Sword Art Online II Ep. 14: A Bit Late

I’m likely going to spend most of the Winter season with this show, meaning that my opinions on current anime will stay on Twitter for the time being. But really, I have no plan going into this season as to what I really want to write other than these episodics. Whatever happens, happens.

Episode 14: One Little Step

  • From what I remember of the last episode, Sinon was just one shot from being killed and probably raped when Kirito comes in for a last-minute rescue. We’re already off to a good start, guys.
  • I’d think that a more fitting response to Kirito’s break-in would be “who the fuck are you” rather than, well, this. Maybe this line is just to keep his character consistent, but it’s really not necessary. I’m not in a real need to proven that Shinkawa is still obsessive over Sinon, as that was so very well-established since episode 3.
  • After a lengthy scuffle, Shinkawa finds himself in a position to safely inject Kirito with whatever is in that weird-ass syringe. And being the doctor’s son he is, he knows exactly how to administer the drugs that he knows so intimately well: by raising the syringe over his head and stabbing into his target’s chest with both hands.

  • How do you even end up with the syringe in this position afterwards? He would have started closer to his chest if he was doing a stabbing motion and would have probable held the thing quite differently. But enough nitpicks on that front.
  • OH NOOOOOOO IS KIRITO THE DED’D!?!?!?!?!?!?!? NOT MY FAVORITE MAIN CHARACTERRRRRRR
  • Man, the lengths they go to avoid drawing faces. Also, *insert Radiohead joke here*
  • I too would make a face like this if it meant exiting this anime in a timely manner.
  • So a stray electrode supposedly blocked the syringe from penetrating his skin. I don’t really know how those fancy syringes work, but I find it plausible to assume that there’s some sort of manual mechanism inside the device that stalls when it gets obstructed. I find it hard to believe that Shinkawa, who would know this kind of thing very well, didn’t notice this even if he was crazy up the wazoo. Dude totally believed he killed Kirito right there. This kid, guys.
  • Go ahead Shino, gently touch that manly, bare, hairless, nippleless… overall very unflattering chest. Unluckily for Shino, that electrode is the closest thing to an areola that Kirito’s gonna get. Gods have no need for nipples, after all.
  • I bet he doesn’t have a butthole, either.
  • Maybe I’m just uninformed, but do spines normally curve like this?
  • I thought that you were going to die.” Do you have any idea who this anime was made for, Shino.
  • Flirtations aside, there’s still one thing to be concerned about. Your potential rapist is kind of lying over there. Chillin’.

  • Nailed it.
  • Nothing says traumatic incident like the crushed caeki of symbolism.
  • Shino thanks Kirito for coming to the rescue, only for him to reply “No, in the end, I wasn’t able to do anything.” I mean, it’s not like he’s responsible for dropkicking Shinkawa off of her, right? That Kirito distracted him long enough for Shino to get the radio? Or even saving her all those times against Death Gun? Yeah, he sure did a whole lot of nothing during this whole incident. So humble. So perfect.
  • Fast-forward a bit and we’re back to having Shino face down the three Stooges again. Because progress, you know? In order for this arc to work it needs to convince me that Shino did indeed change over the course of the BoB. Of course, we can’t have everything be the same as the last confrontation. That’d be soooooo boring. This time she has a REAL LIFE GUN OH NO!?!!?!???!?!!

  • Exactly how broken is this goddamn game where only one person acquires this seemingly important, tournament-legal equipment?
  • Also, are we seriously going to sit here and talk about how the Shinkawas turned evil? There are just so many more interesting ways to go about this, aren’t there? Like maybe visiting one of them in a prison and hearing all of this from their own mouth? Removing the actual character from this equation means we get to know nothing, nothing about the Shinkawas except what we’re told by this cold government officer.
  • I suppose that’s fine, though. SAO has no real reason to give balance to these villains if it wants to be the kind of anime that gets as popular as it does. Very clean and simple morals to digest. Kirito and Sinon are justified in their actions and are given all the time to develop. The Shinkawas are morally reprehensible and are therefore robbed of the chance to explain themselves. It’s not my idea of effective storytelling, but it sure is popular for some reason.
  • Some of this information is even rehashed material from the previous episode, like Shinkawa being suddenly but inevitably betrayed by Zexceed’s advice on optimal stats.
  • I wish I could talk about something else when it comes to these next few minutes but it just.
  • keeps
  • going
  • on
  • and
  • on
  • my god can they just stop
  • It adds nothing to hear all this from a detached third party. There’s no mood, no tone, to latch onto when hearing all of this information. And if you actually read those screenshots, the government agent isn’t really talking from a cold third party perspective, either. He’s actually relaying this information as if he were them, all the way down to explaining every single motivation they could possibly have when going through each step of their Death Gun scheme.
  • It just strikes me as lazy, to see all of this happening at the very end of the arc. They spend to much time talking about Kirito and Sinon that they forgot to develop the villain until the last minute.
  • I mean, take this particular bit of information as an example. Shinkawa’s brother comes back from SAO and brags to him about how he killed so many people for real in a videogame. How would you react if your brother just up and bragged about something like that? Fear? Disgust? Not this guy. He idolizes the shit out of him. This is fascinating shit from a conceptual standpoint, but this is really as far as the anime is willing to go to justify what these two did. I’m not being given compelling character motivations, I’m being given an outline of compelling character motivations and I’m expected to be satisfied with just that.
  • Hell, once they start wondering how these two people could be that insane, it’s just dismissed by Kirito as “The dark side of MMOs, maybe.” Like, maaaaaan. I don’t want this to be so straightly cut-out for me to understand. It’s not fun when a story does this.
  • Reality starts to seem less real.

