Tag Archives: Sword Art Online

Otakusphere (not) Weekly Episode 29

Look, it’s another new episode of the podcast just a week after the last one! If we can keep this up, the name of the podcast is going to become “Otakusphere (kinda?) Weekly.”

This week, we were really busy discussing the first episodes of the Fall 2018 shows. Key questions that occupied us: Should Sword Art Online really be talking about the nature of the human soul? What did English-speaking peoples do to A Certain Magical Index III to piss it off? Should Crunchyroll have some kind of a content warning for Goblin Slayer? (Spoiler: YES). And does Studio Trigger forever deserve it’s reputation for jerky animation after Kill La Kill, even something like 5 years later? All this, and more, on this episode of Otakusphere (Occasionally) Weekly!

Note: The director of Uzamaid! is Masahiko Oota, director of Himouto! Umaru-chan and like half of all comedy anime.

Otakusphere (not) Weekly: Episode 28

After a slew of technical difficulties, thanks to Youtube Livestreaming, the podcast is back! LB was busy having a life this week (don’t know what’s up with that), but that leaves Karen, Sal and Lifesong to go through the Fall 2018 Anichart and pick out what we’re watching. Topics covered include Space Fishing vs. Soul Fishing, feline urban planning, and how we’ve become absolute anime studio partisans after swearing we would never, ever do that.

This is a different format for us, but one that’s probably going to be more workable long-term than posting the edited shows we were doing before. If you absolutely loved the edited shows, where I made an effort to remove some of the dumb nonsense that comes out of my mouth and most gratuitous “UM” sounds, speak now or forever hold your peace.

Sword Art Online: Alicization Hour-Long First Episode to Premiere in Seven Countries

Sword Art Online: Alicization Key Visual

You all have no Earthly idea how excited I am for the third season of Sword Art Online. I have lived and died with these characters ever since the first season premiered and I am already all set for more action with this crew. Thanks to the news that hit today, I’m even more excited.

According to the announcement which was posted early this morning by Aniplex, the special one-hour long first episode of Sword Art Online: Alicization will be premiered in seven different countries: Japan, USA, Australia, France, Germany, Russia, and Korea.

Unfortunately, we have absolutely no idea when or where these premieres will be taking place (besides the one in Japan, announced for September 15) so you’ll just have to stay tuned to get more details!

If you can’t make it to one of these big premiere events, you can still check out the series when it actually airs starting in October 2018.

Via Getchu

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episode 12

In the final episode, we learn that LLENN is an evil genius who’s just been hiding it well this whole time. The fact that she knew that mocking Sword Art Online was perhaps the one way to really push Pito’s buttons and get her to lose her cool shows just how good she is at manipulating people when she wants to. We can only hope that she continues to use her powers for good instead of evil, and the devastating loss of the second P-chan doesn’t drive her to a life of crime.

Just like the Elder Wand will not kill it’s owner, P-Chan II will self-destruct before shooting LLENN. Oh God, I just made a Harry Potter reference, please let this be a one-time thing.

I like the fact that the final battle was relatively short, giving the story lots of time to wrap up outside the game. There was one thing I didn’t understand: why did M bother to take Fuka hostage instead of killing her? I know he wanted Pito to lose, so he could have kept Fuka alive to support LLENN (which is ultimately what happened, of course), but that gives away the game to Pito. Yet when Pito shoots him as a traitor, she does so for other reasons, not because he left one of their enemies alive for no apparent reason. It’s just a little off.

Pito thought she had prepared well, but LLENN knew her one weakness; she had no defense against vampire munchkins.

I’m just going to choose to think that M’s reasoning was “Fuka is too awesome to kill,” in which case I must wholeheartedly agree with him. In this episode, we get to see more of Miyu, the player behind Fuka, and naturally, she’s great in meatspace as well. I know M has this all-consuming, twisted love for Pito, and nothing can change that, but there’s a sick little part of me that wanted him to drop Pito like a hot potato once Miyu started hitting on him.

Goushi: “Thank you for your sexual interest in me, but I only like crazy bitches.”

