Sword Art Online 02

Sword Art Online

That’s me walking away in disappointment

…. ahhh goddamn it. A-1 ruined Aria in the Starless Night. Fuck them.

To be objective, the episode was probably pretty good for people who didn’t read the light novels and only cared about the action scenes. Because it seems that’s what the production committee decided to do. Hell, I will admit, the final attack part by Kirito and Asuna was impressive as fuck, and I shed a few tears just watching that part because of how touching it was, especially when Egil leaped in to tank Kirito and Asuna for a bit.

Sword Art Online

FUCK YEAH EGIL!

Plus the music being epic as fuck helped a lot too. If there’s anything, the soundtrack for Sword Art Online is already a must-get for me.

The boss battle was definitely the highlight of the episode but unfortunately, that’s the only good thing I could say about it. Now, if you’re not a LN reader or don’t give a fuck about me ranting, feel free to stop reading here and do something a lot more productive.

Sword Art Online

Like maybe reading the novels (B-T) so you can understand Asuna’s giggle here

First off… they cut off everything that made Aria awesome in the anime. Mainly Kirito’s first meeting with Asuna in the 18th floor dungeon (for reference, boss room is Floor 20) and the depiction of how her character was a lot less… “sunshine”-y. Aria was awesome for both giving us a proper first meeting story of Kirito and Asuna as well as giving us a good reason of how Asuna came to be and why you can see she genuinely fell in love with Kirito (later in the story).

Yes they kept the cream-on-bread scene and Asuna’s trademark line, but dammit, it still loses the nuance totally. I know they can’t possibly put in all that stuff in anime but putting a 100-over page worth of material in a single episode was a horrible horrible idea. Now people who don’t read the LN’s won’t know about Asuna’s crazy suicidal grinding, Kirito’s awesome room and the bath scene. Oh god the bath scene. Also, SAO is Asuna’s first non-mobile game she played, which explains her unfamiliarity with the GUI in the show. Can’t believe they left that out too.

Next, thanks to the episode NOT including important stuff about the SAO system, I’m sure anime-only viewers are going to see Kirito being an asshat after going all the way to insult everyone after killing the boss and taking the last hit bonus. To understand why he did that here’s a few things you need to know:

  • SAO has free for all PvP everywhere that’s not a town area.
  • Diabel and Kibaou were in cahoots with each other all the time (anime seemed to have made them good friends AFTER the meeting)
  • Diabel intentionally stirred up the New vs Beta conflict in order to screw over Kirito, which he already knew was a pretty great beta player.
  • Not all the beta testers were actually crazy pro hardcore players like Kirito, in fact beta tester death rate after the first month was HIGHER than the new players.
  • SAO, being a death game, requires pretty much a lot of people to work together to beat each floor’s boss.
  • Beta players only got to like Floor 8, so they really don’t have THAT much of an advantage after the first 10 floors

Sword Art Online

This just sounds a lot worse than it is.

So, Kirito in essence took over the “blame” the new players wanted to lay on the “beta testers” in order to try and keep the peace between both factions. If a PvP war broke out between the two sides, it would essentially be self-destructive and would’ve prolonged the game even more. Yes, it’s probably not the best move ever, but Kirito’s thinking at that point was that he was going to be a Solo player for the rest of the game anyways, so he didn’t mind being ostracised if it meant the other players could cooperate together. I really hated how the production committee decided to not include all this little details that actually goes in a long way to explain the reasoning behind Kirito’s actions.

Sword Art Online

He got that coming, seriously.

In fact, from my point of view, Diabel’s actually the more devious one since he was aiming for that last hit bonus all along despite presenting that façade of “let’s all work together” bla bla bla. In the original material he even went to a the extremes of trying to buy over Kirito’s sword (which was pretty much the strongest weapon on Floor 1) to prevent him from getting the “last hit”. Evidently, that didn’t work out too well.

Thirdly, while I said the boss battle was awesome, I still didn’t like the way they rushed through it without explaining some of the basic fighting concepts in SAO properly. For example, the “Switch” technique is a unique thing developed in SAO in order to increase player survival rate during PvE, by having people take turns in engaging the monster. Well, MMO vets probably will get the idea already, but for the layperson it must seem pretty confusing at first.

