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.
I’m confused. Did I just witness some character development in Sword Art Online II? Who let that happen? I guess Kawahara Reki must have remembered that Asuna exists and might stand to have a little bit of time dedicated to her character that wasn’t entirely demeaning and misogynist. The material isn’t too much, to be sure: the storyline is telegraphing some arranged marriage proposal that Asuna, like an idiot, naturally won’t tell anyone about until the most inconvenient time, creating some emotional drama and no doubt requiring some shenanigans in ALO-land to rectify because the evil, lecherous man with rapey-eyes will just happen to play ALO hardcore. Or something like that. They could just play a children’s card game and save some time, you know. What’s nice is that Asuna stopped being the neglected trophy wife for an episode and was depicted as something resembling an actual human being, even though she’s still not fucking Kirito every second they’re alone together like a repressed rich girl would. Here we saw a little bit of refreshing criticism, as paltry as it was, toward Japanese culture and its treatment of women. Asuna had the gall to say that dressing up in kimonos and play the part of a rich girl sucked, even though none of her friends took her seriously despite all the obvious red flags she was waving. You guys are terrible friends, by the way. Can’t you take a hint? Sinon didn’t even see Shinkawa coming, and that shit was color-coded with neon lights and blaring trumpets.
Kirito, of course, is over there not noticing any of this because he’s a moron. I don’t hold this against him, though, since it serves to make him less of a Mary Sue. The guy is really only good for defying computer code in contrived life-or-death situations. When it comes to the normal grind of everyday life, he’s just another Joe Schmoe. Moreover, he’s always sucked ass at reading people or paying attention to the emotional needs of the friends/creepy admirers he’s surrounded himself with. It’s not like we had an entire half of a season to watch this character flaw unfold in slow motion. Oh wait, we did.
So Asuna is going to fight this Zekken guy and probably win, leading to her getting a badass Original Sword Skill. That would be nice. It would be nicer if Kirito had nothing to do with her success in this particular venture and this arc focused on her doing things her own way. Am I holding my breath? You know the answer, but still, this was the first SAO2 episode in a while that didn’t rub me the wrong way. There is some balm in Gilead after all.
Oh, huh? Did something happen?
What. The. Fuck?
That was it?
That was fucking it?
That arc lasted, like, what, three episodes? And they made an opening sequence just for that? This anime isn’t even trying anymore. This episode was both tedious filler and incredibly boring. Thrym went down like this was LFR mode or something. Freyja transformed into Thor for…some reason. And then the quest was over. Kirito Sue the Magnificent pulled Excalibur out of the pedestal, still not bothering to explain why some old English legend is playing a huge part in a scenario based entirely around Nordic mythology, and woo hoo everything went back to normal Idontgiveafuckville.
Jesus Christ, what are they going to do for the next seven episodes? Hopefully it’ll be a romantic comedy in which Asuna goes and cheats on Kirito with some glorious hunk of a man. Or woman. Or something. I dunno. Just give me a reason to watch this tripe that isn’t masochism. I said I’d watch this through to the end and I will, but goddamn it if A1 isn’t trying to make it as arduous as possible.
And so the Totally Platonic Adventures of Kirito Sue the Magnificent continue, charging forth into Boredomheim. This plot is so dumb. Oh no, Thrym is gonna rape Freyja. Who is Freyja again? Why is she here? Why is she about as developed as the other five females next to Kirito? Why do we care about the travails of a random NPC? Nobody ever does. This is an MMO. Have any of the writers or animators ever played or raided in an MMO ever? If so, then why did we spend fifteen minutes on them clearing trash? You know, the thing that nobody likes? That was most of this episode. They spent a significant part of their animation budget on animating a trash mob fight. What part of this sounds exciting? Are you trying to kill us all with boredom-induced atherosclerosis? That’s not the best plan.
