(Note: Episodic notes are still mostly to be found on the Episodics Notes’ page. For those who don’t know, I take the notes as I watch the episode, and merely re-order them afterwards.)
Here it is, the finale to Sword Art Online’s 2nd season. Two episodes ago the drama failed me, as I thought it might, but last episode the drama I expected did get me. The material within today’s episode always gets me when I read that part of the novel, so let’s see if they manage to make it come through in the anime.
Thoughts and Notes:
1) Living in the Virtual World:
1) A relaxed barbeque isn’t so simple to organize when all the people you know are political leaders, who don’t entirely get along with one another ;-)
2) Oh yeah, Recon, he exists, right.
3) And now we’re zooming past everyone bonding over killing monsters. That’s video games for you. And yeah, it’s not like anything can stop a team comprised of Kirito, Mini-Kirito, and all of their friends ;-)
4) They really added details to Yuuki defeating Kirito in the final duel of the tournament, in the novel they just left it at her defeating him, without giving him an almost moment of reversing the fight. Just checked, in the novel they did state she used her 11-strike skill to defeat him, though the author did leave the note Kirito didn’t dual-wield, so we could always say he never gave it his all. Didn’t GGO have him admitting not giving his all is betraying the duel, though? I wonder.
The girls going with Yuuki to Kyoto and everything? Reminds me quite a bit of A Walk to Remember. Though the similarity probably came up even as I’ve read the novel.
1) I find it a bit weird Asuna went from her home to the hospital in her school uniform, why not wear her non-school clothes? Unless the uniform was the closest thing on hand.
2) Being allowed into the no-longer sterile room, a small sign showing all hope is lost, and there’s nothing left to protect.
3) “Yuuki won’t lose, right?” – After all, she’s “Zekken”, the “Invincible Blade”. But sadly, while life’s a game, not every game has a resurrection option, as Asuna, the Aincrad survivor, should know.
4) Ok, time to stop taking notes for a while and just watch.
5) “Mother’s Rosario”, it was easy to miss, but when Yuuki’s mother prayed with her and her sister, she seemed to wear a nun’s habit.
6) “Even if I leave this world someday, I’ll pass this skill on to someone else.” – Just like the Hall of Heroes, just how Asuna’s grandparents were proud in their daughter, this whole arc is about memory, remembrance, and leaving something behind.
7) “I can’t let this be a lonely farewell.” – A farewell always is, because the loneliness is the absence of the person leaving. I guess here the thing to assuage the loneliness of those staying behind is in its sharing. Also, gamers do get emotional over another gamer who played the game as they getting married or dying, so this isn’t unreal at all, even if the reason given doesn’t capture it. We’re people, and we want to bond.
3) Left Behind. Legacy:
1) “I lived here.” – The difference between the real and virtual world, from the first episode of this season, remember? Just the amount of data, but now how real it is, or relationships, or feelings.
2) “Her name will live on forever as the first to test that device.” Memories, memorials. Everywhere.
3) Speaking of leaving a legacy behind, Kayaba Akihiko, the man who effectively murdered thousands of gamers and used the rest to recreate a fantasy he’s had, literally, is the one who went on to save lives using the same design. I still hold that if any one character is Reki Kawahara’s stand-in in this show it’s not Kirito, but Kayaba Akihiko, one who created a world he saw in his mind’s eye, one who controls the lives of the characters within said created universe, an author, who sees his vision as the most important thing.
1) I think Klein is dating Urd’s sister or something, an NPC, which explains the girls being slightly awkward.
2) “I thought the more the closer the virtual and real world got, the better the world would be, but the more it happens, the more people get tricked.” – This is growth, because it’s Kirito changing his opinion. But it’s important to note, the novel ended after they’ve realized Kayaba Akihiko is the one who gave the Medicuboid designs, this is probably foreshadowing the next arc, and some anime-original content, right here.
It almost feels as if they’re talking to the audience a bit, rather than just within the show.
3) “I want to see where the world goes, the world we were there for when it was first formed.” – I guess that works, Kirito, explorer of the digital vistas. “I don’t like being manipulated, though” – The cry of all protagonists, who wish to wrest control of their destiny.
Post Episode / Arc / Season Thoughts:
Ok, for those who didn’t catch on from seeing me around or my references in the pre-episode opening, or during the appendix, I’ve read the Light Novels, and I absolutely loved SAO’s first season, and actually quite enjoyed the light novels as well (though I’m more than aware of its warts, including a huge giant moment of fail in the upcoming arc). So, my view of the series was quite transformed by the self-reflective nature of my watching of it.
Did I get emotional when Yuuki’s friends came along, and then all the fairies? Yes, I did. It was still an interesting experience, watching myself watching a show, rather than “simply watching it”. I’d have rather marathoned the series, and watched it without notes, and without prior knowledge of the story, because that makes shounens much more enjoyable for me, and enhances my ability to immerse myself in it, but so it goes.
I think the content in the second season, apart from the Calibur side-story was better than the content in the original series. We’ve had characters being explained, actually having time spent on setting them up and creating them, of being around them for multiple episodes, in the form of Sinon. I’ve touched on this before, but I believe Sinon’s character doesn’t only teach us of her, but teaches us of Kirito’s character, and fills in many of the gaps in his character-arc, in his progress.
Then we’ve had Asuna, and her return to the spotlight. This arc is definitely the most emotionally manipulative arc in SAO – one can hardly ignore that it’s comprised of “This is sad content, feel sad!” – And reading the novel, it worked for me. But Sinon’s story, and Mother’s Rosario, while they were both told respectably, and were better stories than the original series, and also cut away a lot of exposition that doesn’t really matter to the story (such as the nature of Original Sword Skills), were still less exciting, and the way I watched it made me less excited, than when I’ve read them.
I’ll probably give this season a very respectable 7.5/10 – it was solid, it had moments that got me emotional, and it had some really pretty moments. I also really liked Sinon’s character arc and the directing during the GGO denouement episodes was quite superb, but I just didn’t feel it as strongly as the original series. Is it the show’s fault? Probably not, but it is what it is. And I’m still following the light novels. My main memories from these arcs will remain the novel-related ones, rather than the animated series.