16 CommentsSword Art Online / By Inushinde /

Sword Art Online Episode 5: Swaying Trees and Warm Breezes and Jewelry-Inspired Murdering, These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

 

In spite of the impression that previous entries in the roughly stitched together behemoth of Sword Art Online have left of not being able to settle down enough to build a proper story, the show’s proven that it’s all about appreciating the little things in life, betwixt instances of exposing the horrors and clichés of being trapped in a fantasy-themed murder machine designed by a scientist adhering to the “just because I’m evil” school of super villainy. Yes, there’s more to Sword Art Online than getting mauled by kobolds and releasing two years-worth of pent up sexual frustration. Feeling a warm breeze caress your cheek as you nap in a sunbathed meadow, or hearing the panicked shrieks of a man impaled with a spear and hanging out a window by a noose are what really make life in a virtual world worth living.

It looks like we’ve finally stumbled on the first real “arc” of Sword Art Online, which pits the combined mental acuity of Kirito and Asuna against a deranged killer killing his/her former guildmates over a piece of jewelry. The execution is mostly competent, proving that the show can actually have a decent narrative when the pacing doesn’t skip around at the drop of a hat. Unfortunately, an outburst by their main lead toward the end of the episode predictably seals her fate as the second murder victim, but it’s hardly a deal breaker when the rest is actually decent.

If there’s any problem that I have with the episode, it’s that it proves the series lacking in ways to utilize Asuna. Her relationship with Kirito, while appropriately rocky, doesn’t feel like it sprung out of anything remotely resembling human emotion. In other, less stupid words, they’re only adventuring together because the plot demands it, and needs a second mouthpiece for exposition in order to take some of that burden off of Kirito. It doesn’t care if they have chemistry or not, just that they work to fit whatever plot device it sets forth week to week.

Another noticeable, if less important issue is that Kirito’s problem with Asuna using NPCs as monster fodder isn’t really built on, and is dropped almost immediately in favor of the two making awkward banter as a cover for the “as you know” flavor of expository dialogue. While I’m sure it wasn’t exactly primed to become the next ‘I, Robot’ with NPCs acting as stand-ins for the androids, it still would have been nice to have the two engage in actual discourse over the matter, not just have it dismissed by the opening credits and have the characters laze about in a meadow. Though at least it’s still a better mystery than Hyouka.

 

Even though it tries to cram too many concepts in a 22 minute timeframe, SAO at least managed to bring its mad pacing into line without coming out the worse for wear. It definitely could have been handled with more grace, but it could have also been so much worse. And “it could be so much worse” is the best compliment I can ever give this show.

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16 Comments

  1. Posted August 6, 2012 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    I wonder if NPC really respawn? Would be interesting to see them doom a whole village.

    • Inushinde
      Posted August 8, 2012 at 1:59 am | Permalink

      If they didn’t, that’d actually be kind of neat. There’d be some accountability on the part of the players.

  2. Theo
    Posted August 6, 2012 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Actually this episode is just another sidestory, erm no, just pathetic 30% of the actual sidestory, they killed the original plot with detective story, skipped the part which most resembles the real date and decided that growth of Asuna’s and Kirito’s relationship is clearly useless before the main story starts.

    Oh and they decided that timeline is utterly useless.

    • thewizardninja
      Posted August 6, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      I just don’t understand what it is about Light Novel adaptions that almost ensures that anything that has some semblance of a serious plot will get turned into nothing more than a basic summary of events that doesn’t even make use of the advantages of the medium it’s in and doesn’t even try to recapture the experience or the “essence” of the scenes getting adapted. I can’t even just use “JC Staff” as an excuse this time because it’s A-1 who, in my opinion, have had a good track record in that sort of thing when it comes to original anime, so I don’t see why that should change when it comes to an adaption.

      I guess part of that is the original’s fault for going anachronistically and skipping large portions of time with a few paragraphs but that’s something you can do with a novel series that doesn’t always work with anime unless it gets done RIGHT. And unfortunately they aren’t doing it right at all. Honestly, I wonder if going the Haruhi/Baccano route would have been a good call, mixing the timeline up completely to the point where you don’t even care the arcs aren’t related to each other and that it skips time everywhere because it’s all jumbled up anyway.

      • kirin
        Posted August 6, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

        This is a problem I’m seeing with adaptations in general these days. I find that they normally end up subservient to the source material to the point that the pressure to stay faithful to the source tends to exceed the need to actually create something extraordinary. Of course, there tend to be pragmatic reasons for such a measure, perhaps like the ease of writing, but it doesn’t help me like it any more.

