Sword Art Online II Ep. 21: Raid bosses are a joke

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Alright, alright, you want the virtual world to matter just as much as the real world. That’s why Asuna’s party is fighting so hard to kill the raid boss first. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t really work. After all, downing this raid boss is still a meaningless accomplishment. The simple truth is that the writer has simply overshot himself. Again, in the first arc, dying in-game meant you would also die in real life. Beating a raid boss meant you were one step closer to escaping your virtual prison. Last but certainly not least, because you were separated from your actual family and friends, you had to form real, lasting relationships with the other trapped players. Now, the Aincrad arc didn’t exactly pull any of this shit off with great success, but at least everything made sense thematically. I can see how the virtual world might be as important as the real world. The execution just wasn’t there.

Here, however, the situation’s just fucking ludicrous. Yuuki is likely dying from some terminal disease, and instead of having an actual, meaningful bucket list, she wants to have her name etched onto some shitty virtual monument because her group of friends managed to kill some shitty virtual monster. And this virtual monster stands for nothing. Absolutely nothing. Like I’ve said, killing a raid boss in the first arc was important, because it meant you were one step closer to saving not just yourself but all the other trapped players. That struggle had meaning. Here, we’re just making some dying girl’s wish come true, but of all the things to wish for, it’s downing a raid boss. It’s not even the raid boss. They’re not fighting the equivalent of the Lich King, i.e. the final boss of the game. It’s just some random fucking schmo.

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Long story short, this is not how you make the virtual world meaningful. No one’s going to respect this shit. Oh, what did she do before she died? She and her friends downed a raid boss? Wow, awesome! I’m totally quitting Facebook and moving all of my online interactions to VRMMOs!

Stray notes & observations:

— Oh lord, just listen to the sound of Asuna’s voice when Kirito makes his jackass entrance. It’s enough to make you dry heave.

— Some dude: “Even you can’t possibly fight this many people at once, can you?” Your first mistake was even asking!

— All this whining over an MMO boss. All this trouble just because this party of seven people desperately want to have their names on some stupid monument. I mean, I’d be ticked off too if I was the larger guild. You guys only have seven people. Put yourself in raid group’s shoes. You wouldn’t believe in the Sleeping Knights, either. They’re really just wasting your time, because they think it would be cool to try a 49-man raid boss with seven.

— Kirito has to give Asuna that little shit-eating smirk right before those casters attempt to nuke him. It’s like, “Baby, I got this. And I’ll totally give you the spotlight so you can look good after being ignored for more than half a season.” Because why should he care? With Asuna tied up with the raid boss, he has all the free time in the world to flirt with the rest of his harem.

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— Those mages spend all that time casting and this is all we get? A-1 Pictures is not going to break a sweat, are they?

— Kirito simply deflects the mages’ spells with his sword. He literally “cut the magic apart.” First, these are not some chump mages. These are mages in a top-tier raiding guild. Nevertheless, they couldn’t even trouble the Gary Stu. Second, he’s a goddamn fighter. A duel-wielding fighter, no less. But do you think that matters? Do you think it’s somehow ridiculous that a fighter also has the defensive capabilities of a tank. Yeah, this is a fair game, you guys.

— Kirito: “Even the fastest magic is slower than an anti-materiel rifle’s bullet.” Yep, “materiel.” Yep, bragging about his exploits in another game.

— Klein shows up to help out, but do you honestly think this story will give the sidekick any of the glory? Hell no.

This is anime hell.

This is truly anime hell.

— Then all we see is the Gary Stu disappearing into a cloud of flames. In other words, we don’t have to animate anything, because a convenient, sight-obscuring explosion has shown up! You know what? I want to disappear into a cloud of flames right about now.

