Tag Archives: Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episode 3

LLENN’s face in the picture above kind of mirrors my feelings on this episode. I appreciate what the show has done– starting us out in media res for the first episode, then carefully explaining who these people are and what they’re doing– but it’s taking a little too long. I think half of this episode could have been spent on the material covered here, and then we could have gotten back to the Squad Jam, where the action is happening. Too much time in this episode is spent going over the mechanics of the game, most of which we already knew from seeing it in action during episode 1.

On the subject of Squad Jam, I have mixed feelings about the origin of the tournament that we’re given here. Apparently SJ came about because someone was so inspired by Kirito and Sinon’s cooperation during the Ballet of Bullets* that he wanted to see a whole tournament based around team play. I appreciate the reference to the mainline SAO story, but uh…someone really needed to see Kirito and Sinon work together to get the inspiration for team-based play in a shooter? How anti-social is the playerbase of GGO that “Hey, maybe we could have a tournament featuring teams that work together,” is treated as some kind of innovative suggestion? You would think they would just do that as a matter of course.

I appreciate getting more insight into Karen’s life (and not just because we have the same name), but I’m not sure what to make about her fangirling over her favorite singer in this episode. Writing the fan letter seems like an immature thing to do, but then again, she is a fairly young girl; I think I’m making the mistake of assuming that because she’s tall and looks mature, she must therefore be mature. If that was the intention, wow, way to mess with me on a meta-level, show.

Anyway, I’m impatient for them to get back to the Squad Jam, not so much because I want to see it, but more to get it over with so the show can move on to other things. I’m pretty sure there’s a compelling plot in here somewhere, and I’d like to be introduced to it one of these days.

*I know CR calls it the Bullet of Bullets, but I refuse to accept that. It’s the Ballet of Bullets until Reki Kawahara personally tells me otherwise.*

 

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episode Two

There’s some good news: this episode provides a clear answer to the main question I’ve had about this show all along, which is “Why doesn’t Karen just play ALO?” The bad news is it’s a stupid answer.

Apparently, in 2025, avatar customization options do not exist in MMORPGs, and you are stuck with random character rolls. So Karen (player of the LLENN avatar) starts playing Gun Gale Online because it’s the first game where she rolls a short, cute avatar. That is literally the only reason why she starts playing; she rolled a short character.

Okay, I don’t have a problem with the fact that Karen wanted to play someone short and cute (more on that later), but how, in 2025, do they not have any avatar customization options in any of these games? Why can’t she just choose to play a short character in ALO, or whatever game she wants? This seems like a really obvious feature to be missing from games in the SAO world.

This shot bugs me because I’ve had the maxim “never point your gun at anything you don’t intend to destroy” drilled into my head, and it looks especially wrong to break this rule at a shooting range, where gun safety etiquette is paramount. I know that this is a virtual shooting range in a video game and no one is actually at risk, but something about it still kind of bugs me. Don’t use GGO to teach bad gun etiquette, world of 2025!

If you want to overthink it (who? me?), it could have something to do with how Sword Art Online started, in-universe. That game did have avatar customization, which was then undone by the villain once the Death Game plan was revealed, leaving people effectively naked without their chosen avatars. So it could be that in MMO culture in this world, avatar customization options are associated with  SAO because that’s the last time they were used, and no one wants to be reminded of that. Maybe it’s a superstitious thing, like the way some buildings don’t include a 13th floor. Alternately, it could just be that for some reason, the people developing these games all decided at some point that rolling random avatars was the best way to keep everybody honest, rather than letting people stack the deck in various ways.

Really, I would accept many explanations for why there’s no customization in GGO or any of these other “advanced” MMORPGs; I’m just a little ticked that we don’t get one at all. This is probably one of those things where I have to go read the novel for it to make sense, right?

