Sword Art Online II Ep. 18: The Many Faces of Lisbeth

Episode 18: Forest House

  • This is one of the few times where real life and virtual world overlap in the everyday sense: diving into a game just to do homework together. Sometimes the show spends so much time with its serious, edgy plotlines that it forgets to establish how its own setup might actually feel like a real thing that could happen someday. Futuristic technology in itself isn’t what we marvel at: it’s how we utilize it in daily life that matters when it comes to immersion. This NervGear stuff would be the perfect tool to hang out with friends from the convenience of your own room. Seriously! Think of all the people who’d rather do that instead of actually meeting them in person! We’d have even more shut-ins than ever before!
  • Man, I’m so good at thinking about better directions this story could go, aren’t I?
  • oh hi liz. fancy seeing you here. literally best.
  • Isn’t this the same cabin they stayed in for the first season? How’d they get it back? We better not be talking about how she gets it back.
  • Meanwhile in the filthy real world, Kirito’s bright idea for a date with Asuna is to make Agil the unwilling third wheel.
  • I still don’t like how it’s the burden of the other characters to establish how powerful Kirito is. And Asuna too, in this matter. This episode is already far too generous to Asuna than the last two arcs combined.
  • Sweet date conversations seem to include reminiscing about the good old times when they were in a game that was actively trying to kill them dead.
  • Kirito: “Yeah, my desire to return to my family saved me.”

  • Well now that you mention it at this moment, that means you were thinking this the entire time! Especially all those times when you explicitly weren’t thinking about your family in the first arc.
  • Then Asuna straight up tells us that her family was the farthest thing from her mind. I was… expecting her to be a bit more uncomfortable about disclosing that particular fact. Maybe they’re not important enough for her to worry about that sort of thing? That’s the only scenario that makes sense in my mind. But she’s the daughter of a major tech company president and therefore rich as hell, so this now makes absolutely no sense.
  • Oh, we’re back in Aincrad for this arc? That’s nice.

  • Wait a minute where have I heard of floor 22 before this

  • oh

  • my

  • word

  • im a goddamn psychic

  • You guys ready for Kirito’s Perfect Famiry Part Deux: Electric Boogaloo? Because I’m not.
  • And neither are you.
  • No one is ready.
  • That was a rhetorical question.
  • Please don’t look at me like that.
  • That house is waiting for us.

  • ughuhghgguhghgh
  • So now we cut to… the Floor 22 boss battle? I guess? That’s a particularly unimpressive-looking boss by my standards.
  • I can’t really communicate this with screenshots, but the animation really doesn’t pull its own weight here. It’s basically the works of what seems to be either a limited budget or just laziness.
  • It also doesn’t help that the sound effects in SAO are so… understated, to put it kindly. I’d hate to play a game where it doesn’t sound like I’m hitting something as hard as I think I am. It’d just detract me from the experience, much like what this scene is accomplishing for me right now.
  • What also doesn’t help is that raid coordination apparently includes the stupidest-sounding shit such as “Its punch attack is incoming!” Alright guys, once I dodge its punch attack I’ll hit it with my Sword Attack, which will surely damage it! Make sure to back me up with your Buff Moves while I’m using my Sword Attack that will surely damage it!
  • Okay, seriously, here’s something I can actually explain about how this scene isn’t working for me: the boss is not nearly as threatening as it’s supposed to be because of questionable framing choices. I mean, look at this:

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online II - 18 [720p].mkv_snapshot_07.46_[2015.02.11_01.26.37]

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online II - 18 [720p].mkv_snapshot_07.53_[2015.02.11_01.27.01]

  • This thing is easily ten times the height of an average person, and probably about fifteen times as wide. I’m making these ratios up, so don’t put too much stake on that, but hopefully you understand. I should be getting the feeling that this thing is big and bulky, like a proper stone golem should be.
  • But the rest of the shots place the golem in this forced perspective that makes it look smaller than it actually is.

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online II - 18 [720p].mkv_snapshot_06.51_[2015.02.11_01.24.51]

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online II - 18 [720p].mkv_snapshot_06.56_[2015.02.11_01.16.02]

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online II - 18 [720p].mkv_snapshot_07.36_[2015.02.11_01.26.05]

  • And when we actually do get a close-up on the golem’s body, it’s plagued with medium shots and little else to compare it to. Thus, I’m given very little sense as to how big it might be even though I’m being shown a more detailed look of the golem.

