15 CommentsSword Art Online / By Inushinde /

Sword Art Online Episode 9: We Finally Have Plot!

Today marks a very special day in the world of Sword Art Online. That’s right, there’s actually relevant plot for the first time in seven episodes! Not just details that the show promises will bloom into relevant plot points later or another member in Kirito’s harem, but actual, legitimate story progression! Everybody cook your rare drops and threateningly point your nearest eating utensil at Kirito in praise, because we finally have something akin to an overarching plot!

Along the way to a story with connectivity to the side-stories, there were a few bumps, mostly due to the execution being to competence what a constant blood hemorrhage is to clotting. For every side story that added an interesting element to the world or to Kirito’s still perplexingly sparse personality, there were several that were supposed to hit a certain mark, but ended up hitting an entirely different mark altogether, one made of stewed twigs and failure rather than solid gold and success. As such, when they’re referenced later, a sizable amount of the impact is lost.

In particular, the events of episode three where Kirito joins and destroys a guild in the most Kafkaesque manner possible come to the forefront yet again, and the result continues to be less than exemplary. So when Kirito witnesses a self-proclaimed liberation army rushing  in to fight a big boss without the ability to teleport out, he flashes back to when the guild he inadvertently killed got absolutely thrashed by a trap room in what I assume was supposed to be a moment of emotional anguish, but instead felt tacked on. While this is more damning regarding the events of that episode than of this one, it still wasn’t handled too well in the transition to flashback form.

While a botched scene of emotional turmoil can be forgiven in this context, the entire second half of the episode can’t, as it’s an ever-growing avalanche of clichés and affirmations that Kirito’s nothing but a Gary Stu in a slick black coat. Part of this can be attributed to the difficulty of building suspense around main characters in any medium, since a story isn’t much of a story if the protagonist dies and plays no further part after the first third, but this was a perfect storm of clichés that somehow became more nauseating as the episode went on. Starting with Kirito apparently being the only person in the game who can dual-wield, further confirming this by having him beat the boss with only a sliver of health left, and ending with Asuna throwing herself at him, every possible contrivance is used and abused to the ends of the earth and back, so when Kirito is meant to come out feeling more sympathetic, the end result is something akin to cold detachment from everything that made him imperfect, and by extension everything compelling about him.

Keeping that vitriol in mind, the rest of the episode wasn’t really all that bad. Having Klein back was nice, since his goofy lovableness contrasts Kirito’s gloom and faux-angst wonderfully, and Asuna continues to be the more interesting half of their duo. As much of a prat as our lead is, he isn’t bad enough to completely break my enjoyment of the series so long as these two continue to play more major roles. Now don’t get me wrong, Kirito is bad; this is a rare case where I’d advocate killing off the protagonist a third of the way through (preferably by Asuna with cutlery) in order to shift focus to Asuna, Klein, and the world at large. That said, who’s up for funding Asunart On-Klein with me, where everything else is the same but Kirito’s noticeably absent?

Much better already

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  1. Posted September 3, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Man, Sword Art Online sure does love sacrificing meaningless stock characters for drama purposes.

    My biggest problem is that we’re 9 episodes in and we still know absolutely nothing about the leads. They could have used those side stories to develop Kirito or grow his relationship with Asuna, but no, instead they focus on him being the best at everything and getting all the coolest stuff. Giving Kirito a plethora of Gary Stu traits and unique abilities does not make him a good character.

    When your characters are this underdeveloped, it’s pretty damn hard to care about their struggles. But alas, look! Kirito has Dual Swords!

    • Inushinde
      Posted September 4, 2012 at 3:32 am | Permalink

      Fuck character development, dual-wielding is close enough!

  2. eternia
    Posted September 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Finally, a plot. Mommy’s really proud of you, Kirito. Sniffle.