Miyu: “Have you SEEN me play GGO?”

Goushi: “Holy FUCK you’re right, you are everything I’ve ever dreamed of, you barely-restrained psychopath.”

In any case, I love how brutal the final battle is; it needed to be, or else Pito wouldn’t have believed that she had met her match in LLENN. As I predicted last time (not like it was hard to see), the other team comes in from offscreen and grabs the win at the last second, but do you really think they enjoyed it? You just know that no one discussing the second Squad Jam is going to talk about the winners at all; they’ll be talking about Pito, LLENN, Fuka, and those intense Amazon women.


“We won, but…it feels so hollow…*sniffles*”

I’ll admit, they had me for a fraction of a second; when they introduced the club owner as “Pito,” I actually thought, very briefly, that she really was Pito and all of the hints that Pito was really Elsa Kanzaki were false leads. Of course, the Karen on the show is smarter than this Karen sitting right here, and knew immediately who the real Pito was. I’m telling you: evil genius. Do we know what field Karen is studying in college? If it’s political science, the world is doomed to fall under the thumb of her adorable hegemony.

Hello, cute little girl. I bet Elsa’s rage comes from the fact that she’s saddled with an acoustic guitar; if she was allowed to shred with an electric guitar in a proper band, getting all that aggression out, this whole nasty business could have been avoided. Death Metal saves lives.

At first I thought it was a little convenient that Elsa’s obsession with death was “cured” by one battle with LLENN, but I think I get it now; the fact that there’s a player out there who can match her, and there may be others that she’s not even aware of yet, keeps life interesting enough that killing herself has lost its appeal. I think Elsa is just naturally talented at most things she tries, and she was getting really bored of a life with no challenge. The fact that LLENN can kick her ass was a revelation to her. I fear for what would happen if Elsa met Kirito; she’d probably become crazy-obsessed with him, and then everyone would bitch that the show was all about Kirito again.

Despite her evil genius, LLENN lacks the self-awareness to realize that she’s as feared in-game now as Pito is, and that’s comforting; we should all fear the day when LLENN becomes truly aware of what she is and what she can do. For now, she’s satisfied to run around shooting people with a deranged pop singer in the virtual world of GGO, and that’s a good time for everyone.

Onward, to another gratuitously violent adventure!

This show surpassed my expectations by just being really solid and fun all the way through. There was some food for thought, which I wrote about earlier in the season, but overall, this was a good rippin’ yarn with characters you liked rooting for and action that kept you on your toes. When mainline Sword Art Online returns this fall, it’s going to have some mighty big shoes to fill; well, technically, tiny little pink munchkin-shoes, but you get the idea.

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episode 11

Oh my goodness, do I love Fuka. Everybody on this show is having huge philosophical problems negotiating the line between games and reality in a VR world, and Fuka has it all perfectly separated like she’s playing an NES on her grandparents’ couch, and that’s about how much she cares. It’s glorious.

She somehow manages to delay LLENN by tying LLENN’s shoelaces to one of her grenade launchers, and and uses a knot that would make an Eagle Scout proud. So poor LLENN has to spend seriously half the episode trying to untangle her goddamned shoelaces, meanwhile Fuka downright skips towards the enemy team like she’s playing hopscotch on the playground. Then she gets her hands and feet shot off, but no big, she walks it off in time to save LLENN in dynamic vehicular fashion, all while blatantly hitting on her with as much sass as possible.

Guys, I’m afraid. I think I may love Fuka as much as I love Rindou in Food Wars!, and if you’ve read my Food Wars! posts, you know that level of obsession probably isn’t healthy. I’m making a mental note to address that with my therapist, but the meantime, I guess we should discuss the rest of the episode.

CHERISH FOREVER

So Pito plays with some of her opponents before she gruesomely kills them, leading one to ask her if she’s having fun doing this. Uh…well, yes, it’s a video game, sport. Of course Pito is having fun. I get the point being made– at what point do acts of clear sadism stop being acceptable in virtual reality on the basis that it’s “Just a game?” It’s an interesting question, but once again, I think people who are deeply into a game as violent as GGO have probably waited too long to ask this question.