      • thewizardninja
        Posted August 7, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        I kind of know what you mean, but it seems like when it comes to most LN adaptions they don’t even try to stay faithful to the source. I mean they don’t outright change anything major (Unless they’re Zero no Tsukaima or Shana) but they also don’t pay any attention to the multitude of minor things that often make each of the original works entertaining.

        Some of it comes from the fact that novel -> anime is a more drastic change in medium when compared to manga -> anime (which is already a mostly visual medium), and visually representing things found in text is admittedly not an easy thing to do, but at the same time you can tell that most of it is just due to a lack of understanding of the source and plain old laziness. Nobody in their right mind would have made the choice to do the SAO arc completely chronologically if they actually took the time to analyse the first two volumes and how they worked off of each other.

        The only two sane options would be to either do what I suggested earlier and jumble it up completely so all these flow problems become irrelevant (which would certainly be a gamble, I can admit, but the more I think about it the better it sounds to me), or to completely re-write the SAO arc with all the important side stories weaved into it in such a way that events are seemingly more relevant to the main plot and flow into each other without disconnecting us at the start of each new episode. But instead they chose to spend 5 episodes (possibly 6 if the episode after next is what I think it is) on stories that expect you to already know the future development of the main characters and the important events that happen later (which results in a lot of dramatic irony that would and does go over the heads of anybody only watching the anime) and then they didn’t even have the decency to represent the stories themselves properly as stand-alone arcs. It’s just really disappointing.

    • Inushinde
      Posted August 8, 2012 at 2:01 am | Permalink

      I actually kind of liked this detective arc, even if it didn’t contribute much. I mean at least it’s a real story that doesn’t revolve entirely around Kirito, and the show finally realizes that it hasn’t developed him or Asuna to the point that we actually care about them. It may be trying to make up for inherent problems, but it’s doing a decent job at it.

  3. Posted August 6, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    The claim, Kirito becomes a Buddhist monk treating even NPC as ‘human,’ is not unfounded if the episodes actually tried to connect the dots between Kirito’s development.

    In the first episode, Kirito develops a guilty conscious for abandoning his first friend. Afterwards, he abandons the entire SAO community by revealing and living his ego as a ‘beater.’ In the Red-Nosed Reindeer, he reconnects with humanity and realizes the reality of emotions even in a virtual world. Finally, he understands that these emotions aren’t limited to human-human interaction with Scilica and Pina serving as prime examples.

    The first four episodes were supposed, I assume, to be strategically placed to develop Kirito into the person he currently is. Unfortunately, all of these episodes never show how Kirito is influenced by the things around him, only that such things happen. In addition, the focus on fanservice and rushing through episodes limits the audience’s capability to understand even the events of the episodes. SAO never seemed further from awesomeness than it is now.

    • Elanassa
      Posted August 8, 2012 at 12:41 am | Permalink

      The source material also does a vastly better job of explaining it. Kirito isn’t quite so concerned about the NPC’s… but the fate of the player’s who decide to sacrifice those NPC’s for an easy advantage.

      Where does it stop after all? How exactly does it affect the players, if they watch a hapless village full of NPC’s being eaten by a boss?

      • Inushinde
        Posted August 9, 2012 at 5:24 am | Permalink

        They’re still NPCs in the end. I think his argument is flawed no matter how you look at it, but it would’ve been nice to have him explain himself here.

  4. Adrian
    Posted August 7, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    And in the end, the director is gonna flee from the criticism through the “original way” road.

    • Inushinde
      Posted August 13, 2012 at 1:51 am | Permalink

      To be fair, I thought it was a neat way to adapt the arc. Then again, I haven’t read the actual novel nor do I plan to.

  5. Erif
    Posted August 10, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Back off Hyouka man. >:/

    • Inushinde
      Posted August 13, 2012 at 1:54 am | Permalink

      Never.

  6. Someone Else
    Posted August 11, 2012 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    Been wondering why you never posted about Hyouka, so that’s your opinion of it

    • Inushinde
      Posted August 13, 2012 at 1:53 am | Permalink

      Well I’ve only been posting here for a month, and I did write about why I didn’t like one of the earlier episodes on my own site back when I wrote there on a near-daily basis, so my general apathy toward it has been vocalized a fair bit.

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