「囚われの女王」 (Toraware no Joou)
For the longest time, Sword Art Online has been lacking something that’s almost crucial in the top tier of anime. There’s a certain element of enjoyment that can only really be brought to an anime by sheer, unfettered fabulousness. This is a flair Kirito, as our main character, is distinctly lacking – his almost bleak, and relatively stoic nature goes hand in hand with his dark and dour clothing choices. For the first time since its premiere, we have something that comes vaguely close to the spirit – a character who just barely manages to bring some fabulous to the table. Oh, by the way, it’s Sugou. Yes, the horrible, evil, pretty much one-dimensional antagonist who has fantasies of doing despicable things to Asuna against her will. It’s not perfect though – the pose is about halfway there but he needs a bit more flair and a little less creepy. The smug could probably go too. But it’s the best we’ve got so we can make do! A pity about the motivations.
Surprisingly enough, unlike our last antagonist, Sugou actually has a plan. It’s probably not the best plan – selling mind control technology to the highest bidder is an obvious recipe for disaster – but it’s more than our old friend Kayaba Akihiko apparently had. With the three hundred test subjects captured while trying to escape SAO (I feel bad for them – that sucks on so many levels) he has plenty of material to experiment on. All away from the watchful eyes of Asuna’s father of course – couldn’t have him realising he’d taken pure evil under his wing. His control over this system brings up a small question though – why the keypad? We see Asuna obviously trying to memorise the code so she can escape – it’s a pretty big security risk. He’s the admin so surely he could set the door to open for him and only him with no need for any sort of interface. So why doesn’t he?
Kirito continues to be pretty bad at flying (which is a good thing – we can’t have him instantly mastering everything at once now can we?). This adds a fair bit of entertainment value to the episode, particularly in seeing him crash-land (unfortunately not visibly on his head this time) in the Sylph town. Before this, he casually jokes about seeing himself as a hero who’s just saved a princess… I still wonder if this is truer than he’d like to believe – he’s certainly shown a similar mentality in the past. I also wonder at his willingness to immediately trust a girl he’s seemingly never met before as she takes him into a town in which anyone can attack him but he is unable to fight back. Given that only a few moments ago he was casually massacring other players without any second thoughts, why would he not be more wary of exposing himself to an entire town that could potentially contain players with a similar penchant for nonchalant slaughter? What if the entire situation were reversed and Kirito was saving one of the Salamander guys from Leafa (I still prefer Lyfa honestly)? Would he still be as trusting? Would he even save them?
Once again, this episode sheds a little more light onto ALFheim Online’s design. Like many MMOs of old, the choice of race gives varying bonuses to a player in ALO – something that the more modern MMO archetype seems to be trying to phase out. With this in mind, Kirito really should’ve put more thought into his choice than clothing colour, particularly when his bonuses ostensibly give him no real combat advantages, and I can’t imagine him finding any solid use for treasure hunting abilities during his mad rush to clear the game and save Asuna. We also learn the purpose of clearing the World Tree – where flight time and height are currently limited, that limit will be lifted from the race which finally manages to complete the quest. The idea that clearing it would require collaboration between races is quickly dismissed because only one of the participating races would have their limits removed. There’s actually a fairly simple solution to this – if flying free is the ultimate goal shared by all players, just have everyone reroll as a single race and do it that way! See! Now everyone can fly free!
If it wasn’t already obvious last week (it kind of was), Leafa is in fact played by Sugu. Unlike the whole Kayaba Akihiko twist, this was never intended to be a big revelation. It’s dramatic irony – we’re fully aware that the person Sugu is falling in love with is once again her adopted brother; she, however, is not. It’s rather a cruel irony too. I find it a little strange that in the two months since his release from SAO, Kirito has never once even so much as mentioned the name he’s been living under for two whole years to his family. Given that he’s already divulged everything to the authorities, you’d think he might have been a little more forthright with what he’s been up to for the past two years, at least among family.
tl;dr: @MoombaDS – Kirito learns to fly. The hard way. #SAO
- Remain Lights was an interesting mechanic that was quickly glossed over. It’s probably safe to assume they function in the same way as corpses do in other MMOs – the remnants of dead players from which they can be resurrected before they finally give up on it and teleport home.
- Th-th-that’s not a very nice way to hold a fairy!
- I’ve said it a few times now, but ALFheim Online really is completely different to Sword Art Online, particularly in an aesthetic sense. Everything about it looks and feels completely different.
- The first arc of SAO had a lot of random arse shots. This time the focus seems to be on Sugu/Lyfa’s breasts for some reason…
- He fell a pretty long way – he should totally have died from the fall damage. Now that would’ve been funny!