Scenery’s ridiculously pretty.
As previously noted, every scene with Asuna is going to be incredibly irritating. In SAO, the most enjoyable interactions were between Kirito and Asuna. In ALO, every other scene with Asuna is a scene to be dreaded. I personally don’t love these types of developments; if SAO wasn’t held in such a high esteem by me, then I’m sure I’d berate it for using sexual abuse [or in this case, the possibility of it] as a catalyst for plot development, sympathy, and animosity. Nevertheless, I really do wish that I could say that ALO is the only arc where the author tackles the topic of sexual abuse, but it’s almost a recurrent thing in SAO. But I can say that among these recurrences, the sexual abuse never happens. Such is the case with ALO; the only spoiler I’m willing to give blatantly is that Sugou will not rape Asuna. It’s insinuated. He even blatantly implies that he inevitably will. But he doesn’t. Not my favorite development. Not the worst development. Just a development. Let’s continue on with the episodic review.
«Death Penality»: In most MMORPGs, there’s a certain penalty for dying. In ALO, the simplest penalty is the loss of skill points. The secondary component of dying in ALO is the loss of non-equippable items; 30% of the non-equippable items in your inventory are “stolen” by the enemy player. However, if you’re in a party, there exists a mechanic named an “insurance frame”; it automatically transfers the items of a killed party member to their party members. So, let’s say it’s a 3v3; on one side, there’s 1A, 1B, and 1C, and on the other side, there’s 2A, 2B, and 2C. If 1A and 1B kill 2A, then his items get transferred not to Team “1”, but to the members of Team “2”, 2B and 2C. So, in order for Team “1” to attain the items, they must eliminate 2B and 2C.
Speed: I may have noted that skill in ALO was a lot more dependent on the player than on pure, system assistance. Speed in ALO is calculated by an aggregation of both the player’s statistics, and the player’s impulse. The faster the brain is in responding, the faster the player moves in game. Lyfa, which is a Sylph, is within the bounds of being one of the top players in terms of speed. Kirito, which may seem to be an aberration in “speed”, simply follows the secondary mechanic: the more experienced you are with the AmuSphere, the more proficient you are in using it [He spent two years in SAO; given this, he already has a coveted advantage]. In terms of movement speed, Lyfa’s perhaps one of the fastest; Kirito, surprisingly, effortlessly keeps up with her. We can attribute this to his familiarity with the effects of the NervGear [when most players reach a certain capacity, they begin to lose control; this is primarily psychological].
Attack Formula: Damage from ALO is calculated by four factors: the power of the weapon, location of impact, attack speed, and damage reduction [via armor]. In the previous episode, Kirito’s damage came primarily from his speed and precision; his weapon was perhaps one of the lowest [beginner’s set], and the armor worn by the Salamander was noticeably high.
Food: In SAO, food wasn’t necessary to survive, but it was a pain if you didn’t eat; as we can recall, food was essentially one of the few luxuries. In SAO, the «Taste Reproduction Engine» was used; we can assume the same for ALO. As a refresher, the «Taste Reproduction Engine» emulates a “fullness”; Lyfa warns Kirito not to indulge in virtual nommables, otherwise he wouldn’t be hungry when he gets off ALO to eat dinner. In the world of ALO, there have been instances where players have died by being too “overcommitted” [not eating in real life due to being full all the time virtually] to the game.
Logout: The coveted mechanic of SAO. In ALO, like most other MMORPGs, there’s a certain “requirement” for logging out. A player may log out anywhere in his or her own race territory; if they attempt to log out outside from it, then they’ll be put into a “soulless” state for several minutes, where their avatar will be vulnerable to attack and theft. However, if you’re stuck outside your race territory, you may log out without any detriments if you do so inside an inn [portable or stationary]. When you log out from any FullDive-reliant system, you experience a sense of vertigo while transitioning between virtual reality -> real life. Given this, the most pragmatic way to log out [free of detriments] would be via sleep — if you fall asleep, you’ll automatically log out.
