Posted by psgels on 29 July 2012 with categories: Sword Art Online

Before I got into anime blogging, I was a member of an RPG community, focused on RPG creation. Back then I spent a lot of time fiddling with stories, level designs and gameplay (in fact, this blog started out as an experiment during that time), and during that time I also played my share of MMORPGs, so I know what it’s like to play one. And I also know that SOA brings in one major difference that makes the mindset of its players completely different: the fact that you die once your HP reaches zero.

Generally when I played, I’d run around in areas that would give me the fastest experience with the least amount of hassle. I would then turn on the auto pilot until my SP (or skill points or however it was called) run out, after which I’d probably die from a lack of healing items or efficient ways to kill monsters. Now, would I have done the same if my life depended on it? Hell no. I’d stock up on healing items and focus on running away from monsters.

In fact, it surprises me that Kirito still is alive: his playing style is incredibly risky. Apparently he was this awesome player during the beta test, but back then dying still was a momentary annoyance. I’m surprised that he managed to turn off his automatic pilot that is so prevalent in MMORPGs due to all the repetition. Someone said that in the first month, more beta testers lost their lives than new players, and I can very well believe that: these were already used to the rules of the beta, while the new players were probably extra careful.

So yeah, I’m digging this concept, I’d just wish that the plot of these past two episodes made better use of this. The concept of this episode for example was good, as it showed how the jail system evolved and how this game’s moral system is. But the characters were just boring. This yet again was Kirito interacting with the cutest girl around. Have some variety. What I find particularly annoying is how this series looks down upon the rest of the people in this MMORPG. The girl actually had friends, but she decided to ditch them and go with Kirito. The evil players? We never knew what goes on inside their heads: I see no difference between them and NPCs.

Also, why were all the monsters suddenly equipped with tentacles?
Rating: (Good)

26 Responses

  1. meow says:

    Before I got into anime blogging, I was a member of an RPG community, focused on RPG creation.

    Ah. My apologies. I completely misunderstood your post in episode 3.

    I’m surprised that he managed to turn off his automatic pilot that is so prevalent in MMORPGs due to all the repetition.

    Well, in an MMO I played, I found some top level players who didn’t simply play within the system’s limits but were actively searching for exploits. It’s like Kirito today able to measure how much damage he was taking per second at a glance. These obsessive players would measure exactly how much damage a mob could take before falling and would do tests like seeing if doing juuuuust the amount of damage to kill off the enemy would improve rare treasure drop rates, exactly how long mobs, particularly rare mob take to reappear so they could be camped, etc. Hours, days, weeks of crazy, seemingly useless things that casual gamers wouldn’t ordinarily consider, looking for exploits in the system that even the developers may have overlooked. These are the guys who could max out the levels on their characters in record times when everyone else is struggling because they know the most efficient way to power level, and could single-handedly tank a major boss that was mopping the floor with everyone else. You could consider Kirito one of these hardcore players. There is also another element to Kirito’s success but I think it will only be revealed later in the story.

    I’d just wish that the plot of these past two episodes made better use of this.

    Unfortunately, as a lot of LN readers have been complaining, the pace seems to be running a little fast so a lot of elements are summarized or skipped entirely (particularly in the 2nd episode). As you noticed, this episode was mostly an explanation of a few aspects of the moral system in the game, the concept of “orange” and “red” players who harm and kill other players as well as the existence of skill mechanics like “eavesdropping”, “hiding” and “searching”. In this case, this was an example of bandit gangs, as well as the effect of a high level difference.

    The girl actually had friends, but she decided to ditch them and go with Kirito.

    Actually, no. The episode does hint about this at the part where the two guys try to invite Silica to join them in the town. She’s one of the youngest characters in the game (13 I think) and is a very rare Beast Tamer type so a lot of guy players just want her along as a mascot. She gets very little plot development outside of this episode so I’m not really sure if she had any long-term friends in Aincrad.

    Also, why were all the monsters suddenly equipped with tentacles?

    It was a flower level so all the monster are plant based, but you know the real reason: Fanservice. ^^ There will probably be more later in the series.

    • boo says:

      It was a flower level so all the monster are plant based, but you know the real reason: Fanservice. ^^ There will probably be more later in the series.

      And I almost forgot that this show is a harem, but this episode definitely reminded me of it.