Sword Art Online

Note how both Kirito and the boss are ‘stunned’ after they block each other’s attacks, allowing Asuna to attack

Switch is also pretty important as there’s actually a cooldown for skill usage plus monsters are able to inflict status effects like “stun” in battle so usually one person would engage first then switch after taking/blocking a hit from the enemy while their team mate deals damage using their sword skills. Also, monster AI in SAO is surprisingly simple and doesn’t react too well with sudden player changes so there is a little window of opportunity when they “switch” to deal a good amount of damage. This is absolutely essential in boss fights.

Sword Art Online

Proper application of “switch” resulting in a nice combo attack.

I still have a lot of complaints about how they handled Aria, like cutting out Argo, but those are pretty minor compared to the ones I found most glaringly ruining the experience of watching SAO animated. To reiterate, this episode was actually rather decent enough, but as a LN reader, I’m sorry this is just horrible.

To rub it in, it seems that the next episode is going to be Red-Nosed Reindeer which means a straight jump to Floor 43 unless they uh… rewrite it too. No preview yet on the official site, but I think they are going to be probably stuffing that in one episode as well. Not as bad as it would seem actually, but I’ll reserve judgement for now.

Sword Art Online

Loving the end cards though

71 Comments

  1. Dakkar Said,

    July 16, 2012 @ 9:02 am

    Well, there’s no real rage among the LN readers with respect to this episode, but some well deserved concern. I’ve never thought that SAO novels are hard to understand, so with two-cours and a decent budget there should have been no problems with making a decent adaptation.
    The second episode was really strange, though. They decided to animate some side-material, which is something they didn’t really have to do, but ignored the better option and picked a relatively long piece which obviously couldn’t be properly condensed into a single episode.
    Now, it’s only the second episode, which means that it’s something that could be easily planned long in advance, i.e. it’s wasn’t a rushed decision. If their best effort in planning was what we’ve seen, it makes me wonder about their familiarity/understanding of the source material, which I previously though was a given. Well, next episode should show.

  2. Otaku Dump Said,

    July 16, 2012 @ 1:17 pm

    People, just read the LN. Anime will probably ruin it. This is the main issue with adaptations – there’s just way too much limitations on what they can do considering the budget, time constraints, and many more factors.

  3. Aen Said,

    July 16, 2012 @ 2:12 pm

    @Otaku

    or they can just enjoy it for what it is :P

  4. Algester Said,

    July 16, 2012 @ 6:19 pm

    well someway somehow A-1 will screw up some of the timeline events like how Yui still exists during the fishing event in the vol 1 chapter 22 for things yet unexplained to me… but I dunno if you guys will like that episode from shear cuteness to down right depressing

  5. Powerplug M Said,

    July 16, 2012 @ 8:00 pm

    Soo much rage.

    @Kuro you forgot to mention how some of the guys in the raid still wore their initial female shirt with a bow on them. That alone should have saved your rage with the episode, right? : D

  6. Wrathkal Said,

    July 16, 2012 @ 8:41 pm

    I also share the opinion that while the producers cut out a lot of the emotional material that went into the LN (Asuna’s intent to go out as herself, Kirito’s realization of Diabel and Kibaou’s plan, the fear and hate of the people trapped inside the game), for an anime, this was a rather good adaptation. Still, it could have been split into two episodes. (I believe there was a scene of Kirito’s rushing ahead, and nearly getting backstabbed. That would have been a good one to animate, as it would emphasize the beta tester status, then followed by this episode, which develops it further)

    From what I’ve read of the LN, the scenes tend to skip around the timeline, and what that accomplishes is that the reader is able to establish a ‘baseline’ personality of the characters that they hold throughout most of the time period, with flashbacks to the past to provide contrast that will emphasize that ‘baseline’. Good in LN style, but not so much in anime, I believe.

