So, hacking is easy.
The episode was done relatively well. I don’t have any complaints aside from the usual objectivity with dialogue [core details, missing idiosyncratic ones]. I didn’t really like how Yuriel’s character was changed with a few connotative phrases.
“I believe this to be extremely impudent of me to ask of this when we’ve just met, but please, wouldn’t you aid me in rescuing Sinker?
over her borderline begging. She loses her composure later on, not that early. In the novel, Yuriel’s eyes were accentuated too, albeit not in the form of tears, but in a form inexplicable [if that makes sense]. It changes her character from being one that usually holds composure, to one willing to quickly lose composure. Yui’s response was also a bit too blatant.
“I can’t explain why… But I know”
“Un. I can’t… really put it into words, but I get it…”
[using HorribleSubs]. It’s a bit clearer, but the enigmas are meant to be there in this case.
«Blocking»: In the last episode, we saw the children being surrounded by members of the Army. As we know, in a city, it’s impossible to take damage. Although not quite a loophole, players can «box» another player in — this is typically a form of harassment, and what the Army members did in the last episode. Asuna rebuked the members’ harassment by attacking them inside the zone that the Crime Prevention Code covered, which in turn made it a «Within Boundary Battle». These battles are typically done as mock practice battles, albeit in this situation, it’s being used for alternate purposes. Although they do not take damage, the sensation is still there — an agglomeration of noise of impact, luminosity, and knockback disorients, and at times, scares the opponent [it’s like you’re being killed; compare it to the sensation of falling without actually falling].
«MMO Today»: I really liked SAO for integrating numerous aspects of what an MMORPG is composed of. One of these more attenuated aspects is the community behind it, or the fansites. Sinker, as we know, was the original leader — he wanted to create an organization that equally shared information and food resources among the players; I compared it in an earlier entry to a “Red Cross” of sorts, considering its unbiased nature and its good intent. As we also know, Kibaou, the sub-leader, eventually took over the guild and allowed it to transcend into a despotic, government-type of guild [keep in mind it’s Starting City, even if the Army members are lowish levels, the players of Starting City are even lower; not a lot of players from the other floors go to visit the Starting City; most floors are identical in resources, the only noticeable difference is food; Starting City isn’t quite renowned for as having amazing food, so, it’s mostly ignored].
Army Management: A bit too detailed to fit into the previous category. The Army is incredibly large and it has a relatively ambitious goal. The original goal, along with the aid, was to hunt down monsters together as groups [to attenuate the danger of dying — the principle of safety in numbers]; however, as we know, players in MMORPGs are not entirely team-orientated, often times, personal gain is prioritized over altruistic viewpoints. Nevertheless, SAO, a death game, proved to conform to this principle [some could argue that a death game would make someone all the more readily accepting of a team, while others could argue that it actually reinforces individual advancement]. The Army was far too large for its purpose; rules were being broken, items were being hidden, and coups weren’t very uncommon; in this case, Kibaou happened to assume control after numerous coups. To maintain control, a “despotic” [in assumption] government was established [much easier to maintain control as a dictator than it is a reasonable man]. Kibaou began by strengthening the need for the Army to track down notorious criminals, but rather, he monopolized hunting fields — he initially kept some alliances with some guilds by sharing fields, but he eventually went on to control numerous hunting areas [hunting areas could be comparable to oil fields; money is a necessity in SAO; although you won’t quite starve, food is the only luxury]. Given these numerous “advancements”, Kibaou and his clique gained numerous supporters [money’s money, regardless of the means], which in turn, allowed him to maintain his position of potency. However, given the somewhat linear goal of the Army, some members became dissatisfied [the original goal was to clear the game, but Kibaou was becoming entirely focused on making money] — in order to alleviate this potential uprising, he sent a group of the strongest individuals to attack the foremost boss [which at the time, was Gleameyes]. Given this inherent, crippling failure, popular support for Kibaou essentially died out, which in turn, coerced him to take drastic measures; he attempted to eliminate Sinker.
Teleportation Crystals: In addition to the expensive cost of crystals, they do take time to work. In other words, you cannot take damage for a set amount of seconds prior to a teleport, otherwise it cancels. This mechanic is typically put into MMORPGs [not exactly SAO] to prevent players from teleporting in PvP, but in this case, it’s during PvE where the majority of the danger occurs. During a time of panic, it’s not only difficult, but dangerous for party members to teleport. When the chain of command breaks down, and players flee of their own accord focused entirely on their survival, it’s essentially a free for all.
Boss Fight: Possibly the most controversial part of this episode. Having someone like Yui stop an incredibly powerful boss seems like a deus ex machina; I won’t argue for it as not being one, but there were numerous developments, and afterwards, it was “essentially” justified. The boss fight served as the plot development which allowed Yui to reveal her identity, so it was there for a purpose. And the ever so trite shounen mechanic of Kirito and Asuna [Level 90-93 and 87] defeating a floor ~90 boss [which would typically be done at level 100] would have been even worse. So, the lesser of two evils I suppose.
