In my free time, usually when I have to sleep, I like thinking up analogies in case people ask me to explain my approval or hatred for things, so I can use the power of comparing two completely irrelevant things to write posts about anime. For example, if I had to compare Sword Art Online’s frustrating waste of potential to any other scenario, it’d be like giving an aspiring pianist the finest piano that can be made along with 6,000 pages-worth of sheet music and the finest instruction, and in celebration they lop off their left hand, chop two fingers off the right, stick both arms in frigid ice water for several days, and refuse to play anything but Chopsticks.
To explain Episode 22 in this context, it’s like if that same stupid pianist was given appropriate prosthetics, and they decide to play half of Fantasie Impromptu before chomping on a cyanide tablet and spasming on the keys. But really, this is more than half of a decent episode spliced with half of the glorious awfulness that we’ve come to expect from this show—it actually has the high point of the series so far, in which Kirito gets stabbed multiple times by several giant swords in what I’m sure is a metaphor for the brutality of being such a flawless being. And any episode in which a character as annoying as Kirito gets hurt for a purpose (though not much of a purpose is needed to make me happy) is the kind of episode that I want hanging around my future kids.
Really, that was probably the biggest surprise of the series so far; we’ve seen Kirito on the verge of death multiple times, even die in the final battle with SAO’s creator, but this is the very first time that the plot has dictated that Kirito doesn’t need to survive this set of circumstances for his story to continue. Even sweeter, it admits that there are only so many times that pulling skills out of his ass and longing to free Asuna from her bondage can drive him through insurmountable circumstances before he just winds up with a sword through his lung for his trouble. To top things off, Kirito actually reflects on his failure until Leafa resurrects him, reflection and self awareness formerly as alien of concepts to this series as subtlety continues to be.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you’ve since long given up), this is the world of Sword Art Online, where everybody sees fit to remind Kirito that he’s just TOO perfect, and the universe itself seeks to uphold this idea in the most idiotic ways possible. Thankfully, Sugu bows unquestionably to the whims of this rather fucked up world, and throws a tantrum at her brother for reasons that basically add up to him being a sword-wielding amalgamation of God and Inigo Montoya. I can think of plenty of reasons for being mad in this situation, but Kirito being too perfect is probably the worst that could have been chosen when most of the episode attempted (thankfully with plentiful stabbings) to hammer in the fact that Kirito isn’t a living fucking god.
In Sword Art Online’s darkest recesses, there’s potential commentary abound related to the tangibility of relationships, and how there are some obstacles that can’t be passed simply by smashing them apart with hitherto unknown powers. These are themes that might be explored by writers who actually have a grasp on how to pen a story with any sort of understanding of how humans work, and adapted by similar alien creatures. Sadly, Sword Art Online has never been handled competently by those in charge, who don’t quite have a grasp on how to make a story interesting. As a result, any further obstacles will likely be obliterated with those dreaded hitherto unknown powers, as Kirito learns that he’s had the power in him all along to save his girlfriend from the machinations of a villain whose understanding of subtlety is marred by near-fatal brain damage. But on the plus side, only three more episodes to go!