      • meow says:

        Hm. Is it really a harem? I hesitate to call it that, because imho, as far as I know, although Kirito meets and fights beside many partners, he only had one girl in his heart.

        • boo says:

          It’s not? I certainly hope it’s not a harem, because i’m not all that fond of them. I guess Stars comment below, the fact that he meets one girl per episode (yes i know Asuna is protagonist and that he wasn’t romancing any of them so far), plus the tentacles, sort of got me think about it in those terms.

          • meow says:

            Put it this way. Unless they seriously change the story, this is probably the last we see of Silica.

        • Cytl says:

          Many girls fall in love with him as the story goes on. But the series avoid using lame things like jealousy wars and misunderstandings (as you said he only has eyes for one girl), so I don’t see the problem with it. Also, Kirito may be overpowered and sometimes “too perfect” but at least this justifies why so many girls fall for him, contrary to the typical bland and weak harem MC.

  2. Stars says:

    It looks like the next few episodes are going to focus on fleshing out the game and slowly introducing the main characters (all the while turning it into a harem..). There is a lot of things about the mechanics of the game and giving some character depth which will make the ending a lot more sastisfying than if it followed the LN I’m finding.

    • meow says:

      Still seems rushed though. I don’t see how they can squeeze the whole story into a single episode. Too many important points to cover. I wonder what they’ll cut out.

      • Terry says:

        Agreed.

        SAO is one of those stories/genres which can last 100+ episodes; given its marketability and intricacy, you would think the producers would milk it for all it’s worth – and yet it would be completely forgiveable because I genuinely believe it wouldn’t feel slow-paced at all. Part of this is because the original author himself left many aspects of gaming unexplored, yet was still able to script a compelling tale.

        But again, this was a good episode; MUCH better paced, fewer plot-holes which means a new-comer to the story won’t recognize the missing elements. Love the animation quality and music as well as the impact direction during the climax.

        If the producers are making the rest of the series up to these standards (or better), this will be a great series (in spite of the starting stumble). Especially given that these stories are merely build-up, appetizers to the main course.

  3. Terry says:

    I actually found this particular episode to be very well paced.

    It kept the essentials of the LN intact, and the subtleties involved in weaving as many aspects of the MMO (such as Kirito’s help in power-leveling the under-leveled Silica) are things I’m sure many MMO veterans can relate to.

    In short, there were far fewer plot-holes and I hope the producers are hitting their stride. But the next episode will be telling: executed properly, the next installment can be a powerful window into the motivations and role-changes as it effects people in real life. Executed poorly, it’ll leave absolutely no imprint on the viewer.

    Here’s hoping…

    • meow says:

      Yeah. I was especially glad that they included Suguha’s backstory. That was a pleasant surprise. I wonder if the reason why they’re rushing is because they intend to do Fairy Dance in the 2nd course? I don’t know if it’s possible to do all of Aincrad properly in one course though.

      • Terry says:

        Cramming it all into 24 episodes is certainly part of it, and given how much material they’ve already discarded, they may feel compelled to stick to their timeline.

        It’s possible to do it all in 24 and to do it well, however abbreviated.

        Again the key, as always, relies on the skill and dedication of the producers and its team. A good indicator that they’re putting in some serious effort into this is the improvement, episode by episode.

        The animation quality doesn’t slip, there are no stick-figure cheats to stand-in for clean (and time-consuming) animation. The Sound is fairly intricate in instrumentation, composition, and variety for each appropriate scene.

        Take a look at how many times the animators changed Silica’s clothing, 4 sets in a single episode which is not something that animators normally like to do unless they’re well-motivated. If the animators stayed with the same clothing design the entire episode, it would be lazy but not a “cardinal sin” in animation. However, the theme of Silica changing, upgrading, and maturing along with her clothing is an important aspect in the LN story.

        This attention to detail and effort is subtle and it’s a great sign that the producers are serious.

  4. HunterWulf says:

    Silica didn’t have friends, when the two guys from the first ep tried to make her join their party she told Kirito clearly that people who want her to join their party just want her as a sort of mascot for their party since she is quite popular and has a pet(and the party she was with in the beginning is no different).