One of the SHINC ladies who got eliminated makes a mean remark that most of the players left in SJ2 are women, and “real men” would play with more guts; it seems really bizarre and out of place (albeit intentionally) not just because this woman is a member of SHINC, but because of what a feminist anime this has been all along. In addition to the obvious point that most of the characters (and the best players) are women, this is a story of a man trying to save the woman he loves, only he’s powerless to do it, and the only person who can actually save her is her female friend; it’s an inversion of the “only this special man can save the woman” narrative.

Yes, I just called an anime feminist and think that it’s basically a good thing; hell has now frozen over. Hell is even available for ski vacations, so get your reservations in before all the good bungalows are taken.

Speaking of SHINC, they seem to have used up their ingenious plans allowance for this month last time, because they don’t have much a of as strategy for taking out Pito and M. Basically the remaining members of the team sacrifice themselves so that Boss-lady Eva can try to sneak up on M from another angle, but it’s a pretty transparent gambit and doesn’t work. So that’s one more team down. We’re now left with Team Death By Loli, Team Batshit Insane Starcrossed Lovers, and some other mystery team who’s waiting in the shadows until the smoke clears; they seem like smart people.

There’s an interesting moment when LLENN starts to break down, overwhelmed by the pressure. I think the problem is that “I have to brutally kill Pito so I can save her, because she’s my friend and I care about her!” is just too confusing to understand in the heat of battle. She decides she’s going to truncate her motivation to “I am going to kill the everloving fuck out of Pito,” and forget about the larger context. I like this; it’s psychologically realistic to me that LLENN would have this problem and need to simplify her thinking.

What follows is a pretty stellar extended action sequence including jeeps, cliffs, multiple kinds of guns, grenades, natural gas explosions, and crazy stunt driving. My hat is off to the animators at 3Hz Inc., because it’s pretty rare to get a multi-part action sequence this exciting and well-animated in a TV anime. I guess I am now eating my words from earlier in the season, when I kept insisting that GGO just didn’t look fun, but hey; I like being wrong when the result is awesome anime.

“As I lay dying, I have no regrets…except for choosing Barbie Doll Pink as my color for camouflage. Not one of my better ideas.”

I said last time that I would be very excited if LLENN jumped, landed on Pito’s photon sword and then flipped off, and that did not happen; actually, now that I think about that, I think there are some mechanical problems with that. What we do get to see is LLENN stepping Pito’s face and then backflipping off, so I’m still pretty excited; not quite to the level of dancing in my chair, but it’s getting close.

Hello, my name is Karen and I approve of this face-stomping.

LLENN sacrifices the second version of P-chan to get to Pito, so we’re now left with the two ladies with no guns. They’re going to have to settle this with melee weapons, in properly brutal fashion. Meanwhile, I assume Fuka is going to take on M; I don’t expect her to beat him, but I expect her to lose in such a way as to make him wish he were dead, because that woman has a gift.

Well, one episode left, right? I think it would be really funny if the one other team that’s off in the mountains somewhere just sat on their thumbs and did nothing, only to win after the remaining foursome all take each other out in incredibly graphic fashion. In fact, I would bet money on that happening; any takers?

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episode 10

I love how Fuka throws a giant monkey wrench into the drama of this show. LLENN thinks that the situation with Pito and M is something she must silently bear alone, her personal burden, yet Fuka will just blab to anyone they bump into “Yeah Pito is going to kill herself after the game, lol who does that?” So against LLENN’s wishes, the world’s most rockin’ Rhythmic Gymnastics team has been pulled into Operation Don’t Let Pito Die Until We Kill Her.

Post opening, there’s a scene where a team tries to ally with Pito’s team, she refuses, an then they agree to have a cease-fire until both teams are properly separated. Pito naturally breaks the ceasefire immediately and shoots the other team in the back, leaving just one survivor. If this is supposed to be another example of how crazy Pito is, it doesn’t really work, since I kind of agree with her here. If the other team knew enough about Pito’s reputation to want to team up with her, yet didn’t see this coming, they kind of did this to themselves.

