Oh my God. Oh my Goooood. Oh my God the Father, the Son, and the fucking Holy Spirit. This finale sucked so fucking bad. It was a full 24 minutes of boring-ass dialogue coupled with as much cliched Sadomasochistic Japanese Tragedy Porn as possible. I don’t think there were ten straight, unbroken seconds of silence in the episode. Just taaaaaaaaaaaalking and taaaaaaaaaaaaaalking and even more taaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalking. No pacing, no style, no grace anywhere in the whole thing. And the tears. Geezus H. Christmas. WE GET IT. IT’S SAD. CRY SOME MORE. There is such a thing as overdoing it, and boy, did they forget that was true. They ripped the fuck out of any emotional weight of Yuuki’s death, then burned it on a pyre of dry, dead cliches. There wasn’t even an actual funeral scene. To top it all off, “Mother’s Rosario” turned out to have absolutely no meaning. It’s just the name of a sword skill. What the fuck is this bullshit? Can anime deliver on anything it sets up these days?
Also, I also need to get this shit off my chest: “gambaru” is the worst verb ever invented. Japan, stop this shit right now. Stop talking yourself into enduring everything because it’s too hard or annoying to change things. “Gambaru” is fucking bullshit. You don’t work yourself into fixing everything. All it does is justify unnecessary suffering and pain and let problems go completely unsolved. You don’t need to take a girl’s tragic death, even a fictional one, and use it as subtle collective reinforcement of your society’s superficial mantra. Yuuki’s death was a tragedy that should never have happened in the first place, but instead of taking people to task on messing up a blood transfusion or something, somehow everything worked out okay in the end for most people. Well, that makes this even carry even more weight then! Awesome! How am I supposed to believe Yuuki’s death really meant that much to Asuna if everything is sunshine and rainbows literally five seconds later? Real people don’t get over shit that quickly, or even at all. Adding a few thousand words of overmusing on the situation doesn’t amount to anything either, Japan. You’ve done this a billion fucking times before and it’s all so goddamn hollow. Stuff like Evangelion strikes far truer and deeper into the human psyche than this crap. Hell, the Fate/ series does better at philosophy than this shit. In fact, I’m think I’m going to watch that now so I’ll stop feeling like a desiccated corpse.
Tl;dr, Sword Art Online is a fucking terrible anime and it always has been. Spoilers galore there. What a complete waste of time.
So that’s how Asuna gets her mom to stop being a bitch: a nostalgia trip. Which begs of the question of where and when in the past few episodes (amidst all the emotional turmoil of Yuuki’s situation) did Asuna have the time to create this tiny sanctum that represents a major part of her life and psyche, one we’ve never seen before? I mean, had this been a more regular theme of Asuna’s home and virtual experience that she kept going back to without much explanation, I might have found this “reveal” to be more moving, but it just seemed so random that it took me out of the moment. Anyway, now Asuna’s mom understands her kid a bit more because she took LITERALLY five minutes out of her time to listen to her for once. Did anybody else laugh at this part too? Communication solves problems between human beings? No fucking way.
I mean, the rest of the episode was okay, I guess, but I think I missed something, or it’s just that I’m not terribly into the story at this point. This is a lesson about pacing and why telegraphing stuff only works in certain situations and contexts. Yuuki’s terrible, terrible plight has been hanging over everyone’s heads for so long that it’s worn out its welcome. We get it: she’s stuck in a horrible situation and is making the most out of it. Gambaru and all that. It’s not working, Kawahara Reki. Yuuki seems like just another tool in this story’s box of cliches, a means to resolve Asuna’s own character arc with some token sympathy tropes to tug at your heartstrings. It all comes across as way too utilitarian to me, not to mention how much these episodes have just dragged on and on. One of the most annoying traits of B-grade anime writers is their incredibly bad habit of just throwing in ten tons of dialog if they can’t figure out what else to fill their scenes with (Log Horizon is even worse at this than SAO, somehow). Did we really need another talking episode to explain everything? Did these people not learn the lesson of show, don’t tell back in writing school? This arc could have been half as long and been just as effective. Better idea: we could have shaved off those three useless Viking episodes and spent more time developing this shit with proper pacing, focus, and tone. I might have said this before, but I think one of the worst accusations that can be made against a writer is sheer laziness. I’m no Stephen King, but if I can spend five minutes and come up with very basic adjustments that would significantly improve the quality of the writing, it’s fucking bad writing. Shows like Stand Alone Complex demonstrate you can make twenty minutes of nonstop dialog effective, dramatic, and gripping, but there has to be a method to the madness. SAO is all the latter, and it’s not particularly fun madness at that.
At least next week this nightmare will finally be over. I’m sure the soulless anime industry will crank out something equally placid and unremarkable to take its place forthwith. I can’t wait. (The previous sentence is all lies.)
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.