    Cutting out Argo doesn’t seem right…

  7. Kurogane Shiroikaze Said,

    July 16, 2012 @ 9:10 pm

    I would’ve done Aria like this:

    Aria (I):
    – Kirito meeting mysterious fencer user in dungeon
    – Kirito saves fencer user (now revealed to be female)
    – Bread scene happens. Kirito invites her to join the boss hunt meeting.
    – Boss hunt meeting. Kibaou makes a fuss
    – Optional: Asuna bath scene.
    – Next day: Diabel announces boss room found. Episode ends.

    Aria (II):
    – Plan is laid out. Kirito and Asuna party together.
    – Move to boss room.
    – Show epic raid party battle action.
    – Boss HP red. Diabel moves up, gets killed.
    – Kirito engages boss, etc etc.
    – Boss defeated, Beater shit dorama time.
    – End episode.

    Seriously, this would have been much better pacing and we would’ve gotten to know Asuna a lot better too. Plus I didn’t even put it all the subplots they cut off from episode 2, and I’m sure they would have no problem making that outline fit 24 minutes.

    Not saying that the episode that came out is totally unacceptable, but it could have been done better, goddamnit.

  8. NovaJinx Said,

    July 16, 2012 @ 9:22 pm

    And 20 episodes later…you still mad.

  9. Aen Said,

    July 16, 2012 @ 9:43 pm

    @Kruo

    Yea, maybe if they were doing the full two cour on Aincrad alone, but that’s not the case here.

    Even if they were, I still doubt there can be a “good” adaptation simply because of how fragmented the source material is, and that they’re going in a strictly chronological order. Using your Aria plan for example, they would just establish Asuna as the main heroine, only to time-jump Kirito into the arms of Sachi right afterwards, while everyone else is wondering wtf happened to Asuna, and why they should care about Sachi.

  10. Kurogane Shiroikaze Said,

    July 16, 2012 @ 10:08 pm

    Well it’s not like I don’t see what they are trying to do. Probably the main reason to do Aria partially is to introduce the “Beater” tag Kirito carries. Then jump to the side story that don’t involve Asuna (Red Nosed Reindeer), jump back to the main story and properly re-introduce Asuna and move on to the other side stories before culminating in the main SAO finish.

    After that, move on to ALO, which is pretty straight forward and end the 2nd cour with it.

  11. Dakkar Said,

    July 17, 2012 @ 1:03 am

    @Aen
    Kara no Kyoukai was also fragmented, with out-of-order timeline, way more complicated setting, and generally harder to deal with material. On top of time and budget constraints there also were issues with controversial content you couldn’t show in theaters. Still, despite all the cuts and compromises, it turned out well.
    Oh, and the very same studio has also done an excellent job animating F/Z, the fact that was even more prominent considering that there was the DEEN’s work on F/SN and UBW to compare to.

    So, while what’s going on with SAO is by no means a tragedy, it’s not only about how the source material is hard to animate, but the skill of those who do it as well.

  12. Baphomet Said,

    July 17, 2012 @ 4:15 am

    What’s wrong with you people? This episode was definitely an improvement over the LN, especially, I repeat: especially, on Asuna’s part. She’s now a lot less emo than in the novel, the horrendous bath scene was left out, the reason for her to fall in love with him is changed from “he’s the hero who released me from my emo shell” to something like “he impressed me with being the first person whom I benefit from even outside the battle”. On that blue-haired guy’s part: Yes, I admit they cut out a little too much, but the results are still satisfying. The anime doesn’t show Kirito being a constant victim of other beta testers’ greed and selfishness (read: only after this episode does he become an emo martyr) and the anime script for the episode is quite plausible, except that potion refusal. Does that whole sword-buying subplot contribute anything? No, it doesn’t. Therefore it’s alright to leave it out. This means more time for other things like animation.

  13. TheRoot Said,

    July 17, 2012 @ 4:46 am

    I found their explanation sufficient as you can understand “stun” and “switch” through visual effects and the straightforward definition of the word itself.

    Kirito making himself appear like an “asshat” for the sake of the rest of the players is clearly portrayed if you pay attention to the clues. His flashback of what diabel said and gulping before he gives his tyrannical speech, which you can also notice his tone and way of speaking changes to accommodate his fake evil personality.

