Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sword Art Online - 03

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Oh – was there a new ep of Sword Art Online today?

Before I move on to the current episode of SAO, I just want to vent for a minute about how depressing and tiresome I found the entire online debate about the series after the second ep.  People seemed to turn on the show savagely after a positive response to the premier, and some of the invective I saw against the anime was preposterous to the extreme.  I didn't think the second ep was as good as the first, but that in no way justified the hyperbole I was seeing.  As far as I can tell, a big part of the negativity came from two groups: those who love the LNs and hate any changes, and those who hate SAO generally because it’s some kind of twisted male wish-fulfillment and literary self-gratification.

I have no horse in this race – I want the series to succeed because I think one little corner of the world is a better place with more good anime than bad ones, but I bring no preconceptions either way.  If you’re one of those who dislike SAO, duly noted – but please stop repeating it every week and let us decide for ourselves.  If you’re an SAO fan who hates the changes, get past it.  It’s not just an LN or MMO anymore, it’s an anime – and anime are different from LNs and MMOs, changes are inevitable and not inherently bad.  SAO will either suck, be great or (most likely) be somewhere in between – and I can decide for myself which one I think it is.  In an effort to avoid all that noise I’ve completely avoided any discussions of this ep from blogs, forums or Twitterville – not easy with CR’s 5-hour “simulcast” delay now in place – so I go in having absolutely no idea how this ep was received.

With all that grand pontification out of the way, what did I think of the actual show this week?  I liked it.  Better than the second episode, for sure, and maybe just a half-step below the excellent premiere.  For me the primary emotional selling point of SAO is that it’s real – all this counts, and it’s nice to be reminded of that as a viewer.  No, it’s not a wholly original idea and no, this is not a story that seems to feature gloriously subtle writing.  But played out on a big canvas with big emotions and big events, it’s working for me so far.  I feel as if I’m getting a grasp of who Kirito is, and I feel as if the paranoia and desperation of the souls trapped in this sick experiment is coming across loud and clear.

Things could be said to be moving quickly, I suppose.  We have Kirito as a 48th-level player, and some of the top guilds having already reached the 28th level of the dungeon.  That’s not the case for the Moonlit Black Cats, the small guild who invite Kirito to join after he does them a good turn.  I was a little surprised he accepted to be honest, but clearly, Kirito is lonely and craves the company of others as anyone would.  I think it helps that this is an easygoing bunch – likely a pack of geeky kids who belong to the same “PC Research Club”.  They’re non-judgmental and as importantly, they need Kirito. 

Of foremost importance in this group for our purposes is Sachi, a noob who’s pretty helpless by any standard.  She’s played by Hayami Saori, a young seiyuu who I’m growing to admire very much, and this is as perfect a job of casting as you’ll see.  Hayami-san can play the vulnerable and gentle soul as well as anybody, and her role in the story is an important one (if short-lived).  She serves to remind us that yes, many if not most of the players trapped in SAO or just ordinary people (and often kids) who more than anything are simply afraid to die.  She provides a stern test of Kirito’s self-imposed isolation, and in-fact he lowers his defenses and becomes her protector and shoulder to cry on.  And she gives SAO its first real dose of tragedy that hits close to the bone for the audience.  The downfall of the Black Cats – most jarringly the suicide of distraught guild leader Keita - is conclusive proof that even people with names, faces and personalities can die here – and that they aren’t coming back.

Of course Kirito is going to blame himself for what happened to the guild, who set their sights a little too ambitiously after a little run of success.  He’s guilty of no more than not trying hard enough to dissuade them, but of course he won’t see it that way.  I thought Sachi’s “Gift Box” was a nice touch, if a bit sappy – whether hearing that message, including her last words, made Kirito feel better or worse is hard to say.  One thing that’s not hard to say is that the man who dreamed this all up, Kayaba Akihiko, is one sick bastard – I’ve already come to loathe him as I have few anime villains lately, and he’s barely appeared on-screen.  The “Nicholas the Renegade” stunt especially irked me for some reason – this grotesque parody of Santa Claus as an avatar for a sicko toying with 10,000 young lives for his own amusement seems like the height of arrogance and sadism, even if the “resurrection” artifact was real.

There are those who’ve managed to connect with Kirito besides the Black Cats, of course – Klein (to whom he gives the artifact, only useful within 10 seconds of death) and Asuna – but for now he’s definitely in the “once burned, twice shy” camp when it comes to human contact.  Even new viewers know how this will go to some extent – obviously Kirito will end up teaming with Asuna at the bare minimum – but it still has the makings of an interesting character journey.  I hope we see more of Klein, too, not just because of Hirata-san but because I appreciate his emotional openness, and my sense it that it’s much needed in this show – and the underappreciated role of mentor would be well represented by Klein.  I think he and Kirito would have much to teach each other about their own areas of expertise

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66 comments:

  1. >[...]is conclusive proof that even people with names, faces and personalities can die here[...]

    What personalities? They were as generic as they come by.
    Actually, scratch that; they weren't generic, they were death flags in character form.

    What did you think of the scene when Sachi slept with Kirito? I'm really curious.

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    Replies
    1. I thought it was fine - entirely non-sexual.

