A bit rushed.
The previous episodes were relatively short adaptations [~70 pages]; the Murder Mystery on the other hand, is 209 pages long. The most logical way would be to adapt it in three parts, but it’s not exactly practical given the time [I already detest adapting the SAO arc within half a season]. I thought the mystery was written very well; the author developed both the game mechanics [in a way, it intertwined them and created an amalgam of great writing], and the mystery itself; it wasn’t written halfassedly. I’m afraid the adaptation will go over the most objective portions of it; it’s going to ignore most of the mechanics that the author integrated in with the storyline, and it’s going to lose some characterization. I’ll assume that the mystery is not being adapted completely chronologically, so I’ll skip some developments that were covered within the 116 pages that this first part did cover; but, if it’s not covered in the next episode, I’ll enunciate on them during the subsequent entry.
Sleeping: Sleeping in SAO is a bit unique; it’s as difficult to fall asleep in SAO as it is in real life, but once you’re asleep, it’s a bit difficult to wake up. Given this, if a player is training in the fields away from town, the Anti-Criminal Code doesn’t take effect, and in doing so, your body is vulnerable to monsters, and to players. Players can do a variety of things to you, use your imagination; if it’s dark, it’s possible.
Duels: Duels in SAO are usually initiated when both sides consent to the fight. Duels end once one side yields, or if one side falls to 1 HP. Given that both sides must consent to fight, if a player is asleep, the opponent may drag the opponent’s finger to accept. Asuna offered to treat Kirito to one free meal since he watched over her body whilst she was asleep; since he guarded her body when he didn’t, it’s an obligatory thanks.
Solo Players/Guilds: Solo players are relatively rare; it’s much more dangerous to play the game solo than it is with a guild. With a guild, you have numerous members in your party; this allows you to alternate aggro among the members of your party [while your heal over time potion takes effect]. Even more so, there’s a stigma that most solo players are antisocial, or bandits; Kirito is a solo player. He’s not a solo player because of the listed reasons, but more so due to this past [his last guild]. He prefers to be a solo players, there’s a multitude of benefits, such as the needlessness in sharing loot. Asuna on the other hand, is in a guild, the Knights of the Blood. The KotB is arguably the top guild in the game, she’s second-in-command of it; given this, she’s incredibly strong. The strongest guilds are on the front lines, in other words, they’re clearers; they explore uncharted soil; they’re the core force in clearing the game. They risk their lives to clear the game, they defeat powerful bosses, in a sense, they’re heroes; given this, Asuna is a famous idol for many players; she’s one of the few female players, she’s attractive, and she’s second-in-command for the top guild.
Inns: As I said in a previous entry, most inns are identical in layout; they only vary in food served [which plays as a factor in deciding residence]. Kirito and Asuna placed Yoruko in an inn room and asked her to stay there for her safety. As we know, only friends may enter inn rooms; there’s a window, but it offers the same protection as the door does [more defense]. In a sense, it’s like a forcefield against attackers. Their mindset considered the inn as the safest place against outside forces, and they were right in that regard; but in this case, an unexpected variable occurred.
Guilty Thorn: The name of the first murder weapon was called Guilty Thorn. It’s made from a relatively rare material, so it would be expensive to make; but, it pales in comparison to the weapons of Kirito and Asuna [frontline weapons]. But it possesses an unique attribute: Continuous Pierce Damage. Continuous Pierce Damage wasn’t quite touched on in the adaptation; it’s extremely weak against monsters, it’s effective on players. In a way, it’s a weapon tailored for PvP.
Ring: The motives of the members of Golden Apple were portrayed as relatively ambiguous. Those that wanted to sell the ring were in favor of it because they wanted to split the money, to promote an equal growth of wealth and power [this includes the guild leader and her husband]. Kains, Yoruko, and Schmitt wanted to sell the ring. Kains and Schmitt wanted to become frontline warriors, so they wanted to use it for themselves; Yoruko voted “yes” because she was dating Kains. The ring offered +20 agility; it’s not a trivial matter, since stats are rarely given through items; agility increases both attack speed and movement speed.