Also, Thrym is gonna rape Freyja. LOL. Uh, dude. Practical concerns here: you’re a giant. She’s…what…an elf or something? I think I care about the niceties of Norse mythology in this anime as much as its creators do. Anyway, Thrym: your dick is probably bigger than her entire body. You’re not gonna rape her. For this reason, I laughed my guts out at this scene. Somehow in two episodes this series has transformed from a semi-serious take on an MMO into a complete caricature of itself. It has no plot; it has no characters; it’s just a waste of time and money. A1 Studios might as well take the yen they have out of their business account and smoke some weed with it. It would probably end up being more edifying to humanity than this commercial diarrhea.
THRYM COMIN’ FOR THAT BOOTY, FREYJA. BETTER WATCH OUT.
No wait, maybe you should just kinda go along with it. It’s more action than Kirito will ever give you. Just ask Asuna. Ha. Ha. Ha.
Why is Sinon playing this fantasy MMO she knows nothing about? Why wouldn’t she be committing herself to the hardcore MMO she has already invested herself in and knows very well? I mean, yeah, this is a minor point. At least she stayed somewhat within her character, although I’d have preferred a sort of role-reversal where she took on a male avatar in Alfheim-whatever-online.
Anyway, this episode was pretty boring. Mostly a setup with lots of exposition that made little sense and gave me no reason to care. There’s no more risk of death anymore, so why does anybody give a fuck about this random conflict in this passe MMO? It’s a raid. This is not a new and amazing thing. Did they just forget about that whole aspect of Sword Art Online, where it only works if there’s a lingering, contrived threat of death hanging above everyone’s heads? The answer is yes. They knew they already had enough of an audience to turn Sword Art Online into The Totally Platonic Adventures of Kirito Sue the Magnificent. Only it doesn’t fucking work. Why do I keep having to go back to this basic element of storytelling with everything I see these days? In all honesty, I would rather it be Kirito Sue and His Gals Make a Porno, as that might be slightly interesting, even though I’m gay and straight sex could not be less involving for me. How is this 16-year-old nubile male teenager surrounded by adoring nubile female teenagers not fucking each and every one one of them on a schedule scrawled out on a whiteboard in his room? That’s what any other male would be doing, not this shitty MMO crap. Far from being virtuous or noble, it just comes across as being both ridiculous and boring. And why is Asuna still calling Kirito “Kirito-kun”? The fuck? How creepy can this shit get?
Blah blah blah, some MMO raiders got a quest to go raid a dungeon. That’s it. That’s the entire plot of this next arc. What the fuck? Am I in some sort of nightmare of unending torment? Did Sauron the Deceiver kidnap me somewhere along the line and my whole life has been one cruel lie after another conjured for his amusement? No, that can’t be right. Sauron wouldn’t waste such an opportunity with something as dry and boorish as depicting a raiding harem. He had a much grander imagination than that.
You know what, fuck it. No more expectations. From this point forth, Sword Art Online II shall be blogged solely to lampoon it. Granted, that’s mostly what I’ve been doing anyway, but now I can just switch gears to full Apathy Mode. Cheers. Let me go pop some more popcorn. I always like mine slightly burnt.
Why is everyone in anime-Japan a complete sociopath? Even the bullies hounding Sinon are waving guns around and doing the most dickish things imaginable and laughing like maniacs all the while. The conformist message has to be starting to wear thin here even for the most unperceptive of viewers. ‘Tis entirely possible, anime writers, for people to fall outside typical behavioral norms without departing the sunny shores of sanity. One can not conform without wanting to rape everything. Well, except meme-Spiderman. That guy’s hopeless.