Anyway, back to Karen’s desire to play as a short character, that I don’t have any problem with. As a six-foot-tall woman in Japan, she’s used to standing out, and she wants to use VR to experience the other side of the coin for once. Also, her comments early in the episode to the effect of “if only I were small and cute…” can actually be interpreted as a tiny bit of commentary on moe as a phenomenon. Just as seeing women with thin bodies held up as the standard in art and advertising can upset women with stockier builds (whether it should or not, or whether it should to the extent that it often does is another story), seeing women with small bodies as the standard can be upsetting if you happen to be really tall.

Tao Okamoto, the actress who played Mariko Yashida in The Wolverine, said that she always felt out of place as a tall Japanese girl, so she related to the story of the mutants in the X-Men movies. Now remember that Karen is supposed to be several inches taller than Okamoto is, and imagine how she must feel.

Also, it’s not just a cosmetic difference. Karen is used to bumping her head on signs and always being seen, wherever she goes; as the tiny LLENN, not only is she extraordinarily agile, but she can hide from other players with ease. It’s not just about being small and cute, it’s about choosing when and if people see her, after feeling like she’s been on display for her whole life. I can see why that experience would be liberating for her, and would make the game more addictive.

So I’m definitely on board with Karen’s motivations for playing the game and playing the way that she does, but I’m still not sure if I have that much interest beyond that. In addition to introducing Karen and LLENN properly, this episode also introduces Pito, another female GGO player with a penchant for PVP combat. I think I’m supposed to be anticipating the inevitable LLENN vs. Pito fight, but so far, I really don’t care about Pito. Funny note: I just dropped into Wikipedia to double-check what Pito’s name was, Wikipedia spoiled me as to Pito’s true identity (which is exactly what I thought it was), and I still don’t care about her.

Trying to work up the energy to care about Pito…trying again…caring engines at maximum thrust…Imma givin’ ’em all I can, Captain…nope just don’t care nope nope nope

Plus, GGO just looks so boring to play. At least the PVE campaign looks action-packed, but once LLENN “graduates” to PVP, she seems to spend most of her time sitting around in the desert, waiting for targets to show up. If you’re watching an anime about a video game, I think it helps if it looks like a game you’d actually like to play; then again, maybe it’s just me? Maybe a lot of viewers would love to play a game like GGO, and I’m the only one with this problem?

Anyway, I’m interested enough to keep tuning in and see what Karen/LLENN are up to next week, but for me to really get into this show, either it has to introduce more than one character that I care about, or the action has to get more interesting; or hey, even both. I wouldn’t say no to both.

Otakusphere Weekly #13: Sword Art Online

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In our first “Let’s look back and talk about an anime we all think was significant” episode, we discuss Sword Art Online, warts and all. We also bid farewell to a bunch of shows including And You Thought There Was Never A Girl Online, High School Fleet, Cerberus (sniff), Anne-Happy (sniff), and Pan de Peace (no sniff.)

…and that’s all I’ve got this week. Normally I try to tease a bunch of stuff we talked about to get you to listen to the episode, but it’s been a rough day and I just want to take a nap. Do I come to your house and say mean things about your podcast? No, I don’t, so what are you doing here? What do you mean you’re not in my house? If it’s not you, then who’s in my house? Do they have cake?

On second thought, screw this anime nonsense, I’m starting a podcast all about cake. The answer was right in front of me all along.

00:00:25 Sword Art Online discussion: what makes the show interesting, where does it falter, and why is it so hated by anime bloggers in particular?

SENPAI LEAGUE
00:43:38 Shonen Maid 11
00:49:19 Kiznaiver 12 (END)
00:59:25 Re:Zero 13
01:04:14 Macross Delta 13
01:08:41 And You Thought There Was Never A Girl Online 12 (END)

KOHAI LEAGUE
01:19:30 High School Fleet 12 (END)
01:23:38 Anne-Happy 12 (END)
01:26:47 Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto 11
01:34:09 Tanaka-kun is Always Listless 12 (END)
01:36:45 Cerberus 12 (END)

chibi leage
01:41:37 Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou (END)
01:45:11 Space Patrol Luluco 13 (END)
01:51:34 Pan de Peace (END)

Notes:

  1. I wrote a piece a few years back picking apart the various fan complaints with SAO, so if you want to see some things addressed that we only touched on in the podcast, give it a whirl. I had no idea until just now, but people are still leaving comments on it.
  2. We recorded this just before AX, thus before the announcement that the SAO TV series was continuing in Spring 2017. So if you’re wondering why we seem confused about when/if SAO was coming back, it’s because we didn’t know until a day or two later.

