Kirito and Leaf arrive in Arun, the vast metropolis at the foot of the world tree. It seems that the second life aspect of the game is at least as big a draw as the the games stated quest. Arun is the largest city in the world of Alfheim by far, and is completely neutral territory. Our two heroes decide to scope out the bustling metropolis and the route to the Entrance of the World Tree when suddenly....
...they are informed that they have to log out as server is about to go down for maintenance between 04:00 and 07:00.
"Good grief! Whet time did you get to bed?" "Oh..'bout 04:00" "Huh..Same here."
What follows is a day in real life episode. Kirito KAZUTO (he's outside the game now) gets up, greets his sister cousin warmly and the two of them go about their day. She asks if he wants to spar and he tells her that he has a lot of things to do, including an attempt to visit to Asuna in the hospital.
Leaf Suguha (she's outside the game now) asks if she can come along. They have a discussion on the bus about Kirito's plans. He's missed two years of school and his sister has leapfrogged him and is now in high school. Kirito is trying to decide whether he should spend the next year in cram school trying to catch up or try to cobble together some continuing education plan. There is another option however, The government is refurbishing an old abandoned school specifically for school age victims of the Sword Art Online incident. Entrance exams will be waived for this school and students will be able to matriculate with people their own age. They'll graduate 2-3 years late but be able to take college entrance exams as normal. This seems to be a good option but Kazuto is unsure. He suspects that one of the schools functions will be to do brain and psychological studies of the effects of long term exposure to virtual reality on adolescent brains. He's pretty sure he doesn't want to be a guinea pig. He's less sure he'll have a choice.
The two arrive at the Hospital. Despite being warned off earlier by Sugo, they are admitted without incident (Sugo is out of town and Asuna's dad does like the boy visiting his daughter). On the way in, Suguha notes that Asuna is both the comatose girls' real life and online name and observes that this is rare in MMPORGs. Kazuto is surprised that she knows so much about online games. The two of them thus miss yet another chance to clear up misconceptions and Kazuto ceremonially introduces his cousin to...
"Asuna, Vice Commander of the Knights of the Blood Oath.
Lightning Flash Asuna, whose speed an accuracy with Sword I was never
able to match."
Suguha is polite, respectful, formal and all kinds of conflicted. She changes out Asuna's flowers as her cousin talks to Asuna. After some time the two leave. They both have "to meet someone this evening" and no doubt reflect upon how little they've seen of each other lately.
While all that was going on...
In the virtual world of Alfheim, Asuna is attempting to make good her escape. Weaponless, in a high level "dungeon" she stumbles upon a corridor that does not at all match the games aesthetic. Finding a map she discovers that it doesn't represent the game itself but rather..
...a collection of experimental labs.
This is how Sugo's team is conducting their experiments in absolute secrecy. All their lab work is done virtually in the Alfheim online world, which of course is using the SAO servers. Now the reason that Asuna is being held in Alfheim Online is clear. Sugo never removed the 300 minds from the game, he simply stopped them from leaving. Alfheim online is using the SAO servers because they are essentially running SAO 2.0. The vast VR bandwidth needed to do these fiendish mind control experiments on people...and do them in a virtual environment is simply hidden as an extra "location" in Alfleim Online. Asuna discovers a lab with virtual reconstructions of 299 brains. From the displays, it is apparent that many of them are being manipulated to experience agony, terror and despair.
Evil villain is evil.
While digesting this disturbing scene Asuna notes two monsters enter the "room".
It seems that the avatars of two of the techs carrying out these unholy experiments are slimes, for no particular reason, other than that they seem to be an exceedingly kinky couple of pervy guys. There's really no place to hide so Asuna tries to blend in with the virtual brain jars and be very still. She listens to them talk nonchalantly about how two more of the subjects are close to having their minds completely break, and that is important that they be on hand to watch the process this time. Asuna spies a virtual override panel (it's the same type of icon/sprite as the one YUI used in episode 12) she runs to it. It has a virtual swipe card in it that activates the menu and sure enough there is an emergency log out option, Asuna then activ....GHAAAAAAA!!! TENTACLES!!1!!...
