Sword Art Online II Ep. 23: Catch-up

Episode 23: Beginning of a Dream

  • Hold on.
  • Hold on for one goddamn moment.
  • Kirito… has other friends… in real life?

  • i mean it’s probably the only time we ever see these people so it’s not that important. Hell, they may just be some nerdcircle and they’re not even that close. I dunno. I’m not given a lot of evidence that Kirito is the type of person to be this sociable with people outside his online environment.
  • Well then again this is a SAO surviver school. Then again, when do we ever see these people online hanging out with Kirito?
  • ANSWER ME, SAO. I NEED ALL MY NITPICKS TO HAVE 100% FACTUAL JUSTIFICATIONS.
  • The fact of this situation is that Kirito is using his little invention diddlywink to allow Yuuki to experience the outside world, in this case the chance to attend school. How does that work? Does Yuuki just connect to the school’s server from the hospital? The hell does that work? Is there a Skype call going on? Are there certain permissions needed from the faculty for this to happen? Who fucking cares! It’s SAO! They’ll only subject you to lengthy exposition when they bloody feel like it, ya pricks.
  • Kirito tells Asuna not to make any sudden movements since Yuuki is tentatively stabilized on her shoulder. To which she immediately stands straight up.

  • I don’t know if they meant to treat this as a joke, to make a point of how excited Asuna is to be able to do this. But we’re not shown any reaction from Yuuki or Kirito (or the two cardboard cutouts in the background) to make this a good punchline. They just cut straight to the OP from here. If this was meant to be a joke, it’s certainly didn’t work. Now it just looks like she’s stupid. Congratulations, SAO.
  • So. Yuuki and Asuna going to school together. I’m not quite sure what to make of it just yet because it’s so early on, but I was imagining it to be a lot more about Yuuki’s perspective rather than Asuna’s. So while things like Asuna entering the teacher’s room and Yuuki awkwardly parroting her greeting makes for some light humor, I feel as if there’s so much more for the story to explore from other facets rather than solely the viewpoint of a bystander. Asuna’s really only here to anchor this plot thread to the SAO canon, as it stands now.
  • Starting today, we’re reading Akutagawa’s “The Truck”.” For those too lazy to look this up, The Truck is a short story written by Akutagawa Ryuunosuke,  who is apparently very well-known for his short stories and recently made his debut as an edgy bishie in Bungou Stray Dogs.
  • In all seriousness, you can actually read a translation of this short story here.
  • It’s boring until you get all the way to the end.” Oh, so a lot like what I’ve been watching for the past 22 episodes AMIRITE?
  • RIGHT?
  • anyone?

  • yea boi
  • Goddamn right I am.
  • Anyways, back to the topic at hand, Yuuki is asked to read a passage from “The Truck”.
  • Take some time to read “The Truck”. It’s a good short story and won’t take long to read.
  • The story chooses only to recite the opening lines of “The Truck”, where an 8-year-old Ryohei watches construction workers haul dirt on a railroad truck and wishes he could take part. On a surface level read, this is reflective of Yuuki’s desire to attend school. Which is nice. It’s okay. Hm.

  • You have no idea how much I would love to go into more specifics. I could read into a bit more of “The Truck” and see if there’s any significance to the story’s inclusion besides the surface-level read that I just outlined. After all, I believe it disrespectful to think that referencing someone as well-known as Akutagawa would be purely coincidence. I’d like to see if there is some significance in the fact that Yuuki is asked to read from this short story in particular, outside of the obvious “oh, the boy wants to join the workers on the truck just like she wants to join the students in school”.
  • The problem is that I’m not convinced SAO deserves it. Hell, I doubt the show’s even interested in making any poignant parallels between this short story and what Yuuki is going through. Many of the charitable interpretations I’ve tried to make for this show have fallen short, sometimes in a spectacularly dismal fashion. While this arc certainly hasn’t been as terrible to watch as the arcs before (and I do clarify here that this is by far the best time I’ve had with this show), SAO is clearly not the type that lends itself well to lofty analyses.
  • And considering the way the show focuses on Asuna tearing up as she imagines Yuuki being in the classroom, in the flesh, reciting classic literature at school, I really do not think the story has any bigger motives. This is only evoking the first few sentences of “The Truck”.
  • So I’m sorry SAO. You don’t get any more meaningful analysis from me about this. I’m not of a state of mind to care, and you certainly didn’t help change that.
  • Anyways, continuing on with Yuuki’s induction into school, she’s subjected to the usual transfer student cliche of people crowding around her desk asking her inane questions except it’s technically Asuna they’re crowding around and isn’t this so funny its as if Asuna’s her bouncer since Yuuki’s a celebrity and all ain’t that so goddamn cute are you listening to me LAUGH AT IT
  • LAUGH NOW

