Recap: Kirito takes his first steps into Alfheim Online to find Asuna.
Basically, Agil is the true hero of the story. Back in the second episode, he blocked a fatal blow for Kirito. Then when next we see him in episode 5, he’s running his item shop and appraises the murder weapon for the main couple, leading them to the truth. According to the novels and their side material, he ran the most popular item shop in Aincrad, and had the most assets out of any player in the game. He literally was the richest player in all of Sword Art Online, and what does he do with all that money? Sit around and live like a king? Nope, he spends it all on sponsoring the mid-level players, buffing them up so they can join the clearing group and help finish the game so everyone can all go home. And he was part of the clearing group himself, using an awesome two-handed axe instead of a lame sword. They could not have possibly cleared the game without his help.
So you might think like “what kind of dumb loner would do shit like that, he must have no friends in real life”, but when Agil wakes up after two years, fully expecting his awesome bar to have been closed down because he wasn’t around, it’s all good. His wife ran the place singlehandedly while he was in the game, waiting patiently for him to wake up because she knew everything would be fine because of how badass he was. And then Agil finds the pictures that let Kirito know about Asuna being trapped in Alfheim Online, thus saving the day yet again.
At any rate, Kirito logs into the new game, and somehow gets to keep all of his maxed skills from SAO. Somehow all of his items are corrupted except for the gem that he magically turned Yui into in episode 12, so he revives her (somehow) into a pixie, making here even more annoying. Also, he somehow logs into a random place in the gameworld instead of his race’s starting town. Notice how I’m using “somehow” a lot, because the reason for all of these things is “shut up, because plot!”
Anyway, learning to fly has turned Kirito’s Sueness up to 11, and he thus makes his entrance by saving the new heroine (who is very clearly his sister, if you haven’t figured it out by now) from a bunch of mean players, killing guys in one hit and generally just being a smug jerk. Wellp.
Alright, I told myself I’d try to offer actual criticism on these recaps instead of just complaining about the show being stupid. What could Sword Art Online have done differently in this episode to not suck quite as much as it did? Most obviously, they could have tried to justify Kirito keeping his abilities in a better way. Apparently, RCT has the fucking worst programmers in history, since they literally just copy-pasted the entire SAO server onto a new one, leaving in all the character saves in a form compatible with the new game. Considering that SAO trapped players indefinitely inside its virtual reality, this is clearly a stupid and irresponsible idea – one that would probably get the game designers fired (or hell, jailed) in a heartbeat.
A better justification, for example, could have been that Alfheim Online was originally designed by Argus to be an expansion pack to SAO instead of a completely separate game, and therefore used the same save data. Ideally, this would have also been foreshadowed early on in the series with talk of planned expansions for SAO that now won’t ever see the light of day after the incident. I’d still roll my eyes at the contrivance, but having the caveat that ALO was originally a part of SAO would make the whole thing less egregious.
Alfheim seems like an interesting game so yeah I’m excited to see where this goes. It was cool to see that Kirito got to keep his skills all powered up, and nice to see Yui again. To it’s credit Sword Art Online never has spent a lot of time on the more boring aspects of MMO play, instead focusing on the fun stuff, and the sense of adventure. Maybe this is common knowledge, but I’ll point it out for anyone who doesn’t know: flying in MMOs used to be a really big deal. Any old school MMO would have players talking about how they would like to be able to fly, but very few managed to realized this. Even now flight has a bit of romance left to it for me, and Reki Kawahara managed to capture that setting wonderfully.
PvP is the other big thing on the table with this second MMO, and the premise sounds exactly like a game I’ve always wanted to play, and has never existed. 7 warring factions in a pretty fantasy world with no levels just skills? Sign me up! This second MMO fits the criteria of game I would have really wanted to play 10 years ago, so even if hasn’t endeared itself to me like Aincrad did, it is off to a good start. I am curious to see how this world develops as Kirito realizes he is playing with his sister, and antics ensue, but I am pretty optimistic so far.
Desperately disappointing stuff this time round, as SAO continues not to learn from its mistakes, but instead plunges deeper into them. Let’s break it down piece by piece, shall we? One of the things I was most looking forward to about the beginning of a new arc was the chance to see how Kirito coped in an entirely new environment, bereft of the experience and artificial advantage he had gained in Sword Art. Putting the character in an unfamiliar situation and challenging him is a basic tenet of good storytelling. But instead, through a ridiculously flimsy pretext (yes, I suppose it’s possible but come on) Kirito gets to keep all his inflated Sword Art stats and thus is a killer the moment he touches down in ALfheim. What an incredible waste of a huge amount of possible drama and character development. If that weren’t enough, Yui’s crystal magically survives the transfer (despite the fact that every single other item gets messed up) and Kirito is able to revive her from the crystal, which he couldn’t do in Sword Art because….um, we’ll get back to you on that. Anyway, Yui returns even quicker than I expected, thus completely neutering any possible impact her ‘death’ might have had, just as I predicted. Oh and she’s a midget fairy now because those are so hot now I guess.
This is just lazy storytelling, plain and simple. I get you’re trying to create continuity, but continuity should come from your characters and personalities, and this pretty much just smacks of ‘Ooops, shouldn’t have finished SAO so quickly, so let’s make this new setup as much like it as possible’. It also badly disrupts the pacing, as just as we’ve got the wonder of Kirito entering this new world we have to take a lengthy break for an expodump. Elsewhere, the show continues to confound common sense. Why, despite the fact that the game said his character appearance would be randomised, does Kirito’s character look just like Kirito? Why on earth would anybody release an updated version of a machine which put 10,000 people into a coma, and killed 4000 of them? Wouldn’t somebody ban that sharpish?
Kirito shows pretty much no sign of mental trauma upon re-entering the virtual world, which is consistent with his character I guess but also does not reflect very well on him either. Meanwhile, his hopelessly lovelorn sister Suguha shows up just to lounge around in preposterously short shorts for a bit. There’s more to this though – if she isn’t actually the new blonde fairy girl then I’ll eat my hat (Iro’s note: She is, don’t fool yourself). It’s the perfect, lazy excuse to crank up the love triangle angle, generate a bit of pointless tension between Kirito and Asuna and have their cake and eat in regards to our hero being both a chick magnet but also in a committed relationship. It may be a cynical take, but I’d be willing to wager it’s also the correct one.
There’s still hope here. It’s a pleasure to be back in the virtual world, and ALfheim looks to be a beautiful world, one which allows A1 Pictures to continue to flex their visual muscle. I’m also actually rather fond of Kirito’s new look, although the Peter Pan comparisons are telling on more than one level. SAO continues to teeter on the brink, but there’s only so many times you can shoot yourself in the foot before you become permanently lame. Not much time left.