      What I'm curious about is why many people seem incapable of discussing this series without being arrogant and nasty about it.

      Delete
    2. Would you say that Sachi had no personality?
      No personality as in Inori (Guilty Crown)?

      Delete
    3. Don't know about Guilty Crown. I only watched one episode of that. It was terrible.
      But yes, Sachi had no personality. She had some generic traits in order to force some drama.

      See, Enzo, I thought it was nothing more than an otaku's wet dream. I've seen similar scenes in hentai and harems. SOA is both, so it's to be expected of course.
      I have a feeling these wet dreams will become more prevalent as we go on, and the supposed "innocence" can only be feigned for so long. That's just a prediction.

      I didn't think I was nasty or arrogant about anything, unlike some people here who called anyone who doesn't like SOA a douche and think that self-indulgence only comes in the form of big breasts.

      What I'm disappointed about, is that you didn't call for a healthy, less obsessive and nitpicky discussion, but for no discussion at all. I realise the previous one was tiring, as it was tiring for me also, but that is no reason for any of us to stop talking or offering our points. Do you really want comments where everyone just agrees with you or did I misread your comments on the matter entirely?

      Delete
    4. It seems to me that you're making no effort to read my comments on the matter as anything besides fodder for your own clever responses.

      Delete
    5. >If you’re one of those who dislike SAO, duly noted – but please stop repeating it every week and let us decide for ourselves.

      Right. What should I get from that? Not that I should stop offering my critique if it's negative?

      No, really. I sincerely asked you in my previous post in order to avoid any misunderstanding.

      Who was it that's being nasty, again?...

      Delete
    6. I can't believe he's saying that Sachi had no personaly. Being "Shy" should be enough to say that she had a personality.

      In 15 minutes we learned that she was a flawed character terrified by death. Then she relied on Kirito's promise and tried her best to become a vanguard in spite of being a noob and the need to train from 0. Stayed silent to protect Kirito's secret and grew up to be a character ready to die at any time. Left SAO with a smile.

      Yet you were unable to detect a personality after all that? How sad.

      Delete
    7. Try and come up with something new rather than repeating the same script every week - how's that? The point is made the first time - you don't have to make the same one 26 times. One might almost ask why someone who dislikes a franchise to intensely that they feel the need to repeat the same criticism over and over (starting before the TV even aired, I might add) feels the need to watch it at all, never mind try and convince others how awful it is - but I can only assume there's a kind of perverse pleasure in it.

      Delete
    8. If I was to call Sachi anything it would be 'cliched.' Sure we have seen her type of character before, just characterized in different ways. I would put the 'shy' Enzo mentioned in the same category.

      I wouldn't call it a 'wet otaku dream' yet though anon. Sure, each series has those female characters that are set to flaunt to some group of otaku, but I wouldn't pinhole the scene of the bed as the hentai type of prelude or something.

      Delete
    9. How can I come up with something new if the show is consistent in being masturbatory, albeit in different ways each time? And why is this evaluation less significant or desirable than one focused on the positive aspects?

      xRichard, your condescending tone is very ironic, all things considered. I'm not going to reply on your... summary of what happened (thanks for that, by the way). I've already addressed everything in my previous comment. It's a generic character trait and the whole reason the character even exists is to die in order to see the effect on Kirito (and I'm glad that some fans figured that out). I think there's a good case to be made on how it completely fails on anything regarding real human drama, but if that was a good way to develop Kirito is up to you to decide. Suffice to say, I don't like this kind of cheap storytelling.

      Snuckerpooks, thanks for having the decency to be polite.
      I think that it doesn't matter how many times we've seen a character archetype before. What matters to me is authenticity (and not originality; it simply can't exist and is beside the point), consistency, and emotional realness. I think SAO fails on all accounts.
      I wouldn't say that *each* series has them (at least as far as the intent goes), and thank god for that.
      Breast size or character archetype (like tsundere etc), don't make for bad characters by themselves. Momokan from Ookiku Furikabutte has large breasts, and it's even a matter of discussion between the guys (as it would be in reality), but her treatment from the author is one of respect. Same with Aoba of Cross Game - she could be considered tsundere, but she's much more than that.
      It's about how you treat your characters. Everything is someone's fetish either way.
      It's a fact though that most anime are vulgar, sexist and disgusting. I'll certainly give you that. And let's just wait and see what SAO has for us in the future in that regard.

      Delete
    10. But saying that characters and their deaths are used as mere devices or dispensable tools to develop the more important characters, and how that is cheap storytelling or a lack of respect for human drama, is a completely different statement than saying that they had no personality or that they were generic.
      I could understand that, but now everyone should ask themselves a couple of questions.
      Does that make SAO a terrible anime?
      Isn't this a generalized problem in Japanese media writing?.
      People are being extremely particular about SAO, and this comes from how hyped the show was. It's now boring to see how /a/ shreds anything that gets some degree of popularity and actively work on breeding as many parrots as possible, a negative hivemind. They have a perverse sense of duty about it, they don't want people having fun with what they watch or read. They all drop in very few words the same (technically valid) critique we've read a good amount of times and expect us to swallow it just because.
      Anyone can copy paste that shit:
      - Willpower and determination are the key. Confirmed for generic shounenshit
      - So much EMO and ANGST
      - Dat ridiculously slow reaction time
      - Sachi couldn't handle Kirito's two years worth of glop
      - Klein wants Kritio's two years of glop
      - /discuss?