"Oh you have got to be KIDDING me!"
They recognize her as the sprite from the cage whose mind they're not allowed to experiment on. As having a player type sprite in the lab is completely abnormal, one of the two tentacle monsters logs out to get instructions from Sugo, but not before admonishing the other one not to molest THIS test subject. As soon as Thing 1 is gone, Asuna breaks morale and calls Thing 2 on his unethical and wicked experiments. He shrugs it off suggesting that it's less unethical than physical experiments on animals and that's not important now, because he is "so tired of dolls" he points out that 'doing it' in VR is like drugs but legal and his tentacles roam...
...and many blue rays were pre-oprdered after this episode.
Fortunately Asuna does have one weapon..her +4 teeth of chastity and our repulsive, evil lab tech has his sensitivity cranked up to the max.
What do you know? Strong female leads CAN have a castrating effect on certain men.
Asuna's freedom is short lived. Thing 1 spawns at the control point directly in front of her and informs Thing 2 that the boss is PISSED and they need to put Asuna back in the cage, change the access code and watch her till Sugo gets back from overseas. Asuna makes one final struggles against Thing ones tentacles in a heroic attempt to reach the control point but the display is on the other side of the icon and....she's back in the cage. Think 1 and Thing 2 lock the cage and ooze off. Asuna is despondent and near breakdown.
Until they are gone, at which point it is revealed that she snatched the virtual swipe card off the control point.
This woman now has her tormentor's swipey card. Someone is going to pay and it's not going to be her.
Meanwhile...elsewhere in the same game Kirito and Leaf spawn in and begin exploring the city. Along the way Leaf tells Kirito that there is now a glass ceiling over the city due to the fact that the moderators "freaked" and patched the player work around that resulted in the screen cap that led Kirito here. As they cross the threshold of the cities central zone (immediately around the world tree) YUI becomes agitated and starts calling for "Mommy!" Kirito asks what is wrong and YUI says that Moms (Asuna's) player information is now detectable and...
Kirito takes off like a rocket as the episode ends...
On the debit side, the art, animation and monster designs in the "lab"
segment seemed a bit below the shows normal standards. In particular, those were some truly
dorky looking monsters.
Seriously?..What the HELL man!? What were they thinking?
However, the other scenes were spot on. The real life sequences were, additionally, very effective in using, weather, color and lighting to convey a palpably desolate feel.
Although this episode leaves us plot-wise almost exactly where we were at the end of last episode, it did flesh out out a few things. The real world elements are well handled and the offhand comments about his school prospects and his concerns give just a hint of unease. The episode also does a nice job ramming home the sheer abominable horror of Sugo's machinations. He and his team are exquisitely evil. Meanwhile, Asuna continues to give lessons in playing a bum hand very well.
So earlier today, at my folks house, I was getting of the shower when I heard a scream...not an "eek!" a scream that could wake the dead. I threw a towl around me and ran out as my mom shouted in a hysterical pleading horrified voice..."GET DOWN HERE NOW"
I was halfway down the stairs when she ran into the living room and looked up at me with a face that could only mean someone died.
I was almost to the bottom when she said..."There's a stinkbug in the kitchen on the..."
...back up the...stairs into the bathroom, I quickly dried and put on pants as she began shouting stinkbug status reports with the urgency and intensity of Herbert Morrison covering a dirigible crash. "It's at the edge of the fan! It's right there. It's walking to the end! GET IN HERE!"
Oh the humanity..
She then ran into the living room and stopped me wanting to know why i had turned around to which I replied "...pants..."She explained that she couldn't reach the ceiling fan and the stinkbug was right over the cake mix and THANKSGIVING WAS GOING TO BE RUINED and I had to prevent the stinkbug from falling in the cake-mix (or the gravy) and....
I couldn't get into the kitchen from the dining room because she was standing in my way explaining so I went around and entered the kitchen through the hallway.
I searched. I searched. No stinkbug.