I appreciate Pito and M’s silent communication. “Honey, will you please lend me your handgun? I gotta shoot these stupid doofuses in the back.” “Yes, of course dear.”

This is another time when actually playing MMOs would probably give me a different perspective on this, since I have no idea how popular and commonplace this kind of “gentleman’s agreement” is in competitive shooters. However, it’s been pretty clear from the start that GGO is a “kill or be killed” sort of culture, and once the game starts, all bets are off. Maybe that sort of “let’s all be honorable combatants” thing would work in ALO, but it seems like it’s just foolish here.

Pito does let the last survivor get away, since the girl supposedly doesn’t shoot, and she’s not going to bother killing a non-combatant. It’s clear Pito does have her own brand of personal honor, for whatever it’s worth; it’s just inexplicable to everyone else.

“What are we gonna do?” “Destroy Team PM4 with an anti-tank rifle!” “What are we NOT going to do?” “Gymnastics, LOL!”

The rest of the episode primarily focuses on Team Rhythmic Gymnastics executing their plan to break M’s shield, taking away PM4’s defensive advantage, which they do. It’s a pretty neat plan too, although I wouldn’t be surprised if the rules in GGO change to stop bodies from being considered “immortal objects” for 10 minutes, because man, players are getting a LOT of mileage out of that rule.

In the next patch, dead bodies will not function as immortal objects, and will instead disappear immediately, like fairy dust. Thanks a lot, LLENN and SHINC.

As an aside, I like the fact that the Machine Gun Lovers got taken out offscreen with no fanfare. Being a gun fetishist is kind of a bad thing in GGO, because using a weapon because it’s cool probably means you don’t have a strategy beyond that. Look at Pito; I think she uses about 12 different weapons, depending on range and the terrain.

After M’s shield is broken, LLENN moves in to take out Pito, except Pito gets sniped in the head by the one girl she let escape earlier, yet survives. I’m on the fence about whether or not this annoys me; on one hand, Pito was shot in the head (through the eye no less), and she really should be dead. Then again, they are inside a video game, where missing limbs grow back after ten minutes and dead bodies become impenetrable titanium shields; real-life rules only apply intermittently.

We learn that Pito must be using a Nerve Gear, which is probably better proof of how insane Pito is than anything we’ve been shown so far. “You know all those critical safety protocols that VR games added after Sword Art Online? Yeah, I don’t want those.” While she recovers, the rest of PM4 fends off another team, but it’s all for naught; the team has infiltrated the log cabin where Pito is recovering! Oh noes, how will Pito and M ever get out of this conundrum???

Pito picked up a version of the Photon Sword that Kirito made famous, so it’s all good. I know some people groan at the references to Kirito and Sinon on this show (especially Sinon, who’s been mentioned at least three times), but personally I like it; I like the fact that SAO S2 is acknowledged and in continuity here. The fact that players actually learned things from the last Ballet of Bullets and adopted new weapons/tactics makes the whole situation more credible.

So with the rest of the opposition further whittled down, it looks like our Pito/LLENN face off is finally about to happen. If LLENN ends up perching on the top of Pito’s photon sword and then backflips off at some point, I will do a dance in my chair. I’m not proud of that, I’m just saying that it’s going to happen.

Last thing I’ll mention is how I love how LLENN and the gymnasts have decided that they’ll team up in exchange for lots of yummy sweets next time they meet. Who says that girls using submachine guns and anti-tank rifles can’t be feminine when they feel like it?

“Look, lives are on the line here, but I think we can all agree that what’s really important is CAKE. Are you prepared to give us more cake?”

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episode 9

This show has done a lot to assuage my initial fears. From the very start, my biggest problem with the concept was that Gun Gale Online, the game itself, just didn’t look fun to play, and after the last few episodes, I really can’t say that anymore. Personally I’d still prefer to be flying around as a wind fairy in ALO any day of the week, but I admit that I can see why the strategic-yet-visceral gameplay of GGO would be fun.

