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 Asuna and 300 others do not wake up from the game. And it turns out that Asuna’s family has other ideas about her long-term future — and so does her fiancee, Nobuyuki Sugou, who is all set to inherit the company (Asuna’s dad’s) that now owns the full-dive technology after the original company went bankrupt.

So now Kirito has a real-world battle to save Asuna, and the deck is seriously stacked against him. Nobuyuki Sugou knows Asuna hates him, but that’s not an obstacle. He can’t legally “marry” a comatose person, but the family can adopt him and sign guardianship over Asuna to him, like she’s a piece of meat used to buy continuity for the company. Brickmuppet called him a dick, vile, and a creep. That was just for inviting Kirito to the wedding next week, to stick the knife in. No, I think those terms apply to Asuna’s father. About Sugou. He isn’t a dick. He isn’t vile. He isn’t a creep. All of those terms combined could not begin to plumb the depths of this bastard asshole — they denote someone who is petty. Even calling him a bastard asshole is an insult to anuses and out-of-wedlock children everywhere.

I think he’s managed the impossible: he’s made me hate a character even more than Mitsuragi from Saber Marionette J. OMG he must die, die, die — by being repeatedly dipped into a vat of sulfuric acid then dragged through a dump truck of salt. By his genitals. It’s the closest method I can come up with for making someone die by fire and drowning at the same time.

What is he doing to deserve this? Well, it’s obvious by the end of ep. 15, that she’s in Alfheim Online, the successor of SAO. If you guessed that Sugou was behind Asuna and the 300 not waking up, you’re right. If you guessed that one of the reasons is so he can ensure he controls the company, give yourself a pat on the back. If you even guessed that they’re in ALO he’s spending quality time keeping Asuna’s mind/avatar in a gilded cage and emotionally abusing her, give yourself a gold star.

But you haven’t gone far enough. He doesn’t need the 300 for that for abusing Asuna. What he does need them for…. well, it’s a bit of handwaving, but the short answer is “experiments.” The details… well, that’s why he needs to die painfully and slow.

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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