She ran and got my dad from the garage and the two of us did a thorough stinkbug sweep...but the stinkbug had left.
Or had it?
She glared in horror at the cake mix, the sugar and the gravy.
There was a good 15 minutes of dad and I sifting and pouring before we could convince her that the stinkbug had not buried itself in her ingredients and had simply flown away.
In fairness she'd been working on this for a VERY long time.
In any event Thanksgiving dinner was awesome...despite the knowledge that somewhere out there the stinkbug still lurks.
Posted by: JP Gibb at Thu Nov 22 12:48:40 2012 (VSD03)
Little-known fact: the early aircraft carrier "catapult launchers" operated more like trebuchets. The aircraft launch procedure started by dangling the plane by a sling hook off the stern of the flight deck...
Posted by: Siergen at Thu Nov 22 12:59:13 2012 (Ao4Kw)
Sword Art Online 20: General of the Blazing Flame
Episode 20 picks ep exactly where 19 left off, being pursued by monsters at exceedingly high speed.
"So help me God, I'm gonna kill him"
Although Leaf is displeased with Kirito's rather slapstick method of monster evasion, it did save them considerable time on their way to stop the in-game assassination.
Alas, it was not enough to warn the ambassadors, as our heroes arrive moments after the Salamander forces. Fortuitously the Salamander General Eugene is given to speeches. His team outnumbers the diplomats about 6 to one and Eugene is widely regarded as one of the most formidable fighters in the game.
Just as Eugene is about to give the order to strike, Kirito, acting on very little information, makes a dramatic entrance and crafts a clever story that gives the Salamanders pause. He claims to be an Ambassador as well, and that he just signed a mutual aid pact with the other two kingdoms represented. As his race (the Spriggans..none of whom he's actually met) already have an alliance with the Undines, this would mean the Salamanders are risking a war on four fronts. (This of course is, in actuality, utter bollocks.)
General Eugene is suspicious of Kirito's poor equipment and lack of an escort, but to be on the safe side he decides to have a duel with Kirito to see if he is of sufficient level for this wild tale to be legit.
One of the stranger ultimatums I've heard
Eugene is more than a match for Kirito, but Kirito has a trump card. He still has "dual wielding" skill from Sword Art Online. Using Leafs sword, he catches the General off guard and gains the initiative. Kirito does not yield the initiative and the General Blows up REAL good.
"He went all kinds of 'splody!"
And there is much rejoicing...despite the 67 other soldiers standing by.
Oh..yes...The Kait-sith are catgirls
As a gesture of goodwill, the Cait-Sith and Sylph queens resurrect the General (which prevents a major XP, Level, and Equipment loss). Eugene thanks Kirito for a good fight and as a gesture of reciprocity orders his team to retire. He leaves, still, unaware that the whole tale of a 4 power alliance was a ruse.
After some quick explanations and a bit of housecleaning involving Leaf's former guild leader, the Leaders of Cait-Sith and the Sylphs both offer to hire Kirito, but he points out that he only cares about getting to the top of the World Tree. He guesses (correctly) that the alliance was for the two races to unite in a push to gain access to the tree, and asks them to take him along. They agree but point out that it will take some time to get the proper equipment. Kirito then drops his last ace in the hole. He still has two years of money from SAO that register with this game as loot. He donates it to the cause and the two powers divide it evenly. Now with enough filthy cheat lucre to outfit their parties with high level magic items they have nothing standing in their way. Both agree to move their top fighters to the world tree as soon as they can get everyone together.
Kirito has played his cards well, he is now part of an army of two nations assaulting the prison of his beloved.
Speaking of whom....
Asuna has been biding her time. She did get the pass-code to her cage successfully and now that the coast is clear she makes good her escape. She has no equipment, is dressed in a nightie and is on the top level of the world tree, but Asuna Yuki has 86 levels in badass and she is determined to free herself from this nightmare and reunite with her husband.
This was actually a pretty good episode.
