12 CommentsSword Art Online / By Inushinde /

Sword Art Online Episode 6: Fork You, I Won’t Do What You Tell Me

There’s something to be said for a show with a flawless, well-executed mystery that cloaks the viewer with rivulets of tension. There’s also something to be said for a show that’s so disappointingly banal that it’s equivalent to or worse than sticking one’s head in a lathe. The finale of the story’s obligatory mystery arc thankfully, or unfortunately depending on your point of view, falls out of any of those pre-established categories and ends up being underwhelming yet serviceable for it.

If any future writers are watching and, god forbid, getting some kind of inspiration from this show, the one thing I will recommend not taking and repurposing for your own work is a mystery that’s solved entirely through coincidences. While the actual solution is pretty well thought out and even ends on a note that differentiates the meaning between a loving and a possessive nature, the actual trip there is shaky at best. Unfortunately, it’s character development that suffers the most in the process.

Hilariously enough, a character with only a handful of lines and barely three minutes of appearance developed more than any of the main characters have so far. Grimrock’s motive for murdering his wife Griselda (spoiler alert) stemmed from his own perceived inadequacy and the subsequent jealousy that he felt toward her for better acclimating to the world of Sword Art Online. It’s a small detail that likely won’t be broached ever again, but him being uncomfortable with his wife’s change from her demure and obedient real life persona to a more independent sort is something that I’d actually like to see animated. Hell, it’s the best story that’s been done in this show so far (at least where potential for actual emotional weight is concerned), and it was told entirely through exposition with accompanying images, along with the sweetest shades this side of Claymore.

Unfortunately, aside from Grimrock’s love for his wife exposed for being an unhealthily covetous relationship, character development is at a premium. After the whole ordeal is over, nobody develops meaningfully; Kirito’s the same nebbish reluctant white knight that he’s been for the past few episodes, at the same place relationship-wise that he was initially at with Asuna, who in turn retains the undesirable position of Standard Tsundere #86,683. Though consistent, every other side story has at least built on Kirito’s personality in one way or the other. He isn’t the same loathsome guttersnipe that he was for a long stretch of episodes, but there was never a reason to care for him, and nothing about that has changed here.

It doesn’t help Asuna or Kirito that the writing for their conversation isn’t all that great. While the dialogue itself doesn’t jump around quite as much as they did before, getting the two in the same room and actually talking seems to be a struggle that’s clumsily resolved each time. Even though it’s still a far cry from the smooth conversational competence of Joshiraku and Spice and Wolf, where topics transition seamlessly in part because of physical contact of some sort, I have to give credit where credit is due and admit that it wasn’t nearly awkward as fuck in this episode.

For once, I’ll admit that I’m probably being a little too harsh on this episode. These are all genuine criticisms, and things that continued to nag at me after watching, but it does well enough in the short term that I can forgive the many chinks that continue to form in SAO’s armor. I can only hope that it moves on to some sort of relevant plot soon enough, instead of focusing on narrative vignettes that add little to the overall experience. But there I go, dreaming my crazy dreams again. And, I feel it must be said, “Good for Sword Art Online” isn’t actually good by my standards. It just means that things aren’t getting worse than Red-Nosed Reindeer.

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  1. Chaos_Alfa
    Posted August 13, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    It seems the main story will start(continue) with episode 8.

    • Inushinde
      Posted August 13, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

      Well good then!

  2. Son Gohan
    Posted August 13, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    The very thing you praised (Grimlock’s motive for the murder) is something that irked me in this episode. I mean, do you think that it’s a sufficient motive for a crime? For killing your significant one? I facepalmed at the revelation.
    I also found the apparition of Griselda’s ghost in the end unnecessarily cheesy.

    As for Kirito, at least he added Asuna to his friend list, so this whole arc wasn’t a complete waste of time.

    • Inushinde
      Posted August 13, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

      I should probably clarify that “best story this show’s done so far” doesn’t translate to “Holy shit this is awesome!” I just think that it should focus more on how peoples’ personalities can change when interacting in different media instead of Kirito White Knight-ing his way around.

    • kirito
      Posted August 18, 2012 at 5:02 am | Permalink

      actually the #1 killers of women are their husbands (and often for reasons like this) so yeah it is a good motive.

  3. Adrian
    Posted August 13, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    The mistery was good enough. It’s just that our Sherlock deduced everything in a one-go because of a dawn sandwich and not because of a miscellany of events that would eventually tie together along the way, making things clear little by little. By the way, I didn’t like that motive. In literature, when a guy kills his wife, it’s often jealously and possession. It seemed like the author acessed the “reasons for murder” database and chose one he saw fit. It made sense, but I didn’t find it as impressive as you did.

    • Inushinde
      Posted August 13, 2012 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

      I wanted to go into greater detail about how dumb the “Wait a minute, that sandwich was just destroyed, I SUDDENLY KNOW HOW TO SOLVE THIS MYSTERY NOW!” angle was, but it didn’t really fit the character development focus of this post. I liked the motive and I thought the ending was good by SAO standards, but it’s still far from impressive.

      • Posted August 15, 2012 at 1:24 am | Permalink

        I find it kind of funny that you are perfectly willing to read between the lines for the villain in this episode and suss out his motives, but apparently make no attempts to do so for the main characters. SAO doesn’t have the greatest writing, true, but Kirito isn’t nearly as simplistic as you like to make him out to be. The fact that you added the “reluctant” part to your white knight description proves to me that you are not paying attention at all.

        Grimlock wasn’t even an interesting villain, so it baffles me to see the discrepancy.

      • Inushinde
        Posted August 16, 2012 at 4:11 am | Permalink

        I won’t pretend that Grimrock was a great villain, but I like how he was approached compared to Kirito. Chalk it up to personal preference, since the two are on par as far as writing quality goes.

        I guess I’d like to see more of how the online world changes people, which I think those scant few minutes spent on Griselda and Grimrock did fairly well. At the very least it feels less… manufactured, for lack of a better word.

  4. Posted August 14, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    I’d say that the real victim here was fashion. A grey top hat with jet black round sunglasses and a duster? Not on my watch, honey.

    • Inushinde
      Posted August 16, 2012 at 4:02 am | Permalink

      Considering that everyone else looks like the lovechild of RPG clothing and excessive brooding, it’s at least fitting. It isn’t much, but it’s something!

    Posted August 16, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    This site is what I use to get my bi-polar second opinion. Has been for 2 years. I am sure many will disagree, but I think this is an above average anime. The only issues I had were the pacing of the 2nd & 3rd episode and the fact I don’t really give a shit about kirito. He has a personality, but he does not use it.
    Episode 3-6 were all about establishing relationships and characterization, but it will all be for naught if he doesn’t use what we learned. From watching anime I realized the only time I give a shit about a character is when they have a goal & pull other characters in while they try to achieve it.
    The only time he pulls other characters in is when he is fighting or in the process of trying to get something done. I hope over time as the floors start to get harder and harder (assuming they actually focus on the floor battle instead of these side stories) he develops into a leader and someone that can carry a conversation as opposed to someone thats afraid to speak up and only helps when something conveniently pops up in front of him.

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