About a month ago, when I first started this blog, I was planning on writing a series of posts about Sword Art Online and the various interesting aspects of the world that I wished it would explore in more detail. So how do I feel about that now?
See, here I was thinking that the world of SAO would last the full 2 cours of the show, giving the creators plenty of time to flesh out interesting ideas. But now it’s done. Gone. The entire world introduced in the first episode – the one I so wanted to see fleshed out – suddenly ceased to exist, without once giving more than a passing glance to any topic of interest. What I wanted and hoped to see SAO do was to do something with the fact that it takes place in a video game.
It went the aesthetic lengths with things like menus and the use of MMO slang, but what I was waiting to see were consequenses of the world being an MMO. I was going to write about things like the show’s treatment of death, hacks and exploits in a virtual reality, the impact of living in a world with a clear and deterministic set of rules, and – most interestingly to me – how the show could use the real world to enhance its drama. But the game is over now, done before it was over, and I’ve lost all the good intentions toward the show that were motivating me to write about these things. It’s as if the author himself got sick of his own story, so why should I care?
I mean, I guess he’s in the real world now, but all that’s come of that is yet another jealous female character who’s fallen in love with Kirito and wants him all to herself. And also happens to be related to him. Oh, and we can’t forget Nobuyuki Sugou (actually, I can – I had to look him up on Wikipedia), a character that I can only imagine came about because the author watched that one scene from End of Evangelion where Shinji is ogling Asuna’s lifeless body, but he thought it wasn’t creepy enough so he made Shinji older.
I suppose while I’m on the subject, and because it’s still vaguely relevant at this point, I can briefly touch on my fanfiction sideplot of what SAO could have done with the real world while the players were trapped in the game. What we could have had was parallelism.
As the players struggle to free themselves from inside the game, we could have seen police and hospital staff and maybe even some elite team of computer hackers trying to free them from the outside. As Kirito comes to terms with his new life in the game world and works on enhancing his sword-wielding ability, we could have seen his sister training for the kendo quarterfinals, trying to accept her new life sans onii-san. As Kirito mourns the death of his guildmates in the early episodes, we could have seen his mother worry for his own life as well. When we meet the SAO-security-employee-turned-fisherman, we could have seen his colleagues struggling with their incredibly morally difficult position. When Kirito waxes philosophical about being at home in a virtual world, we could have seen the contrast of people outside (presumably his family) talking about how terrible and alien it must be to be trapped in so different a world, and a fake one at that. Maybe there could have been a reversal of expectations – what if there were people on the outside so sick of their own lives that they were desperately trying to find a way into the game?
I will admit that I liked the kendo scene in episode 15, because it brought the real and game worlds together decently well. Boy was that a first.
But anyway, even more general things, like seeing more of the outrage around the world and the search for Akihiko Kayaba, or a few quick scenes of the horrified families that tried to remove the NerveGears, would have upped the tension and made in-game death seem more meaningful. Or at least more meaningful than the offhanded “And then a few thousand people died” narration that we got. If the show had gone into some of the details of Kayaba and his company and the corporate drama that must have exploded around this game – a game that killed thousands and left thousands more in a coma for two years – we also could have seen some subtle foreshadowing for this new plotline, such as the transfer of servers to Asuna’s family company, and an earlier introduction to our new villain Creepyface McGee.
SAO could have shown us first-hand the impact the game was having on the world we know, grounded important events by tying them in with something more relatable, better developed its existing characters, introduced interesting new characters, added some intrigue, injected some much-needed variety into the show, and juiced up its thematic palate all in one go. Except no, because SAO is not about any of these things, and is instead actually about how Kirito is such a special snowflake and every girl is after his… uh… sword.
Oh, well. So much for my fanfiction. At least the second half of the series looks like it’s not even trying to be taken seriously, what with that goofy fairy-elf world they’ll be taking on next, and the fact that the second OP pretty much embodies everything that SAO could possibly have left to do wrong. Finally, I can stop trying to see the good in the show and just sit back and laugh at it as it endlessly glops all over itself.
And thus, I’m probably not going to write about it anymore, because all the time I would waste writing about SAO would be much better spent actually watching good anime. And besides, somebody reached my blog today using the search term “Sword Fart Online” and that’s all I really wanted out of this project anyway. Mission accomplished.