      Again, does that make SAO such a terrible anime? Or is all this just a common characteristic in Japanese media writing?

      IMO, SAO's strengths make up for it's flaws.

      About Cliches, Tropes, Archetypes and Generic Traits, I don't think any of these are a bad thing. In this medium, execution is way more important.

      Delete
    11. s2012k1993's comment below is worth the read. Relevant to the first paragraph of my comment.

      Delete
    12. I don't think that being shy qualifies as adequate characterization. It's more about appearance than anything close to actual identity anyway.

      I think SAO's got even bigger problems than the few I've been pointing out. Why don't I point those out then? The answer is, they're not as tangible as a character incosistency or a logical fallacy. I can tell you that the final scene of episode 3, in which there is a close up to Sachi's face and she's saying embarassing things like "thanks" and "goodbye", almost made me throw up. I consider it extremely cheap, melodramatic, not justified at all, and just wrong in every conceivable way. But how can I back that up with hard evidence? It's camera positioning and dialogue, ultimately. I have strong feelings about the directing of the anime in general, but even if I post those, they will be dismissed as "that's just your opinion", which is right... somewhat. I mean, it *is* melodramatic as hell. That's self evident.

      Please, let's not bring /a/ into this. I'll answer to what you're asking though.

      >Again, does that make SAO such a terrible anime? Or is all this just a common characteristic in Japanese media writing?
      Yes to both.
      SAO being terrible has nothing with other anime, most of which are indeed just as or even more terrible. The difference is that almost nobody (I hope...) takes shows like that new incest-harem one seriously.

      >IMO, SAO's strengths make up for it's flaws.
      I obviously have no problem with that assessment (although I couldn't disagree more), as long as the blatant flaws are actually recognized. I think there are valid reasons to like anything, and SAO is obviously doing *something* right... Like pandering, maybe?

      Delete
    13. >The difference is that almost nobody (I hope...) takes shows like that new incest-harem one seriously.

      So SAO is terrible because there's people who take SAO seriously?

      Your argument is bordering a irrational hate to "those who enjoy things that you don't like". It's almost like you're refusing and not wanting to see any sort of positive aspect to the anime... because people like it, because it's popular.

      "Preposterous" is the word Enzo used and you are proving him right.

      I think you should first recognize that there's obviously more to SAO than pandering, in the same way that it needs to be recognized that there's more to K-On than just pandering (I still don't like K-On).

      And please, don't be shy to expand on your opinion on the anime Direction here.

      Delete
    14. Are you kidding me? You asked why is SAO the one that's getting all the heated arguments instead of other awful anime and this was a reply to that. The fact that I have to point this out is rather telling. (It's probably what you wished for me to write.)

      K-On is something completely different. The characters are clearly defined (within the demands of its genre, of course), their interactions are authentic and it has heart. The first season anyway. Not a big fan of the second. This has nothing to do with SAO, so why bring it up?
      I will recognize this: the high concept setting is perfect for otaku (there's probably a lot of overlap between gamers and anime watchers), and the girls all fit in the usual stereotypes which apparently never get old, since this kind of shit gets popular all of the time. Animation and voice acting are pretty good. Other than that, I wholeheartedly believe it's otaku wish fulfillment and nothing more.
      What do *you* think I should recognize?

      I'm not shy. If I want to write something, I will.

      Delete
    15. Just not with an actual name.

      Delete
    16. I wanted you to re-state your opinion in a way I could interpret more out of it by following your own logic behind it.

      I asked if the reasons you gave were enough to say it was terrible. You answered yes.
      Then I asked if those reasons aren't actually something that it's common to the medium and not particular to SAO. You answered yes, and added that most anime was just as terrible or worse but the difference to SAO was that nobody took "stupid anime" seriously.

      By your own words, the people's opinion determined SAO's quality. Because even if SAO shared many of the medium's common flaws, it had to be considered particularly terrible because people took it seriously.

      Sorry but I can't agree with that train of thought. Reasons in my July 22, 2012 9:29 AM comment.

      And if you think that most anime is terrible or worse, why are we even watching anime in the first place? Look for your entertainment other mediums with a better terrible:good ratio. No need to force yourself to watch and discuss things that you find so unpleasant.

      PD: It's undeniable that K-On does pandering.

      Delete
    17. >Just not with an actual name.
      Why, does it have any bearing on the content? Can't you disable anonymous posting since it obviously makes you very mad?

      >By your own words, the people's opinion determined SAO's quality. Because even if SAO shared many of the medium's common flaws, it had to be considered particularly terrible because people took it seriously.

      Ugh...