    “Most of the beta testers didn’t even know how to level up”
    “You guys are better than them”
    ^ His attempt to divide beta testers into beaters and legit beta testers.

  14. Bambi Said,

    July 17, 2012 @ 7:19 am

    @Baphomet: It’s your opinion, but i don’t agree. How Asuna started part should definitely be there because it gives here some depth. Maybe it’s bit emo, but what do you expect from 15y old girl whose first game ever turned to be death game?
    I’m fine with episode itself but personally i would prefer if they completely skipped The Black Swordsman and Warmth of the Heart side stories (as they lead nowhere) and used these 2 episodes for Aria and Red-nosed Reindeer (as it’s almost impossible to fit it in 1 episode without ruining mood) instead.

  15. Aen Said,

    July 17, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

    @Dakkar

    Not to take anything away from ufotable, they are indeed awesome, but KnK had the benefit of working with multiple movies, which IMO allowed them to dedicate sufficient time and budget to each specific plot line. And while KnK also featured multiple stories, they were at least thematically similar, SAO on the other hand kinda jumps around the place.

    How should I put it… I feel that if Aincrad arc is a painting, the current materials are each only small parts of it, resulting in an incomplete picture. Each of the side stories and the main novel are all good on their own, but when you put them together, they don’t really flow well because so much is missing between them.

  16. Baphomet Said,

    July 17, 2012 @ 9:54 pm

    @Bambi:
    There are 2 girls who aren’t emo, but one of them is madly in love with her brother and the other one is terminally ill. This means yet more SUFFERING, therefore having one less emo (Asuna in the anime) is very refreshing.

    but what do you expect from 15y old girl whose first game ever turned to be death game?

    Maybe… be a little less emo and not go suicidal, because it’s fucking pointless? At the age of 15 she should be able to realize it or else she’s fucking dumb.

    @Aen:
    SAO was started in 2002. Apparently, the first volume had to be rewritten for publishing (I assume because it was to shitty) and the last SAO stories have been published in 2010. With each volume he improved bit by bit (in fact, volume 9 is actually rather nice to read), but he wasn’t writing in chronological order, that’s where the huge quality gap comes from.

  17. Dakkar Said,

    July 18, 2012 @ 6:42 am

    @Aen
    It’s hard to disagree about SAO being fragmented, but that’s just something to take into account while planning the series. After all, there’s a plenty of great shows which are episodic, in the end it’s all about the execution.
    The problem here is that the fragments differ in size by large, so you can’t take “a roughly constant number of episodes per arc” approach, but making it into a continuous piece might as well be even more of a challenge.
    Anyway, it’s way too early to bash A-1 for the poor execution, but they really have to pull themselves together if they want the show to sell well.

    @Baphomet
    Of course, MMO players, as well as netizens in general, are never emo. Oh wait…
    Besides, unlike most teenagers, people in SAO actually have a legitimate reason to be emo. Whether it’s fun to watch/read or not is a different matter, but considering how this season also has shows like Hagure Yuusha, I’d say there are ways to balance your emo intake…

  18. Meitantei Said,

    July 18, 2012 @ 7:11 am

    Damn, i just read the Volume 1, chapter 16.5!! Did that really happened? Or it was just a tease by the author?

  19. Dakkar Said,

    July 18, 2012 @ 7:33 am

    @Meitantei
    Hm, if you died from laughter after reading that as you should, how did you type your message?

  20. Kurogane Shiroikaze Said,

    July 18, 2012 @ 7:36 am

    Maybe… be a little less emo and not go suicidal, because it’s fucking pointless? At the age of 15 she should be able to realize it or else she’s fucking dumb.

    You’ve never been 15, have you?

  21. Baphomet Said,

    July 19, 2012 @ 3:43 am

    You’ve never been 15, have you?

    I have, that was 10 years ago. I was able to stop and think a little about things at that age and I’m proud of it.
    However, I have never been in a truly life-threatening situation. Feel free to exploit this.

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