  • I AM SATED.
  • And now it’s after school. Wow. For as much as Yuuki wanted to go to school, the story sure rushed through the “actually going to school” part. To be fair, it probably would have been dull to watch. Not because I don’t think there’s ways to make an ordinary day of school interesting, but because I don’t trust this team to actually make it so.
  • I’ll never forget this.” Yeah because they’re not going to give you enough time to forget. Because, you know, you’re gonna die.
  • They decide to hang out more. Yuuki asks whether her parents are okay with it because of course this isn’t going to be okay. She’s wandering alone around town with an expensive prototype talking to herself over the, uh, wait. How is that thing still holding a connection? Are they on a cellular network? Did they have to install a sim card? Did they have to pay for a data plan?
  • Truly it is not the destination that matters but instead the roaming charges we accumulate along the way.
  • It’s fine. I sent them a text message.

  • If you tried that shit with a traditional Asian parent, especially one where it’s not previously established that it’s okay to do this to them, you get fucking reamed. My own parents are pretty liberal on the sliding scale of Asian parenting and they’d still go “call me riGHT THIS INSTANT YOU ARE GOING NOWHERE”.
  • Unless this is my cultural bias talking and it’s socially acceptable for these kinds of things to happen with teenagers by which I still do not apologize because that’s pretty universally shitty either way.
  • And where the hell is her dad in all of this, anyways? Why should I assume that he would be okay with his daughter writing the both of them off with a single text?
  • Should I even care? SAO certainly doesn’t. Why do I even care.
  • So they go off and experience the vast and mysterious wonders of walking home from school, conveyed via a very bland montage. See, I told you I don’t trust them to pull it off.
  • It’s night time now and they arrive at their destination: Yuuki’s old house. Wow. I can’t believe it. That phone bill must be absolutely horrendous by now.
  • You see the camera focuses on these two lawn chairs because the tipped lawn chair represents Yuuki’s SISTER who smells like the SUN and she’s talking to ASUNA who smells of the SUN like her SISTER who is like ASUNA because they both smell like the SUN.
  • GOD DAMNIT SAO I WAS NOT BEING SERIOUS ABOUT THAT
  • and now the other lawn chair will soon tip due to overgrowth, symbolizing that she gon die.
  • oh also the house is going to die too

  • because of course it is.
  • Obviously, being the innate Perfect Waifu that Asuna is, the only real solution she can think of for the house to not die is for Yuuki to marry someone who will do it for her. Who knows? Maybe if the partner is dumb enough they’ll assume half the phone debt.

  • Right. Now that Yuuki is threatening to NTR Kirito’s Perfect Waifu, she definitely has to die.
  • I knew you could do it, SAO.
  • I believed.
  • Yuuki soon pulls back saying it was joudan-dayo, which roughly translates to “It’s just a prank, bro”
  • but she still ded tho
  • She even goes off warning Asuna that Kirito is pretty fucked up at this point, meaning she ded
  • Sexual orientation aside, I can’t imagine a marriage between them being realistic. I mean, who in this species is dumb enough to marry someone that they can’t even physically interact with in any three-dimensional sense could you even imagine trying to introduce them to your parents at the dinner table it’s like trying to marry a-
  • t-trying to marry
  • …marry an anime character
  • oh no

  • oh no
  • ᵒʰ ᶰᵒ
  • Coming back to the scene at hand, Yuuki starts talking about her mother’s faith, since their family seems to be raised Catholic (Christian? Can’t tell the difference here). To which Yuuki laments that when her mother spoke from her religion, it seemed inauthentic. To put it another way, she wanted her mother’s words and not her Mother’s Rosario AM I RIGHT?
  • AM
  • I
  • GOD
  • DAMN
  • RIGHT!?!??!?
  • im right
  • ᶦᵐ ˢᵒ ʳᶦᵍʰᵗ
  • come on someone please