      By my own words, the reason we are *TALKING* about SAO and not an other shitty anime, is because it's hyped (unlike the other shitty anime). By my own words, SAO being hyped has *NOTHING* to do with its objective qualities, or the lack of them. Its qualities is all I've talked about until you changed the subject to its popularity, all the while ignoring any points I've made and pushing the ones you think we'll lead you somewhere. In vain I might add, since you're grasping at straws whether you realize it or not. You didn't even follow the train of thought, so I can't expect you to agree or disagree on it to be honest. Don't worry about that.
      Maybe I should have been clearer the first time, but I was clear the second one and even more so this time. If you still don't get what I'm saying you have no one to blame but yourself.

      Thanks (?) for your concern, but I'm not forcing myself. In fact, I'm really enjoying this conversation we're having and the comments section as a whole. Very amusing, to say the least.

      K-On is not the issue here and I really don't care what you think is undeniable about it or not. Don't try to derail this.

      Once again, I ask: What do *you* think I should recognize (about SAO)?

      I hope you won't ignore my questions to you this time, because it doesn't make for a great conversation. It makes for an amusing one though, in case you were going for that.

      Delete
  2. I can't really get a grasp on how I feel about this episode. Everything felt so rushed in the beginning and through most of the episode. It was obvious from the start that all of the guild was going to die but so quickly that it felt jarring. On most counts this episode should not have worked with the introduction of new characters just to kill them off and the sudden jumps to the new levels but it worked for me and I liked it. Odd feeling for sure but I am very much interested to see where it goes form here.
    Having the gravity of knowing and caring for someone who died on Kirito is going to be interesting.

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  3. I remember before this episode I saw a lot of people talking about how "if Kirito had told them he was a beater they would have died" but now that I've seen the episode I can't see how that would've helped them at all (which made me really confused about the guild leader yelling at him, sure the guy was grieving but that seemed like a weird accusation). Sure he wasn't honest about his level (although if they were in a party with him wouldn't they have been able to see his level? or just his name?) but really, you'd think with life or death stakes that people wouldn't takes risks like this.

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  4. While we didn't get a chance to get really attached to the Black Cats (other than Sachi, who was designed with malice aforethought to invoke the proper reactions), the important part was it was made clear that KIRITO had become attached to them, and especially Sachi.

    They were, of course, doomed from their first introduction, but thats not really the point, is it?

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  5. The reason for his guilt is that if he had told them his true level then they would have been more likely to listen to his advice not to go there in the first place and to his warning not to open the chest.

    I upgraded my view on the previous episode after reading the impressions of non-LN readers as it seemed more of the sentiments got through then I thought (from bad to OK). I still think it should have been made into two episodes as even GE thought it was a bit worse then the first episode and the chapter it was based on was one of the better ones. So it was a bit sad to see what they made out of that. But as long a non-readers got most of what is going then I guess it's fine.

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    Replies
    1. Ehhh, I'll have to disagree there, the guild already seemed used to having Kirito around in case things got really bad so they might've just said something along the lines of "well then you'll help/protect us right?" Although if he hadn't told them he had already done some exploring on his own then that was stupid for sure.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, my experiences with groups that get a 'ringer' isn't that they listen to him more, it's that they're more likely to bite off more than they can chew, because they rely on him more. So instead of being more cautious when he says something, they're more likely to blithely charge forward, cause he's always saved their bacon before. The group sure didn't listen to him when he suggested they keep doing what they were doing, rather than go into a higher level dungeon.

      I do have to wonder how much of Kirito's reluctance to bond with other people, despite his obvious desire to do so and escape the loneliness, is because being Pandora sucks? This is twice in two episodes that the people with Kirito have ignored his warnings, resulting in their deaths. What can he do to get people to actually listen to him? I don't know, maybe that's the role that Klein and Asuna will eventually fill.

      Delete
  6. Hm, I didn't know that the second episode got so hate. I honestly think that SAO is getting better with each episode. I didn't really find any pacing issues with this episode at all tbh, who cares if i'm emotionally attached to these new characters or not? I knew they weren't going to be here for long, like c'mon.
    Just like how Kayaba has become one of your most hated anime villans, Kirito is slowly becoming on of my favourite protagonists tbh.

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  7. Not knowing anything about the novels or such.. this anime is extremely captivating. I can't wait each week to see what will happen.My top show for this season for sure...

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  8. I have not read the LNs at all, so from an anime-only standpoint I like SAO quite a bit. Being an MMO fan, it was a treat seeing a dungeon raid animated in ep2.

    I'm on the fence for this episode; on one hand I liked how it explored Kirito's reason for wanting play solo. On the other hand, I wanted to see more of Kirito's fight vs Nicholas. I feel copped out when battles happen off-screen.

    My only wish for SAO is to do the Kirito/Asuna relationship justice. If that's done right, I think I will be pretty satisfied.

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    Replies
    1. If you haven't read the LNs, how will you know if they did it justice or not? And how do you know enough to care so much? ;-)

      Delete
    2. Actually in the LN, that battle with Nicholas also wasn't shown. Just that after the fight Kirito's HP was in the red.

      Asuna will get plenty of involvement later. At most, we'll see her again in a couple of episodes if my guess is right.

      Delete
    3. I guess I'm setting my (rather flexible) expectations based on info I get from reading other blogs/comments. I recall some commenter mentioning how the LN explores the reason why Asuna loves Kirito.