    And they really don’t look down on the rest of the people there, there are many players fighting on the front-lines of the game and probably better than Kirito at the game (and at a higher level), but i guess we will get to that later in the story (i mean clearly Kirito here traveled to a lower level area so he was OP compared to everyone else around, he himself comments on that and on the whole “power levels” in MMOs thing being an illusion of power and that there are more important things to worry about)

    • meow says:

      One thing about Silica, she is one of the more underdeveloped characters in the novels. She was only 13 years old but did she really survive day-to-day for over a year just bouncing between parties? I guess she was happy just to have Pina.

  5. This series is definitely my favourite of the summer season. Many people are likening it to .Hack// with good reason, however I think that this series has its own charms that make it unique and enjoyable.

    I particularly enjoy Kirito’s character and how badass he seems, however I do wonder if he’s going to come up against something he can’t handle soon. At the moment I’d love to know what Asuna has been up to.

  6. UltimateReaper says:

    This series is not my favorite of this season, however it is among the better than average anime I’ve seen, I dig the concept too, I’ve never actually played an online multiplayer but have always wanted to, I’m just too turned off and overwhelmed by trying to find something that isn’t just another “cliche”

    At this point I wonder how long the series will be, if its around 24 I’m fine with this pace, however if its one of the short ones, then it’s quite underwhelming, especially with the rushed feeling it gives

    • meow says:

      I’ve been pretty tempted to get back into my old MMO too after watching SAO but my reasons for leaving it in the first place haven’t changed. One thing about MMOs is it’s a virtual life that can eat into your real one in terms of time and possibly money, depending on how exploitative the game system is or what kind of people you may run into inside the MMO. Anime like SAO or .hack are kind of like honey traps and are a poor representation of actual MMO life. Perhaps I was one of the unlucky ones but, in spite of spending a small fortune on one over time, I didn’t get very far, didn’t manage to make any friends to keep and overall, my bad experiences exceeded my good ones in the end.

  7. UltimateReaper says:

    never played*

  8. Tpolo says:

    *SAO

    It was a good episode, other than the needless fanservice with those plants that brought it down on the reputable level . I really hope the pace of this episode is kept. I’m enjoying the show but I want it to be better, as people are saying the LN is.

  9. Cytl says:

    I actually liked this episode the most in terms of pacing and entertainment. Too bad the next episode is probably going to feel rushed and/or butchered.

    • meow says:

      I hope not. I was kind of looking forward to episode 4 as a litmus test and I have to say that it passed with flying colors. But yeah, next episode is pretty big. It’s two or three times longer than this episode’s story but it’s still seems to be only allocated to one episode. Hmm….

  10. AidanAK47 says:

    This series should improve immensely once it returns to the main plot. When that happens though…is the question. At the moment we are getting the side stories and I for one am a little annoyed that the only side story which was properly executed happened to be the weakest(In my opinion) and most MOE filled. She is a bit better than most Loli characters but she is still walking HNNNNGHHH.

    • Roninski says:

      Mm… All this filler (As I consider book two to pretty much be) is really getting me down. Get on with it bros!

      • meow says:

        Actually, explaining the mechanics of the game as well as the variety of environments is pretty important to the plot later. It goes into explaining some of the characters’ behavior and attitude towards the game. For example, little things like that bread with cream Asuna ate on the first level will have a big impact on her character later.

        One thing I feel this anime still needs is more visibility on how much time is actually passing between time skips so the audience can better anticipate/appreciate subtle changes to the characters over time. It’s only episode 4 but almost 17 months have passed and more than half the game’s levels have been cleared. 8 months passed between the disbandment of the Cats guild and the Christmas event and this Flower event happens roughly 3 months after that.

      • Crion says:

        The series seems to be progressing in chronological order which means there’s going to be a whole lot of filler for a while since the first volume of the books starts out in 2024, two full years after everything started.

  11. elior1 says:

    i think the next side story will be 2 or 3 episodes becouse it was big chapter and it also include asuna and kirito cute scences so if they will realy want to cover all the story this will be 2 or 3 episodes

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    (Tuesday, May 24. 2016 10:13 PM)
    Im very self conscious when i speak to native english speakers as you can see -_-
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    and of course being in southern sweden i studied vocabulary through the universal english accent at my schools so in America I feel out of place with my weird combination of Swedish intonation and English pronunciations.
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