone again!
— More exposition explains to us that they want their names etched onto some monument on the first floor. For some odd reason, if you defeat the boss as a single party, everyone gets to be immortalized. If you do it with a full raid group, however, only the party leaders are immortalized. Yeah, we’re hard up on space in SAO. Can’t create more room. What? Do you think this is a fantasy word that we can just make up on the spot or something?
— The guild would’ve been happy to reward Asuna with money for her troubles, but our heroine naturally turns it down. Little does she know, dead people don’t need money.
— When Asuna looks at a reflection of herself, she suddenly see her former self: “But I’m still thinking about odds of victory and safety margins.” That’s pretty funny, if you think about it. She’s already eighteen, so she has to worry about soon becoming an adult. Nevertheless, our heroine years to go back in time. Not just any time, mind you. She wants to feel like her old self… the same self that was trapped in a game with 10,000 other people by some madman. And in this game, you could literally die. In the real world, Asuna claims that she wants to be able to make her own choices, but look at her now. There’s nothing about the old Aincrad that should make you think, “Ah, those were the good ol’ days.” Rather, when they finally managed to escape from that hellhole, they should’ve thought, “Man, we now have our lives ahead of us!” Instead, Asuna just wants to look back! If the argument is that the virtual world is just as important as the real world, then I’m not seeing it. Rather, SAO is arguing that the virtual world is better than the real world. So much better that Asuna is running away from her real life responsibilities.
— Asuna’s proportions look a bit off…
— Even Asuna can’t help but wonder why the Gary Stu wasn’t chosen instead. God, my e-husband is so much better than me, and I know it! But seriously, why? Why wasn’t Kirito recruited instead? Is it because Asuna did better? Nah, nothing like that! This is SAO, after all! As such, we still have to suck the Gary Stu’s dick: “He figured out my secret.” So in the end, the story couldn’t help making Kirito sound like a bad ass anyway.
— After Asuna’s dramatic encounter with her mother, it’s almost as if the whole thing didn’t happen. Asuna looks a bit distracted from time to time, but she’s back with Yuuki’s guild and busy preparing their small group of seven for the upcoming raid. When will Asuna take her life seriously? When will Asuna worry about her future? Who knows? She’s got a raid to worry about.
— Ah, I don’t miss this. I love how barren and simple the environments used to be and still are. Here, it’s literally just a straight pathway surrounded by a bunch of concentric rings. All hail the future of gaming!
— Right before they reach the boss room, Asuna’s group encounter a bunch of people hiding out by the entrance. I guess she’s had to do this in the past. The whole act of conjuring up some magical fish then blowing them towards the stealth’d players, however, is pretty convoluted.
— I love how Asuna has to remind them of very basic MMO things like don’t just return to town as soon as you can if you die. Also, they should try and study the boss’s patterns. Christ, Yuuki’s guild have done this before. They’ve even said it themselves. They only recruited Asuna because they needed one extra person for the latest boss. I think they know what to do, but as always, the writer has Asuna prattle on and on about commonsensical things in order to fill the silence.
— Literally just a blank background as a backdrop for our characters. Yes, I know the pathway is white, but just think about it. We’ve reached the final arc of the second season, and there’s no visual imagination here whatsoever. What’s the point of even adapting this to anime if you’re not going to take advantage of the format?
— When they finally enter the boss room, it still looks boring. The outside areas of the battlefield has been set on fire, and you see a few torches here and there. Is that it? Is this really the extent of our imagination?
— The raid boss reveals itself to be a two-headed giant with two hammers. Haha, okay.
— Do we get to see our heroes fight the boss? No, of course not. That’ll be saved until the end when they are finally ready to overcome their trials. Instead, the anime skips right to them returning to town after what sounds like a thorough defeat at the boss’s hands.
— Remember those three players our group had met earlier? They’re spies! Well, not really. Rather, they’re looking to study how other players tackle the boss so that they can relay the same information back to their guild. But wait, doesn’t the door just close behind you, so no one outside the party can see anything? Oh no, you guys! Someone had created a lizard familiar, and it followed our heroes into the battlefield! I’m sorry, but that’s fucking ludicrous.
— In the real world, guilds are very secretive when they are going for world firsts. And as you can expect, there’s no way to just steal secrets this easily. But hey, this is SAO so whatever.
— But don’t worry, you guys, because master poopsocker Asuna’s got this! They have one hour until the large guild can mobilize its players. In the meantime, they can try their best and beat the boss before that happens! So let’s poopsock some more, friends!
— When our heroes get there, there are twenty people already standing there, waiting to fight the boss. Apparently, it’s one of those games where only one group can fight the boss at a time. Yes, the battlefield isn’t instanced, and that’s hilarious. We have the technology to create realistic virtual worlds, but only one raid group can go for the world first at any given time. This sounds like a terrible MMO.
— Yuuki’s solution? Let’s just fight these twenty jackasses! Certainly, seven organized players can beat twenty unorganized players. But these aren’t just twenty unorganized players. These are twenty players from a high-level guild aiming for world firsts. The idea that Yuuki’s group can just kick their ass is not very believable, but again, it’s SAO so logic just goes flying out the window.
— Yuuki tells Asuna that there are some things you can only share by fighting. For some reason, Asuna takes those words to heart and starts thinking about her mother. As a result, she puts away her wand and takes out her sword. What?
— In the distance, the rest of the guild is about to show up and pull a pincer move on our hapless heroes. But here comes the Gaaaarrrrrrry Stuuuuuuuu:
Yes, he’s shown up to hold back the other half of the massive endgame guild. Mai waifu wants to feel important, so y’all gonna have to back it up. BACK. IT. UP!
— In the end, Asuna can’t even accomplish anything in the virtual world for herself without Kirito’s blessing, so it’s just hilarious to think she’s got anything figured out in the real world.
— What? You didn’t think Kirito would just disappear for the rest of the arc, did you? Here’s a parting shot to haunt your dreams.