「新たなる伝説」 (Arata naru densetsu)
“The New Legend”
Well I guess that’s it then. No real surprises for SnS in this week’s finale, as Haruto survived, Asahi returned to normal, and one new (old?) pairing was gently—if firmly—established as the next big romantic thing. Or just another finger in the eye of Satsuki’s hopes and dreams, but the poor girl doesn’t need any more poking and prodding on that front. Likewise any chance of finding out the where and what of Asahi’s real life situation was naturally avoided for the sake of “read the light novel” marketing, and Elicia, while finally introduced, still has no bloody explanation. Not the most exciting of conclusions given all the mysteries flying about mind you, but when things could have ended with another cliffhanger, it’s kind of hard complaining too much.
After all sometimes all you need is a happy ending.
Oh SnS, where to even begin. I cannot deny when this season started this was one show I was looking forward to, an isekai in the vein of SAO with a story that screamed .hack//SIGN (and oh boy do I love .hack//SIGN). It was a good mix of many ubiquitous (read: cliché) components, and yet, ever so gradually, SnS just never went anywhere, revealing a show not so much disastrous as simply boring. Downright boring.
The main issue SnS arguably suffered from was its world building. While the show had the game world and all its necessary pieces, very few occasions were ever devoted to explaining the presence or purpose of them. Just what were the guilds here for, what were they after, or why should we care? How does the Sense system actually work, what determines the power one receives, and how does synergy between abilities function? And don’t even get me started on the enemies and their utter lack of any rhyme or reason. No one expects every little, minute detail to be laboriously fleshed out and catalogued of course, but there must be enough to provide some form of importance and mass to the actions and intentions of the main cast. Without certain details enemies become little more than window dressing, settings a simple change of scenery, and everything becomes open to questions a few snippets of info could have easily done away with.
The irony though of SnS’s choices in world building is that they are not deleterious outside of isolation. SAO and .hack//SIGN for example (especially the latter) featured barebones game worlds of their own, with many key details lacking or simply never touched upon. The difference is both these series made up for world building with (subjectively) good stories which built upon the modest foundation of their settings. We never had to ask for the motivations of Kirito’s enemies after all, never once had to question the reason so many chose to help Tsukasa. These important elements were dropped or discussed when the moment was right, ensuring other weaker facets of their respective stories were papered over before too many questions were asked. SnS however rarely did this, trying to let its characters and their opponents stand without any of the supports required to actively make them interesting or engaging. As a result whenever a new detail or enemy emerged it became a weird mix of confusion and indifference, just another thing we all knew would either not be explained, or killed off/made superfluous before the day was done. Settings and world building can be overdone at times (see Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei), but SnS is a prime example showing what happens when you neglect that aspect too much overall.
In the end however I cannot say I’m too disappointed with the time I spent covering SnS. For all the issues plaguing this show it was still fun to watch every week (if only for one reason), and while not one I’ll probably return to anytime soon, it’s one to keep as a good comparison for future series, isekai in particular. SnS shows very well that a story is not made by its premise alone, that no number of “essential” genre tropes and character archetypes can make up for the details needed to give a story legs. Without that information, without that detail, even the most ingenious of stories will fall far from the heights they eagerly aspire to. It’s an important lesson to all future challengers, isekai or not: make sure you put some thought into the story world at large, or the consequences will overshadow everything else you do.