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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Titania In The High Tower

Leafa is making enemies leaving her area and group to team up with Kirito. On their way to neutral Territory, they speak more of the rules and areas of the ALO. / Something isn’t right; Recon has sent Leafa a message “I was right. Be careful. S." What does he mean and will Leafa and Kirito have the time to figure it out? (Source: Crunchyroll)
Spoiler warning: Post contains spoilers up to episode 19, "The Legrue Corridor".
It's been a while since I've visited the series Sword Art Online, mainly because Toonami has been pre-empting its usual schedule as of late with feature-length films, putting SAO on the back burner until recently. Despite the gap between episodes, fitting back into the world of Kirito and Asuna was an easy one, although not the most pleasant. Coming back to Sword Art Online after so long is like revisiting an old friend from high school you haven't seen in years; you still like them very much and enjoy their company to a point, but after a while you realize just why you haven't visited them in a month.

Alfheim is not Aincrad, and this is something Kirito is learning the hard way. Races are split into factions that are on the brink of war, magic is an essential part of battle, and death is not a permanent solution. It is, in short, a typical MMORPG, minus the fact that via Nerve Gear it becomes a full immersion experience that allows the player to feel what is going on inside the game. Alfheim is Aincrad's paler imitation, a version of SAO dolled up with elf ears and none of the mortal threat.
But Kirito doesn't treat it like a game. He takes the possibility of people dying in his party seriously, because he's used to people he forms alliances with dying in game and in real life. To him, digital life is as precious as real life. Kirito is also taken aback by the idea of players working against each other, not together, since in Sword Art Online it had become necessary for players to form together in their singular goal of reaching the top level. If there's a player taking this game more to heart that Kirito, we haven't met them yet.
Meanwhile, Asuna waits at the top of the World Tree, a captive Titania to her fiancee's Oberon. But she's not waiting patiently. In fact, she's already obtained the password to her cage. That's my girl! Naturally, she's waiting until the best possible moment to use it. Hopefully, her flight out of her gilded cage won't end with her back in her scummy fiancee's arms - or in the arms of the Salamander guard, who are clearly working for him, with his intentions behind the swing of their swords.
What I greatly dislike about the current scheme of Sword Art Online, circa Alfheim, is how flat and uninteresting the antagonists have become. Most of them don't have any motivations beyond pure greed and lust, simple sins in fiction that don't require any depth of character to get across. Asuna's fiancee wants money, the Salamanders want to clear the World Tree, and that's pretty much it. Perhaps I've been spoiled by watching so much LOST lately, which is stocked with complex, complicated antagonists like Ben Linus and morally gray characters like John Locke and Sawyer, but I wish SAO would step up its game in regards to its villain types.
I can't say I care much about the Salamanders drama. Without me knowing anyone on any side of the conflict, it's hard for me to muster concern. The threat of war seems like just another obstacle blocking Kirito from the World Tree and from rescuing Asuna, nothing more, nothing less. Compare this to Aincrad, where the struggle to regain life was for every player, and we got to know players before they died, adding to the emotional burden of being stuck inside a virtual world where death translated across pixels and into the real world. Alfheim severely lacks that element of impending personal disaster.
Ever present is the Suguha/Kazuto, Leafa/Kirito debacle. It's irritating and annoying. Are you telling me that Kazuto never told Suguha his SAO handle? Or that Suguha never read any of the stories about Aincrad in the paper and wouldn't recognize Kirito? Or the fact that Kirito and Kazuto have the same exact face? Players, please. As much as I wish for Suguha to find her happiness, let's not have it with Kazuto/Kirito, who she still sees as a brother. Kirito is already spoken for, y'all. You would think the presence of Yui, who calls Kirito 'Daddy' and is his AI fairy daughter, would raise a red flag or two on that front.
(Yo, Suguha, Nagata is RIGHT THERE. Just saying.)

As much as it seems like I'm trashing Sword Art Online's current arc, I am looking forward to seeing Kirito and Asuna together again. I just wish this series wasn't putting its viewers through such a plot-contrived obstacle course in order to see it.