Myst: A problem with any story arc such as the Alfheim Online arc is that its definite ending leaves little doubt that the protagonist will succeed. This is pretty much the same with any kind of adventure story or any story involving a battle between “good and evil”. The ending to these stories are very often predictable, but what makes them interesting is watching how the characters overcome the challenges in front of them.
Sword Art Online’s latest arc is one such story with what we can consider to be an inevitable ending. We know that Kirito is going to make his way to the top of the World Tree and rescue Asuna from the cage she is trapped in. There is no doubt that it will happen eventually. However, what could be interesting is seeing Kirito overcome a number of difficulties in a world fraught with perils and pkers to rescue Asuna before the time limit elapsed.
It could’ve been anyway. Unfortunately, Sword Art Online refuses to ever challenge its protagonist in a meaningful way and opts for keeping Kirito at Gary-Stu level. Starting a new MMO? Doesn’t matter as all of his stats transfer over from his time in SAO. It doesn’t matter how powerful anyone in this new game is, not one of them is going to be able to compete with someone that has two years worth of experience and levels.
Watching Kirito effortlessly toss aside the token baddies at the end of the episode only makes me wonder “what’s the point of this?” Why bother making a world where player-killing is encouraged if there’s no actual danger of the protagonist being killed?
The story really missed an opportunity to make something meaningful out of this arc. Instead of letting Kirito’s old parameters transfer over, having him start at level one while everyone else in the game has already had a head start in the game would’ve been a really interesting challenge. He would have to use his brain for once and maybe even have to rely on help from others. Combine that with the one week time limit before supervillain Sugou enacts his evil plan and you have an extremely difficult situation for Kirito to overcome.
Marow: I have to admit that while I was mildly positive last episode, and to some degree still am, the fact that Sword Art Online once again misses home is really starting to annoy me to the degree that I wonder if not the original author of the story is toying with us.
There is no way he could miss the chance to, just as you said, let Kirito start from scratch and therefore being forced to rely on others. But what if, at the same time, people would recognize him as the guy who completed SAO and maybe attack him so they could brag about “beating the beater” (or the opposite: people helping him)? Potential!
If we assume for one moment that the author is not dumb, a possible reason as to why he chose to go this route is to appeal to the readers. Considering the previous arcs and its often clichéd moments, it is not that far-fetched.
This, however, leads us to the question of what the story will be about in the remaining nine episodes. We do know that Asuna is the goal with Sugou being the final boss. But what about everything in-between? With Kirito keeping the same stats he had in SAO, everything else will become like a walk in the park. Because of this I wonder if not the story will be about something else rather than beating bad guys.
One possible scenario would be that finding the entrance to the World Tree, where Asuna is trapped, is some kind of puzzle. Since the game’s release, no player has been able to get up there, not even reaching the lowest branch. The closest was when five people, with the use of teamwork, managed to fly high enough to take a few photos, one of them (conveniently) including Asuna.
With this tree being the goal of Alfheim Online, there must be a more practical way to climb it. So as a result, Kirito is forced to socialize with other players and gather clues, maybe even having to leave the game itself and search the real world.
Or… I am putting too much faith in this series again. If we are realistic, it is a much bigger chance there will be romance between Kirito and the “new” girl Lyfa (Leafa? Rifa?), something which will result in drama when Asuna is saved. Because, you know, cliché rocks. Especially when flavoured with Imouto love.
Myst: I think that hoping for any kind of puzzle involved with rescuing Asuna is being too optimistic. The author has shown time and time again that the only route he is willing to take is the most obvious and clichéd one.
That said, you bring up an interesting point. What is the author going to do with the remaining nine episodes? The “main plot” of the first arc was incredibly short and I have doubts that the author will be able to come up with anything complex enough to last all nine episodes. There is also no chance that another plot will emerge before the show is over. But with the way Kirito has started off in Alfheim Online the “rescue Asuna” plotline could be wrapped up in a single episode.
I think the key to all of this is the Imouto. You make a good point about love drama because that is exactly what I expect is going to happen. But you know what? This might actually be a benefit for Sword Art Online. It isn’t great, but I’d prefer trashy love triangle melodrama over the awful sappy melodrama that was the first season. Besides, Suguha is already a much more appealing character than Asuna ever was. As you say, a little Imouto flavor is just what I think this stale piece of wish-fulfillment needs.
Marow: You know, is it not a bit sad that we believe Imouto, a newly introduced character whose sole purpose is to lust after her cousin’s body, currently is the best thing with Sword Art Online? While this certainly could be interesting if the cards are played right, it still is yet another typical cliché in an already cliché-ridden story.
The only difference is that Kirito and Suguha does not recognize each other due to having character avatars. Or, at least, Kirito does not recognize Suguha, since her appearance is completely different from her real one along with calling herself Lyfa. Kirito, on the other hand, looks like he does in real life and has the very same name as in SAO, creating no doubts about who he is unless Suguha is dumb. And seriously, nine episodes of Imouto love? It is too hard for me to believe.
Oh, what the heck, I give up. This actually makes me excited as it might result in Imouto trying to take advantage of the situation. Although it is a shame it has to be an Imouto instead of someone not family-related. Damn it, why could not Lizbeth have been brought back?!