「奈落の淵」 (Naraku no Fuchi)
“Edge of Hell’s Abyss”
This week we have an episode in two parts, the first a light-hearted glimpse into another unexplored part of the SAO system, the second a far more tense and action-packed boss battle with one of the toughest bosses to date. So how about we tackle (badum-tish!) the quieter portion first and leave the further glimpses into Kirito’s personality and the battle until later.
Fishing is almost always horribly boring in MMOs. Actually in most RPGs too – the only example that ever stood out as being moderately fun to me was Dark Chronicle. Interaction is generally minimal – you cast your line, wait for some visual cue saying you’ve caught something, and then you’re forced to perform something akin to a Quick Time Event. SAO seems similar in a sense – whether or not you catch anything appears to be based entirely on your fishing skill (painstakingly increased by grinding the same actions over and over) and your ability to land the fish seems to be directly proportionate to your physical strength stat. Naturally, this is the perfect opportunity for Kirito to show off his immense strength and use it to complement Nishida’s (Saitou Shirou) hard earned skill. With the poor guy apparently almost insane by this point, he still manages to hook the fish, allowing Kirito to perform the switch and get it out of the water. I wonder if the ability to do something like this was by design – switching is certainly a central mechanic in SAO, but whether it was intended for things like fishing… who knows!
Oh and by the way, MMO Fishing Rule 325: If it’s big and in a high level body of water, it’s probably a monster.
But really, so you’re an elderly network security technician and you find yourself trapped in a game world where age suddenly holds no power. You now have the vitality you had in your youth once more. What do you do with your time? Spend it all fishing? I certainly wouldn’t. Hell no! I’d try to become the most badass old guy in the entire game! It’s an extremely rare chance to temporarily regain the health that will probably never return in any other form. But to each their own I guess.
Kirito is quick to ridicule Egil’s professed selflessness, but does he really have that right? If anything, this episode firmly cements my view of him as being pretty selfish. Firstly, he admits that he became strong, not to help others, but so that he himself would be able to survive. In fact, pretty much every time we’ve seen him actively strive to help anyone, it’s been purely circumstantial. Before Asuna came along, he fought alone with few thoughts of joining a group to help speed up the clearing. Secondly, Asuna clearly wants their relationship to be of mutual status, with each of them protecting the other. Kirito, on the other hand wants dominance – to protect Asuna from harm without regard for anything else. He wants her to stay out of the battle, to keep her like a bird in a cage, not letting her do anything just in case she gets hurt. It’s not a great path to start down with a relationship and he’s fortunate that Asuna doesn’t hold it against him and manages to keep him off it with promises that she will die along with him regardless of how it comes about.
Heathcliff, Asuna and Kirito seem to make a pretty good trio in battle. This is what MMOs are truly about – cooperating with other players to take down monsters with vastly higher power than your own. Some people might call a boss that can oneshot players ‘cheap’ or begin crying ‘artificial difficulty!’ among other variants. These people are clearly not familiar with how gaming has changed over the years – once upon a time, this was commonplace. Now it’s all regenerating health and simplistic bosses that can be overwhelmed with numbers and no real need for tactics (or even evading). But while the three seem to make a good combination, it also remains evident that Kirito is not exactly fond of Heathcliff. The frequent glances before the battle seem to give some impression that Kirito isn’t happy with his leadership and his sudden switch from being restless over not getting to fight to complaining he hasn’t had enough time off seems to point to wanting to avoid meeting with his new guildmaster. Or is he even a member of the Knights anymore? I’ve actually forgotten whether he left or not in the novels, but he’s certainly not wearing their colours anymore.
As a final thought, showing that flashback mid-episode reminded me that they could probably have skipped many of the side stories. We gained nothing more from seeing the sleeping-under-a-tree scene animated in a side story than we did from this short look back. Some of them may have been necessary for future events (that will almost certainly happen in the second cour of this adaption), but many could probably have been left out and released as OVAs.
tl;dr: @MoombaDS – Large-scale boss battles and uh… fishing? Odd combination! #SAO
- As usual, Asuna and Kirito show vastly different reactions to the same situations.
- Kill overgrown fish; get fans. Simple!
- It’s come rather late, but finally the anime itself has explained what many of us have stated over and over since the series began – players were moved to hospitals and treated as coma patients shortly after the game began. Hopefully people will stop complaining about that now.
- Based on the title for the next episode, it seems fairly likely that it will be the final episode of volume one and two before we move on to volume three!
- The Skull Reaper is certainly not a boss you would want to face alone. Even Kirito struggles under the weight of its attacks!