We get the Pito-Rampage-of-Terror that we were all but promised last episode, and boy does she deliver. I get the impression that Pito is just someone who has an innate talent for violence, like Frank Castle as the Punisher. She doesn’t do any ridiculous acrobatics or make any insanely hard shots or anything, she’s just really quick and decisive and make the shots she needs to make. I hesitate to use the word “realistic” in regard to anything that happens on this show, but I think there is an element of realism to her “massacre” that makes it effective. If she just could just magically shoot people with twin machine guns while doing 15 backflips in the air, it wouldn’t be nearly as effective.

“I have slain your army; please send another. No really, please send another, I love killing people.”

However, as deadly as Pito is, I think the “ten minute massacre” in the title also refers to LLENN taking out about 20 other players. What’s interesting is that LLENN doesn’t want to fight; she wants to take the line of least resistance and slip out of sight, only to resort to fighting three other teams when she has no other choice. I wonder if there’s an element of LLENN lying to herself here; pretending she’s the nice gal who only fights when she has to, when in reality she’s even more dangerous in combat than Pito is, because she doesn’t waste time grandstanding.

I don’t get what the deal is with these two dudes, desperately holding on for dear life when it’s clear they’ve lost the battle. Guys, your dedication is impressive, but this isn’t not Sword Art Online; you know you can just log out of the game once you lose, right?

Now I’m having flashbacks to Metal Gear Solid and Liquid Snake sneering “You ENJOY all the killing!” and argh, I did not want to think about that today. Now I have Cam Clarke’s voice in my head, and it’s probably going to stay there for about three hours. Damn you MGS and your intensely memorable voice acting!

On another note, I’m beginning to wonder if Pito is really as crazy as M says. We really only have his word for it that she’s planning to kill them both, and for all we know, he could be the true crazy one. You’ll notice that for all of Pito’s ruthlessness in battle, she’s very well aware that the people she “kills” are going to be chilling out in the lobby the moment she’s done with them, and she seems to be perfectly happy about that. It’s still entirely possible that what M told us about her is true, but I’m not certain.

Speaking of crazy, some creepy guy tells Fuka that he wants to kill her and then grope her character’s corpse, and uh…why would you say that? I think the creators just wanted an excuse for Fuka to be able to bludgeon someone to death with her grenade launcher without us having to waste even a second feeling sorry for the dude. Incidentally, that’s the part of PVP gamer culture that creeps me out; I mean, I know it’s not real, and no one’s corpse is really getting groped, but it’s just…why would you even go there? I kind of wish Fuka was there to be awesome and stomp over ever creepy player who says things like this, but sadly she cannot be everywhere at once; sadly, we do not live in a world of Infinite Fukas (although I think scientists really outta get on that right away.)

Anyway, we then get a weird scene where a female player hits on LLENN a whole lot, and it’s kind of irritating. I get that it’s supposed to be humorously awkward, but it just drags on for too long. I do however enjoy how psyched LLENN got at the idea of getting more ammo; you can tell she’s become a true gamer now, the way she lusts after bullets.

This is the face I make whenever I discover a cache of ammo in Tomb Raider, except I’m less maniacally adorable and more just, well…maniacal.

That annoying scene serves a purpose though, because it allows a skilled team to sneak up on Team Death By Loli, and then we’re at the end of the episode. Looks like we have at least one more episode of the girls wreaking utter havok before the inevitable Pito/LLENN face off, so I hope they continue enjoying themselves.

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episodes 7 and 8

I decided to do a double post again, since not that much happened in episode 7. LLENN’s new partner Fuka is a lot of fun to watch, especially because she’s a different kind of crazy from Pito, but still pretty darn crazy. It’s like level-headed LLENN is just a magnet for crazy people, and this is something she’s just going to have to deal with for the rest of her life. Anyway, despite the fact that the show insists on calling them Team LF (boring), to me they are Team Death By Loli, and I feel good about it.

