Sword Art Online Episode 9--Kirito Saves Everybody, The End (Dropped)
That's it. I'm done.
Pretty much everything I said last week still holds true here, so I'm going to try to keep the ranting to a minimum. I wanted to like this show. I enjoyed the first two episodes a lot and felt like I was in for something special. But since then, it has continuously betrayed the standards I expected from it after those two episodes, whittling itself down to wish-fulfillment on a nice budget. Like I've said before, there's nothing wrong with that, but when a show promises more and gives less it becomes a chore to watch. Shows like this are supposed to be fun, and it's not fun for me anymore. Why?
I have two major problems with this show: the way it handles its characters and how it deals with its premise. I'm writing up an editorial on the latter that I hope will be out within the week so I'm going to set that aside for now. However, this episode is yet another great example of how ridiculous everyone's priorities seem to be in this series. They're still shocked when stupid actions result in death. A lot seem to care more about maintaining appearances and their role within the game than actually clearing it. We get this with both the Aincrad Liberation Army, who walk straight into a deathtrap (which is getting old) and the Knights of the Blood Oath, who, despite allegedly being so powerful, won't let their own second-in-command make her own decisions because they can't afford to lose people.
The main characters aren't much better. Asuna is quickly becoming a joke, once again reverting to stereotype mode once they're out of danger by having a conversation with Kirito about flavorings. Then at the end of the episode, she turns into a clingy, crying mess after Kirito was knocked out for a few seconds. I understand that they're supposed to be the big romantic couple, but is it too much to ask for actual chemistry and relationship development instead of resetting her personality whenever she might intrude on Kirito's spotlight? And why does he have to constantly rescue her and/or duel people who talk about her like she isn't even in the room? What happened to the girl who didn't care what she had to do to get home?
And then there's Kirito, with the big reveal about his dual-wielding ability. That was honestly what sealed the deal for me to drop this show, since now it's not even bothering to hide his Gary Stu traits anymore (follow the link if you aren't familiar with the term). With that in mind, I hunted down a Writer's Mary Sue Test to prove my point. Feel free to take the test yourself and follow along.
Things I checked on the test:
-He is of the author's gender.
-He shares the same sexual identity as the author. (Going by what I've seen in this show and Accel World, I'm assuming that the guy is straight.)
-They share a hobby (MMOs in this case)
-The author believes that everyone who reads the story will like and empathize with the character (I don't know if he really believes that, but with the constant focus on showing how cool and chivalrous Kirito allegedly is, I'm going to say yes.)
-He carries an unusual weapon.
-He is a teenager.
-He regularly wears black, heavy weaponry, and a long coat.
-He has a special ability that no one else has. (Dual Wielding.)
-He was physically abused as a child. (Grandfather)
-He has guilt about something that happened in the past that wasn't actually his fault. (His sister.)
-He is persecuted by an authority figure (Grandfather again) out of general meanness.
-He feels responsible for the death of more than one friend when it wasn't actually his fault.
-Everyone thinks he is hot. (Ex: Every time he meets a girl.)
-During the story, he's had the opportunity to sleep with several different people but doesn't because he's Not That Kind of Guy. (See above.)
-Everybody likes/admires/sympathizes with him.
-A character that disagrees with him ends up dying in way that proves him right all along. This happens more than once. (Ex: Every time Kirito warns someone to be careful and they walk into an obvious deathtrap.)
-He almost always wins physical fights and verbal battles.
-He's kicked out of (kendo) school for bucking the system.
Things I didn't check but suspect may come true:
-He dies/appears to die but comes back to life/wasn't dead after all.
-Even the bad guys think he is hot.
-Animals and children instinctively like him. (Episode 4 could be evidence of this, but I don't think that's enough to prove this one yet.)
At the end of the test, there are a few comments: "You may have let yourself get a little too close to Kirito. Maybe he's you as you wish you were, or maybe you're just afraid no one will like him and are trying to give him a free ride. Have some confidence in your writing! Kirito is a good character. Give him room to be himself before you stifle him."
It's a programmed response (I've run characters through this test several times and depending on the answers, the sentences change), but that really says it all. There is something to SAO, but the writers just can't let it be. If handled just a little differently, then the self-insert symptoms wouldn't be as big of a problem. This show could've been a great example of how tropes do not necessarily define a story. However, I'm sorry to say that I'm not going to stick around anymore to see if it sorts itself out.
Images from Crunchyroll.com.