Well, good job, SAO2, at achieving some level of substance. After wasting three episodes on half-assed Viking-esque shit nobody cared about, this past arc has explored and touched on some of the more practical sides of virtual MMOs, namely their assistance in treating the handicapped or the terminally ill. We find out Yuuki is the victim of a botched blood transfusion through which she contracted HIV, and she’s been using a virtual interface to ease her way through what little time she has left. This did not really surprise me, as the anime has been telegraphing some sort of tragic ending for a while now, but I do have to hand it to the show for pulling itself out of its ass and returning to more grounded territory before it takes its bow. At this point, the show really should just end here on this sort of bittersweet note. I doubt something like that will happen in the fantastic land of Japan, where milking a cash cow is something akin to a sacred art. You never know, though. Maybe God will smile on us.
Some other good things about this arc. Don’t be shocked at what they are:
- Little to no Kirito. Thank God the show pushed Kirito Sue the Magnificent out of the limelight for a bit and remembered it had an actual female lead once upon a time.
- Actual character development for Asuna. While Sinon has fallen off the face of the earth yet again, Asuna has taken center-stage and had her character tapered down into something more well-rounded. Most of the scenes we’ve encountered so far should have happened a season ago, but there’s a hymn about counting your blessings I remember learning somewhere as a kid.
- Asuna’s mom being a total bitch who still has a reasonable thing to say or two. Asuna’s mom might be a controlling monster, but she is right that Asuna is several years behind her peers and can’t spend the rest of her days living in a fantasy world with Kirito and Co. Kirito at the very least has shown some practical drive to learn job skills and focus on real life for once. Asuna has been floundering about in an annoying bout of self-imposed depression. Asuna’s mom just has no idea how to approach her child about this, so she comes off as a giant cunt. Granted, she is a giant cunt and would get a hell of a lot of mileage if she took the time to try to understand her child’s point of view, but, you know, people tend to suck in this department.
Bad things about this arc. Oh boy.
- Laughable game design. I mean, seriously now: all MMOs use the concept of instancing. The scenario presented in this past arc with Yuuki’s guild was ridiculous and showed just how blatantly ignorant SAO’s author is about modern MMO game design. Yes, there are world bosses and such, but world bosses are meant for mass consumption and to encourage that kind of tagging thing. They aren’t actually meant to push the boundaries of the players to much, as the added factor of an open-world precludes you from utilizing some of the key fundamentals of boss/encounter design.
- Kirito still being OP. No one cares. Kirito, instead of spending time in video games where you’re a living god, go give Asuna some head. You’re her girlfriend. Treat her as such. Learn some real skills, for God’s sake.
- Asuna’s absent father. Really? We went with this shitty stereotype here? OK. Thanks, SAO2. Thanks for taking the lazy way out. Again.
Next week is the penultimate episode. Then we can finally forget this show ever happened, except I’ll keep seeing a billion people in LoL and other games with shitty SAO-related character names. Because humanity. Sigh.