Earlier in the series I mentioned that I really don’t care about Pito, and that’s still true; I mean, I think her obsession with in-game death is somewhat interesting, but she could drop out of the story tomorrow and I wouldn’t really care. Now I’m trying to figure out if the fact that I don’t care about her is really hurting the story at this point. Technically LLENN is trying to save Pito, so being invested in Pito’s fate would make for a better story, right? But Pito is functioning as an antagonist in the competition, so it’s not like the show is asking me to root for her.

Pito is not a very nice lady, and probably a few fries short of a Happy Meal. Now if only I found her as interesting as the players of GGO seem to.

I want LLENN to succeed in defeating Pito and M in the Squad Jam for Karen’s sake, but considering the fact that Pito and M could jump off a cliff together and I wouldn’t care, it’s hard to feel like a lot is riding on the outcome of this competition. I imagine we’re going to learn something about Pito’s tragic backstory soon that will make us care about her, but I’m not sure I want that to happen; it would be refreshing if she were just a psychopath, straight-up, and that’s all there is to her. Like the show fades into a flashback, and we’re waiting to find out that her father neglected her as a child or something, and then it turns out her past was totally normal and she just really wants to die in a video game for some reason.

See, I complain that I don’t care about Pito, then I complain that I don’t want to care about her…so what do I want? What do women want? What do anime bloggers want? I don’t know. I think this setup, with LLENN being all “Don’t you dare die before I KILL YOU, Pito!” is clever and makes good use of the premise, but emotionally, it’s lacking.

Why do things look insanely cool the more physically implausible they would be in real life? I’m a sucker for the whole landing-on-the –sword/gun move, and it’s really stupid. I can’t help it though, it looks badass.

I do appreciate the fact that we jumped into SJ2 pretty fast with very little messing around beforehand, but as a result, it seems like Fuka had barely any time to get used to playing GGO. She says that she practiced lobbing grenades for hours, but is that really enough time to develop the mastery of the weapon that she has? After all, the people playing in SJ2 are supposed to be the cream of the crop, people who’ve been mastering this game for months, if not years; it seems a little convenient that Fuka got that good that fast. I guess we just have to assume that Miyu is a very talented gamer, no matter what she’s playing.

Was it really necessary to go for the crotch-kill, LLENN? I think she’s just showing off for her fangirls at this point.

So now we’re waiting for Pito to slaughter a bunch of foolish opponents; I hope the way she does it is suitably clever, because we’ve been hearing for a while what a good player Pito is supposed to be, but we’ve never really seen it. If it involves using one or more members of her team as a suicide bomber, I’m buying myself ice cream for being smart and seeing it coming.

My level of interest in this show is dropping a little, but it’s still enjoyable enough; it’s just not giving me a whole lot to talk about at the moment. I do hope that sometime before the end of the season, we see the girls’ rhythmic gymnastics team at a tournament or something, and they’re all busy on their laptops playing GGO and totally ignoring whatever they’re supposed to be doing.

“Ladies, what are you doing? it’s time for the synchronized baton-twirling prelims! Get your leotards ready!”

“Shut up Coach, we got sassy bitches to shoot!”

“But girls, we’ve practiced for months for this competition and–”

“Oh FUCK it’s that blonde chick with the twin grenade launchers, everybody hide under the truck!” *Cue Massive Explosion* “Damn You, Death By Loli!”

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episode 6

I could have sat down and guessed at potential plots for this show all day long, and I have to admit, I never would have predicted this one. I thought there would be some mysterious, shadowy conspiracy, or an evil villain trying to hack the game, but Karen drawn into the romantic nonsense of two certifiably insane people? Did not see that coming.

First, let’s deal with the rhythmic gymnastics team. Initially I thought having the girls meet up with Karen post-Squad Jam was just a pointless bit of fluff, but as the girls explained their motivation for playing GGO, they presented a good justification for the existence of violent video games in general. Thanks to GGO, the girls were able to become “war buddies,” without the risk or inconvenience of actual war. They’ve bonded as a team, and while they could have done that in many different ways, fighting for their virtual lives together was a very effective way to do it.

