Seriously, look at that snow. Isn’t it the most beautiful snow that’s ever been rendered? I smacked my gob when I saw that and swore to myself that I’d try to find something else positive to say, so I wouldn’t just spend a paragraph gushing about how gorgeous the snow is when I could praise the breadth of character development or the effective use of disjointed pacing to frame just how empty Kirito’s existence in the virtual world is.
Well that plan fucking backfired, because this pulsating mess of clichés could have been replaced with grainy footage of a mongoose tearing apart a family of helpless rabbits and it still wouldn’t have been any less enjoyable.
There’s a fair amount to complain about with this episode; the pacing is somehow even worse than last episode, its attempts at plucking the audience’s heartstrings are undermined by the aforementioned pacing, and any sense of Kirito’s development past being a Kafka-esque walking disaster is countered by the equally disastrous pacing. Thus far, every single good thing that I could say about the show has been immediately and equally counterbalanced with the fact that it can’t slow down and build the setting for any substantial length of time. But I would be beating that dead horse beyond identification if I brought it up in every single post, so thankfully the show presents me with plenty of other things to be bothered by.
My biggest complaint is also one of the pettiest, but it’s something that’s nagged me since last episode’s underwhelming kobold battle. For most likely being aware of RPG clichés or accepted mechanics, like bosses changing forms/weapons when down to 25% health or obvious trap rooms, everybody seems to conveniently forget about them when they’re at their most blatant.
This episode was particularly bad, with Kirito’s new guild running into a recently opened secret room with a lone treasure chest in the middle, and getting slaughtered for their carelessness. The time skips somewhat cover for this by implying that they could’ve been in this situation before without any trouble, but it’s still annoying that nobody except Kirito seems prepared for any nasty surprise that Sword Art Online might throw their way. At this point, it’s pretty damn ridiculous that Kirito’s savviness only stops at arbitrary points where people end up dying, especially those that he grows to care about.
Sword Art Online’s hardly terrible, but my complaints have only been verified in most cases. While Red Nosed Reindeer was hardly bad, it would have served better as an OVA, rather than as the second half to a slightly insubstantial drama that tries to make a group’s death have impact, but fails on account of the slapdash pacing that’s hounded everything else in this series. Then again, if that happened I wouldn’t have seen how fantastically rendered that snow was. I mean damn. Snow.