The response toward the latest episode of Sword Art Online has been nothing short of mixed, as it’s been for the past several weeks. It’s reached the point that I can’t help but wonder if SAO is intentionally trying to parody its very concept, given that the writing has little regard for coherency or character development, or if it’s legitimately the result of a brain aneurysm vomited onto a keyboard and left to ferment over several months.
I for one abide by the former explanation, since I can’t think of any other reason why anybody would use Deus Ex Machinas as apparently the only means of conveying significant plot details. To hell with proper character development with actual consequences, Asuna being saved by a somehow sentient computer program before sobbing wetly over its destruction takes priority!
I can’t for the life of me fathom the flimsy logic behind introducing so many interesting concepts while ignoring their impact, only to replace actual development with a little girl throwing up AT fields and pulling hitherto unknown abilities out of her virtual ass. The show does have one thing going for it though: It’s probably the best comedy that I’ve seen all week. I mean how can you not find it quaintly amusing that the show wants us to care for somebody that has less personality than fucking wallpaper paste when she isn’t assuming the role of meat shield and/or living AT field? It just has to be a comedy, and a damn subversive one at that.
I could tolerate a show’s attempt at emotional impact being underwhelming if it at least made an effort. What nails Sword Art Online’s coffin shut is how fucking lazy and clichéd it is. In no reality, virtual or not, do any of the events have any sort of prior context; every single plot detail is awkwardly stitched together with hilariously overwrought drama, the awfulness that is Yui being an albatross on the whole affair. It’s not like it couldn’t be interesting if it tried; after all, the idea behind a psychological program that monitors players’ mental health could have been built on to an interesting conclusion, but instead it’s shoehorned in as a clumsy explanation for Yui having the ability to break the game.
Oddly enough though, what bugs me the most isn’t how Yui is basically a sentient slab of rebar, or how Kirito can hack his way into an admin terminal in less than twenty seconds, it’s that the entire subplot with the army is incredibly underdeveloped. These guys are fleshed out enough that they aren’t just a mindless horde of storm troopers out for their own gain, but their impact on Kirito and Asuna is questionable at best, making their relevance to the plot and our leads equally moot. But then I remember that this is supposed to be a comedy and all inconsistencies are forgiven, as I’m sure they’re completely intentional as a means of somehow parodying itself.
This episode neatly encompasses every major problem with the show as a whole. It has so many neat ideas and concepts that I can’t help but salivate over, but it paradoxically cuts down on meaningful content by focusing on the non-relationship between Asuna, Kirito, and Yui, which is by far the least compelling thing about the series. This is the worst of the worst, the acme of shit, something that’s infuriating not because it’s terrible, but because it could behave been so damn good if the people in charge didn’t just spend the whole time huffing paint and fucking lawn chairs in anticipation of the waves of money that’re inevitably going to roll in.
Though there is hope as SAO succeeds as a comedy where it fails as a drama, so at least those looking for unintentional humor have something to put on the mantle next to Guilty Crown. I like living in a world where that’s possible, so don’t suddenly get good on me, Sword Art Online. Thankfully, I don’t think I have anything to worry about in that department.