However, before you think the show is declaring “Violent games are great! Video Games will solve all problems!” it becomes pretty obvious that there’s a downside; the girls don’t seem to care too much about their chosen sport anymore. They started playing to improve their teamwork, but the means became an end unto itself. I wonder how often this happens in real life; people play games in part to address specific problems, only to get so into the game that they forgot about the problem in the first place. It’s something that’s likely to only become more common as games get more immersive, so it’s an important thing to look out for.

Gun Gale Online: Quite possibly the only MMO where the gamers are actually more attractive in real life than they are in the game.

Then there’s Pito, who’s so upset that she missed out on Sword Art Online the first time around that she’s trying to put another Death Game together. Logically, thinking about the way even the most horrible things seem to become memes that people want to repeat, it makes perfect sense that someone would do this. I mean, Pito and M are clearly nuts (which Karen realizes immediately), but it’s completely believable that they would be crazy in this exact way.

What this storyline seems to be dealing with is how the world would have changed in the wake of the Death Game, but from a different angle from the original series. The main show dealt with a lot of the details, like how SAO kids were sent to a special school for survivors and whatnot, but this show seems to be dealing with how the broader culture has changed as a result.*

I hesitate to bring up school shootings, because I don’t want to get dragged into a gun control argument (and whatever merits those arguments may have, I don’t think there’s any point to having one here), but there are obvious parallels. No matter what we try to do about it, school shootings are part of the culture of the United States right now: it’s awful, frightening, sickening culture, but it’s real. Now, in this anime’s world, killing and dying in real life based on video games is becoming the new culture.

I wonder how much we have to worry about this in the future. Up until now, video games (violent and otherwise) have done little to inspire real-life violence. I’m sure there’re cases where players have hunted down other players in real life to get revenge for in-game altercations, but considering just how many people play video games, that sort of thing is still astonishingly rare. Will it remain so? Are we just waiting on a grisly, seminal event, to get it ingrained in the public consciousness to the point where it becomes a meme, and thus, infinitely repeatable?

This is getting a little too dark for one of my typical anime posts, I think. But one of the things SAO does well, just like Ghost in the Shell, is get us to anticipate societal problems that new technology may enable, before that technology exists. Maybe it’ll never exist; maybe virtual reality will remain as basically clunky and limited as it is now (unlikely, but possible I guess), and we’ll never experience the full-dive games Karen and Pito play. Maybe killing yourself in real life because you died in a game will never take off as a concept. But if games continue to become more and more immersive, this is something we’re eventually going to have to deal with.

I’m impressed that this show brought this problem to my attention, but I think I probably would have been happier if I could have remained ignorant a little longer. So I’m an impressed, depressed anime blogger right now.

Just in case this was all too serious for you, here’s Goushi being ridiculous, because he is a crazy man with an even crazier girlfriend. Come to think of it, is Pito even his girlfriend? He could just work for her, for all we know.

*I don’t want to say that mainline SAO never tackles these themes, because I haven’t read novels. I’m just comparing this show to the other animated entries in the franchise that we’ve had so far.

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episodes 4 & 5

It’s just as well that I’m doubling up on these episodes, because I don’t have a whole lot to say about these two. The action was quite entertaining, but there’s a limit to the amount of times I can say “LLENN is really fast and agile and it looks cool.” Come to think of it, LLENN is so fast that if this GGO thing ever starts to get old, she could consider racing the horse girls on the track in Uma Musume. I even hear that a spot may be opening up….

Episode 5: Real Guns Are Not A Joke

This episode touched on something that doesn’t get mentioned often, and I’m really glad that it did. I’m not really into shooting, but I did spend some time at the rifle range as a teenager and have some idea how real shooting works. I’ve also played video games where you shoot a gun, and it’s very different from the real thing. I assume, as games have gotten more realistic, some have added targeting mechanics that are more akin to real shooting, but in general, real life shooting and in-game shooting don’t have a whole lot in common.

