Sword Art Online – 18
「世界樹へ」 (Sekaiju e)
“To the World Tree”
It’s always interesting to have some light shed upon the motives of characters who aren’t one-dimensional antagonists. We heard more than enough about Sugou’s dastardly plans last week, so it was about time we finally had something to counterbalance that – the purity behind Sugu’s motives for joining ALO and becoming enraptured by it. Her original desire to play a VRMMO stemmed from wanting to see what kind of life Kirito was trapped in. Honestly speaking, ALO is so different to SAO in so many ways; it’s hard to believe she would have managed to get any sort of picture of what life was like for him. But the core ideas remain – the escapism, the colourful, pseudo-natural worlds, and the freedom. Always the freedom.
No matter where you look, freedom is always a common motif, be it in the real world, in anime, or in a video game set during the American Revolution (it was a pretty decent game by the way, pity about the further simplified combat and disappointing ending). Flight has always been one of those grand dreams of freedom shared by many, going back as far as the myths of Icarus and his wings of feather and wax (and quite possibly even further). A desire to become closer to her comatose step-brother may have brought her into the game in the first place, but the partial realisation of that dream is what caused her to stay.
I have to say it bothers me a little to see Leafa so willing – almost eager – to abandon her other friends and become a renegade all for the sake of a guy she’s only just met. Why is it so urgent for her to leave that she couldn’t spare time to justify herself and reason with
Elrond Sigurd (Kirimoto Takuya) rather than throw everything away? Being branded a traitor is one of those things that’s really hard to get rid of after the fact. At the same time, I can see her point of view slightly – but only slightly, mind. As I understand it, Kirito is the first person she’s ever met who could keep up with her when it came to flight – the first person who was on the same level as her. There’s something special about that – about finding an equal where you thought there were none to be found. With flying seemingly the most important aspect of the game to her, it’s only natural she’d make a connection of sorts there.
Before I continue, I want to say that this was in no way a particularly bad episode. It was hardly spectacular, but it wasn’t terrible either – it did, however, once again highlight a few of the problems I have with the source material which never seem to go away.
It’s funny to see how Sugu treats Nagata in comparison to Kirito. The evident distaste she shows towards him is odd when you realise he shares many of the core characteristics that make up Kirito’s character and would probably be far more similar to him if he’d been given the same benefit of support. Kirito is how Kawahara Reki probably sees himself; Nagata is how I imagine him. Okay, so there may be some hyperbole there. But truthfully speaking, the biggest difference between Kirito and Nagata is that one was circumstantially granted abilities for the sake of story progression and the other was not. Gary Stu is a term that’s bandied about a lot, particularly in recent seasons. Contrary to popular belief, the criticism does not necessarily refer to how overpowered a character might be, though this does factor in. The most notable characteristic – which is sadly present in SAO – is how the entirety of a work seems to bend around that single main character. Kirito gets the special abilities; Kirito gets all the girls with no effort on his part; Kirito gets the ultimate waifu; Kirito gets to be the most powerful player in both games; Kirito defeats the final boss of SAO solo (amongst other bosses); Kirito doesn’t die when killed, even managing a comeback when he shouldn’t be able to.
Don’t get me wrong – the main character is the main character for a reason. Using one or two – maybe even three – of these traits in an unironic fashion would be acceptable. It would be boring if SAO was centred on a run-of-the-mill character who never achieved anything noteworthy, but why must everything be about Kirito? Why is every other character reduced to being a love interest or foil? Why is Kirito perfect at everything he does? Can’t someone else have the spotlight for a moment?
Funnily enough, my favourite part of this entire episode was the ending. I’ve always had a soft spot for when an ED starts playing early and, coupled with the figures rising in the dark as the image panned, it made for a surprisingly cool scene. It’s something I can’t adequately put into words (well there goes my writer’s card), but there’s an anticipation – or a promise – that comes from ending on a minor cliff-hanger while the ED plays. Something big is coming (no, not the bat, something more impressive).
tl;dr: @MoombaDS – A glimpse into Sugu’s mind and a surprisingly effective last twenty seconds. These are the things I find myself enjoying about #SAO
- It’s funny to think that Kirito and Leafa are living under the same roof and interacting with each other in both worlds unknowingly. If she’d just opened that door, she’d probably have realised the truth.
- I’m glad Leafa found Kirito’s new sword as funny as I did. There’s hope for her yet!
- Suddenly Kirito looks a little like Zack Fair!
- So is pain actually a thing in ALO?
- Looks like the keypad was a security risk. Genius.