Myst: Progression of the plot is clearly of low importance for Sword Art Online as the show has become increasingly stagnated within recent episodes. Another plausible explanation is that the show is just finding it harder to hide how incredibly shallow its plot is. At least with SAO, the hundred bosses on each level create the illusion of a longer story. ALO, on the other hand, can’t hide the fact that a simple rescue mission just isn’t enough material to fill an entire season.
As such, Kirito has spent the past five or six episodes screwing around without purpose. Whether this means going flying with another play in-game, charming other faction leaders at a diplomatic meeting, or dueling with the “evil” players, what we do know is that saving Asuna has barely been the focus of this arc’s episodes. And despite being on a time-sensitive mission to rescue Asuna in the game, Kirito apparently has time to go visit her in the hospital and no doubt reassure her lifeless, comatose body that he is indeed on his way to rescue her.
Actually, it isn’t quite correct to say that the plot didn’t advance in any meaningful way because the final few minutes brought the long-awaited moment between Kirito and Suguha. After what seems like an impossibly long time, the two finally reach the shocking revelation that they have been playing with each other in-game this whole time. The casually included incest screwed up any chance of the scene being meaningful, but something that did come as a surprise was how Suguha almost became a legitimate character from that scene. During the conversation there was one line in particular that resonated with me:
“I thought you were finally giving me a chance.”
I liked this line because there is no romantic subtext behind it. This isn’t Suguha tearfully confessing to Kirito (that comes moments later), but her lamenting the cold rift that had grown in-between the two of them. It is natural for one to want to be close to his or her sibling and it is a hard thing to deal with when someone close starts distancing themselves (which applies to any time in life really).
It is especially difficult for a younger sibling, who looks-up to her older brother and wants validation from her older brother, to suddenly encounter that rift without understanding why. Acknowledgement from an older sibling actually means a great deal and it means all the more when the older sibling begins to close the rift. Ultimately the show came short of doing anything really meaningful with the scene, but for a brief moment there Sword Art Online had one of its rare instances of being interesting.
Marow: When I saw that scene I did not feel a thing. If I had to force myself, maybe “laughter” would be an appropriate description. It was simply bad, boring and lacked emotional impact. It is not that the scene itself was bad; in fact, I would say it was executed pretty well in general and not only being from Sword Art Online. No, instead it was the actual reason behind it that was bad. Incest is something anime rarely seem to handle with care, only leaving a bad taste in at least my mouth.
Acknowledgement? No. All this was her wanting to hook up with her
brother cousin. I definitely see where you are coming from, but I cannot say I share your view. The only anime that has handled this kind of topic well is True Tears. In it there was an actual emotional weight to the characters and their actions. Here, however, it was just “waaa I love brother but he doesn’t love me waaaaa it’s all his fault waaaa” in my eyes. A sad scene showcasing both how bad the writing of Sword Art Online is and how much better it could have been in other hands.
I mean, even the scene leading up to it was painful. Kirito decided to solo the hardest dungeon in the game (I thought the World Tree was hidden? This dungeon did not seem hard at all, so I have no idea why no-one has finished it) only to find himself failing and die. Why did he not panic considering what he had been through before?
But this is not the worst part.
Suguha decides to show up and nearly sacrifice herself to resurrect Kirito for reasons unbeknownst me! He could just respawn! Maybe respawning results in penalties or something, who knows, the series never bothered explaining such thing. This just made this… this… I cannot even come up with a fitting word. This whole episode was ridiculous.
Myst: Kirito’s attempt on the World-Tree was pretty awful, I agree. Admittedly the whole sequence was pretty well animated, but that was unfortunately not enough to cover up the sheer stupidity of Kirito’s hubris. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given the number of times Kirito seemingly solo’d bosses in the first arc. But even so, recklessly charging headfirst into the game’s hardest dungeon isn’t the behavior of a competent gamer and especially not characteristic of someone who spent two years in a death game. Kirito’s always been one to think with his sword, though, so perhaps this is appropriate for his character.
This episode marked one of the very few times (I count three at most) where Kirito was met with defeat. However, because he had attempted to do something that was impossible for a single player (even with his stats), the defeat is a hollow one. There is no learning from the protagonist, no quiet reflection after his failure because defeat was inevitable. In the same way that Kirito’s only defeats in SAO were at the hands of a game master, Kirito’s defeat in ALO was mostly a result of the system rather than any character flaw or decision. Conveniently there is no permanent death in ALO like there was SAO, so Kirito isn’t even in danger of losing anything by being reckless.
A failure like this, where the protagonist neither loses nor learns anything, is meaningless. We’ve already established that time pressure is literally non-existent here, so there is was no reason for this scene to even exist. Though I’ve begun to wonder, what kind of freakish power-up is Kirito going to get so that he CAN clear this dungeon?
Marow: Oh, you probably know the answer to that just as good as I do. He will manage to beat the dungeon with the power of friendship! All the people he used his sword on will suddenly show up and help him. It would not even surprise me if the characters from SAO came back. Seriously, what happened to them anyway (save the series, Liz!)?
Hm… this may be out of the blue, but should there not be a penalty to Kirito’s death? I remember that in episode 17 it was stated that dying affects your “magic skill”. In episode 20 we also had something called “sword skill” which may be something similar. I doubt this will matter since it’s Sword Art Online, but still…