There are a few things on this good planet that are simply irredeemable. While terrible anime isn’t exactly sitting alongside genocide and torture in the grand scheme of things, it takes shows like Sword Art Online to remind me as tortuously as possible that animation does occasionally plumb depths that I previously thought unfathomable. Ordinarily I’d open with one particular scene that stands out, or a concession toward decency that Sword Art Online hesitantly makes every once in awhile, but what can I do when everything is at such an equal level of horrible idiocy that it’s difficult to pick out which scene or development offends the senses more? It’s equivalent to being given a bag of dead possums, and told at gunpoint to eat the one that’s most swarming with maggots.
If I had to choose which possum had the vilest maggots making a home in its eye sockets, and take a hearty bite, it would probably be the possum representing character likability. Seriously, pick which character most embodies fluffy cuddliness: Sugou the one-dimensional pseudo-rapist, Asuna the living prop that only knows how to cry, and Kirito, who starts out useless, but then tortures his foe to death in a manner as needless as it was literally pulled out of the ether. The only person that elicited any sort of reaction from me beyond disgust was, ironically, Sugou, and that’s only because his evil laugh ruined any sort of tension. I mean he was still a flat, revolting character, but at least he offered something to break the tedium of awfulness, even if it was just more awfulness.
What’s perplexing is we’re supposed to be rooting for a particular side when they’re all equally terrible in the end, and it’s not the one engaging in fetishistic pseudo-rape with a chained redhead. This would be fine, if Kirito weren’t somehow made even less likable after acquiring admin privileges from the ghost of the first game’s creator. Not only was he essentially given power over the game, but it was gifted to him by SAO’s creator, a double-whammy of a Deus Ex Machina that I never thought possible.
There are plenty of problems with the writing as is when a gem like that is born, but it really pokes holes in the audience’s investment in the protagonist when he takes that chance to free Asuna and log out with her to inflict excruciating agony on Sugou using the pain slider (oh yeah, there’s an admin pain slider for some reason) after slicing him in half. I’d appreciate if this was a conflict that Kirito has had before, or if it was addressed at all after the fact, but it’s a needlessly drawn out scene of Kirito essentially killing a defenseless man by means of repeated evisceration. Woo Team Protag!
One moment did serve as a glimpse into what we could have had, were this story handled by somebody who wasn’t an absolute cretin. Right when Kirito begins to show off his newly-acquired admin skills, Sugou curses the SAO’s creator for always sabotaging his progress before Kirito interjects and cuts him down. It’s the only thing approaching depth that Sugou has had in the entirety of the show. Once again, it goes to show how horribly the antagonists in this show are handled when they could actually be something other than caricatures.
Needless really is the word to describe what the hell transpires in this episode. From start to finish, it’s nothing but a breakneck ride through A-1 skimming the shallows of Reki’s creative capacity, a ride that circles the same dilapidated go-kart track until the actual cart catches on fire. So much of the torture and general skeeviness could have been easily averted, allowing for an experience with actual content rather than a recollection of disturbing fantasies involving Asuna. This is the first time that I’ve taken absolutely no joy from watching anything related to Sword Art Online, and that’s a fucking accomplishment when it ends on par with Apocalypse Zero in terms of entertainment value.
I’m somebody that’s usually of the mind that there’s no such thing as a bad or wrong opinion. Everybody is different, entitled to their own tastes in a way that doesn’t deserve to be judged. This episode is one of those few things that disprove that theory with every fiber of its being. It’s difficult for me to concede that the show has good points (which it really does) when there are episodes like this seeking to sabotage everything that it’s worked for in the name of… fuck, I don’t even know anymore. If this material was jettisoned into a black hole immediately before airing, the world would be a slightly better place. A-1 Pictures, shame on you for adapting this shit.