Sword Art Online: Red-Nosed Reindeer; A Closer Look


It was a decent adaptation. It excelled in the “big picture” but failed on the “necessary” supplements.

Pre-Watch


Waiting for UTWoots is a bit fruitless. The difference between them and HorribleSubs isn’t ridiculously large; I mainly used UTWoots for their translation of Fate/Zero [which they excelled at]. But since I already know the jargon/idiosyncrasies specific to Sword Art Online [something that I didn’t know for Fate/Zero], it’s a bit pointless. I’ll use HorribleSubs in subsequent weeks to get the reviews faster [Much better than writing an entry at 12 PM].

Anyways, this adaptation should be much easier than Aria’s. Aria is over two-hundred pages, and it contains complex character development [shit that can’t be rushed and crammed into ten minutes]; the Red-Nose Reindeer side story from Volume 2 is forty-seven pages long; it contains numerous emotional moments, but it’s more lenient on the complexities that Aria’s’s adaptation failed to cover.
Sword Art Online: Aria; Its Shitty Adaptation

Preface


Fuck yes, a good adaptation. I was initially wary of this episode; Aria’s adaptation was ridiculously underwhelming, this episode in a sense, made the adaptation better[not quite making up for it; Aria’s pretty god damn significant and integral to the series].

Let’s begin with the mechanics. Sword Art Online’s adaptation significantly cut out the mechanics of how the world functioned. The author went into excruciating detail over every simple development; if something new occurred, he explained it. The adaptation on the other hand, neglects to mention most of it.

Mechanics


Kirito’s «Tracing»: Contrary to maxing combative/offensive skills, he maxed his «Tracing». This gave him the unique ability of easily tracking down Sachi. You’ll see this skill as a recurring thing in the series; it goes well with Kirito’s nature.

Inventory System: There are three primary types of inventory in Sword Art Online. Individual inventory, shared inventory [specific to two people], and married inventory [quite a strange way to phrase it]. Most players stay within the realm of individual inventory; only you can access it, nobody else. Let’s create a bank analogy. An individual inventory would be similar to having your own, personal bank account; only you can deposit and withdraw items/money. A shared inventory would be similar to a shared account; only you, and the person you gave permission to can access it [You still have your individual accounts for your personal needs]. Lastly, there’s married inventory; it essentially merges your inventories. That means that your significant other can access your inventory at any given time, not only limited to the shared account. In Kirito and Sachi’s case, they had a shared inventory. Sachi recorded a message that would be played on the 25th of December, or Christmas. Now, she didn’t plan to die [although she was sure of it]; in the novel, she mentioned that if she did manage to survive until Christmas, she would have removed the crystal from the shared inventory. I liked her monologue in the adaptation, yet her speech in the light novel was much more powerful. The tone she set, her holding Kirito analogous and reminiscent of a father, and her song [had lyrics].

Gameplay: A traditional MMORPG party is composed of a tank, a healer, and numerous damage dealers. In their case, they had damage dealers, but they were missing a tank. Sachi was originally a lance user [it fits her character — keeps a distance away from actual combat]. However, her group members pestered her to transition into the tanking role, or someone that would be prone to the front lines, the brunt of the damage [antithetical to Sachi’s nature]. If Sachi actually did tank, she would have died much earlier; Kirito was in the party, so he took on the role of tanking.

Switching: This is a relatively rudimentary aspect of Sword Art Online combat. Switching revolves alternating targets, passing off aggro [who the monster attacks] from one member to another. Now, why is this crucial? Potions in Sword Art Online aren’t instantaneous; they take a while; they heal over time [there are crystals that are instantaneous, but they’re expensive]. So, to avoid death, members of a party alternate positions in taking damage; this allows them to continue damaging the target, while healing.

«Anti-Teleportation Zones»: The members of Kirito’s guild triggered a trap, resulting in the spawning of numerous waves of monsters. This would prove to be an extremely bad scenario; they attempted to teleport. Now, teleportation crystals aren’t common items; they’re expensive shit, you use it in emergencies. Given this,«Anti-Teleportation Zones» are seldom found on the lower floors; it’s usually found in the higher floors.