Kirito/Kazuto used his wits very nicely and what last week seemed to be a digression or side-story ended up moving the plot along quite a bit. Our party looks to be getting much bigger next week, and next weeks title suggests some additional revelations.
I was initially annoyed by the (kept his SAO stats!) device but it worked quite well in this episode, allowing several things to come together believably. The fact that this bug works is intimately tied into the larger goings on and the dark purpose behind Alfheim Online. With the loss of his treasury and being surrounded by high level players, this is no longer of any great beneffit to Kirito,
However, it's quite likely that Asuna benefits from a similar level bonus out of her cage. Given that she is at the TOP of what amounts to the final boss dungeon, and her inventory currently consists of a nighty, a hairband and earrings, being level 86 might give her a fighting chance....
One interesting thing touched on in this episode is that Asuna, Kirito and Yui are the only people for whom this isn't "just a game" and they obviously can't quite convey the gravity of the situation to the other players (Asuna because she is not around anyone right now). Fortunately, those around Kirito and Yui are mostly hard core gamers quite immersed in the second life aspects of the world, so motivation is not as big an issue as it it might be.
Nice writeup! But several of the pictures aren't showing up for me
Posted by: David at Sun Nov 18 15:57:35 2012 (vyRm+)
It looks like none of the pictures are missing; there are just a few extra bad links to the ultimatum picture.
As for Asuna,
I suspect only her internal badassishness is available. Our Villain likes his women helpless and breakable, and will surely have stripped her of her stats and skills, except perhaps for cooking. Kirito's cheating is only working because Sugou has completely dismissed him as a possible threat. I had initially thought that the "glitch" in his login was because Sugou had set a trap for him, but if he knew, he'd have found ways to use it to torment Asuna (which would have backfired the moment she spotted Yui in his pocket, but...). If Sugou understood Our Heroes at all, Asuna would be chained to the bed and Kirito would be surrounded on all sides by the legions of Hell.
Posted by: J Greely at Sun Nov 18 18:15:15 2012 (2XtN5)
I really hope that while spending that massive bag of haxxor loot to equip their teams from the good stores, someone is kind enough to get a few items for Kirito. There is really no reason he should still be running around in low level gear.
Posted by: David at Mon Nov 19 13:37:42 2012 (Lf1Ga)
I've had a suspicion about that odd login glitch, and the stuff that did translate across games. I mean, a re-skinned SAO is fine, but why should Krito have access to his old stats on a new character? Why would "old" SAO character data be loaded into the new database at all? And how strange is it that the glitch should drop him near the one player he could count on for support?
I detect the mostly unseen hand of the game's designer. They never found him, or his connection to the SAO servers. So is he one of the 300 also, but still has his admin privileges? Or has he just inserted himself into the game and is helping Kirito from behind the scenes? Respect for the enemy that beat him? Anger over having someone screwing with his game? Face Heel Turn?
Posted by: ubu at Wed Nov 21 13:59:25 2012 (SlLGE)
Actually, I seem to recall that my local store had to pull unsold Twinkies off the shelves and replace them with fresh stock fairly often.
Posted by: Siergen at Fri Nov 16 18:05:46 2012 (Ao4Kw)
Yeah, they just seem like they've been on the shelf forever. Still, this will seriously impact my friend who makes twinkiemisu; he may have to switch to cheap Chinese knock-offs.
Posted by: J Greely at Fri Nov 16 18:37:36 2012 (fpXGN)
3@Siergen: Oh come on. Next you'll be saying 200 year old Sailsbury Steak won't be an important food source after a nuclear war. It's possible that this "stock rotation" is a ruse as the government surreptitiously adds to the national Twinkie reserve.
On the other hand I don't ACTUALLY believe the world is going to end next month.
The Wonders of a Modern Education
I've been in and around colleges and universities off and on for 20 years. While this is certainly amongst the more crazy lecturers I've seen, I can say that yes, things are indeed getting this bad. This is especially true regards China/ Mao et al.
This is not below the fold because it's history.
Note the applause...
OK, actually it's the evil opposite of history but hey...