  • thank you god bless
  • And of course I’m being facetious right now. There’s actually a bit of good stuff going on with this scene.
  • It wasn’t the words themselves. Mom was surrounding me with her feelings. She was always praying, so that I could keep moving forward until the end.” This scene is making an important point regarding what Asuna has to do to have a balanced conversation with her mother, and that is to be considerate. Understanding, even.
  • Asuna’s mom is not commandeering her daughter’s life because she hates her daughter; she’s doing this because she cares. And to a certain extent, I do believe that Asuna is aware of that fact. After all, she apologized for staying for too long in the game. She was able to swallow her own pride and acknowledge her own insolence. I think that’s evidence enough to convince me that there’s some nuance going on.
  • Asuna acknowledges here that she hasn’t tried to understand her mother, which is a good realization to have. At the same time, she also acknowledges that Asuna’s mom hasn’t tried to understand her either. In attempting to argue over the facts rather than sorting out their feelings, their relationship devolved into two people talking past each other and getting nowhere in the process. This line pretty much matches my previous analysis about their relationship a couple episodes earlier, so I’m glad that there’s a good sort of consistency going on with Asuna’s character arc.
  • When Asuna asks how Yuuki is can be so headstrong and aggressive, The answer is essentially to fake it until you make it. Of course there’s always the chance that you’ll never make it and you’ll feel disingenuous for the rest of your life and some time down the line you’ll realize that all the friends you’ve made along the way only really like the fake part of yourself and it’ll be the worst moment of your li- HUH WHAT I MEAN THIS IS GREAT ADVICE.
  • I always say exactly what I’m feeling, and if they don’t like me that’s fine! It doesn’t change that I was close to their hearts.” It sucks that this conversation is happening so late. The story never gives the Sleeping Knights time to gel with Asuna during their adventuring and makes all of this seem like last minute catch-up to make the finale not seem so abrupt. But maybe I’m being too harsh. At least I have no problem with where this conversation is going.
  • Hell, if they’re able to stick the landing with this arc I may even say that Mother’s Rosario is go-

  • what
  • wait
  • they thought
  • they seriously thought that these past few episodes were enough to make them besties
  • i had very serious issues with those episodes
  • you cant just congratulate yourself on something you didnt establish

  • thats not friendship
  • thats stalking
  • god sao you were so close

  • You’re late.” Also why on earth did you think it was okay to just text us about your plans
  • Also please explain these data charges.
  • Asuna’s mom is justifiably confused as to why Asuna would want her to get online for a conversation when they could, you know, just straight-up talk right now. But you can tell from her mom’s body language that her disdain towards technology is also influencing her response. She may care for her daughter and do everything that’s best for her daughter, but ultimately she does not respect her daughter. Showing that you can indeed have a legitimate, balanced conversation on the internet allows Asuna to gain some acknowledgement from her mother, if not her immediate respect.
  • Luckily Asuna’s mom relents, perhaps affected by her daughter’s initiative. Unfortunately, the situation is too intense for the anime to make any good humor out of her not understanding how the technology works. Not that I think it would fit the scene, mind you. Just a thought.
  • Asuna luckily has a sub-account ready for her mom to log onto while she gets on her main. Wait, since when did she have a-
  • wait

  • did asuna seriously create a character based on her mom
  • who the hell does that
  • How does that even work, though? I’ve rarely seen any VRMMO avatar that’s strayed too far from the original holder’s body type, or even hairstyle (Sugufa is maybe the one exception but they only did it for plot (and plot) related purposes). They never show anyone fiddling around with any sort of character creation interface, either. Is it just automatic, and loosely bases it on your actual appearance? Then wouldn’t that mean that Asuna somehow got the system to figure out her mom’s appearance? How was she able to do that? Did Asuna sneak the thing onto her mom while she wasn’t aware of it?
  • oh my god why do i even care
  • stop caring
  • Anyways, they both make it online and of course they have to go through with Asuna’s mom getting used to being in a VRMMO and interacting with her daughter in this new environment. To the mom’s credit, she’s taking it pretty well. On the other hand, she’s a grown adult and at a certain point in your life you stop being surprised at everything. Which is still a point in the story’s favor.
  • Reki Kawahara’s idea of meaningful and realistic estranged mother/daughter interaction includes commenting about their weight and how pudgy they look.