Level Psychology: The members of the guild were around the level of the monsters of the floor. But, as many MMORPG players may know, fighting monsters the same level as you is challenging [it could result in your death; that’s a variable that isn’t practical in this game]. Given this, most players attempt floors many levels below their actual level [usually around 5-6]. In this case, 30+ equal-leveled mobs resulted in a near wipe.

Ambiguity


Time Skip: There was a relatively significant time skip between Sachi’s death, and Kirito’s Christmas adventure. Kirito was around level 40 during the former, while in the latter, he’s level 70. The adaptation did bother to list the floor, but for those who weren’t paying attention, it may have appeared to be a near instantaneous transition [a bit too noninvasive in this case, too subtle].

Boss Fight: Kirito did not effortlessly beat the shit out of the Christmas boss. He’s been playing the game for over a year; this boss fight was the first time that his HP entered the red zone. Yes, there wasn’t enough time in the adaptation to show this, so I’m glad that they prioritized Sachi’s monologue over a petty, insignificant [in the large picture] fight scene.

Kirito-Guild interaction: Why didn’t Kirito reveal his “true level?” Because he was a «Beater». As you may remember from the previous level, he acted like an arrogant tool to scapegoat the hatred to him, a «Beater». [contrary to being just an average beta tester]. In his case, he couldn’t have given away his status as a«Beater»., it would have resulted in his being hated. When the group entered the boss room, they were met with a chest. The adaptation neglects to mention that group heeded to Kirito’s initial warning. When asked for a reason, Kirito couldn’t provide one [He couldn’t go “I know because I’m a «Beater»!”]. I should also mention that his survival was due to his using of high-level Sword Skills; prior to this, he didn’t reveal much of his actual abilities to the guild. But since they were sort of dead, that no longer became a problem.

Kirito-Sachi interaction: This aspect bothered me the most about the adaptation. Kirito did not like Sachi romantically. They “used” each other; Sachi wanted to feel safer, while Kirito wanted to lessen his guilt of being a Beater.

“One thing I was certain of though was that Sachi and I didn’t have a romantic relationship. We never slept in the same bed together, never cuddled each other, talk about love or even look at each other. Our relationship was more likely stray cats that were licking each other’s wounds. Sachi would forget about her fear a bit because of my words, and I would rely on her to forget the guilt that I was a beater.”

Why the adaptation failed to do this, I don’t fucking know. They could have avoided this misunderstanding completely by not having Kirito and Sachi share a bed, and by including the ending lines of her monologue [which held Kirito analogous as a father figure; Sachi never had one; her father abandoned her at a young age].

Concluding Thoughts

It’s extremely difficult to watch a series after reading the source without feeling underwhelmed. The novel was extremely enjoyable, the adaptation was “good.” I’ll probably find difficulty in praising it; I can’t help but mention what it doesn’t have, how it could have been done better. Nevertheless, this episode was slightly rushed, but nowhere as “bad” as Aria’s adaptation. It’s a good sign for now, but I can’t help but wish for something more.

As always, here’s the download link to the light novel. Sachi’s monologue begins on page 312.
EDIT: of Volume 2 [Volume 2 is composed entirely of short stories]
Mediafire

8/10: I’m content with the episode. Not quite one to laud, but not one to condemn. They covered the necessities, but covering the more important supplements would have been nice. The ambiguity during some parts of it detracts from the score, while the handling of some scenes raise it [the animation for the last season was done fucking fantastically, if only they adapted more of her monologue].

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11 Responses to Sword Art Online: Red-Nosed Reindeer; A Closer Look

  1. Andmeuths says:

    Again, another very thorough analysis of the Episode. I’d say that you are among the most detailed and comprehensive at elaborating and filling up gaps that the anime cannot close because of time and medium constraints.

    Ultimately, it was too much to hope for for RNR to elicit the same reaction as it did in the LN- I almost cried at the end of the RNR LN story itself, though the anime was weaker and had all the feel of a recap episode. Considering that the tone of RNR is “Recap” style, this isn’t too surprising, especially considering that only One Episode was allocated.

