Sword Art Online, Reflections from ep. 17

I started to type this as a brief comment over at Brickmuppet’s place, but there’s a minor glitch in which it thinks I’m banned. It’s happened before; not worth bothering Pixy about. And then I got wordy…. Suffice to say, if you’ve wondered about this show, the Muppet’s place should be checked out, although he’s two episodes behind. I just watched episode 17.

In case you haven’t been watching it, I’m going to put some parts behind spoiler tags, and others not, as I’d like to pique your interest in watching it if you haven’t. “It’s just another .hack clone!” No. Nothing really matters in .hack; it’s just people playing a game. Hell, even the old D&D Saturday morning cartoon had the kids sucked into an alternate reality. The actions in the virtual world of SAO very quickly start to have real-world consequences, and people die as a result. But where there’s people and hope, there’s also love. That’s what eventually happens, much to the surprise of the principals involved. There’s eventual struggle, and triumph … and then there’s the tragedy. We have yet to see whether there will be a greater triumph, but the deck is very, very stacked against our heroes.

Like many other fans of the stories, I was dismayed at the art style of the show, which matched that of the books’ illustrator. I expected a more “hyper-realistic” mode to enhance the “full dive” effect of the game. Then the breakneck pace of the plot threw us, as they were obviously on a pace to burn through the first novel and associated short stories within 12 or so episodes. (It actually took 14.) Well, it was still mostly worth watching, even if it wasn’t perfect, although the relationship between Kirito and Asuna went from fighting to getting along too quickly. The move from that to becoming emotionally entangled was handled a lot better. Pity chapter 16.5 of the book got cut (Kirito finds out that yes, sex is possible in SAO).

But fast-forward to episode 13, where SAO finally lived up to its promise — for 20 minutes, it got freaking awesome. The mid-battle cliffhanger was done very well. Episode 14, the end of the SAO arc, was a bit of a letdown by comparison, because of certain impossibilities and cliches. Still, it was a satisfying ending. It was also as far as I had read in the novels, and so everything after the scene of Kirito limping down the hall of the hospital, searching for Asuna IRL, is new to me.

The initial novel actually resolve the central story — to that point. So how do you continue a series, when the heroes have just defeated the big bad, and it looks like the happy ending is in the offing? Simple — you have an even bigger bad for them to fight. The problem is, that has been done over and over and over. It’s cliche now. And if the whole point of the story is beating the game and logging out (which destroys the world) how do you continue that story?

Well, you change the nature of the story. In the first 14 episodes, Kirito and Asuna fall in love, marry in-game, and pledge to meet in the real world when they get out. But something goes wrong in the happily ever after story Show ▼

So now Kirito has a real-world battle to save Asuna, and the deck is seriously stacked against him. Show ▼

Suffice to say, a worthy master villain should be credible, intimidating, ambitious, comprehensible, and generally behave like they’re serious about achieving their ambitions. SAO’s master bad guy has spent barely 20 minutes on screen, but he’s utterly nailed every one of them. A nice touch demonstrating his sense of superiority was to type the password to the cell in her full view…pixellated by the server.

I control everything you see, hear, taste…and feel.

Actual words were superfluous.

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2 Responses to Sword Art Online, Reflections from ep. 17

  1. Brickmuppet says:

    I just saw 18.
    Any delay will cost him time and he has two problems to solve where time is critical.
    One is personal, one is global.
    This is interesting in that even though he’s not gonna die if killed in the game the stakes are arguably higher than they were earlier.

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