      It`s true that I don't have an accurate idea of what should be and my "sources" may not be completely reliable.
      The bottom line is, I liked chemistry between Kirito and Asuna from ep2 and I really hope that their relationship will be explored well.

      Delete
  9. I personally really like the adaptation. This story is mainly to set the groundwork for Kirito as a character in the future. I'm really glad the informant made it into this episode, when reading the story behind the second episode she played a big part, and I was sad not to see her in it, but this episode made up for it. All in all, I read the LN and I love the anime. I guess I'm confortable with them having to adapt it into a 20 minute episode.

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  10. My one critique here was that the whole episode felt more than a little rushed. I have nothing to complain about content-wise, and maybe if the events had been extended into two episodes (my thoughts after watching it) would have just amounted to more padding, but as far as the emotional content goes it would have done better if we'd had more time to learn more. The Black Cat's destruction was undeniably horrifying--the fact that these are real people dying in both worlds continues to turn my stomach in a way that's hard to explain--but I feel that Sachi in particular was given a pretty generic role that might have worked better if she'd been around around longer. I'm left here wondering if she's even going to be worth a few obligatory flashbacks somewhere down the line.

    I think the other missing element here was an explanation of the "Holy Dragon Alliance", which clearly is not above attacking other players (is that even allowed in the game rules?) to get ahead. Maybe we'll see more of it next episode, but this was a stunning development that bears a lot more explanation.

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  11. GE if you could just point me to which forums all the haters gather in so I can provide a well rounded arguement as to why they are all douches.

    I haven't played SAO or read the LNs but I think people who hate an adaptation because it's different (Harry Potter) are just small minded people. As for the normal haters, well male self-gratification generally means that there should be a large number of F and G cups characters but I haven't see any so I think they're just hating on it for not having that and being an unexpectedly emotional story.

    Back to the episode and I thought that the pacing was it bit fast, with all the level switching but the main focus on why Kirito shuns guilds was portrayed very well. There were also a few unexplained elements that will emerge later on I'm sure. And I agree that Kirito's open character, is so refreshing compared to most male protangtists even if he suffered from quite a bit of Marty Stu syndrome this week.

    On Kabaya, I actually gave my university's literature prof/my informal editor a really similar story idea to SAO, except that the character of Kabaya was quite complex, with his situation mired in a corporate conspiracy which is why I can't despise when I compare him to my own version. Everyone has their own situation.

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    Replies
    1. Hater locations: The internet.

      What, you want more specifics? Start with the 60 or so comments on episode two right here, many of which were really nasty and juvenile. Animesuki. RC. Twitter. I don't know about MAL forums because I avoid them generally, but since they tend to be negative even on masterpieces I can only assume it was a bloodbath there.

      TBH, I'm hard-pressed to think of anywhere where the discussion around episode 2 wasn't caught up in this sort of thing. There are certainly plenty who dislike SAO in any form, but the worst carnage was from the LN partisans. With friends like these, why would SAO need enemies?

      Delete
    2. I watched ep 2 on Wednesday because of extenuating circumstances so I only read your review and not the comments as I thought the discussion would have finished.

      After having read it, yeah a lot of the comments are just about something in one medium not translating to the other. Exactly how they should be translated though is conveniently not discussed. May be some of the haters should describe how the adaptation should have been done.

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  12. This episode was freaking awesome. /ends argument once and for all

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  13. is conclusive proof that even people with names, faces and personalities can die here
    --
    I agree, seeing Kirito own suicidal-esque reaction after what happened to the guild and Keita's suicide really made it hit home that, despite the game being, well, a game, its much more than that - its life or death to them - literally.

    And, yeah, as I read more about SAO and the LNs, and then seeing the reactions of due-hard readers it makes me a bit disappoint that people are so adamant about specific things happening and whatnot. I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. Actually I've enjoyed all 3 episodes thus far and wait in anticipation for saturday evening when I can see the next episode. Very few anime have hooked my attention, and SAO along with HxH are the only currently airing ones that I can say I look forward to 100% every weekend.

    While some people argue theres no characterization or stuff is missing its only be THREE episodes. Some anime start hitting their stride around the 6~7 episode, and SAO is 2-cour (iirc) so theres plenty of time for Kirito's characterization to be built up so I don't quite see the issue. If anything this episode does mark the build up of Kirito's character (which is nice) and I'm anticipating and have a possible idea of what may happen in the future (more than likely forming a tandem with Asuna and grouping with little to no others is my guess - and it seems to heavily imply). That and despite being here for 1 episode I was genuinely sad to see Sachi , especially, and her friends perish, and I think that was the point. While it is possible to give good characterization rather than cannon fodder, the writers did an adequate job in pushing forth Kirito's character and telling the part of the story it needed to tell.

    Can't wait to see what happens next :P

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  14. Nice writing Enzo. Agreed on all points too.

    It was a simple episode, and I liked it. It focused on Kirito and the blood game SAO is. It's the third episode and they're building up the basics. Did it deliver in that? Yes. There are also more characters and names appearing: Klein, Dragon Alliance guild, information-spy lady...I like this!

