Sword Art Online: Episode 18

Recap: Leafa and Kirito begin their journey to Yggdrasil as Asuna plots her own escape.

Iro’s Thoughts:
Not a lot happens this episode, since it’s mostly buildup to the actual plot. ALO apparently has very strange mechanics for its races, if just straying outside of your home race’s territory seemingly brands you as a renegade, making you free pickings for everyone else. At any rate, Leafa sees it fit to ditch her party to hang out with the guy she met just yesterday, but it’s all good since she was about as important to her party as Silica was to her’s. She takes Kirito shopping (and apparently while all his items got corrupted, his money (I thought he spent it all on the house on the 22nd floor?) merely transformed into new money, because plot), and they take off for Yggdrasil. Also, she’s a huge bitch to a guy who really doesn’t deserve it and gets a bunch of really creepy and fetishistic fanservice shots.

Meanwhile, Sugou continues to be a huge creep. Now, while I’m not necessarily against having your villains be huge creeps, Sword Art Online puts no effort towards making Sugou believable as an antagonist. You’re not supposed to like this guy, so they just make him smug and a molester and all around a Saturday Morning Cartoon Villain who stands around monologuing about how much he enjoys being EEEEEEEEEVIL. The only thing they’re missing is having him kick a puppy.

Anyway, Asuna uses a mirror to look at the passcode for the keypad (if Sugou is an admin, can’t he just warp himself in and out of the room?), and begins planning her escape. Not that it’ll make any difference, since we can’t be allowed to invalidate Kirito’s quest, now can we?

Dragonzigg’s Thoughts:
This episode is just sort of…there. It’s neither egregiously offensive nor really very interesting, it just sort of exists and bridges a necessary gap in the storyline.  I guess the focus here is meant to be on Suguha, but given she’s a profoundly uninteresting character that’s sort of part of the problem. She waxes lyrical about virtual worlds for a bit, and how awesome ALO is, which is understandable because let’s face it, flying around everywhere would be pretty damn awesome. I still have to question the state of mind of someone who would willingly plunge into a game similar to the one which had her brother (then currently) in a life-threatening coma, but hey, what do I know?   I’m also a little put out by her stand-offish attitude to Shinichi. Granted, he’s pretty annoying, but she’s such a jerk to him it’s difficult not to feel a little sorry. Oh and gratuitous shots of her in her underwear and in the shower, because this show’s biggest problem was not enough sexy middle-schoolers.

Suguha though does much better in-game as Leafa, as she has several decent scenes this episode. The high point has to be her spirited defiance against her asshole party leader, not backing down in the face of his threats and giving as good as she gets.  It’s, not coincidentally I think, reminiscent of early Asuna and there’s a slight concern Leafa here is simply a replacement-by-proxy, though she deserves a little more time to try and establish her own character.

Asuna herself again suffers a sad fate this episode, as she’s reduced to being groped by, and talking about her sex life with Dr Evil Sugou. I said it last week but I think it’s worth repeating – making your villain a super creepy molester is an easy way to make him evil, but it’s also a lazy way that lacks depth or subtlety, and I still think Sugou is more laughable than actually scary or a credible threat.  I do like Asuna’s trick of looking at the pad in the mirror to bypass its automatic vision blurring, though I do also still question why Sugou, basically an in-game god, needs a pad, or even a door in the first place.

Elsewhere the show remains pretty and enjoyable to look at, and I increasingly dig the ‘Fairy’ aesthetic the more we see of it. Yui is still utterly irrelevant and her dumb WHAT IS LOVE? conversation with Leafa is a low point.  Otherwise, as I said in the opening, this is a mostly harmless episode that doesn’t exactly stick long in the memory. Hopefully once the pair reach Yggdrasil the plot will begin to kick into a higher gear, and the dramatic close to this episode gives me hope that next week will see something more exciting come up.

Marlin’s Thoughts:
Look, I had this complaint last week and I still have it now. If Saturday Morning Cartoon Villain is in control of these servers, why even give Asuna the possibility of escape? Couldn’t he have just locked her into a server or at least a room not connected to the world? I have to imagine that wouldn’t be too hard. If his whole plot is just to take over the company, I just can’t understand why he wouldn’t take the necessary precautions to make sure that’ll happen.

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