It’s brief, but they do touch on Kirito’s difficulty on telling apart what’s real and what isn’t. Asuna on the other hand is much more of a realist; NPCs aren’t alive no matter how real they appear – they’ll respawn after a set amount of time. Using them as bait in order to prevent player casualties? A sound plan indeed. One that Kirito can’t agree with… and neither can I. This may sound naive, but even in this world, if you can’t bring yourself to care for the little things, how can you expect to care for anyone else? Kirito still has his humanity, not taking the world for granted or struggling to escape. He chooses to enjoy the moment while he has it instead of wasting it in a dungeon; living, not making a living.
This episode involves a murder mystery, which is an interesting twist from all the action, tragedy, and light-hearted fanservice we’ve seen so far. But if you ask me, it doesn’t suit the series very well; this solemn, leveled narrative isn’t very exciting to watch especially if you’re here for the action & adventure. Anime like Gosick & Hyouka revolves around mysteries, so it works since it’s to be expected. With SAO, it’s unexpectedly long & drawn out, and quite frankly, it’s not clever at all.
I’m a novice storyteller at best, with a largely superior brother in terms of story-crafting, but even I can notice flaws when I see them. The explanation of Player-Killing and Sleep-PKs is enough to make any decent storyteller cringe; you’d think in a world where death – especially in safe zones – is a frightening thing for our heroes, that they’re smart enough to know all that already. But no, they just had to explain it for the sake of the viewers, even though they both obviously know what they’re talking about. Poorly-written scenes like that follow the dreaded “tell-don’t-show” instead of the exact opposite, making them seem unnaturally forced.
Speaking of forced, Yoruko’s sudden fits of insanity were odd and out of place. Yeah yeah, the idea of being hunted down & killed in a safe zone is enough to scare the pants off anyone, but it’s such an extreme reaction and it came literally out of nowhere. And right after her panic attack she just drops out a window, splats on the ground and dies? What the hell, A-1. Is this how you end an episode? At least with Diabel & Sachi, I felt something towards their deaths. The current problem with this anime is that death is happening so frequently & randomly, and unless they pull back or decide to pull a Maes Hughes on us, I may end up not caring about it in the near future.
What I do like? The return of our leading lady, Asuna. She’s changed greatly since we last saw her, as she’s now a famous, high-ranking member of a powerful guild. She’s strong & badass, but still has that cute & soft side we’ve come to admire about her. She and Kirito make a great pair, with the two learning from one another and perhaps growing more friendly as the time rolls by. Some blatantly label her as a stereotypical tsundere, but I think she’s more insecure than hot-cold… kind of like Taiga in that sense. Either way, I don’t think Asuna fans will be displeased. And who can forget Agil? Didn’t know he was merchant, but I guess it wouldn’t be interesting just to have the big guy swinging around an axe all day, right? Hopefully the series delves more into his (and everyone else’s) lifestyle in SAO.
Asuna’s back, accompanied by another dive into the suffering of players. I don’t demand my stories to be happy, but I find that SAO wallows too much in the darkness sometimes. Not to mention there’s alot of subjects that should’ve, but hasn’t, been touched on… yet. As the fall season approaches, if SAO doesn’t find the right balance between light & dark, it’s going to become pretty hard to watch.
Thanks for reading!