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  15. "He’s guilty of no more than not trying hard enough to dissuade them, but of course he won’t see it that way. "

    In my opinion, the fact that he didn't tell him his level played a big role in their deaths. They were overconfident in their abilities because all of the battles were too easy. Obviously since he is so high normal battles would be easy.

    However, it is obvious if you get swarmed and the high level "power-leveler" can't cover for you the level-difference shows and the noobs die.

    If they knew he was higher they would be more likely to realize it was him carrying the battles and that without him they would actually die.

    That's my take.

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  16. A pretty satisfying episode! I was a bit worried that this episode would be too rushed and would thus fail to convey the emotional impact behind the story, but it shattered my worries. All of the key big picture scenes/moments were captured. Sure the arc could have benefited from another episode to flesh out the characters more and get you attached to them, but the overall messages were conveyed. I'm looking forward to seeing more SAO. Looking at the current pace, the anime might even get to vol4 or beyond, which is good news in my opinion. I would love to see the whole series animated, but I guess that's up to the blueray/dvd sales hahaha.

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    1. Shame one can't edit.

      Sachi was what she was, a likable plot device. There wasn't enough build-up to make her loss as gutting as perhaps it could have been. Though that likely wasn't the point.

      As a non-LN reader, SAO for me at least has gotten better each week.

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    2. I do agree with you - I think why this series moves me very little is that because the deaths are a bit predictable and frequent. Maybe for "younger" (not that I'm old) audiences it would work, but not for me.

      I do see, however, that these are devices to build up Kirito's character. And IRL, a lot of people die and we barely give a damn. (plus points for realism?)

      On different note...I am secretly hoping that the "dying in the game means dying inreal life" is a joke. I mean, how can you survive without eating real food for months? Unless someone is feeding their real-life bodies, that is.

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    3. The bodies are in a coma like state, so they are treated as coma patients. So they could easily survive in the real world in a hospital.

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  18. Instead of being dismissive of the hatters, I'm interested in explaining their hate (not justify). SAO has been trying very hard to develop its main character, Kirito, in a "character of the week" sort of way (Klein in first, Diabel in second and Sachi in third). All three characters are well explored: their fears, hopes, friends and goals. Unfortunately, we, the audience, are led to believe that these side characters impact Kirito immensely, but we are never shown how. Whereas, I assume, the Light Novels explore Kirito's relationships in depth and with subtlety, the anime takes shortcuts. What do I mean? Let's take a look at the third episode.

    Why does Sachi choose to confide in Kirito when she could have relied on her real friends, especially the group leader, Keita? Why was Kirito so accepting of Sachi? What exactly stood out to Kirito that made him want to protect Sachi (don't tell me it was just her 'lie' to commit a double suicide)? We notice Kirito talk about leveling up and the nature of the top guilds at the beginning of the episode. As the episode progresses, he realizes the humanity of the people surrounding him and not just their utility. That's a huge leap and we are left to assume that he changed during the time-skips. As leftover scraps, the anime leaves us with one scene (Kirito and co. fight the grasshopper) that shows Kirito getting along. Thus, what I think a lot of people have problems with are the gross simplifications this anime takes to "rush" (forgive me) through its original material.

    That being said, this, in no particular way, justifies a right to start hatting on SAO. But hey, I'm sure many Harry Potter fans hated Warner Brothers for condensing a 900 page novel (talking about the Order of the Phoenix) into a 90 minute movie. It didn't stop the movie from grossing nearly a billion dollars!

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    1. More comments should be like yours. :)

      And yea, the anime is quite rush. Could have been better if they took their time and added anime original material. (May piss of LN fans more though)

      But i do think that they are rushing these parts so we as viewers could benefit with better story telling for the main story. *More asuna~~

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    2. Time with Asuna is actually the large part of what was cut away from episode 2. So the main complaint about this pacing is that it will give us a lot less of Asuna rather then more.

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  19. Sachi dying...hell the entire guild dying one after the other was painful and hard for me to watch.I thought it certainly had a lot more emotional impact then Diabel dying last episode. After all, they were just a bunch of geeky kids. I really like this series so far (non LN reader) and hope you will continue blogging it Enzo! Based on your venting and the comments I'm very glad I'm not particularly connected to this bitch fight that is apparently happening somewhere/everywhere online :P

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  20. Sachi's seiyuu did a wonderful job during the Gift Box scene. Sappy it may be but still heart-warming no matter how you look at it.

    I can definitely understand your frustration with comparisons to the LN. I think I saw a comment somewhere by a guy who was raving about the first 2 episodes and then bashed this episode completely since it "raped the LN version."

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  21. SAO hasn't exactly been good, but it hasn't exactly been bad either. It hasn't made much of an impression on me. But at the same time we have the people who hyped this way out of proportion (it's #42 on MAL, higher than even Cross Game), the LN crowd who's angry for not doing a very specific direct adaption, and the people who hate the previous two. And while that is generalizing, I do believe that those are three large groups of people beating this SAO, which so far deserves neither acclaim nor mass hate, to a pulp.

    Something that a lot of people haven't considered is that just because it's in a book, doesn't mean it's good. It's much better to judge the show on its own merits than its source. Not all LN's are made equal. No matter how you spin Hidan no Aria or KamiMemo, I'm sure that they'd still suck no matter the medium. While I do give extra points to series who do something fun and creative with their own premise (Idolm@ster and Persona 4's slice-of-life episodes are the generic examples of this), there are also series like Stein's;Gate who choose to leave out parts which won't go over well.

