Sword Art Online II – Second half and overall impressions

I did another marathon session of the Excaliber arc of Sword Art Online II and a third session for the dreadfully boring Mother’s Rosario arc.

Excaliber arc: Short and sweet and everyone got a chance to shine. Klein used to be somewhat cool when he was the leader of his own guild in Aincrad, now he’s largely reduced to a ronery joke character. But his chivalry (or horniness) in the face of all common sense was the only thing that let them beat the boss so all’s well that ends well. Kirito was being Kirito as well, but characters like Tonkii, Sinon and Freyja all played their part to save the world of ALO from the evil frost giants.

Maybe it’s just me but I find arcs set in ALO disappointing because there’s no threat of permadeath. SAO and GGO have spoiled me. Still the light, fluffy mood and the fact that even if the frost giants do win and destroy ALO they can just move to another game makes Excaliber a nice sandwich arc between two heavier ones. And of course Kirito would end up with the most powerful sword in the game…

Mother’s Rosario: Long and bitter and too much about Asuna. When the show turned to focus on her I realized I don’t like her as much as I thought I did. Sinon for best girl again! I’m still all for the Kirito x Asuna pairing (like I have a choice) but as an individual Asuna is kinda of boring.

My problems with the arc: first, it could have been done in half the time. A lot of time was wasted just sitting around crying and moping and beating around the bush instead of talking about stuff. How many times did we have to see Asuna climbing down the stairs or staring at her mom? Or watch Siune and Yuuki covering things up instead of sharing their little secret? By the time they finally got round to the reveal I honestly didn’t care any more.

Furthermore the whole “guild of dying kids” thing was way too overwrought. It was trying way too hard to draw out tears by hook and by crook. “Oh look how sad it is, poor Yuuki, don’t you feel sorry for her? Hmm? Don’t you?” That’s why it wasn’t enough for them to just give her AIDS, they had to kill her mother and her father and her twin sister and have her house scheduled to be torn down juuuust for that extra little bit of tragedy.

Yeah me neither, SAO II.

I must have a heart of stone but I really didn’t care. Episode upon episode of “poor little Yuuki” was annoying to watch because I didn’t care about her in the first place. It’s one thing if an existing cast member gets stricken with something, or at least someone we’ve known in the show for a while, but introducing new characters so you can kill them off to develop other characters isn’t going to wring any tears or feels from me. Ho hum, was my general feeling throughout the arc.

The most excitement I got was from imagining at first that Asuna’s “fiance” Yuuya might be Yuuki in disguise, but that went out the window when she called Asuna “nee-chan.” Not to mention Asuna’s name and avatar look exactly like her so there’s no way her “fiance” wouldn’t recognize her in-game. So instead it’s just some random character brought into the game to teach Asuna that it’s important to talk to your mother by making her play a video game…? Or something like that was the moral. Anyway it worked and Asuna’s mother agrees to let her stay in her current school instead of transferring.

Honestly I thought Asuna’s mom was on the right track with a lot of things, especially with how much time Asuna spends in the virtual world versus the real world and the importance of studying hard and getting in a good college. Even the tightest group of online friends won’t last forever. In the end you still have to come back to real life. That’s why it’s good that they didn’t make Asuna-mama out to be an out-and-out monster. Just a little stubborn and quick to turn away from what she doesn’t want to see, just like her daughter. And in the end she doesn’t make a 100% sudden turnaround but is just a little bit softer towards Asuna. That’s nice. We really could have gotten to that point in 4 episodes instead of 7 but still nice Bad arc with a good end, more or less.

Overall: Just like the first season, Sword Art Online II had a cracking good first arc and then the second half of the season was just meh. Gun Gale Online is probably my favorite game in the show. As a bonus it introduced best girl Sinon. Good drama, action, even a bit of tragedy (poor Pale Rider) and a set up for future arcs. The second half was meh but had some character development for Asuna. And those of us who were disappointed at how chickified she had become since SAO got to see her actually do some stuff for a change. It was a good watch, an above-average show, more or less. I don’t know if I want to watch any more or not – I’m certainly not interested in the reading the light novels – but we’ll see.

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