「赤鼻のトナカイ」 (Akahana no Tonakai)
“The Red-Nosed Reindeer”
In a way, I’m a little disappointed that The Red-Nosed Reindeer was only adapted into one episode – in my view it’s quite possibly the most important of all the SAO side stories and we can see some minor pacing issues in how it was handled. Where most of the side stories merely serve to show Kirito in a different light (and introduce new characters with no relation to the main plot), RNR’s events pretty much define Kirito as a person. It’s hard to imagine that what he went through wouldn’t leave emotional scars, not just because of the loss of his friends, but because of his role in their fate.
At the same time, I’m glad that they’re not following the novels word for word – not all light novels and manga are suited for adaption in exactly the way they’re written. Because the SAO side stories were written independently of the main plot, they’re relatively disconnected – they have no real impact on the rest of what happens. Even if RNR should have had a major effect on Kirito, it’s not properly shown until later volumes (though some of his personality in the main plot could potentially be attributed to it). Not only that, but they’re written to be read after the main plot has concluded and thus their character development is misplaced when adapted in chronological order. Combined with time constraints, it should be no surprise that some material ends up being altered. It may not be ideal, but very little ever is.
Precisely because of the decision to use chronological order, SAO has a unique opportunity; while they can’t directly change events (at least not drastically), they can colour them a little differently – work the side stories more effectively into the rest of the plot. Heck, they’ve already done it once with the cameos in the very first episode. At the end of the day, what’s more important? A word for word adaption that often feels disjointed because events and character development don’t coincide properly? Or an adaption which pulls all the material together into a cohesive form, sacrificing only those aspects that are not completely necessary? Sure, we may have missed out on some Asuna development in episode two, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be getting this development later, at a more fitting time.
Just like any other MMO, SAO needs front line fighters to act as tanks and hold off the party’s foes. It’s a little unfair that the Moonlit Black Cats were trying to force someone so obviously unsuited to the role to take on this task – Sacchi’s terror is so blindingly obvious that it can only be imagined the leader doesn’t want to split up the group but can’t afford a burden. I can’t blame her for running away under those circumstances… she herself realises that she’s a burden to the team, yet doesn’t want to be alone.
While Kirito may have chosen to live as a solo player, he obviously still desires company – why else would he have joined the Moonlit Black Cats when there was no true benefit to him beyond their camaraderie? Why he couldn’t have sought out that companionship in the upper echelons of power, I don’t know… I guess it was because the Black Cats were the first to approach him with the idea given his terrible reputation. Of course, they only did so because they were unaware of it and Kirito hid the major pieces of evidence that would give it away (his actual level for one). Had he not done that, chances are the rest of the players would still be alive. Unfortunately, the adaption doesn’t make this particularly clear due to cutting down the moments leading up to the opening of the treasure chest. In the original work, Kirito had a chance to stop them by speaking up but chose not to take it. This feels like one of the more important details that were cut from the episode to me.
Of course, even without it, Kirito’s role in the event and the blame that falls upon him is pretty obvious. There can be no surprise that guilt would weigh him down, especially in face of the promises he made. I have to say that the foreshadowing (and actually much of RNR in general) was a little overdramatic in execution. This isn’t the adaption’s fault though – it felt just like that in the light novel too. It can be hard to feel any real sadness at events when they happen so quickly and are so heavily laden with drama, but there was still a little something in Sacchi’s final speech, delivered by proxy through a voice recording she left behind for Kirito.
I’ve never really been sure on the subject, but the choice of ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ seems to have a deeper meaning to me. The story of a loner – an outcast – who suddenly finds himself helping the others because of his unique skills. There are parallels with Kirito there – his solo status, his joining the Black Cats to help them out despite being different to the rest of them. Whether or not this was actually intentional, I don’t know. It could just be a random Christmas carol Kawahara chose to fit in with the theme.
tl;dr: @MoombaDS – Things felt a little rushed this week but there was entertainment to be had nontheless! #SAO
- Do I blame the leader for throwing himself to his death? Yes, since suicide is never the answer. However, I can understand what he must feel to an extent – not only did he lose the only friends he had in-game all at once, but also all his friends from the real world.
- Argo still made a debut in the anime – I didn’t think they’d actually leave her out so I can’t say I’m surprised.
- Klein is a true bro, sacrificing his chance at the resurrection item (admittedly he did see it as a rumour) to hold back the Holy Dragon Alliance so that Kirito could obtain it.
- Yet, it’s oddly hard to take a crying Hirata Hiroaki seriously. There’s something worryingly comic about it.
- It was a little disappointing not getting to see any of the undoubtedly awesome battle against the game’s terrifying rendition of Santa Claus.