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  22. Agree with your points. I've already read the LN after I was mesmerized by episode 1 and yes, there are a lot of omissions but hey, you can't literally translate everything from LN. I'm actually just using the LN as a basis to fully understand the situation. It feels a bit rushed but I'm still reserving my judgement on this series until it was finished.

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  23. Agree with you Enzo, personally dislike seeing all the negativity around anime discussion sites. Anime is to be enjoyed and talked about, not trying to force everyone to have the same ideas as you. For me, i love discussing animes, especially on eureka seven ao (how its connected to the its prequel and the world, etc...) and what is going to happen on the next episode of code geass. *Seeing all the "FUCKKKKKKKKKKK! DIDNT EXPECT THAT!" reactions after each episode aired was just priceless.

    Anime is to be enjoyed, if it takes away some stress from your daily life, or makes you laugh, cry, cringe, rage (flipping table when a character does something stupid), or makes you come back everyweek to watch it, it has done its job. If it doesnt? As long as there are other people out there who does the above mention, it has still served its purpose.

    Sure, animes now maybe cliched, or have big titties or boobies or wadever, but if it entertains, great!

    If i had one anime related wish: i wish people would stop being so negative about anime.

    Random: If you go out and walk around shopping districts, there are tons of woman out there wearing hot pants or skirts and having bouncing chests, do you start shouting out negative comments around? Would you go to a girl with big chests and tell her that a good girl does not need big chest? If she was a tsundere (there are tons of tsundere around, just that you do not see or hear what they are really thinking on the inside UNLIKE ANIMES), would you tell her to be original? =____="

    APOLOGIES FOR THE SUPER LONG RANT, AND SOME POINTS MAY NOT BE CONVEYED AS I HOPE IT HAD, AND THIS MAY NOT EVEN BE READ. BUT DAMN, I JUST WANT YOU TO CONTINUE ON BLOGGING THE WAY YOU DO CAUSE I LOVE YOUR POSTS!!!

    My take on this weeks SAO episode:
    Did it serve its purpose of developing kirito? YES
    Was it original? NO (Definitely saw this scenerio before....Dislike it)
    Did i enjoy it? HELL YES. Want to see more!!! Just dont do another of this episode again please, thank you!

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  24. Sword Art Online has been exceptionally obnoxious in terms of the larger viewing experience. The novels have been translated into English and are pretty popular, so there's a lot more people familiar with the source material than usual. And expectations for this show were high. So now the internet if filled with people that are outraged over changes made that have just "ruined" it. My policy has been to immediately skip or stop reading any post or comment that starts going down that path.

    But there's been the added problem of the show getting nitpicked to death by people who haven't read the novels and need to know a ridiculous amount of details immediately. I don't agree with you on much Enzo, but at least you're able to ask questions about the situation (as you did in your episode 1 post) without declaring the show an abomination of writing for not answering every single possible question that could come up and going into excruciating detail about the real world situation.

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  25. I have just read The Red-nosed Reindeer and I´m gonna be direct here, that chapter when it came to the Black Cats´ characters I found it...quite lazily detailed, not much different from this adaptation. The notorious difference would be that here it was told from Kirito´s POV in a flashback manner (while constantly mentioning how regretful he was) and a bit more attention added in his obsession to find the Resurrection Item.
    Here a couple of samples from the script, describing the death of the group:
    "The first one to die was the thief who activated the alarm. Then, it was mace-user Tetsuo, and the male lancer died behind him."
    "Keita, who placed the brand new guild home key on the table and was waiting for us to come back, listened to me—how the 4 of them died, how I survived, and stared at me without expression. He said something like how beaters like me didn’t have a right to join them.
    He ran out of the town in Aincrad, and then jumped over the fence without hesitation as I followed him from behind, into the endless void."
    From the way I see it, Kawahara didn´t put enough emphasis in those characters in order to make them feel important, so I don´t think that this piece was horribly adapted (probably rushed) to make a fuss about it.

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  26. I agree with you on this episode feeling rushed. They didn't explain the relationship between Saichi and Kirito very well. I don't believe they were supposed to come across as lovers in the bed scene, but it looked that way. If they were trying to play up the Protector side of Kirito, they could have done a better job.

    I am liking how they are being linear with the story, in comparison to the LN which skipped ahead, then did flash backs. I'm expecting to see a few more of the side stories make it into the main line. They were enjoyable, but ultimately will only just build his harem up :).

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  28. I for one just enjoy the ride :D

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  29. Honestly, having not read the light novel, I can at least tell that content is certainly being rushed through right now.

    Of course, were that I a fan of the light novel, I'm sure I'd be a bit more upset by this; but I'm not, so I can safely avoid that issue altogether.

    What I will say is that the more I see of this show, the more I think they want to "start" the story at a certain point; but in order to do that, they need to cover some backstory first. Hence, the fast pace. As a result, I've had to infer character information rather than being told (a somewhat unfortunate situation, but certainly not deal-breaking).

