November 15th, 2014.
Here we go again. My favourite arc of Sword Art Online getting adapted. Most emotional, meaning adaptation choices are also the most meaningful. Information is easy, emotions are hard. So last episode we saw the focus was threefold, and one – Asuna as the main protagonist. Asuna’s life, and that the center of said life, her home is this virtual sanctuary. But you can’t hide in a cabin in the woods forever, just as we’ve found in the first season.
And that’s the other thing this episode was, it was pure nostalgia, for Aincrad, for past times, for home. It had a lot of callbacks, reminding us of when Asuna was awesome and capable. It was a comfortable and homey episode, and as that was its goal, it succeeded quite well.
Thoughts and Notes:
1) Cold and Unwelcoming Reality:
1) So reminiscent of when we’ve seen Suguha leave the virtual world in the first season, and Sinon in the first half of this season. In the game world they’re powerful and surrounded by comrades, but as soon as they step into the real world, they’re alone, in darkness, and at the mercy of others, to a degree.
2) Such a nice shot. Brings back to mind Asuna’s time in the cage, and how she’s dwarfed by her house (not her home).
3) No background music. Dinner by candlelight, feeling oppressive rather than romantic.
4) “I printed my report card and put it on your desk.” – One would expect this if one would want to avoid their parent due to bad grades, but here it feels just like distance, and formality.
5) “Your high school teachers are a bunch of nobodies.” – YEAH, you should go study with some professors! We’ve got a real tiger mom here. I do quite like the mother’s accent, or speech-mannerism, it sounds interesting.
2) The Future Forebodes:
1) “Marriage is part of your career.” – Welp. It certainly feels like her mother is speaking somewhat of herself as well, of making Asuna live the same life she did, of both being an accomplished career-woman, and an accomplished wife. “Marry someone so it’d help you accomplish your goals.” Marriage as a stepping stone, to achievements, not as something of its own, or happiness with a family as its own goal. Stands in stark contrast with Asuna’s dream of a happy family in the cabin in the woods.
2) Here we go. The last person her family almost had Asuna marry (while she were in a coma) was a murderous bastard, so now they simply have her meet with another rich boy without asking her opinion, and only think of power politics. Sure, they might do it for Asuna’s sake, but no one asks her, and that’s contrary to the myth of the individual we live in the modern era, and which most anime stories revolve around.
3) “You’re allowed to pick your own partner, so long I deem them worthy of you.” Gee, thanks mom.
4) We’ve also had a few more things in this scene – the school the kids go to is there to monitor them, because some of them might have been Laughing Coffin members, or “merely” traumatized by the whole thing. They’re there to be observed, and to be treated.
5) There is also the talk of Asuna being “capable”, but her mother is using connections, rather than relying on Asuna’s skills to get her into a school, and then wants her to accomplish things in her career by getting married into the right family. Again, rather than relying on her skills. Her mother did say her marriage is part of her career, so being married to the right man would be an “accomplishment”.
3) Life and Dreams:
1) Kirito already has a dream, and is applying himself hard to make up for lost time. Bet Asuna’s mother would’ve been happy with him as a son :P More seriously, he knows what he wishes to do, and Asuna doesn’t, so that part of her mother’s request at least makes some sense. I wonder how it is for people who can go to university when they finish high school (I’ve had a mandatory three year military service in between). Decision making isn’t easy.
2) “In that world I was powerful, in this world I’m powerless.” – This is the same story as Sinon, and is about realizing the strength that lies within, and that the two worlds aren’t separate. Didn’t Kirito tell us that countless times, that the you in games is the you in real life? For someone who listens attentively to everything Kirito says, you might want to listen Asuna :P Well, we do play games for a fantasy of power as well, and fighting against Zekken is exactly that, living and stretching the limits of the fantasy.
3) “Totally living in this world”? Yeah, Kirito sometimes makes no sense. Also, “Beyond the limits” is like that first fight between Neo and Morpheus – you can’t pass the technical limits of speed, because information just wouldn’t pass that quickly ;-)
5) “But if I give up after one hit, I’d be a failure as a warrior.” – And they give us the flashback, not trusting us. The point is, Asuna isn’t a rich girl who plays a game where she’s a warrior, but someone who doesthink of herself in those terms. I guess after two years in Aincrad, it’s not too surprising. Surrounded by gamers who repeat the fantasy spiel, and a world that exists to nurture it, to forge it. More than that, she’s now using the fantasy to reforge her identity, to cement it as a place of strength.
6) “Zekken” sure seems impulsive, and her design also reminds one somewhat of Kirito’s. We spoke of Asuna fighting to live the fantasy, and to draw upon that fantasy. We spoke earlier of doing one thing to achieve another, so why did Zekken fight? Well, we’ll find out.
Shorter Notes / Asides:
- “You’re ashamed of your dead parents, angry at not being born into a rich family, aren’t you?” – Damn, that gotta hurt, and that’s more than a little rude of Asuna’s.
- “You only remember food, don’t you?” – Kirito would’ve been right at home in Log Horizon ;-)
- Seeing bad-ass serious-mode Asuna is one of my favourite things in this show.
- So, now It’s Asuna’s turn to be someone’s saviour, someone strong enough to defeat her, Leafa, and Kirito in combat, eh?
Post Episode Thoughts:
So, what did we have this episode? Last episode was very “homey”, in the virtual world, and then we go to the cold place that is Asuna’s house, rather than her home. Asuna retreats to the virtual world almost as a cliched example of running away from the problems in her life. The characters in Sword Art Online are quite similar in this way – Kirito ran to the virtual world after knowing his family isn’t really his family (well, not first-step related), Sinon escaped her troubles, Suguha escaped the loneliness and despair after Kirito got stuck in Aincrad, etc.
And then we discussed the difference and distance between the real world and the virtual world, a repeat of Sinon’s arc, and Asuna, in the following arc, indeed seems to be using the virtual world to channel strength into her offline self, forging her self-image, and fights against someone who apparently lives fully online, whatever that means.
And then we’ve had sweet action. I quite liked the accents on display this week all around. Did I like them in and of themselves? Not always, but they were interesting.
And though Asuna’s mother is made to be somewhat of a paper tiger (as well as a tiger mom!), she does have some points – Kirito knows what he’s aiming for. Asuna? She’s just aiming to be with Kirito. Be a leader, be strong, and choose your own path. Can’t let it be dictated to you, not by your mother? True, but also not by Kirito.