Still getting better.
Once again, another excellent episode. This episode was around ~38 pages of primary content, followed by a few more for the latter part [after the fight]. In relation to the Aria and Murder Mystery side stories, shit’s amazing. I don’t have any complaints with the episode, just some small nitpicking on the ambiguity. I really liked how they decided to integrate some “foreshadowing” prior to the reveals, but they made it a bit too blatantly obvious at some points. A few lines were added, or skewed from an ambiguity to a blatant purpose. I also really liked the flashbacks; the ones with Sachi were great in painting a picture of his remembrance of the past, but it insinuates a romance of sorts that never happened [see Red-Nosed Reindeer entry]. And Kirito’s reciting of his Sword Skill whilst using the Dual Blades kinda seemed a bit cliche. He did use Sword Skills in the novel, but he used Sword Skills for everything; it wasn’t a select skill; the anime decided to leave Sword Skills out, but putting this one in to “accentuate” the effect was a bit cliche. Albeit, these are very minor complaints. Also, the flashbacks at the end really delineated the two years; they appear to be much more physically grown.
«Switching»: The method of switching revolves around two players alternating the focus of the mob. Basically, there are two players; one is in combat, and the other is ready to switch. If the player currently in combat is injured, he or she typically uses a health potion, and switches out with the one who is ready to switch. Health crystals heal instantly, but they’re expensive, so health potions are typically used instead [potions heal over time]. In the light novel, groups are typically small; although not restricted by the system, multiple allies fighting an enemy at once could be bothersome. When in close proximity, movement is restricted, and dodging and executing «Sword Skills» become difficult.
Asuna-Kirito Synergy: As mentioned in the previous episode, mobs have a certain “algorithm” for predicting player moves. Kirito and Asuna work well as a duo because their skill sets are essentially antithetic. Asuna’s style revolves around short jabs, while Kirito’s style revolves around chaining skills. This, paired with their close, and high levels make them incredibly powerful.
The Army: The Army’s a “derogatory” nickname given to the «Aincrad Liberation Force». They essentially began as a group reminiscent of the Red Cross [helping players who were too scared to enter combat], but they’ve transcended into a despotic government type [taxing and harassing citizens]. It should be noted that they are player-ran, and that they are a guild; their headquarters are at the Starting City, where a future “arc” will take place in. Unlike the Knights of the Blood, they hold most of their power via numbers, rather than skill.
Exhaustion: Exhaustion does permeate in Sword Art Online. Although “invisible”, after numerous fights, or in this case, a long walk, fatigue becomes present. It doesn’t affect the hitpoints, so it’s “invisible” in that regard, but it’s mentally, and physically exhausting. Kirito’s exhaustion at the end of the fight would be an example of this.
“Although they still had 100% of their HP on the outside, the strenuous fights of SAO left a fatigue that couldn’t be seen. Our real bodies in the other world may not be moving a muscle, but the feeling of weariness still stayed until we either slept or rested on this side. Based on what I saw, those Army players were already exhausted, since they weren’t used to fighting on the front lines.”
Death: This isn’t quite a mechanic, but more so a psychological aspect. Do keep in mind, deaths in SAO aren’t “frequent” sights. They’ve been in this game for around two years, and we’ve seen <~10 deaths on screen. Dying’s a big deal, the characters are going to react as such.
«Dual Blades»: Arguably, one of the larger reveals. You can’t quite call this development “deus ex” or a generic shounen mechanic since so much foreshadowing was given.
1. Kirito asked Lizbeth for an equal or better sword. There’s no pragmatic reason as to why you would need an equal sword, and a slightly better sword typically isn’t worth the costs.
2. Kirito uses a one-handed sword. The typical advantage to using a one-handed weapon would be to use the shield as an added defense. Kirito doesn’t use a shield, in fact, he’s known as the Black Swordsman with the one-handed sword. Asuna comments on this, but Kirito brushes the comment away.
3. During Murder Mystery, Asuna and Kirito were supposed to meet with Heathcliff, the leader of the Knights of the Blood. There, they would get some cool facts on solving the murder [not trusting your senses to the fullest], and an insinuation of “unique” skills [much like becoming a Beast Tamer, it’s an enigmatic inheritance].
Anyways, «Dual Blades» are regarded as an “extra” skill. It’s basically gaining the skill by meeting a set of requirements; the requirements typically aren’t listed, but some could be deduced. For example, Cline has the «Katana» extra skill. Although it’s an extra skill, it’s not rare; it could be attained by repeatedly training and leveling up the Curved Sword skill. The «Katana» skill is in the category of “ten-plus extra skills”, or skills that have more than ten practitioners of it. Kirito’s «Dual Blades» may be a «Unique Skill», or a skill that only one person has. More than one «Unique Skill» exists, albeit of a different type. Kirito didn’t reveal the skill for two reasons; one, because he didn’t know the exact requirements in attaining it, and two, because it draws attention. If we had to put Kirito into an archetype, he’d be the reclusive type; he doesn’t want attention; having a «Unique Skill» would result in him getting a fan club, and numerous inquisitors on “how to attain it”.
Kirito-Asuna interaction: Their relationship is going to proliferate. The most enjoyable parts of SAO [for me at the very least] are imminent; it’s the interactions between Kirito and Asuna that make the series, not the fight scenes or the mechanics [although they are heavily developed]. Before commentating on how “rushed” their relationship may seem, you do have to realize the symbiotic, and integral relationship the two share; it’s not developed too much in the anime, but the light novel used Aria as its basis, and every other development afterwards to bolster it. My entries do supplement their relationship, but it doesn’t quite replace the source. It should also be noted that they’ve known each other for ~2 years now; even though only a few days of the two years have been shown on screen, you do have to “fill in the blanks”. Shit’s going to become significantly more enjoyable if they adapt it well; it’s the developments that will either make or break the series. Kirito is extremely important to Asuna because he gave her a reason to live rather than readily accept death, and Asuna serves as Kirito’s cathartic medium.
“I’m going to take a short break from the guild.”
“T-Take a break… Why?”
“…I said that I was going to party with you for a while… Did you forget already?”
As soon as I heard that…
Somewhere deep within my heart, a feeling that could only be described as a strong longing reached out. It surprised even me.
I—solo player Kirito—was a person who had abandoned every other player in order to keep myself alive in this world. I was the coward who had turned his back on his only friend and ran away two years ago, on the day that all of this had started.
A person like me, who didn’t even have any right to wish for a comrade—let alone something more than that.
I had already realized this in a painful and unforgettable way. I had sworn never to wish again, never to yearn for the care of others.
My left hand, which had turned rigid, didn’t want to let go of Asuna’s shoulder. I just couldn’t pull myself away from the virtual warmth of her body.
I buried this huge contradicting conflict inside me with an inexplicable emotion, and then answered with a short reply.
After hearing my response, Asuna’s head nodded slightly on my shoulder.
Like I said, each episode will only get better [until the second half at least]; I am a bit cautious about my optimism though. Throughout SAO, they removed idiosyncratic, select lines that were blatantly indicative of a teasing romance between the two; SAO’s adaptation didn’t really have a lot of that. I can’t see a pragmatic reason to leave those lines out, I’d assume it’s too attenuate the romance, but that’s not a good thing; SAO’s romance drives it in the first half, and friendship in the latter half [it’s integral around social relationships]. I’d hope that shit doesn’t change; Chapter Sixteen [even without 16.5] of Volume 1 is one of the most enjoyable chapters of SAO; it’s devoid of a combat; it’s just character interaction between Kirito and Asuna. It’s like watching Spice and Wolf and the ~gatari series; you don’t watch it for the storyline, you watch it for the interactions.