  • Nice of you to contribute your infinite wisdom to the table, Kirito.
  • You know, I want to think that the author wanted this whole scene, this boring, cold scene, to be like a “I’ve known him all this time and I never realized he was this evil” moment for Shino, and that this whole infodump feels so detached for the sole purpose of signifying how well Shinkawa was able to hide his true self, but this whole time she’s just silently nodding in agreement as if she’s already comfortable with the fact that her best friend is a psychotic murderer and a potential rapist. It just doesn’t make sense the more I try to figure out why these things are happening the way they do.
  • At the end of it all, the government person asks Kirito whether he wants to hear him read from a letter addressed to him from Death Gun about Kirito. Bitch won’t even let him read his own letter.
  • Oh man, this letter.

  • Sure, buddy. Sure hope this isn’t the last we’ll ever hear of you. Yep. Sure hope so.
  • Suuuuuure hope so.

  • …what?

  • did he really

  • HE SAYS IT IN ENGLISH TOO. THIS FUCKING GUY.

  • sigh
  • well nevermind that let’s post some more pictures of Lisbeth.

  • aw yisss
  • It turns out we’re in this pub because they want to cure Shino’s trauma for good. Huh. That sounds mighty risky since Shino doesn’t look like she’s aware of any of this. Surprise birthday parties have backfired horribly before and I can see how this situation could go so, so wrong.
  • Well, Kirito is a responsible teenager, right? He’d have the common sense to think about Shino’s feelings first before doing anything drastic right?
  • Yes, because the first thing he does is tell his friends everything about Shino’s past, the one thing she doesn’t want anyone to know about!

  • Y-yeah! Responsible!
  • I take a lot of issue with this kind of approach because it assumes that victims of trauma or people with mental health issues are still normal people like them. That they look fine on the outside. That everything would just be okay if they just tried hard enough to cure themselves. Short news is, no one works the same way. Everyone is going to have different ways to go about their inner demons and sometimes it means that you’ll have to do things that you don’t agree with and sit through events you’d rather not have to sit through.
  • For example, in Katawa Shoujo there is a girl named Hanako who lost her entire family to a house fire and got visibly and quite horribly scarred for life because of it. When you go farther into her route in the visual novel, you find out that she spends a particular period of her life, every year like clockwork, grieving and suffering due to various reasons beyond her control. For the main character this is very distressing to see her suffer and thinks he knows a way to help her. If you actually do follow through with his sentiments and try to fix her, you get the bad ending and you’ll fucking deserve it because agreeing with him meant that you completely misunderstood Hanako as a human being. Nothing is more insulting to a person with mental illness than someone believing they can magically fix something that’s been haunting the victim for years. Nothing is as patronizing, as utterly dismissive, than believing they can just will themselves out of trauma at a moment’s notice. Oh, you have depression? Have you ever tried not being sad? So you’re bipolar, huh? I hear a great way to deal with that is just to be happy all the time and not be angry.
  • On the other side of the spectrum we have a currently airing show by the name of Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, where the main character, Kousei, suffers from self-imposed hearing loss when playing the piano thanks to his abusive upbringing and his mother’s death. Now, this show believes the complete opposite of Katawa Shoujo when it comes to dealing with trauma. The rest of the cast, particularly Kousei’s two main love interests, do not hesitate to pester him, berate him, even beat him (by act of slapstick comedy) for being so “mopey” and “unmanly”. So what if your mother died? Suck it up! Go play that piano in front of a huge crowd like you used to, that’ll quickly get you back to your senses! And you know the horrifying thing? It fucking worked. Without anyone really, seriously questioning whether or not this was the right way to go about it. And he didn’t even have to do it once, either. He had to go through that twice. TWICE. Without anyone really checking if he was actually alright after the first performance. It’s amazing how brazen this show can get about glossing over Kousei’s well-being, and it speaks volumes about what the show thinks about the issue of trauma.
  • SAO falls more into Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso’s line of thinking, in this case, because it believes that Sinon isn’t dealing with her problems sufficiently enough. Even though in this same exact episode we see her quite bravely face her bullies and barely getting out unscathed. But this isn’t enough for SAO. Ohhhh, no. Taking baby steps to fix this issue is not on the table. We have to go full balls to the wall when it comes to curing your trauma.
  • It may hurt you, but I couldn’t just ignore you.