Since GGO is fully virtual reality, the game could emulate real shooting accurately, but this episode goes into why the game designers deliberately chose not to do that. Still, because the option for manual targeting exists, someone like M– who obviously has quite a bit of real life experience– can smoke the competition, because he can bypass all of the bells and whistles that were put in to make the game more competitive.

I just appreciate this acknowledgement, both that real-life shooting and game shooting are different (and probably will continue to be different in the future), and that developing good marksmanship in real life is time-consuming and difficult. Too many people labor under the illusion that a few hours playing a first-person shooter can turn someone into the equivalent of a deadly mercenary, and that’s just not how it works.

All that is overshadowed by a twist ending though, when M turns on LLENN and nearly kills her in-game. At the time, I thought M had just been told (or perhaps lied to) that the SAO-style “if you die in the game, you die in real life” rules were back in effect, and he had panicked. This led me to wonder if M is an SAO survivor, which– considering his military experience– seems like pretty bad luck. I mean, how cursed do you have to be that you have people shooting at you for a living, then when you go to play video games on your day off, you’re stuck in some deranged programmer’s murder fantasy?

Episode 6: P-chan, A Requiem

You can shoot at LLENN, kick her, try to blow her up with a plasma grenade; but when you hurt her gun, that’s when she has just HAD IT with you and your crap.

Fortunately, the show went a less predictable route. Instead of the Death Game rules being reinstated, M is just afraid that Pito will kill him, because apparently that there bitch be crazy. The way he talks about it though, it sounds like either Pito is an SAO survivor, or simply obsessed with the SAO event. I think it’s important to remember that even though we’re not dealing with the SAO game anymore, the whole SAO Death Game tragedy is a major historical event in this world, and the repercussions from that are still being felt. I know people who have limited tolerance for this franchise want SAO Alternative to distance itself as much from its predecessor as possible, but I think that’s misguided; that history is important.

This episode then features a bizarre sequence where either a stressed-out LLENN hallucinates her gun, P-chan, talking to her, OR P-chan achieves sentience. I’m 99% sure it’s supposed to be the first scenario and meant as comic relief, but part of me is hoping the guns in GGO are becoming sentient AI because that would be batshit insane and I kind of dig it. It would also be a lot like the Tachikomas in Ghost in the Shell, further proving my theory that SAO and it’s spinoffs are all really GITS: Junior.

I get a weird Pink Elephants on Parade vibe from LLENN talking to her pink gun while the gun bats it’s eyelashes at her. That’s cool though, I love Dumbo. Underrated masterpiece, that film.

In the climax of Squad Jam, LLENN takes on a squad full of Amazon-like soldier women, using Kirito-like skills to edge out a victory while outnumbered. I wonder if the people who claim to like this show because LLENN is not Kirito are now saying “Dammit, LLENN is just like Kirito, screw this show!”, or if LLENN’s badassery makes Kirito less egregious, because he’s less special if other people have the same skills? Whatever.

At the end of Squad Jam, Karen seems to have come to terms with her height, which is…a little forced, but I’ll accept it. I can see how being in that kind of adrenalin-pumping situation would force someone to reevaluate their priorities a little bit. What’s awesome is that the team she was playing against turns out to be the same group of cute girls she’s been walking past every episode, which means that the girls are using GGO to deal with their height the same way Karen is. Apparently, no one smokes the competition in the FPS games of the future like girls with serious body image issues.

Seriously though, it’s pretty cool that the final battle of this big tournament came down to LLENN, who isn’t meant to be sexy at all, versus a bunch of bulky warrior women who also weren’t portrayed as sexy. In terms of representation, this is a pretty rare thing for anime (and in general), but because this is SAO, the franchise that must be slammed for misogyny at every turn, expect the series to get absolutely zero credit for doing this.

Well, that was all fun, but I can’t say I’m super-excited to see next week’s episode. If the big question left looming is “Is Pito actually super-duper insane?”, then that’s a problem, since I still don’t care about Pito. However, this show has been competent enough that I pretty much trust them to keep my interest moving forward, however they end up doing it.