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— Then of course, Asuna’s group takes on the other twenty. The problem is, the other twenty don’t even put up a fight. Are you sure these are raiders? Are you sure these are some of the game’s best players? Give me a break. This is not just the writer’s problem. This is A-1 Pictures’ problem. They’re lazy, because they know they can get away with it. This fight scene completely sucks. Some guy with a spear literally just stabs two people simultaneously. Why were they just standing there? Why isn’t anyone even trying to fight back? I could buy this if Asuna’s group was actually ganking a bunch of low level players. But these are supposed to be the best raiders, man. The best. They may not be as good at the game as Asuna’s buddies, but shit, they shouldn’t be this useless. Unfortunately, having the raiders fight back would require some additional work on A-1 Pictures end, and they just don’t give a shit.

— We finally see some fighters half-heartedly try to fight back against Yuuki, but it’s too late. The entire scene is a complete farce. There’s nothing here that makes me think we’re watching an MMO come to life. The raiders don’t use any skills to resist our heroes. No one can cast crowd-control spells, apparently. Good luck raiding without CC. No one is even casting spells from the back line. Again this is a raid group. I don’t care if this was written back in 2002. Even Final Fantasy XI had the most basic MMO mechanics that SAO utterly lacks.

— Yuuki then has the audacity to bitch that the raid group is healing themselves up. Asuna thus takes it upon herself to take out the enemy healers all by her lonesome. In an actual game, the raid group would do everything in their power to peel for their healers. ‘Cause, y’know, they’re a coordinated raid group and they should know this shit. They should know these very basic shit that any MMO player knows by the time they’ve reached level twenty in any given game. Here, however, Asuna just has to needlessly backflip a billion times, stick her ass in the camera, then… then…

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…sigh. Somehow, she becomes a human torpedo that simply blows the entire raid group away.

— And look at how her head contorts as she announces her intention to assassinate the healers:

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What is wrong with her? Is she having a seizure? It’s just bizarre.

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— What are you guys doing?

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— Seriously, what are you guys even doing?

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— Holy fuck, she’s a demon! Then she goes from that position…

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— …to this position…

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— …then she executes a forward flip in the air without her feet ever touching the ground. Cool. This is just very cool. In a busier scene, it would be unfair of me to break the animation down like this. But look at these screenshots. Just look at them. There’s just a single character on the screen, and it’s Asuna. And the background is completely and utterly featureless. You thus can’t fucking whine that I’m being unfair to the animation. A-1 Pictures had nothing to animate and they still couldn’t get it done!

Oh, okay.

One last look at the badass Gary Stu before we engage the raid boss in a fight, ’cause his approval just means the world to Asuna. You go get it, girl! This is your time after a billion of me times!

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— Asuna: “Everyone, use potions to max your HP and MP.” People, swing your weapons to damage the enemy! People, put one feet before the other in order to advance forward! People, don’t forget to breathe!

— Asuna then thanks Yuuki for teaching her that “there are things that can be shared only by fighting.” Right, right. And now, Asuna will solve all of her real world problems with that nugget of wisdom, huh?

“You’re two years behind everyone!”

I’m fighting!

“You’re going to marry a deadbeat who plays video games all day and flirts with other girls!”

I’m fighting!

“You have no clue what you want to do with your life!”

Maaaaaahm, I said I’m fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiighting!

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— Remember the last raid boss encounter that we saw? At least Kirito’s group actually had Sinon as a backline DPS. Here, it’s literally just two healers and five melee damage dealers. Well, Asuna throws out an offensive spell every now and then, but that’s about it. The fact that they’ve neglected to have a dedicated ranged DPS is ridiculous. Even if this was written over a decade ago, MMOs back then had a lot more depth than this. And even if they didn’t, A-1 Pictures can certainly take the liberty to make this fight seem more interesting. But instead, you’re just watching five melee characters throw themselves at the boss repeatedly. We’ve simply replaced the Gary Stu with tragic action girl, and the Gary Stu’s friends with equally unimportant side characters.

