At least SAO will have a reason to make changes in the bluray releases.
As much as I do dislike a certain aspect of ALO [the majority of the Asuna scenes; they don’t get any better]. It is well-written in general mechanics; we’ll be introduced to numerous concepts — Sugou’s an asinine, linear antagonist, but he plays a relatively critical role as a plot device in introducing these concepts. We’ll see these concepts in more detail in future, subsequent arcs. As to the the topic of Asuna, it really will not get better. Fortunately, there’s not much Asuna rage during this episode, but in future developments, the author doesn’t hesitate with coercing the reader to rage. Like I said, nothing will be completely awful; it’s bad, but it’s recoverable. You’ll see Kirito remain coolheaded in most situations, and you’ll see Asuna maintaining a strong composure because she assumes Kirito to do the same [which he does]; there are only certain scenes where he abandons his calm disposition. Anyways, onto the review.
School: There may be a question as to why Suguha and Kirito are truant from school. They both have their reasons; Suguha, as indicated, is a third-year junior high student. Since she has already has a coveted recommendation for a top-ranking high school, she can spend her time “studying” for high school exams independently, rather than attend class. Suguha really only attends school for kendo purposes; but, since her ALO skills do transition over into real life [she got two points off an eminent kendo practitioner], her kendo teacher allows her to continue. As to Kirito, he’s about two years behind in his studies. Although he never quite had trouble with school, his mind is filled primarily with the now obscure details revolving around Sword Art Online. The government has taken an initiative to start a school for victims of the SAO entrapment; logically, the government is doing this to keep an eye on them, pragmatically, they’re doing “something” about the disaster. I can’t say that this is a fantastic idea; I agree that there should be a way to even out the education, but we’re bringing assorted players of animosity here; there wasn’t much anonymity physically [players were given their “actual” skins; SAO wasn’t the nicest game, if you did something, they remembered]. Nevertheless, this nascent remedial school is designed to allow students like Kirito to graduate, and to apply to colleges on time.
Damage Calculation: As mentioned in an earlier entry, damage is gouged by two factors: 《Weapon Attack Power》 and 《Sword Swing Speed》. Sylphs and Cat Siths are races that excel most at natural speed; but, modifications can be made to favor one attribute [power] over another [speed]. This tradeoff between “natural statistics” [racial stats] and “artificial statistics” [equipment statistics] is a relatively rudimentary MMORPG concept. Spriggans, the race that Kirito chose, excel in mastering numerous types of weapons.
Lords: There’s a system of politics in ALO; each month, players of a specific race vote for a specific race “lord”; the lord regulates racial conflicts, and declares both alliances and wars — they also determine taxes [essentially immersive roleplaying]. For example, Lyfa is a Sylph; she would vote for a Sylph Lord, which on this occasion, is Sakuya. Although Lyfa is very popular among the players, she has little to no interests in politics. Another noteworthy competitor is Sigurd, who competes with Lyfa for the position of the “strongest swordsman”; unlike Lyfa, he’s very well into politics. Sigurd, as characterized by the novel, has a lot of free time; his prowess is more gear-reliant than it is skill-reliant; Lyfa has school, Sigurd does not. Lyfa previously beat Sigurd in a duel, this resulted in her joining his party under favorable conditions: she would only participate when she wanted and she could quit if she wanted to. Sigurd’s holier-than-thou arrogance this episode contradicts these conditions [he lost the duel to her]. Her situation is similar to Asuna’s while she was in the KotB; she’s an attractive female player, ironically, that’s rare in ALO.
Playstyle: There are two types of play styles; the first play style, which Sigurd and Lyfa play by, revolves around using the native territory as the base of residence. For example, since Lyfa and Sigurd are both Sylphs, they would stay primarily within Sylph territory and earn taxes to further the development of their ethnic forces. The other type of play style revolves around using a neutral territory as a base and forming alliances with players of different races. The former has a proclivity to dislike the latter, because they do little to contribute to their domestic operations. They are branded as 《Renegades》. The latter is often a play style chosen by choice, or by command [exile]. Lyfa isn’t quite an ardent devotee to being a “Sylph”; she stayed primarily because she didn’t have a reason to leave, but, with this new development, it catalyzed her departure from Sylph territory.
Kirito: We’ll start to see the beginnings of his transition from SAO -> ALO. He started SAO as the reclusive individual who treasured personal success over camaraderie. In this episode, he spoke up when Sigurd commanded Lyfa around like a tool; in SAO, there was this particular incident revolving around an arrogant Army commander and numerous dead, loyal subordinates. In SAO, he was powerless at that moment in time, in ALO, he’s not allowing history to repeat. We’ll see this recurrent “past and now” motif between what happened in SAO, how he couldn’t change it, and how he changes it during future arcs. For example, this recurrent “motif” began in SAO; Kirito, in Red-Nosed Reindeer, stayed with Sachi to feel less guilty about his being a beater [which resulted in numerous deaths, including hers], and Sachi stayed with Kirito to feel safer. As we know, this didn’t work out very well; his “second version” of this incident revolves around Asuna; rather than a weak sense of obligation holding them together [as it was with Sachi-Kirito], it’s the covalent bonds of love. I’d suggest reading my Red-Nosed Reindeer entry; SAO’s adaptation made it seem too much like a typical romance; in SAO, they used each other as tools.
Kirito-Asuna Interaction: In SAO, Kirito and Asuna shared a direct, symbiotic relationship. Kirito helped Asuna enjoy life [in incredibly simplistic terms here], and Asuna helped Kirito grow stronger [incredibly simplistic here too]. In ALO, we’ll see how they function while apart; numerous couples have difficulties with long-distance relationships; the contrary goes for these two. Asuna’s faith is at a constant, yet deviating level; she’s stuck between “giving up” and “holding on”; without meeting Kirito, she would have given up already. However, if Kirito had never met Asuna, he would have inevitably “snapped”; he was already a mentally-unstable teenager who was living with the guilt of murdering numerous people [inadvertently (being a Beater), and a little more directly (guild incident)]. These two have a remarkable resilience when taken into account the unpredictability on Kirito’s side [he doesn’t know the extents of Asuna’s situation, but he maintains a cool, determined composure regardless], and the torture of Asuna’s side [she’s constantly harassed by Sugou, and she lived without knowing of Kirito’s situation — she lived hoping of his being alive; Kirito made her promise to live on without him before the final fight, she’s keeping her promise. Sugou unintentionally threw her a revitalizing bone by informing her of Kirito’s status [as being alive]. She would have attempted to survive regardless, for Kirito’s sake.
It may not appear for much to have development, and strictly speaking from the anime’s pov, nothing much did. The majority of the development this episode comes from the narration and the inner monologue.