    “…it’s an ever-growing avalanche of clichés and affirmations that Kirito’s nothing but a Gary Stu in a slick black coat.”
    I can’t help but want to post spoiler, since the avalances of cliches and Gary Stu-ness, or should I say, Jesus-ness (?), continue for the rest of Hype Art Online. (Though I don’t know anything after volume 5). My.. my hands won’t stop. Please…. somebody stop them. No, no, no. NOOOOO.

  3. fathomlessblue
    Posted September 3, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    So let me get this straight; Asuna cooks, blushes, weeps over you Kirito, but never gets too clingy, by intruding on your his personal business (unlike mom)!. Also your his mates fancy her, but still also admire you him for being the stand-up dude they aspire to be. Wow, this is greatest cast of characters in years!

    Any patience I had for this show was completely obliterated by the end of the ep when Asuna, despite being the second-in-command of a powerful guild, literally becomes a prize to be won by Kirito. That’s less character derailment than it is destruction! There’s a level of wish-fulfilment I can deal with, and this show has long since passed it. I still enjoy the setting and what little story there is, but as the core of SAO only exists to cater for emotionally stunted fourteen year olds, consider it dropped!

    Oh well, at least there’s always Popee!

    • blackice85
      Posted September 3, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

      Why the hell can’t she just decide to leave? What do they own her or something?

    • cyp
      Posted September 3, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

      so what? this is just feminist ranting.

    • Inushinde
      Posted September 4, 2012 at 3:40 am | Permalink

      Best light novel adaptation or THE best light novel adaptation? Hooray for character derailment!

      • fathomlessblue
        Posted September 4, 2012 at 7:37 am | Permalink

        @BlackIce85 What? B-but how else will Kirito own her? In such situations it’s perfectly ok for a character’s personality to get shot to pieces to make the main character look cooler. I call it the “Mikoto Misaka effect”.

        @Cyp Ah, the “Too-difficult-to-think-about-it-so-dismiss-with-vaguely-derisive-slur” counterargument, eh! Well done. It’s basically Fuck You!’s more eloquent cousin.

        @Inushinde I think WHO IS IMOUTO may have something to say about that; hell, it doesn’t even need to waste effort with things like a half-arsed setting or story. So pro! SAO has so much to learn!

  4. anon
    Posted September 3, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    I hereby declare proudly that I am a emotionally stunted fourteen year old.

  5. deadman80
    Posted September 3, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    Given that everything that happens below the 74th floor doesn’t happen till vol.2 of the LN and is presented as a non-linear collection of side-stories, I think they did a decent job so far keeping the timeline moving. Ep.8 and the 74th floor is where the first book starts after all.

    If anyone wants to complain about the massive time skips, then try to tell me honestly that watching someone solo xp grind on safe-to-kill-solo mobs would make for compelling viewing. It might have been more exciting from the start if they had followed the LN published order from the point where the action really starts, but a linear timeline makes more sense to those who haven’t read it already and gives us a chance to grasp the nature of the world setting, as well as why Kirito is such an unsociable emo little bastard most of the time. ^^

    • eternia
      Posted September 4, 2012 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      I don’t remember I have complained about the timeskip. So are the others. What’s bad about Hyper Art Online is not the continuous timeskips, but the horrible cohesion between each episode.

      • Inushinde
        Posted September 5, 2012 at 7:16 am | Permalink

        Pretty much that. If source material is fragmented to begin with, adapting it is going to be a challenge, which apparently the staff wasn’t up to. It’s not difficult to keep track of what happens from episode to episode, but it feels incredibly disjointed when the plot’s pretty much been ignored.

  6. cyp
    Posted September 3, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    cannot wait for the next ep. no matter who wins the duel is k. it is a win win situation.

    Posted September 4, 2012 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Just glad to see a plot. Much more enjoyable that way.

  8. matrixEXO
    Posted September 4, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Well, volume one just got continued at EP8. So, if you actually watched it from EP1, then jump to EP8… I don’t think you are gonna miss much.

    That is how it goes in the novel Vol.1 anyway.

    Also, the Gary Stu-ism of the main character continues throughout the whole of SAO volumes.

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