December 22, 2012
As the episode begins, Kazuto is haunted by two visions, one of Asuna warmly greeting him,... the other of her glassy eyed corpse lying in bed, her brain fried by the log out kill switch which Sugo might have re-instated as a safeguard...
Arriving at the hospital he ditches his bike at the gate, gingerly makes his way across the icy parking lot, nearly collides with another pedestrian, almost falling over in the process, regains his balance, bleeds profusely as he approaches the steps and....wait.....what?
His name is Nobuyuki Sugo.
Perhaps you remember him. He's the villain who just got killed in the virtual world with the pain blockers set to zero. He hurt a LOT. He's not happy and he's not in the virtual world anymore. This is reality, and in the real world he's not actually a fairy king. He's the number two man in a major zaibatsu. He has people who will lie for him and a staff of people willing to carry out Block 10 type experiments on people minds for him. Whatever setback he may have had in a dippy VR game, there are only two things that stand between him and total victory right now. Those two things are Asuna Yuki and Kazuto and he aims to rid the world of them. Asuna, being in a hospital room will take some finesse, but Kazuto is a nobody, a gamer, sad little out of shape teenager who hid from the world in a VR game and who now stands before Sugo armed with nothing but his own clotting blood and his shattered delusions of adequacy.
All those years of video games didn't actually prepare Kazuto for this.
...but only just.
Kazuto, with great effort, refrains from killing the bastard, who visibly wets himself and collapses.
Kazuto staggers into the hospital only to find it empty. The receptionists, the nursing station, security....gone. No doubt Sugo has ordered them away...Sugo was already here.
He goes to the twelfth floor and stands outside Asuna's room in terror. He then hears the voice of Y.U.I. telling him to go in...he does of course and...
*Sugo went to jail because one of his employees ratted on him.
*The whole virtual reality online gaming industry collapsed as a result of the ensuing scandal.
*The 300 "test subjects" awoke with no memory of their ordeal.
*All those in Japan who were in school at the time they were trapped in SAO, are indeed now in a special school just for them.
*Asuna and Kazuto are still dating.
*A few friends from SAO (the cast from the first cour) gather at Sigils bar from time to time to reminisce.
*Oh...and that world seed Kazuto received from Kayaba?
its a starting program for virtual worlds. Sigil and Kazuto put it online as freeware and now the web is full of many versions of VRMMORPGs run by small groups, tiny companies and even individuals. All are cross compatible and based on the world designs of a homicidal maniac using the same interface devices proven to have a nearly perfected mind control capability. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG!?
The last scene of the show is all the surviving cast gathering in Alfheim (which has been migrated to a private server ) for a momentous event. Someone has rebooted Aincard...the world of Sword Art Online and brought it into Alfheim to replace the rather empty world tree.
...and well....It looks like Kazuto and Asuna really want to LIVE THAT NIGHTMARE AGAIN. They ask "Leaf" to come along just to add a bit of squicky awkwardness to the proceedings. Then they all fly off thumbing their virtual noses at any thoughts of adjusting to life in the real world.
So...while the first half of the episode was superb, it ends up being an uneven and rather forced ending to a very uneven series.
The second cour saw Asuna largely wasted (though she quite explicitly never gave up). It must be said that it had some really compelling moments too. The self reflection of Kirito as he contemplated the vast gulf between his online persona and his actual power occurred in a couple of episodes including this one and was neat. The fact that the heroes often got by by being clever was enjoyable too. There were some REALLY cool concepts touched on in the second cour as well, but none of them were really explored well. In particular the epilogue just seems waaay too pat and appears to have overlooked a major plot point of the series.
Yes the various Zaibatsu don't control the VR worlds anymore, (Yay small developers! Stick it too the man!) but these vr worlds are more widespread than ever...and all use the same architecture as SAO. If anything, there is more likelihood that some of these worlds are actually set up to perfect mind control tech...and all the players potential guinea pigs and slaves.
The show in many ways had a "corporate ending" with everything sort of reset and fan favorite characters re-introduced and no real development other than giving everyone the in game ability to fly. This will allow games, light novels, CDs and perhaps a sequel, but the show which wowed so many of us with it's character development largely tosses that development out the window with the ending of the finale. In the end the virtual world becomes not a reflection of the real world, but an escape from it...Now that could be a cautionary tale itself, but it is not presented as such here.
The show was at its best when it was playing against type.
Yeah, I was afraid this was how it was going to end, based on what I read about the novels; they weren't willing to go for an original ending, and they should have. Worse, it seems the author doesn't really know what to do with the cast after getting them back together; there are two side stories that take place in Alfheim (one of which is centered on Asuna), but the rest of the novels have Our Hero going off into other virtual worlds alone. And, yes, the author has written a story in which all the girls gang up to marry Tenchi Kirito in an accelerated-time VR, although that one may no longer be canon.
In fairness to The Seed, it's established that only people wearing first-gen VR helmets are vulnerable to Sugou's mind control; in fact, the impossibility of truly harming someone through the second-gen helmets is pretty much the plot hook for the next arc. (and, no, it doesn't make sense that they'd have added exactly the right safeties to prevent abuses that hadn't been invented yet, especially with Sugou on the team, but...)
Posted by: J Greely at Sun Dec 23 03:46:40 2012 (2XtN5)
Yeah...we're intrigued by that bug and we're working on it.
Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Sun Dec 23 12:08:39 2012 (vp6an)
While I haven't seen the anime yet, I've read translations of some of the light novels. I'd agree that ALO is very much a low point in the series and I almost dropped at that point It does get better afterwards.
Two of the major side stories are pretty good. The Gale Gun Online (GGO) one introduces Shinon, another strong female character. Unfortunately it also raises Kirito's Marty Stu-ness to new heights. Mother's Rosario, however, gives Kirito the "more deban" sign to Asuna's lead. Both are setup to the Alicilization arc.
The Alicilization arc turns things around with Kirito being the one trapped in a virtual world and Asuna having to do the Real World (tm) leg work to get him back. Though Kirito still maintains a bit too much of his Marty Stu-ness, unfortunately.
Posted by: StargazerA5 at Sun Dec 23 16:07:31 2012 (5YSpE)
If I'd found myself stuck in SAO, and known that dying was fatal in real life, I'd probably try to lock myself in an inn - I die far too frequently in games to risk "leveling up" and beating the game...
Posted by: Siergen at Sun Dec 23 22:15:27 2012 (Ao4Kw)
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