    So yeah, I think this fast pace will continue for about one or two more episodes before they get to the part that they want to take their time with. And from what they've shown so far, rushed as it may be, I'm willing to wait for that.

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  30. Personally, I'm glad the show didn't spend another episode making us, the viewers, more connected with the Black Cats. Their deaths weren't shown in order to affect us (yet they still did, particularly Sachi's), they were meant to affect Kirito. I thought we got the gist of it: people who are pretty comfortable together, people who hold ideals that Kirito agrees with, and unfortunately people led astray by the overestimation of their own abilities.

    And hopefully the important point that was conveyed to Kirito by Sachi's message was that she knew she was likely to die. She knew that before meeting him, and she knew that after he started telling her she wouldn't. And while Kirito blames himself for her death, she thanked him for giving her life, letting her get outside of her own soul-crushing fear. Hopefully he takes that to heart.

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  31. Disclaimer right from the beginning: I have not read the LN(s). I am an anime only SAO viewer.

    So with that said, these last 2 episodes have felt a bit rushed to me. Even with not reading the LN(s) I get the feeling they are leaving a lot out. But I'm okay with that because it also seems obvious that these episodes so far are only meant to introduce Kirito's character, not be important plot episodes on their own. If the important plot stuff comes along and feels equally rushed I will be disappointed, but I have hopes that they are just trying to get through the intro stuff quickly so they can move on to the meat of the story.

    Enzo, I don't think you need to worry about Kirito teaming up. He will obviously have to team up with more than just Asuna. Unless this story is meant to be him faffing around randomly while other people actually beat the game and save them all, then at some point he's going to have to start clearing high levels of the dungeon, and he's not going to be able to solo the whole thing. In MMO's you can solo raid bosses sometimes if you way way outlevel them, yes, a level 85 paladin can solo Magtheridon, but when Mag was current content you needed 25 skilled players to do it, any slack on the team and everyone dies. The high levels of the dungeon in SAO will no doubt be similar, they will be group content that can't be soloed even if you are max level, so Kirito will eventually need to gather a group. Asuna will obviously be part of it, I think it's safe to assume Klein and tbe black guy from episode 2 will be also. More characters no doubt incoming, I imagine the high levels will need at least 10 people.

    Incidentally, anyone else noticed that even though the creator of the game used those mirror items to reveal everyone's true looks, there seems to be a distinct lack of 300 pound neckbeards that tend to populate these types of games at launch? Maybe this is what the haters mean by it being wish fulfillment, this kind of game being populated on launch day by nothing but ordinary looking people who aren't overweight nerds seems like it could only be achieved through a wish granting genie ;).

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    1. WoW has rather different mechanics then SAO though, so a poor comparison in a way. TERA makes for a better idea of how SAO works as you can actually beat bosses solo if you (as a player) are really skilled. The key is that in SAO (and TERA) so can you dodge, block or simply side step attacks even from boss type monsters if you know their attack patterns and cues.

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  32. You;d be surprised at how many people aren't the freaky-looking nerds you'd imagined that play video games.

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    1. I'm aware there are a lot of normal people that play games, but the people who stand in line for days to obtain a copy of a game that they are only selling 10000 copies of don't tend to be in that category.

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    2. 10'000 may sound like a very small number, but remember that this is a new techology and only around 100-200'000 actualy have the hardware needed to play it.

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  33. Just finished watching episode 3 and I must say it wasn't as bad as I thought. Granted there are still content being but, and the later parts would benefited from extending the episode into two-parts, but if they were to maintain similar tension and pace the length would be about 30-35 minutes, so I guess it would be tough to make a two-episodes out of this side story - not impossible - but the pacing and tension might suffer. The same can be said for episode 2 as well, but there are even more content being cut there and the general feeling of the episode is very rushed, even more so than episode 3, so I would rank episode 2 as the worst yet out of the three episodes aired so far, where episode 1 would get the top place.

    Having read the LN I do understand where all the hate were coming from, as the side story that made up of episode 2 is one of the better ones, whereas episode 3 is based on probably one of the best side story of SAO (mind you even the most mediocre side story are stellar compared to some other LN). I guess the problem arise not so much from transitioning to different media, but more from content being cut. Imagine The Lord of The Rings was to be condensed into one film instead of three, the outcome would still likely be good since there are a lot of solid content to support it, but a lot of content would be cut from it. That's what happened to the last two SAO episodes: it's not that they aren't good, it's just that they could be much, MUCH better. The content that was left out could be adapted to anime and still be able to impress people. The ranking could - and should - have been third, second and first for episode 1, 2 and 3 respectively, and as A-1 demonstrated in episode 1, they are capable of pulling it off. I can only hope that whatever they are planning for in later episodes are worth sacrificing these contents.

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  34. I read the first 3 chapters of the LN as I watched episode 1 and I thought that the entire first episode lifted exactly from the LN. I don't know if it does that for more of the episodes or not (I bet they didn't because if they did, then there wouldn't be so much spazzy hate going on...). But anyway, from a perspective of a casual viewer, I must say that it's very captivating with its quick pace and development. So I think SAO in itself is an interesting anime that caught my attention.

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