  • I mean, I guess it’s essential in a sense. Asuna is clearly a lot more candid in this environment than in her own home, enough so that she’s able to talk back at her own mother. The subsequent realization that she slipped up is a nice touch too. Unintentional as it may be, having their conversation online allows Asuna to speak more comfortably and is a step closer towards bridging the gap in their relationship.
  • Anyways, the reason they’re here is because Asuna wants to talk about mom’s family, and the game’s environment allows Asuna to evoke the imagery of her grandparents, most notably their home in a remote village. Specifically, there was a time when Asuna’s mom couldn’t come home for the Obon Festival thanks to business, so Asuna had to go alone and explain to her grandparents why her mom couldn’t come to respect her ancestors this time.
  • But neither Asuna nor her grandparents were angry about it. Instead, that decision was met with understanding and support since they knew that Asuna’s mom was doing good with herself and paving her own way to personal success. They were, essentially, happy that she’s able to be independent and took comfort in the fact that their home was available for her at anytime.
  • And though the show doesn’t outright say anything, her mom’s defensive reaction towards the statement shows that, while her business was as necessary as she may say it is, she definitely still feels guilty about it to this day. Why? I dunno. Maybe it marked the beginning of a long string of absences due to shouldering more responsibilities at work. Maybe that absence was the impetus by which Asuna’s mom decided that personal success came first and foremost, and wanted her child to be raised the same way. It certainly would explain why she’s so hard on Asuna about her academics and so dismissive of her current personal connections. Perhaps she felt ashamed of her own meager upbringing but also felt substantially guilty about discarding her past in the way that she did.
  • So, by these points, what Asuna’s mom is supposed to realize here is that telling her daughter to abandon her friends for personal success is tantamount to her mom abandoning her own parents for personal success, and that’s why it would be cruel and unjust for Asuna to leave the school by her mom’s terms instead of Asuna’s.
  • Some questions though. In order for that interpretation to be substantive, Asuna’s mom would actually have to have done the things I just outlined. In what way did she discard her past? Did she even discard her past? Does she feel guilty enough to make this a primary reason for her behavior? Is it even a factor towards affecting her behavior?

  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • I dunno lol. I’m so used to SAO spelling out every single useless motivation that I’m weirded out by all the important times where I’m not given anything. And honestly, I’d be completely okay with dropping this whole pretense of “I need concrete facts and statements” if there were more breadcrumbs to follow in previous episodes to better justify all my inferences, but this is all coming in hot and fast in the penultimate episode. The more I try to justify this, the more I’m forced to stretch.
  • I think that’s what ultimately makes this scene fall short for me: I’m stretching beyond reason. That’s because my interpretation of this scene is completely irrelevant to what they’re actually saying. Instead of this being anything about their generational conflict, Asuna instead uses this to awkwardly connect towards some “other people’s happiness is my happiness and thats why im allowed to wallow in mediocrity in this dead end school” bullshit that had nothing to do with what they were just talking about.
  • Okay, maybe that’s a bit unfair. Let’s try this: Asuna makes the point of her grandparents being okay about mom’s absence because if she’s happy, they’re happy. Nevermind that it’s never established whether mom was happy about doing this, but essentially Asuna is trying to say that if her mom’s parents are okay with her disrespecting them to achieve her own success, then it should be okay for Asuna to disrespect her mom in order for Asuna to achieve her own success.
  • That would be a pretty valid statement to make if those two scenarios were similar… but they’re not. Asuna’s mom was already established to have left her village and make a huge name for herself, so much so that she’s featured in magazines that make their way back to the village, so there’s no uncertainty on anyone’s part that whatever she’s doing aside from respecting her family customs is ultimately for her own good.
  • On the other hand, the only credentials to Asuna’s name at this point in time are that she was born into a rich family, trapped in a video game for two years, almost got NTR’d in another video game, and is now in a school that is very unlikely to be taken seriously by any prestigious institution. So basically, she’s established jack shit. Unlike Asuna’s mom, there is a lot of uncertainty to what would happen to her if she were to stray from the path. These two scenarios are not equal to one another, so logically her mom has no reason to accept that as sufficient reason to let her remain at the survivor school.
  • There’s just no way, right?
  • …right?
  • It also doesn’t help that, while she’s saying all of this, the camera is focused squarely on her mom’s butt window.
  • And then we see a pair of ultra-super-rare ragout rabbits bouncing in the snow which leads Asuna’s mom to cry. For what reason? Fuck if I know.

  • excuse me what
  • w h a t

  • what
  • W h A t iS tHis

  • I thought we were being serious.
  • What the fuck SAO. What the fuck are you doing.

  • oh my god why whuoe- hold on i gotta huoueueu-

  • okay okay the episode’s almost over please stop with the congratulatory bullsh-

Addendum

  • 1 episode left
  • im not ready for this
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