— But you also pass up on a golden opportunity to add characterization to these characters. We don’t have much time to flesh them out, right? Guess what? Their individual classes can help out with this. Maybe a rogue is fiendish. Maybe a mage is nerdy. I mean, these are stereotypes, but at least they’re something. Right now, Yuuki’s friends are completely indistinct, and that’s because they all do the same thing in any given battle. Right off the bat, the story doesn’t even give itself a chance.

— Only now do these characters realize that there’s a giant ass crystal on the boss’s chest. Holy shit, have they never played video games before? Anyway, Asuna smartly realizes that perhaps they should target that crystal. She thus summons a bunch of ice shards to attack the boss’s weak point. Unfortunately, the weak point is too high up for most melee characters to reach. What? You mean it would be useful to have a mage DPS of some sort? No way!

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— It’s a fucking VRMMO. Why can’t you just have Asuna hand her healing partner those mana potions? Why do need to see this stupid message?

— We can do massive damage!

— Even without Asuna’s brilliant strategy, these characters are just dumb as hell. They randomly run up to the boss just to hack at its well-protected hands. Guys, I’m helping!

— Anyway, tragic action girl launches herself off of a teammate’s head in order to reach the boss’s weak point. The sad part is, they’ve been at this boss for quite some time now. But simply having the heroine attack the weak point once is all you need. They’ve done it. The boss dies just like that. But more specifically, Yuuki’s done it. The rest of her team didn’t do shit. Talk about a weird way for a raid boss to go down.

— I wonder what the two-timing Kirito will think of this.

— Let’s have a party! Should we have it at a fancy restaurant? Nah, let’s have it at Asuna’s shitty log cabin instead!

— Unfortunately, it’s time for Yuuki’s tragic story to kick in. It’s going to get real tear-jerky in here.

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— Generic party scenes follow. People are eating. People are drinking. Actually, I kind of like Yuuki’s stories. She’s talking about the worst MMO she ever played. Apparently, it was a bug-themed MMO. She was an ant, and Siune was a goddamn caterpillar. Dude, that sounds fucking awesome. Enough of this wish-fulfillment crap. Let’s watch these hot anime babes turn into bugs.

— Oh shit, that’s just Terra Formars! I’VE BEEN LIED TO.

— Unfortunately, the rest of the scene puts me to sleep. You’ve played a lot of MMO, huh? Durr, I sure have! Man, this house is comfortable!

— C’mon, Asuna’s mom. Pull the plug on your daughter’s game, and force her to face the real world. Do it. You’re my only hope to end this horrible scene.

— Asuna asks if she could join Yuuki’s guild, but obviously, tragic girl’s about to get tragic. She tells our heroine that Sleeping Knights will disband soon. Oh man, how heartbreaking. Too bad the show has been heavily hinting right from the get-go that there is something wrong with Yuuki, so as a result, this scene has no emotional impact on me! Ah well!

— Asuna thus quickly changes the subject by suggesting that they visit the monument that they had worked so hard to deface.

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— We’re immortalized, boys! Shirking our real life responsibilities to help some strangers get their name on an e-monument was worth it after all! Wait till Mom hears about this! She won’t make me go to college now!

— After realizing that she had been referring to Asuna as “nee-chan” over and over, Yuuki logs out in tears. I guess her real sister is… dead. DUN DUN DUN. Tune in next week for some sad girls in the virtual snow.

— There probably won’t be any snow.

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20 thoughts on “Sword Art Online II Ep. 21: Raid bosses are a joke

  1. IonCaron (@IonCaron)

    “Oh, what did she do before she died? She and her friends downed a raid boss? Wow, awesome! I’m totally quitting Facebook and moving all of my online interactions to VRMMOs!”
    You know that’s a cold as hell way to put it but damn it if it’s not true. Seems like the series should have just ended after the first season. I mean really, though the author knows he can’t just reuse the same plot he keeps lessening the stakes. Mass murder to rape to revenge to…uh…sword? And then to the e-monument. I can’t think of what can be next simply because I can’t think of a more banal plot arc.