  • Look. The only thing I know about mental illness is that the solution is neither simple nor easy. And it certainly doesn’t have to involve you or anyone else in the world no matter how much you care about them. Maybe all that pushing and prodding (to put it as lightly as I possibly can) was stuff that Kousei actually needed to get better. Maybe this sudden intervention for Shino actually is the thing that will get her on the right track. The point is that I have no idea and neither should the story. I get frustrated when these kinds of things are treated as a physical problem to be solved through the sheer force of willpower.
  • It CERTAINLY doesn’t have to involve Kirito, either, but since this story can’t give Kirito enough credit for everything positive that happens in this show, he’s going to be the man responsible for single-handedly solving Shino’s issues.
  • How? Well, he found the woman who was at the shooting and got her to meet Shino. This meeting then completes the quest and Kirito gains 300 experience points and 200 credits. What a shitty quest.
  • The point is that it reminds Shino that by killing that criminal she saved everyone in that post office. BUT IT’S EXTRA IMPORTANT FOR THIS PARTICULAR LADY TO MEET HER BECAUSE SHE HAD A KAWAII FETUS INSIDE OF HER SO SHINO SAVED EVERYONE PLUS ONE. ISN’T IT GREAT THAT KIRITO WAS ABLE TO ORGANIZE THIS!?!?!?!?!?!?
  • I like to think that the little kid actually has no idea what’s going on and that the drawing she offers to Shino as a sign of gratitude is actually made by the mother and the kid gets beaten if she even tries anything funny to ruin this wonderful moment.
  • Perhaps I’m being too dramatic when I say that these actions completely cure her trauma. I don’t actually know whether or not she’s completely fine after this, and perhaps that’s proof enough that she maybe, just maybe, only took a small step towards happiness through that meeting and thus is only as significant as the beginning scene when she confronts her bullies.
  • HOWEVER.
  • AND THIS IS A BIG HOWEVER
  • KNOWING THIS SHOW
  • KNOWING ITS TENDENCY TO KEEP KIRITO IN THE SPOTLIGHT
  • KNOWING THAT THIS ARC IS COMPLETELY OVER AND THAT MOST LIGHT NOVEL STORIES MAKE LITTLE MENTION OF THESE EVENTS ONCE THEY’RE OVER
  • HOW ELSE AM I SUPPOSED TO INTERPRET THIS

  • CONGRATS GUYS WE FOUND THE CUUUUUURRREE
  • I’D LIKE TO THANK THE ACADEMY
  • PRAISE YEEZUS

  • please dont hurt me

Addendum

  • To put my impressions of this arc in shorthand, this arc feels very inconsequential, safe even, despite having so much focus on Kirito as a character and the whole business with Sinon. I think the arc suffered from having both characters in the spotlight and I would have vastly preferred Sinon being the only main character even if it meant still criticizing how her development is handled. What we got instead was Kirito doing Kirito things, and while that may be some people’s jam it’s certainly not my cup of tea, because his perpetual importance to the narrative as the Gary Stu stifles the significance of Sinon’s character development. If Sinon can’t predict the prediction lines, Kirito can. If she can’t handle facing her own past, Kirito can. If she killed one person, Kirito killed three. If she makes a conscious effort to face her fears on her own, Kirito makes that effort unnecessary by helping her completely. It’s this weird, sick game of being constantly overshadowed both in skill and significance to the story, and neither of them care enough to call out the bullshit.
  • And there’s a lot to be desired when it comes to how this show handles itself from episode to episode. Action scenes, while sometimes interesting to look at, were few, far between, and even pointless in some cases. Which would be fine if the exposition-y parts were interesting enough to counteract that drought, but they just aren’t. Instead, it feels clumsy. Clunky. Seemingly better handled in much more capable hands. Too much time spent in the cave. Too much time spent fluffing around with the harem. Long shots of people just talking about interesting stuff instead of doing it. I sometimes feel like people mistake the act of imagining the kinds of things that GGO proposes as actual things the arc did.
  • Entire opportunities to elevate the story were dropped pretty fast, too. Shinkawa’s characterization is one that happens far too late to be realized fully. Kirito’s status as an androgynous entity in a male-dominated culture failed to raise much discussion other than how much potential this show missed by not addressing it. Sinon’s mom, shown briefly to be deathly terrified of her own daughter for shooting a gun, remains unaddressed to this day. Motherfucking Robo Joestar is still MIA. Everything I thought could be interesting about this show only existed in milliseconds rather than minutes.
  • Thus, it just feels like this arc cheated itself out of a good story. I don’t believe anyone in this story, including Shino, deserved to be where they ended up. I’m given the A points and the B points, but the lines in between become spaghetti to the point of the story saying “fuck it” and slicing its way through with a knife anyway.
  • TL;DR to summarize my impressions of GGO in a gif…

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2 comments

  1. DON’T WORRY YOUR OPINIONS ARE STILL IMPORTANT. I MAY NOT HAVE WATCHED ANY SAO, BUT WITH THE HELP OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU I CAN LIVE VICARIOUSLY THROUGH YOUR REACTIONS TO IT.

    Also, lol’d hard. Bravo. Why is Lizbeth best girl?

    1. because the rest of the harem sucks.

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