This is closely related. It's deeply troubling and fairly accurate.
In my limited experience, it tends to be almost exclusively older professors (a rapidly dwindling demographic), or some of those from abroad that occasionally buck this trend, and they do so at their peril.
UPDATE: For those who did not look at the 3 minute video, it's a professor adamantly denying that Joe Stalin killed anybody.
Out and Proud.
I don't shy away from expressing my views, but I generally put my overtly political posts under the fold because some of my readers get the vapors if exposed to opposing viewpoints in their fluff and in any event, the blog is usually about fluff.
Occasionally though one or two things pops up that are political and yet need to be read.
This is one of those times.
Sarah Hoyt has generally stayed away from politics on her main blog but recently posted some things that made some of her views known.
On the other hand, I went out and bought half a dozen of her books. (They're Baen ebooks so they're pretty cheap.) Not sure I like the heroine of her Darkship Thieves, though; I've gone back to reading Elizabeth Moon's Hunting Party for now.
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Thu Nov 15 07:16:52 2012 (PiXy!)
The heroine of Darkship is supposed to be one of those people who starts out obnoxious and gets better. (Same with the hero, actually.)
Posted by: Suburbanbanshee at Thu Nov 15 11:26:42 2012 (cvXSV)
Yes, Athena and Kit both start off as kind of rough characters, but as they develop they become both more interesting and likeable. I found the last half of Darkship Thieves to be almost a completely different book from the first half, and much better. Darkship Renegades looks to be interesting, the free teaser chapters end on quite the cliffhanger.
Posted by: David at Thu Nov 15 14:26:46 2012 (Bk8Wa)
Steven Den Beste, who was one of my inspirations to get into blogging and now runs the highly regarded anime blog Chizumatic has reportedly had a stroke.
He is in the hospital and thankfully seems to be recovering. Go send him some good wishes.
UPDATE: It's bad. However he is conscious and lucid enough to post this comment.
My brotheri s loaning me a laptop which I can use on the hospital's wifi.
Looks like Thursday morning, I'll be transferring to a rehab place
where I'm probably going to be staying for a week. I'm not looking
forward to it but I'm also not thrilled about being profoundly crippled
for the rest of my life, either.
I don't know if I'll have wifi access at the rehab.
In the meantime, my left hand is useless and I'm typing this with one finger.
No Asuna at all.
Our heroes are traveling through a neutral cave when Leaf gets a cryptic message from "Recon" an acquaintance of hers in both real life and her former guild. they discover that they are being pursued by Salamanders (Fairy clan that specialized in incendiary spells). There is a battle, and, with the help of Yui, our hero uses his races illusion magic turn into a monster (specifically the first boss monster from Sword Art Online) and vanquishes the pursuers.
Leaf stops him from killing the last party member, and after he comes to his senses decides to engage in some negotiations.
And they learn that they have run afoul of some in-game intrigues though details are sketchy. We also learn that player sprites taste like negimaki, which is a bit disturbing in context.
While in town, leaf exits the game for a moment and finds that there are 437 messages from "Recon" on her phone. His character is not dead but is paralyzed and captured so he can't play. He explains that he discovered a plot to cause mayhem by assassinating the leader of Leafs in game race. Leaf abandons their quest to try to stop this but Kirito agrees to assist her. As the episode ends, we discover that Kirito has comic effect super speed.
This episode has more questions than answers. We do find out who is stalking our heroes, and it seems that they have simply run afoul of gamer intrigues. The VERY long battle that ensued was one of the less satisfying as he seemed to pretty much pull that monster out of his butt.
It is perhaps significant that the monster is from the SAO game. It may be that Yui is pulling some moderator tricks.
Not one of the better episodes, but it's interesting nonetheless. That is, for an episode that mostly consists of a fight, they do manage a surprising amount of pretty cool character exposition.
Hopefully next episode will have less of an Asuna deficit.
They seem to be deliberately avoiding any explanation for the stunts he's pulling, with Lyfa not even questioning his combination of super-powers and total ignorance any more. The writers are walking a very tricky line, and it may end up a total mess, but at least we already got the first half of the series.