So blah blah, Sinon’s fine, and Kirito doesn’t get injected with the evil drug because Shinkawa just happens to stab the syringe in the one place where a metal diode for a heart-monitor remains, turning the whole scene into something more resembling a gay porno than anything else. (Oh come on, you know I’m right.) Then Sinon goes through a typical sequence of happy-resolutions while Kirito talks us to death for another half-episode. Blah blah. Then Sinon finally, finally, FINALLY realizes that defending herself from the crazy killer and saving everyone’s lives at that bank was a GOOD THING. My question is why does Sinon seem to mentally cast off the personality of Sinon? As if that’s a good thing? What’s wrong with being Sinon? Said personality has done nothing but help her be a better person. Why does she stop being a badass? In real life (or at least somewhere that is not Japan), Sinon might go on to be one of the top hardcore players in GGO, maybe making her living off competitive gaming and stuff. That would be a nice, strong, female character that would break some stereotypes. She might even become a gun aficionado and relish her knowledge and capabilities. Instead, her experience in GGO is subtly treated as if it were some strange aberration not worth repeating, so as soon as the GGO scenario is resolved, Sinon gets shuffled off into Kirito’s stupid harem, right next to Asuna’s worn-out vibrator. Kawahara Reki, I have some bad news: you suck at writing and are a misogynist pig, even though you might not realize it.
Tune in next week, when Part II of SAO2 starts going and we start this whole fucking cycle of death and despair over again. Better get your drink on.
Shinkawa, that random, slightly isolated admirer of Sinon’s we haven’t seen in forever, is actually one of Death Gun’s cronies. Shocking. I will refer back to yon post here, six episodes ago, when I predicted exactly this.
Also, Shinkawa is a complete psychopath, because this is one of only two options in Japanese society: you are either perfectly normal and conform to Japanese cultural norms, or are batshit-holyfuck-allworkandnoplay-craaaaaaaaazy. There are no alternatives. Why else wouldn’t you conform to Japanese society unless you were completely fucking crazy? Only crazy people wouldn’t conform. I mean, seriously now.
Kirito beat Death Gun, thanks to Sinon finally figuring out she could do something, which she did. Plot Twist of 2014.
Following on this very concrete example, Sinon got it into her head that she’s not a worthless piece of crap and that she is capable of doing things to affect her reality for the better. Great. Why did that take 13 episodes?
Kirito also didn’t let things slide and realized Sinon might still be in danger. Common sense is a useful skill.
The nurse surrounded by IVs in a modern Japanese hospital outright stated that Kirito is actually at risk of being dehydrated. Um. No. No, he’s not. Not if you actually know how to do your job, bitch. Are you even a nurse? I’m seriously starting to question your creds.
In other news, generic anime is generic, but I’ll admit: this episode was fun. After three weeks of being talked to death, anything can seem exciting.
Oh my God, another fucking 20 minutes of talk. It’s been three goddamn weeks. I nearly had a heart attack when something actually happened in this episode towards the end. Kind of. Did their animation budget run out and they decided to skimp on three episodes so they could animate the bullet-time stuff? Geez.
Oh, and of course Death Gun has a melee weapon hidden in his gun…a weapon he crafted, because his rare sniper rifle has a module that allows you to put a crafted weapon in it…and when was this mentioned anywhere in the series? Aren’t there weight restrictions? Can’t the writers stick with the established themes and limitations of a character for one fucking day without having to resort to another surprise or plot twist just to make things interesting and avoid being a tiny bit consistent? Seriously, why not just make it a fucking duel between Death Gun and Kirito based on the capabilities and constraints we’ve seen so far in the past twelve episodes? Is that so radical? Is that so hard?
Hey, Sinon, I have an amazing idea: why don’t you take this opportunity while Death Gun and Kirito are talking and standing still for ten minutes and fucking shoot Death Gun in the fucking head? I mean, why not? You can’t hear what they’re saying; you can’t possibly be distracted or captivated by it, and there’s no way Death Gun can convincingly duel Kirito and dodge sniper bullets from you, but he’s just standing there painting a huge target on his head that you don’t exploit because the writers are focused on BIG REVELATIONS and not thinking about anything else. If the prose in this series were any higher than second-grade, this whole anime would be over by now.
But expect more of the same, kids, because we gotta drag this shit out and milk it as long as possible. God help us if we take risks and challenge ourselves and our material.
(By the way, we have twelve more episodes of this.)