Asuna-Kirito Interaction: It’s fair to say that the pair has matured together in this once nascent, and unpredictable world. At the core, they’re still the same people, but, they’ve grown a bit more cynical. I’ll list some quotes being attributed to them, primarily narrative ones.
“The silver-haired whip-user’s firm eyes appeared to cloud over, swaying Asuna’s feelings. She keenly felt her desire to believe. But at the same time, the experience she had gathered over these two years in this world warned her, setting off alarm bells about the danger of letting her emotions loose. Taking a look at Kirito, he too, seemed to be lost in his thoughts once again. Those black eyes intently looking this way reflected the wavering of his heart, between the desire to help out Yuriel and the concern for Asuna’s health.”
Yui: Yui’s role is done extremely well; although some will argue for her as being just another side character to add onto the cute factor of SAO, her integral position in the world, and her dialogue was done extremely well. Her reveal wasn’t quite done without foreshadowing; from the previous episode, we saw that her nature was more predisposed to social factors.
““Everyone’s…. Everyone’s hearts are-”
Although incredibly vague, and seemingly trite at the moment of development, it does act as the first crucial piece of information in discovering her identity.
“It’s fine, Mama. That person, she’s not lying.”
Once again, another seemingly innocent quote. The “child” is reaffirming her cynical mother’s inner nature. But as we later know, Yui’s abilities stem from emotional understanding. She wasn’t able to sense Yuriel’s intent with a purely-baseless visceral premonition, but rather, through an amalgamation of alternate factors.
“Big sis, you finally laughed!” Yui cried out delightedly. She too, grinned broadly. Looking at that, it took Asuna back— recalling what had happened back then. The day before, the time Yui went into spasms was also right after the children had all laughed together, having repelled those guys from the Army. It seems that the girl had a unique sensitivity towards the smiles of people around her. Whether that was the personality she was born with, or perhaps due all the painful feelings she had suffered till now— Asuna instinctively held up Yui in her arms, hugging her closely. She swore within her heart, that she will always smile when beside this child.”
It’s fair to say that Yui’s existence will be relatively ephemeral for the time being, but it’s undeniable that she’s growing to become an integral component of their lives. Her position as an “emotional bot” was foreshadowed better in the novel, given the inherent narrations that an anime adaptation cannot cover. But these are just minor supplements, as long as they paint the entire “main picture” well enough, it’s a good adaptation. Although a bit ironic to say, SAO’s not exactly a passively “happy” or “bright” world, the first and foremost battle is survival; since the visceral instinct of surviving goes through every player, an innate paranoia, or inclination towards distrusting others isn’t all that impractical. Asuna and Kirito both have numerous people that they can entrust their lives to, they’re a bit lucky to have that. They can both dogmatically love and trust Yui, it’s a juxtaposed trait when taken into comparison all the atrocities that the players have committed in order to survive [despotic taxing, murder, and other ambiguous possibilities insinuated to].
«Mental Health – Counselling Program», MHCP version 1, codename, «Yui»: Yui’s identity is finally revealed as an emotional bot of sorts. I really did like this development. Although the mechanics were not stressed at all in the anime adaptation, the properties of the NervGear were actually given before hand, tracking emotions and other physical responses was an alluded, if not blatant attribute. There’s a polychotomous divide in explaining why I really like this development. For one, it’s incredibly logical — Yui’s role serves to counsel players. In an MMORPG, social drama [or trauma as I’d like to call it] isn’t quite an uncommon result. An objective, apathetic, yet sympathetic bot would be a great solution in counseling players; although emulated, the bot cannot help but genuinely attempt to console the player. The second reason would also be inclined towards the logic, but rather, its pragmatic nature. An organic counselor would have to assume the player’s emotions through superficial words or subtle expressions, some of which may be fake or false. Yui on the other hand, can genuinely trace and understand the physical state of the player through the emitted responses from the NervGear, although it disassociates the counselling from being “genuinely compassionate”, it does make it all the more accurate and effective [when you’re in a dazed state, you’re not exactly one to impulsively question the humanity of the person you’re talking to]. The third reason, which is related to her first quote, would be her inhibition. It just made so much sense to objectively block the existence of an immortal object, but more so, an integral intervention [unlike NPCs, Yui does have a “conscious” mind, players would bombard her with incessant questions]. But along with that, her reason for acting the way that she did was all the more practical, and in a way, allegoric; she sensed the emotional states of all the players; the states of players upon entering a vast world, the states of players after realizing that they’ll be trapped in such a world, and the states of players before they expire from such a world. Every spectrum of emotion from happiness to sorrow to hate to love she felt, and an in ironic turn of events, she turned insane and dysfunctional because of it. In a way, the “humanness” of the subjects of her counselling evoked her insanity, which is in all ironic truths, a human trait.