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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Illusionary Avenger: Sword Art Online 6

Kirito has figured out the how and now he has to figure out the why. (Source: Crunchyroll)
Spoiler warning: Review contains spoilers for the sixth episode of Sword Art Online. Please, no spoilers beyond the Toonami broadcast!
Crunchyroll, congratulations. You couldn't have possibly give this episode a more vague description. Still, Kirito is one hell of a detective, isn't he? This week on SAO, Kirito is able to deduce some amazing information from a disintegrating sandwich. Also, judging by the thick text being laid down, everyone is gonna get married in this game. Everyone! 
At least this contrived murder mystery has finally been put to rest. Ouch, sorry about the pun.

In the previous episode, we had just watched Yoruko plunge to her death after taking a dagger to the back. Thanks to some deep conversation and good old fashioned bullshitting, Kirito and Asuna end up solving the mystery of the death of Griselda. I'm sorry, was the original mystery about Kains and Yoruko? Not so much, actually. Surprise, surprise: they're both alive! Just one of the several seemingly clever plot twists in this episode that, upon closer evaluation, are rather simple in flavor.
Honestly, the first half of this episode was very much an informational dump, delivered by Kirito and assisted by Asuna and the remaining Golden Apple guild members. Imagine the end of a Sherlock Holmes story when Holmes explains how everything actually happened, except now imagine Kirito in his long black coat delivering the same spiel, and at the beginning of the story.
Thanks to in-game logic and the durability aspect which is so handily introduced by Asuna, the 'deaths' of Yoruko and Kains as well as Schmit's role in Griselda's death are all hastily smoothed over so we can get to the bigger matter at hand. Because as soon as Yoruko and Kains confront Schmit and get the truth out of him, they're confronted by actual player killers! Womp womp.
Naturally, Kirito swoops in to save them, being the Black Swordsman and all. Rather irritated by the second-string position Asuna has been sidled into, especially considering she's second-in-command in her own very powerful guild. Blah blah blah, Grimlock isn't the nice guy everyone thought he was, blah blah blah, hired PKs to kill old guild members just as he had them kill his wife, Griselda.
Yes, in a sudden flip of roles, it is Grimlock who is exposed as the catalyst behind this entire story arc, and it's not even for the very item everyone had been stressing out about. Y'see, Grimlock and Griselda were married in real life - and IRL Griselda was a quiet, "submissive" woman who never fought with Grimlock. However, in SAO, the strain of fighting for his life took a toll on Grimlock's nerves, but Griselda actually thrived under the pressure, became a stronger, more assertive person because of it.
Naturally, Mister Possessive Grimlock couldn't have that. The game had changed his wife for the worse! In his mind, Griselda had to die, so he could be left with the memory of what Griselda used to be: that nice, obedient, quiet woman that he could control. And if you don't think that Grimlock was possessive of Griselda in real life, ask yourself why they would join together. I think she was coerced into joining with Grimlock – being told that's just what married couples do – so no one was more surprised than Grimlock to see her come out of her shell while in the game.
Anyway, the revelation of Grimlock's true self in front of his ex-Guild folks has left him pretty much broken and shattered emotionally. The series quickly writes him off as we watch Kains and Schmit carry him away; one can only imagine the guild justice he is about to face at their hands. A job well done, Asuna and Kirito head off for one last scene together before going back to the front lines, which apparently hasn't needed them for the last two days.
This episode was a big wrap-up of all the questions raised in the previous episode. We don't learn much new things about how Sword Art Online works beyond the durability factor, and what else we learn is just that 'safe spaces' can't be subverted by PKs as previously thought, making towns and inns safe yet again. I was kind of hoping for a "no one is safe, have fun trying to sleep" 'verse reset, if only for the heightened "danger of being legit PK'd" factor, but no such luck.
I also thought Griselda's ghost was a hokey moment that didn't fit in SAO, unless they are trying to establish that fragments and images of players past linger in the server for a time after death. I wouldn't put it past the game's creator Akihiko to taunt players with the faces of comrades long gone; I could easily see Akihiko using the face of Sachi to turn Kirito into a gibbering wreck all over again as he gets closer to the top level.
There was also a lot of talk about marriage, both in the technical SAO sense and the emotional human connection sense. It was so forced, it was painful - and it all centered around Kirito and Asuna. Series, are y'all setting up a marriage of convenience between them? Because I could very much do without such a Harlequin romance plot device in my MMORPG action story, thanks. 
(Besides, I think Kirito is too upset about losing his sandwich to get hitched. Son, don't lie, we all know why you dropped to your knees over food.)

Next week's episode, according to Wikipedia, is called "The Temperature Of The Heart". Oh boy, here we go. Love triangle powers, activate!