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online II - 18 [720p].mkv_snapshot_07.23_[2015.02.11_01.22.17]

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online II - 18 [720p].mkv_snapshot_07.25_[2015.02.11_01.21.59]

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online II - 18 [720p].mkv_snapshot_08.15_[2015.02.11_01.38.33]

  • You really want to know how to frame an epic shot for this boss battle? Frame it low to the ground and mind how much space your elements take up on the screen.
  • Take this particular scene from Rage of Bahamut as an example:

(Hi10)_Shingeki_no_Bahamut_Genesis_-_06_(720p)_(eraser)_(8A2D953C).mkv_snapshot_11.50_[2015.02.11_01.43.18]

  • A simple change in camera angle can manipulate so much more than you think about an object. Why do you think so many selfies on the internet are shot at a high or neutral angle? Why do you think pictures on /r/prettygirlsuglyfaces tend to feature the ugly faces at a low angle? It’s to emphasize the upper, slimmer, and shapely halves of the body for maximum attractiveness or the lower, more unflattering halves for maximum hilarity.
  • As such, these creatures are meant to be these monoliths, these menacing hulks, so you have to frame it in a way that conveys that message the most effectively. So, you focus on how big the feet are in comparison to whoever is in the shot. In this case, the knight’s horse looks like it fits quite snugly within the width of the brown giant’s leg. Adjust the size of the horse itself in comparison to the screen and bam: you have successfully conveyed how fucking huge these giants are.
  • Contrast that to the conflicting images shown in SAO:

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online II - 18 [720p].mkv_snapshot_07.57_[2015.02.11_01.27.10]

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online II - 18 [720p].mkv_snapshot_07.51_[2015.02.11_01.26.55]

[HorribleSubs] Sword Art Online II - 18 [720p].mkv_snapshot_08.08_[2015.02.11_01.21.43]

  • Asuna alone takes up a quarter of the screen. Problems of inconsistent scale aside, there’s too much emphasis on Asuna being awesome at the expense of the golem being, well, an intimidating boss. That doesn’t mean Asuna isn’t allowed to be awesome – you’re totally allowed to have both aspects onscreen – but the way SAO does it does not convey such a thing. While Asuna is allowed to show her whole body on the screen, the golem is either cut off at important parts by the camera (especially the leg, which is the only good indicator of its size compared to Asuna) or blocked from our vision via dust clouds and explosions. We’re never allowed to see the entire golem in comparison to Asuna’s figure.
  • Thus, none of what is shown of the golem gives us an immediate idea how big it is. And the thing I’m really getting at with this extremely long tangent is the immediacy. Size shouldn’t have to be argued over when it comes to showing an epic boss battle. I had to piece together its size by pausing the video altogether and comparing screenshots of the golem’s different body parts. In another instance this could have been an effective technique to subtly convey size, but I doubt that SAO is trying to be subtle or deceptive about this.
  • And perhaps I’m just missing the point. The scope of the story has clearly switched over to Asuna rather than Kirito, so it might be more important to make up for lost screentime by showcasing her long-lost prowess as a fencer

  • Now where have I heard that before…
  • So the reward for beating Zekken is an Original Sword Skill, you know, that thing which allows Kirito to dual wield. And you know why that’s awesome? Because it’s an eleven hit combo!
  • So why is eleven hits so important?
  • uh
  • uhhhhh
  • oh shit
  • better backtrack a bit uhhhhhhhh
  • you know that one salamander dude
  • yeah that guy
  • his combo is only eight hits yeah
  • what a weakass CHECK OUT THIS ELEVEN HIT COMBO SWORD SKILL Y’ALL
  • But how powerful is Zekken really? Let’s say that the girls have already dueled them. Which is pointless, because we already know that they’re weak. Sorry Liz.

 

  • Death flag confirmed. No one is allowed to outkirito Kirito.

Addendum

  • I’ll try to get back to weekly posts after this. Caliburn had me stuck for a long time because I was so disinterested in talking about it word for word.
  • Besides, there’s stuff in here that I’m genuinely interested in seeing develop. It’ll disappoint me anyways, but I can always talk about p o t e n t i a l, now can’t I?
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One comment

  1. Did you watch it all?!

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