(Note: Episodic notes are still mostly to be found on the Episodics Notes’ page, but up to a couple every week will have their write-up appear on the main page, when I think they warrant it. For those who don’t know, I take the notes as I watch the episode, and merely re-order them afterwards.)
So, going to be tricky talking about this. You see, I know what’s going to happen, but I want to not only not spoil things, but also not tell you what matters later. I will say there are a couple of sentences in this episode that are foreshadowing – not to this arc, but to the next one, and to the one after that. And I… won’t tell you which sentences these are, or how they matter. I did just publish a piece on novels 5-12 focusing on themes, so broad spoilers, but no specific plot-point spoilers. You can give that a look, I guess.
The opening with the dark city made me think of The Animatrix, which I’ve recently watched. Very cyberpunky/dystopian.
Sound is good, acting is solid for what little we could see this episode, the soundtrack is still on point. Colours are good, character designs are sharp. These are probably things everyone can agree on.
OP (which appeared in the end) – It was ok? Action, some levels of action though I’d have liked more. Nothing special, honestly. Not going to lose sleep over skipping it in the future.
All those seconds languishing on Sinon’s ass though? Yeah, I wish we’d get less fan-service than we did in ALO Sighs
Plot / Themes / Etc.:
Asuna and Kirito having a little date. Both of them wearing colours fitting their Aincrad getups. What does Kirito want to do with his future? Something connected to his pre-Aincrad past, he wants to deal with hardware, and he wants to continue Kayaba Akihiko’s dream, which he just might share – bridge the gap between the real world and the virtual, create dream-worlds.
What does Asuna want to do? Why, she wants to spend time with her friends, and be with Kirito forever! That’s… unfortunate. Asuna is apparently not in touch with her past, and doesn’t think of her future as an independent character. Considering how strong she’s been in Aincrad, that’s quite a step down. It won’t really come into effect here, but Asuna couldn’t be a strong character, one who’s more than a token extra, if things continue this way.
The whole bit about how they’re at the center of their world, which is a mirror of Aincrad was sweet, and mostly meaningless, but it shows they still relate to it. They’re at the site of a had-been castle, who is the center of the world, a bridge between past and future, and some might say being at the site of a long-lost castle that’s their culture’s heritage might be the same.
The discussion on the difference between “Reality” and “The Virtual World” was more interesting. The difference is a difference in information. So, with the virtual world containing enough information, one will be unable to tell the difference between the real world and the virtual, the Matrix? Descartes? I’m surprised it never came up, why didn’t anyone think the players who died in GGO could’ve died of fear? After all, fear’s psychological, and that can pass the barrier.
And then we have that GGO interview, before Zexceed died. What he says is both the epitome and antithesis of video games. We play games because they have strict rules, and we can master said rules. But of course, new players are often happy with the adventure of learning said rules.
Major MMO patches are just that, they’re taking all the rules we used to know, and turning them on their heads. Gone is the past knowledge, and part of the past investment. They obviate our past investment, and this is how they keep us playing – because we now need to invest time all over again.
“Doing the same thing doesn’t guarantee the same results” is an interesting statement – that’s exactly what games are situated upon. But that’s also why people play these games with their patches, and with other people – you can’t rely on what other people do, and though we might “hate” the patches when they force us to change our ways, it’s also what keeps us interested.
A lot of the above can be summed up by “Effort spent doesn’t always remain meaningful. Effort and time are not enough.”
We see an interesting discussion between the two players – “Rely on your skills”, which is the argument that talent still matters, and skills matter, even if the structure of the game changes, and the “counter-argument” appears to be that Zexceed is putting it all on his build, which means it’s not his victory, but then he argues that “real talent” is being able to predict what build will be useful in the future.
In other words, he’s a jerk who is going “Nya nya nya” to all those who lost out on the patch-roulette ;-)
Kikuoka was in Extra Edition, you didn’t really miss anything, that’s also how he was introduced in the novels. They let it “slip” here, but it was said more in Extra Edition – he sometimes plays in ALO with Kirito and the rest. They cut out a lot of Kirito’s internal monologue here, but aside from showcasing how Kirito is a wry and slightly jerky person, who is trying to get at the annoying Kikuoka, there’s nothing lost. I’m a big proponent of cutting these pacing-destroying internal monologues out, so I’m fine.
Do note how he forced Kirito to admit there should be no issue, and then forced him to accept going in, though supposedly it’s a murder investigation, “If you really believe saying “God doesn’t exist” won’t call lightning upon you, then say it!” would be a fitting analogy. Kikuoka is really a hoot though, and I laughed at several of the interactions between him and Kirito here. Of course, it’s all part of his method to convince Kirito to do his bidding.
Kirito though? He’s not really a hero here, he’s a mercenary, he’s hired by the government to do a job. Which he then didn’t tell Asuna about. So much for trust.
(And yes, the “shady organization” which runs this big-ass game no one can contact? That’s pretty funny.)
A final sentence or two about Sinon, “This fear, this unease… compared to that time it is nothing.” reminded me of Claymore.
What did I think of this episode? Slow, but about as expected. They needed to set up the situation, to introduce a new game, and the “case”. Nothing much to say here, unless I want to talk about themes which are better talked about when they appear in future episodes or arcs, and I’ll save that for then.