Monday, September 3, 2012

Sword Art Online Episode 9--Kirito Saves Everybody, The End (Dropped)

Sword Art Online Episode 9 Screenshot 1

That's it. I'm done.

Sword Art Online Episode 9 Screenshot 2

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?

Sword Art Online Episode 9 Screenshot 3 Sword Art Online Episode 9 Screenshot 4

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.

Sword Art Online Episode 9 Screenshot 5 Sword Art Online Episode 9 Screenshot 6

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.

Sword Art Online Episode 9 Screenshot 7

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.)

Sword Art Online Episode 9 Screenshot 8

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.

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  1. Can i spoil something, now that you dropped it ? The bad guy cames to like him to the point of giving he Admin powers over the next game. Even when said bad guy is already dead !!

  2. I can't blame you for dropping this. I loved the first episode too, but since then it has severely went downhill. It had a bunch of potential, it could have been dark with characters that actually care that they're in a life or death situation. Instead we get a show where nobody's actually trying to win and prefer wasting the rest of their life mastering cooking or working at a shop. It just doesn't add up. Not to mention, there are so many plotholes that surround the game itself, that I can't even keep count of them any more.

    Wasn't Asuna suppossed the one of the leaders of the strongest groups of players in the game? And now she really has become pretty much useless. I couldn't help but cringe in the last moments of the episode where she was clinging to him for five minutes and Kirito just carried on having a conversation with someone else.

    I definitely see how Kirito could be considered a Mary Sue. I feel I could complain for several more hours on why this show continues to fail with each episode. I can definitely agree that this anime just isn't fun to watch to anymore. This is the main story everyone told us to wait for? Ugh.

  3. Wow, seriously? I've been reading spoilers since I don't really care anymore, but that's pretty ridiculous.

  4. Yes, exactly. Now all I see when I look at this show is wasted potential. And the more I read through spoilers, the gladder I am that I dropped this because it only gets more ridiculous from here.

    I found that really strange as well. I actually even forgot that she was there while they were explaining the whole dual wielding thing. So she was just... sitting there the entire time while the boys talked? The heck?

    I just don't get it. This story wasn't worth waiting for at all. The fan can have this one back, I don't want it anymore.

  5. I don't know, I can see why most girls like Kirito, I mean I fell in love with him too after 2 episodes. Probably because he is perfect and you want to hug him when he's sad and you feel like he could protect you. Not saying he isn't a Gary Stu but i don't see why the girls who like him are unreasonable and are only a product of the author's wishes. Well the only problem I have is that all the girls are attractive too, but I feel that an important quality to be liked by girls if you are strong and able to make her feel secure. Although I feel like Asuna would like a different type, someone who treats her like an equal on the battle field, or maybe she is weak in terms of love, but it's probably a flaw created by the writers. Yeah Kirito is a gary Stu, but I can see why girls like him. (I mean I'm not that bad looking so I qualify right?)

  6. lol actually I'm beautiful, If you don't say so yourself *flips hair*

  7. In terms of real life, you can like whatever character you want and it's perfectly fine. This post wasn't directed at fans or people who like the character in real life, it was just trying to express my frustration with the series.

    And I never said that the girls who like him are unreasonable? I just highly value chemistry in on-screen relationships, and here it felt more like "boom, they like each other" without really explaining why. And while that does happen in the real world, in fiction that's lazy writing. Chemistry isn't having one desirable character trait, and relationships are a lot more complicated than that. But I study writing in school, so I realize that my standards are a lot different than most people.

    Your comment sounds like you kind of misunderstood what I meant by calling this anime "wish-fulfilment," and I go into it a bit more here:

    But clearly the characters worked for you where they didn't for me, and that's fine. That doesn't make you wrong or required to defend why you like him. That's one of the reasons why I like anime so much; there's literally something for everyone, even though all of us don't always agree.