Suguha: As we learned from this episode, she’s Lyfa. I personally found this to be a relatively “predictable” development [even if I did read it]; it’s simply structure I guess. It’s impractical to introduce a major character [Suguha], then phase her out. Nevertheless, we’ll begin to see a case of dramatic irony between her and Kirito for the majority of ALO. So do keep in mind, if she’s crushing on Kirito, she’s not aware that he’s her brother, and even if she did know, it probably wouldn’t stop her. Suguha started playing VRMMORPGs while Kirito was in the hospital; she did this to relate to him better. It may seem a little impractical [to play VRMMORPGs for that reason], but do keep in mind that the feeling of helplessness is perhaps the worst — while her brother was in the hospital, she attempted to “relate” with him, which in her case, resulted in her playing a VRMMORPG; although essentially a “placebo”, it does make her feel better. She played ALO specifically because of Recon, or Nagata Shinichi’s insistence; Recon is perhaps the cliche kid that plays a lot of video games — Suguha, a relatively popular girl proposed to Nagata a favor that a generic geek could not refuse, she wanted him, a generic geek to teach her, a popular and attractive girl, the rudiments of VRMMORPGs. Suguha’s prowess with ALO is due to two reasons: one, ALO isn’t level-based; she can be completely casual, yet do just as well as some other players due to her inherent skills [her impulse is a result of her kendo experience]. Second, ALO has the mechanic of flight; voluntary flight is perhaps one of the milestones of an ALO player, Suguha mastered this due to her experience with kendo, not that kendo specifically aided her, but because kendo instilled within her the tenets of persistence and hard work. She repeatedly attempted to fly on her own accord, and as a result, she succeeded.
Suguha-Kirito Interaction: Perhaps one of the greatest abilities of the author of SAO is his penchant to create realistic, and likable characters. As I said, SAO was a series with seinen characters in a shounen environment [using these demographics very loosely]. Suguha’s character is no exception; she’s not exactly the cliche imouto type of character, and she’s not incredibly gung-ho on pursuing a romance with Kirito. She’s aware of his affinity with the enigma that is known to her as Asuna, and she’s also aware of the de facto, visceral barrier between the two of them.
At this point, Kazuto has already reached a point where her hand can no longer reach his heart. Now, they are even more like a true brother and sister. In that case, she wished she had never realized her feelings. Her feeling of wanting to keep Kazuto for herself could never come true.
Given this, she does love her brother, but she’s not willing to break their relationship. Kirito, although it may not seem, is incredibly adamant on his romance with Asuna; he won’t budge, and he won’t waver — he certainly won’t be breaking down every other episode, but that’s partially a result of his promise to Asuna, and his natural character. The greatest aspect of SAO is the “good drama” that it typically has — it’s drama, but it doesn’t revolve around hormonal teenagers, nor does it revolve around love triangles [not necessarily a bad thing, I love the shit out of Kokoro Connect]. It revolves around the bonds of friendship.
Sugou: I’m typically not the type to immediately declare a chauvinistic animosity or a reverence for a specific character. But it’s quite difficult to justify Sugou’s character for anything but “bad.” Perhaps the only “use” for him is his ability to introduce mechanics of the AmuSphere that could come into use in future chapters, but aside from that, his character itself is completely useless. He’s nothing but a medium for rage. Aren’t we appreciating Kayaba all the more now? The quixot who wasn’t an unabashed asshole.
So, I typically finish my reviews by ~12 PST. Today was a bit of an anomaly, I finished my review twenty minutes before the usual time. This struck me as strange; I downloaded the raw earlier, and realized that the episode ended with Sugou [I skipped to the last frame], so I immediately went “Okay, so they’ll probably end there.” Which is reasonable, although it’s not a likable scene, it’s part of the novel; so, I began my review, and finished. But here’s the thing, the annotation wasn’t as expansive as I’d assume it to be, and most of it were mechanics; given this, it was a little strange for this episode to adapt so “little” of the novel. So, once more, I opened up the raw to check; it appears that ~10 pages of the light novel adapted to 6 minutes of Sugou-Asuna interaction. They skip mechanics, and they skip “menial” developments. But they accurately and fully adapt the Sugou-Asuna scenes. I do hope this doesn’t become recurrent, but it’s illogical for the structure to alternate within an adaptation.
The author’s a bit of a knight. He likes having a “scarred” heroine; it only allows for the interaction between her and the protagonist to be all the more “better.” It’s the traditional archetype of a knight rescuing his princess from the dragon. In this case, it’s a bird stuck in a birdcage. Nevertheless, these Sugou scenes aren’t exactly prolific, but they’re not rare — an accurate comparison would be 90%/10%.