November 04, 2012

Regaining Their Stride

"You're back quick!" "Yeah...darnedest sister had left me a sammich."

The last two episodes of Sword Art Online seemed a bit muddled and occasionally forced but they did advance the story.

This episode did not actually move the merry band of travelers along very much but it DID regain the shows earlier pace and character oriented feel.

It also established a few things:

*The racial divisions in the Fairy Game; They had mentioned this in passing previously, but it does seem to be a plot element. I'm not sure how much of this is the Japanese cultural "In/Out group" dynamics and how much of this is supposed to feel wrong to the audience, but it certainly seems like an unhealthy dynamic that is hardwired into the game setup. Somewhat related, there is a very strong prejudice against  players not in guilds and teams from different races.

*This is further complicated by the fact that one really needs to be in a town or other designated safe place in order to log out (or ones avatar will get looted/killed and one will take the hit in a loss of XPs and items.)

*The guilds and adventure parties in the game are 'seruius bidness'. "Leaf" tells her guild leader that she won't be gaming with them for a few days and he freaks to the point that the guild are no longer contacts, they are enemies. This dovetails into the unhealthy "culture" of the games world.

*Our party is being stalked.

*Meanwhile, Asuna is in an impossible and demoralizing situation, but while she may be the 'princess trapped in the tower', (of both the game and the plot) she still has kept her wits about her and she manages to remain an impressive and interesting character.

"Oh, I'm just reflecting on my next move."


This leads to an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand, our hero probably* won't die if killed in the game, ( he'll take an XP hit and probably loose his kit) but he does have two major time critical issues (one he doesn't know about yet).

This means that the stakes are actually much higher than they were in the first half of the series.

All in all the show seems to be well and truly back on track.

* I say "probably" because due to poverty and lack of time he's using the nerve gear headset from the original game. It's possible (albeit unlikely) that, while he can log out now, "dying" might still trip the brain-fryer.

UPDATE: That last paragraph was previously an incoherent word salad that has now been fixed.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 05:20 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
Post contains 441 words, total size 4 kb.

1 "XP hit and probably loose his kit" = lose

The idea that the device can Manchurianize the players without them noticing is a FAR more interesting plot than killing/comafying/trapping them.

Man, I'm really on a neologification trip today.

Posted by: Mauser at Mon Nov 5 02:22:08 2012 (cZPoz)

"XP hit and probably loose his kit" = lose

Yes. Indeed. It seems on the surface the stakes are less serious but any nontrivial delay and everything goes to hell. And yeah, the specter of Manchurianizational mischief being performed in the game itself is certainly there. If not now, very soon.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Mon Nov 5 04:37:31 2012 (e9h6K)

3 The forced competition between all 7 races is the five-bladed razor of realm-vs-realm PvP; in real MMOs, it's mostly just an excuse to be a dick to the opposing faction, but apparently in VR, players actually (gasp) roleplay it. But if one race wins the ultimate prize, the gameworld will implode. (of course, that, along with what a race has to do to win, reflects the character of its creator...)

It looks like Asuna will get some much-needed screen time next episode. While I'd like to see her hit Our Villain over the head with a chair and shove him out a window, perhaps that will have to wait until she wakes up. :-)

On a side note, the in-game fanservice makes perfect sense, since ALO doesn't force you to look like your avatar the way SAO did, but Suguha is perhaps even more impressive in the real world. If that's what she looks like in junior high, she may have to give up kendo when she reaches high school. Or switch to a different anime genre!


Posted by: J Greely at Mon Nov 5 13:13:25 2012 (2XtN5)

4 I've been following your SAO posts for a while, and Monday night I finally pulled the trigger, watching eps 1-6 in a single sitting.  Last night I stayed up till about 3am (not like I would have been able to sleep anyhow..) and caught up to episode 18.  I can't remember the last time I mainlined a series like that.  Good stuff!  Of course, I'm now regretting that I didn't wait until is was complete....
It is nice to see that Asuna, even in the forced role of caged princess, is struggling against despair and thinking her way through the problem.  Next ep should be a good one!

Posted by: David at Wed Nov 7 17:44:53 2012 (+C5m6)

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