    Anyway, yet again this was Aces and DAMN does that animation suck this time. Wow. You’d think they’d put more effort into a show that’s their bread and butter currently but no dice.
    _Also, my favorite aspect of your SAO reviews has always been when you slip into your expertise on MMOs as you rail this thing. Just makes it all the better when someone who knows the subject matter is confronted with a story written by someone who clearly does not.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I mean really, though the author knows he can’t just reuse the same plot he keeps lessening the stakes.

      Apparently, there’s a reboot of the entire series that’s super mega awesome. But then again, people said that the original story was super mega awesome too, so…

      Reply
      1. Paulo27

        As a fan of the original, the reboot is a lot better, it takes its time, introduces Asuna right away (actually, the series start from her PoV), gives the characters more motivations, etc, but the series itself is still really a lot of wishfulfilment, at least Kirito doesn’t have a harem yet (if he does get one in this one), in the end, the reboot is just another decent-good MMO adventure, it’s a bit late though since there’s already a lot of those out there, Tate no Yuusha comes to mind.

        Reply
  2. Paulo27

    TL Note: Yuuki means Snoow.

    SAO should have ended after the first arc, simply because the MMO aspect wasn’t what set it apart, it was the themes, while not ground breaking, the idea was good, at this point it’s just “Kirito and friends’ adventures in random MMOs” while it *could* be entertaining it’s not delivered correctly and the “I realized this important thing that will help me in my real life” gets old quick, making this just pointless.
    My only hope for SAO is that Progressive gets animated, but even then I can think of other series who are similar to Progressive that should be giving a try instead of more SAO.
    I still like SAO though, I like the characters, in the sense that most of them are at least likeable enough to keep me going but the story keeps destroying what little is left of them, along with itself.

    Reply
  3. Killer Queen Arbee

    I don’t really know what to say. The episode is just one big cheesefest and to be frank… but

    Would have been actually funny Kirito is only showing off for YUUKI instead of Asuna. Like, “Yeah, I’m only doing this raid boss because DAMN that chick can kick my ass!” And Asuna and Yui ends up getting the wrong idea.

    Reply
  4. tf5f89

    I really don’t understand why they thought it would be OK to treat whatever’s up with Yuuki as some kind of big tears moment. It doesn’t come as a surprise because they’ve been hinting at it, but it also doesn’t carry any weight because they haven’t provided any explicit emotional context at all yet. A lot of the time I feel like this show is just imitating familiar story beats without even knowing why they exist or what they need to do to make them work.

    Reply
    1. Killer Queen Arbee

      But sick terminal people living happy lives before they die is pretty much a staple if you want da good deep Jamanese dorama feels!

      Reply
  5. Flawfinder

    I always find it weird when ppl say the source is entirely to blame for why SAO sucks. If you can ruin source material, why can’t the opposite exist? It doesn’t happen nearly as often but it exists.

    Reply
      1. Flawfinder

        Just saying, I notice Battle Royale fans conveniently forget that the book was pretty crap. Not that Kawahara is blameless in regards to these adaptations, but I want to believe there’s a director out there who could have reworked what makes SAO what it is into something more palatable.

        Reply
  6. Caustic

    It seems Tetsuya Takeuchi animated that awkward Asuna head bob. I definitely see it’s his style of trying to convey full motion in limited animation, but in this particular case it appears production was severely rushed and the frames came out weird. Actually it seems he animates anatomy a bit stiffly in general.

    He also animates a lot of Kirito sword-swinging and the iconic (pffthaha) Sinon tower drop and um, that awkward scene near the end of the GGO arc with…you know what, never mind.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84hgC45vDXg

    http://sakuga.yshi.org/post?tags=tetsuya_takeuchi

    Reply
  7. Kentford

    Log Horizon with it’s Akatsuki Arc…
    SAO with Asuna Arc…

    Are they in sync or something?…
    But both are literally bad -____-

    Reply

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