November 24, 2012

Mengeles in Cyberspace

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.
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.

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November 18, 2012

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.

 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,

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. 

Finally, at no point was it necessary to utilize the emergency continuity consultant.

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November 11, 2012 Girls und Panzer..

This is what the shopping center in Oorai is called.

I wonder if any of the cakes in the cafe are Mullberry. I imagine that the Overlords of the town are behind the tournaments' Jubilee atmosphere.

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Sword Art Online 19

If only we could...FLY or something.

Our party gets bogged down with in-game politics.

No Asuna.

No Asuna at all.

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.

UPDATE: J.Greely over at .clue. has some succinct thoughts on this.

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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.

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From episode 1 of Girls und Panzer...No baseball team?

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