    I’m looking forward to your analysis of the “Healing and redemption” that is the critical theme of Black Swordsman. Thankfully, Black Swordsman seems even easier to handle than RNR or Aria because of it’s fairly linear plot (Linear, of course, being relative, since most SAO stories are very multi-layered affairs). Same goes for Warmth of the Heart – the big, big elephant here is whether Murder is one or Two Episodes long.

    One other critique I have of the anime is that they don’t go into Kirito’s monologues as often as they could have- which is a shame, since Kirito’s internal thoughts give even more insight into his character and the reasoning behind his actions.

    Keep it up!

    • mdz says:

      Thanks.

      And yes, the source has the unique monopoly on the development of the main character. In the light novel, the use of monologue allowed Kirito to be characterized, whereas in the adaptation, you would have to assume his actions.

      But yeah, I really was disappointed by the ending monologue that Sachi gave. To the anime watchers [who have not read the source], I’m sure it was a very meaningful, and powerful scene. Whether it’s the pure shock of it, or the sentimentality behind her words, it succeeds in evoking an emotional response.

      At times, knowing the source results in having high expectations. In Sword Art Online’s case, it’s impossible not to have high expectations; two arcs of SAO are not meant to be adapted within ~25 episodes; it would have worked better if only the first arc was adapted [with the side stories of course]. Nevertheless, rushing an adaptation results in a superficial “big picture” enjoyment; what I enjoyed most about SAO was the character relationships, whether that transcends over into the adaptation, it’s too soon to say. But I really do hope it does [Aria cut out Argo completely, while spending half the episode adapting a fight scene; in this episode, they cut out the fight scene to adapt Sachi’s monologue].

      • Andmeuths says:

        I predict the pace would slow once we hit the main plot, and certainly ALO would be less compressed than SAO, because ALO is a very cohesive plot relatively wise, compared to the “Grand” scope of SAO, Progressive could easily fill 10 volumes alone, when you consider that Aria+ Rondo (Incomplete)+ Monochrome (Even more incomplete) itself could easily fit a standalone volume.

        The big test is Murder. If Murder is two episodes, then I’d imagine the critical character relationship here – the Kirito-Asuna angle would be given the proper adaption and focus it needs.

        Ultimately, I did hope that RNR would silence the critique that Kirito is a bland Shounen Protagonist (another blogger even when one step further, and compare Kirito to Shu, of all things!).

        The truth of the matter is, the Aincrad arc of SAO is quite disjointed- comparatively, the Second, third and Fourth arcs are very cohesive stories, with very clear themes. I personally hope that once Progressive strings along the whole Arc into a cohesive story-line, we get an even longer re-telling of SAO along the lines of Progressive. Then again, it’d probably be years, and that may be looking to far ahead.

  2. mdz says:

    Yeah, SAO is probably the one with the most side stories [albeit they’re for character development]; ALO had great mechanics; the gameplay was much more “logical” from a MMORPG’s player point of view. However, SAO’s primary enjoyment for me is derived from the interactions between Kirito and Asuna; In ALO, I really hated most of the Asuna scenes.

    That’s ironic; Kirito is developed in every side story, every chapter, or in this case, every episode. Shu was developed sporadically every other episode, with new developments often contradicting old ones.

    But yeah, you’re right; the next episode should determine a lot.

  3. Axel says:

    Yes that time jumped made me wonder a bit as well, I believe it’s almost a year later from when the chest event happens to when the reindeer event happens.
    A simple little text in the top right saying “1 Year later” would’ve really made a lot of sense in this case, especially as when Kirito thinks back off the guild leaders reaction it’s also almost the same, ‘a few days before’ feeling and not making that point that this is something Kirito has been remembering and painfully living with for an entire year.

  4. Well first off, I want to say that you seem to have the most comprehensive coverage of SAO I’ve seen to date. And I’d like to ask, you linked the second book in the series in this post, but can you link the first book for me? I’d really like to read it.

  5. Pingback: Sword Art Online: Murder Mystery and Oversimplification | MDZ's Anime Blog

  6. Pingback: Sword Art Online: A Perfect Adaptation; Lizbeth and Reveals | MDZ's Anime Blog

  7. Pingback: Sword Art Online: Level Disparity and “Faithful” Adaptations | MDZ's Anime Blog

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