Names: In SAO, a person’s name is not passively displayed [nor is their level], only their health. There are two primary ways to find out somebody’s name, through a duel invitation, or through a party invitation. Kirito learned Asuna’s name due to the latter. The former would be the simplest way to attain someone’s name [you only need to challenge, they do not need to accept], but it’s considered poor etiquette.
Kirito-Asuna Interaction: Aria was a quintessential chapter in developing the two. The novel did a great job, while the adaptation was somewhat lacking. I’ll try to summarize their relationship. At the current moment, Kirito and Asuna are just friends. Their relationship is going to proliferate and accelerate at an astounding pace; Aria and similar chapters were essential cogs in making it flow [without it being seen as rushed]. In the Murder Mystery Case, Kirito and Asuna did plenty of experimenting [Kirito only mentioned his theories in the adaptation, it never showed them actually doing it]. Although their experimenting doesn’t provide “important” characterization, it’s the small interactions that ultimately galvanize the big picture [the adaptation is skimming over a lot of the slice of life scenes. The interaction between the two, are ironically, and arguably the most memorable/enjoyable parts of the light novel].
Anyways, onto the big picture. Kirito’s antithetical to Asuna, and vice versa. Asuna was a star pupil in the real world; she was the daughter of a CEO; she spent her entire life living up to the expectations of her father, and those around her. She had the best grades, and she had the looks; in a way, she lived her life to please those around her; she wasn’t quite independent. When she first came into SAO [it was her first MMORPG, her brother actually got the game, she stumbled upon it because he had a business trip], she was scared; she stayed in the starting city, and cried by herself in her inn room; she lost all hope, her motto in a way was, “delaying death.” But she had an epiphanous resolution; she left town and began to level at an astounding pace. She didn’t care for the comforts of life, but rather, she focused on leveling up as fast as she can, she camped out and slept in the field, brought multiple weapons with her, and worked herself to the extreme [Kirito met Asuna on the field in Aria, their meeting was skewed in the adaptation]. When Kirito gave Asuna the delicious bread during the Aria adaptation, it was meant to be a bit more symbolic than the superficial “shit’s delicious”; it was her first step in actually enjoying life in SAO.
Kirito on the other hand is considered to be an average gamer. He used to practice kendo at the insistence of his grandfather, but he quit soon afterwards. His sister, Suguha picked up the sport around the same time that he did, she genuinely learned to love the sport, but Kirito doesn’t know that, he’s under the assumption that Suguha took up Kendo for his sake [as shown in the last episode]. He’s haunted by numerous demons, the guilt of being a beater, guilt of allowing his guild members to die and the guilt of letting his sister take up kendo for his sake are the most obvious ones. His interactions with Asuna are not one-sided; in the simplest terms, it’s cathartic. Kirito begins to recover from the guilt that he bottled up with the aid of Asuna, and Asuna begins to actually enjoy the very sensation of living. That sounds cheesy as fuck, but summarizing shit without making it sound cheesy is impossible. Kirito and Asuna are seinen characters in a shounen storyline.
Egil: Egil was actually portrayed in a jocular manner; I didn’t expect it. After Asuna and Kirito talked to him, they left to check on a certain spectacle in the Starting City; he was invited, but he didn’t go. Not due to his being busy, or him being afraid, but because of his morals. He wouldn’t be able to control himself when confronted with a player who constructed a weapon designed for killing. He serves as a loyal friend to both Asuna and Kirito.
Heathcliff: The guild leader of the Knights of the Blood. I won’t extend on his character to much besides the basics; I’ll assume that the adaptation has something planned for this character. He’s extremely knowledgeable in game mechanics [as he should, as the guild leader of the top guild]. Kirito and Asuna sought his aid in developing their theories for how the murder was committed, he gave the advice of not trusting everything that their senses perceive [there could be liars].
The next episode will decide whether this was a decent adaptation, or a mediocre one. I personally consider Aria to be the most important chapter for characterization, but the murder mystery does deserve the two episodes.
I think I covered mostly everything that the light novel did cover, if I’m missing anything, let me know, I’ll make subsequent edits. I’ll omit the episodic score since it isn’t completed yet, they omitted a few quintessential developments, but I’m assuming it’s to be revealed during the next episode, when the culprit is revealed.