Sword Art Online II, Ep. 2: Sniper chaps

Sinon1Really, all there is to say about this episode is “Wow, Sinon is a badass, huh?” That’s not such a bad thing; considering she’s clearly going to be very important in the GGO arc, spending an episode introducing her is reasonable. But beyond wondering what a seemingly honorable girl like Sinon is doing with a bunch of thugs who steal other players’ virtual lunch money, I didn’t have many thoughts on this episode.

I just took it as an excuse to draw Chibi-Sinon above, which I have mixed feelings about: On the one hand, Sinon is fun to draw, but on the other, if I ever want to do a “serious” drawing of her, I’ll have to learn how to draw all her damn guns. And rifles with long barrels require actual rulers and everything. Dammit.

Oh, and I hear the “criticism” of this episode was that “no one would really take video games that seriously.” I’m just…what? Really? You really can’t imagine people taking a game super-seriously? People already treat the console war metagame as though it were a matter of life and death, but thinking that virtual-reality assassins would be really absorbed into their VR game is just crossing a line?

Wow.

Hopefully next time I’ll have something to say about SAO II, since I’m assuming Kirito enters a new world and tries to bring a sword to a gunfight, or something. I hear you’re really, really not supposed to do that.

Sword Art Online II, Ep. 1: Dating for nerds

KiritoAsunaSo, Sword Art Online kicked off another season. Not much happens in this first episode, but the mystery of “How are people being killed in a videogame THIS TIME?” is compelling enough to keep me interested.

I only have a few thoughts on this episode so far, so I figured I’d just dash them off in devil-may-care note format. A rebel is me! Continue reading Sword Art Online II, Ep. 1: Dating for nerds

On Sword Art Online 24

I noted a couple of months ago in response to the accusations that My Little Monster perpetuated rape culture that I acknowledged that rape culture was a real problem, just that I didn’t feel Monster-kun was one of the perpetrators. I’m beginning to wonder if I was premature on that.

I knew when I watched SAO 24 that people were going to say it perpetuated rape culture; what surprised me is, the more I thought about it, the more I realized there was absolutely nothing SAO 24 could have done that couldn’t have been, with a fair amount of legitimacy, accused of that. There is literally nothing the writers could have done that you could not make a rational argument was harmful for the reasons of perpetuating rape culture. I continue to believe there are trends in the media that popularize false, harmful ideas about rape, but in light of this situation, I don’t know if the term “rape culture” is even useful.

Continue reading On Sword Art Online 24

Study Finds Sword Art Online Viewers Most Polarized

A new study released by the Otakusphere Anime Foundation (OAF) has found that viewers of the show Sword Art Online represent, perhaps, the most polarized group currently extant; more so than one finds in the cases of deeply religious people vs. atheists, different warring factions in the Middle East, or people who think that the last two episodes of the Evangelion TV series were a valid artistic statement versus the people who think the former group needs to look up the definition of the word “pretentious” in the dictionary.

“We’ve found that there is no group more set in their ways, no group less capable of acknowledging their shared humanity, than viewers of SAO: the fans, and the people who aren’t fans but nevertheless watch it every week for some reason,” said a researcher who did not wish to be named for fear of reprisals. “In the trials, it reached the point where just saying Asuna’s name would lead to savage fights over territory. On the team, we started referring to her by the code name ‘General Butterscotch’ just to avoid that.”

Continue reading Study Finds Sword Art Online Viewers Most Polarized