In this case, the by-the-book explanation is apparently that
spriggan illusions tend to be useless in combat because the result is based on your stats, and you'd need to be some kind of godlike cheater to pull off something that impressive.
Posted by: J Greely at Sun Nov 11 03:02:40 2012 (2XtN5)
A Few Quick Notes on Status and Such
Well, Tuesday/Wednesday was a bummer for other reasons. In addition to a funk I think I've been passing the last item in my kidney stone reserve. Wednesday evening I was assaulted by a plate of Szechuan beef which wrought chaos upon my digestive track.
My plans to graduate in the Spring or Summer, comes down to class availability. I was informed that one class I need is unlikely to be available until next fall. In the grand scheme of things a 4 month delay and a very light load last semester is not THAT big a deal, but it is highly annoying. I'm going to speak to my adviser next week about taking it as a topics course over the summer, but I'm told that is unlikely because....'Because.' Meh...I'm almost there.
Lots of papers this semester. I still have 12 page, 8 page and 5 page
papers coming up in various classes over the next 2 weeks.
I split the B&tB clip from the assessment post, which started out as just a cheer-up post when I got to rambling,
I've started to...oh my...What is this?
Itâ€™s IJNS ç„¡ç†ã§ã™source unknown Click here to embigulate
Good luck with those last classes. That's a big factor in why I never got my degree, I ran into a class that was a prerequisite for six other courses I needed to graduate, and it was only offered every other semester, at a time block that I simply could not accommodate while working. Since I already had the kind of job the degree was supposed to qualify me for, it became a no-brainer to quit.
And oh my, what a big juicy target that is. Build it out of wood and tow it behind a submarine, just so nobody bothers to shoot at the rest of your fleet...
Posted by: David at Thu Nov 8 16:14:51 2012 (I6iFS)
Whatever it is, it's big enough to influence weather systems. What would the crew have been - 6.000+?
Posted by: EdwardM at Thu Nov 8 20:10:18 2012 (moC4O)
I bet 5000 quatloos that Wonderduck can not only identify it, but give a detailed history of it as well....
Posted by: Siergen at Thu Nov 8 20:19:32 2012 (Ao4Kw)
Let's see... 9 turrets, two flight decks, probably around twice the length and four times the beam of any ship built in WWII. An Iowa or Yamamoto BB had a complement of around 2,800 people, while a Midway class CV had a complement of around 4,400. I'd say 6000+ is a conservative estimate, I could see it being north of 8,000. I can't believe it's a real proposal, it has to be from an anime or game.
Posted by: David at Thu Nov 8 21:31:06 2012 (vyRm+)
Sierg, concur about Wonderduck, but I'd like for Herr den Beste to get a shot at it first; you never know.
And yeah Dave, I'd say it's from someone's rather admirable imagination as well, but...look at all the stuff that actually DID come out of WWII. I could see someone among the major powers at least conceiving of this, even if nothing close to it was ever built. Kind of a WWII-era ship designer's wet dream.
Posted by: Tom at Thu Nov 8 21:47:08 2012 (X594O)
It's certainly nothing real, and I can't imagine any anime being desperate enough to trundle it out (though Girls und Panzer did put cities on the flight deck of really big carriers).
27 main guns, and since it's clearly based on a Yamato-class, they'd be 18.1" rifles to boot... with the worst firing arcs ever. I'd be relatively certain that the guns couldn't fire over the flight decks for fear of damaging them, particularly A, B, Y and Z turrets. Then the superfiring turrets probably couldn't fire directly over the turrets under them, so no firing straight ahead/behind, except for A and Z.
Except for the six sponson mounts, three on each side... they'd have relatively normal arcs of fire, except that they'd be so low that they wouldn't have as good a range, and god help you if you tried to train them out in a heavy sea!
Looks like a Navy Cross waiting to happen...
Posted by: Wonderduck at Thu Nov 8 22:32:39 2012 (lS5Cn)