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Sword Art Online Episode #13 Anime Review

7 min read

Nothing like sitting around and doing nothing on one’s vacation. A little fishing in a nice quiet spot. The problem is when the boss suddenly calls you back into the office.

What They Say:
“Edge of Hell’s Abyss”

While enjoying a fishing tournament Kirito receives an urgent e-mail from the leader of the guild requesting their return.

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
And so it’s on to November 5, 2024. Kirito is sitting at the lake on Floor 22, fishing with a man named Nishida. Nishida, who in the real world was the head of the security division for an internet service provider (the one, in fact, tied to the game Sword Art Online), is good at fishing, but not so good at cooking, so he can’t enjoy his catches. He goes on to catch a large fish, but laments the fact that he cannot do much with it. Kirito, of course, knows someone who can cook, and offers to help him with his problem.

Yes, it’s time for Asuna to play wife again, cooking the dinner the men bring home. Over dinner, Nishida tells the couple about a special big fish that constantly gets away. So, Kirito and Ishida plan to pursue the big one. The next day, it looks like the fishing trip has now become a major event, as people from around the game have gathered to watch. It looks like this is one really big fish, since Nishida uses a rather large creature for bait.

That was necessary, since it is one massive fish. The reason Nishida needed Kirito’s help is that while Nishida can hook the fish, he lacks the strength to reel it in. Kirito has the strength to pull it in…but they all soon regret doing so, as it turns out to be a fish monster that can even walk on land. I assume laughter is meant to ensue, especially in the image of Kirito hiding behind Asuna’s skirt.

Yo-yo personality Asuna checks in again. So, first she starts off being wife and cook (and bedmate), but now we see Asuna the powerful swordswoman, as she finishes off the fish monster with a single swing of her sword.

Sadly for Kirito, their vacation comes to an abrupt end when Heathcliff summons them to the front. We get an extended farewell scene with Ishida, where among other things Asuna lays out her reasons for liking Kirito (so, the yo-yo flings outward again, as Asuna becomes over-emotional, crying over her memories and explanation). Once we get to Granzdam, the headquarters of the Knights of the Blood Oath, we learn that the situation is very, very bad. An entire reconnaissance party drawn from the 5 frontline guilds was wiped out in a boss room ahead. It appears to be yet another teleportation dead zone, thus why Heathcliff wants to call in his best fighters.

While waiting to go, Kirito and Asuna talk. Kirito would like Asuna to stay where it’s safe, but that’s not going to happen. She tells him that if anything happened to him, she’d kill herself. Kirito would love to just run away and hide with Asuna forever, but that’s not realistic. Asuna notes an important piece of exposition: early on in the game, all players went offline for a while, presumably while their physical bodies in the real world were transferred to hospitals to keep them alive. Asuna notes that they can’t stay in the game forever, since who knows for how long their bodies in the real world will be able to be kept artificially alive. There is no realistic choice other than fighting to escape the game.

So, off to Floor 75, Yurinia. A very large war party is being gathered, including Kirito’s old acquaintances Klein and Agil. Things must be very serious: Heathcliff himself is leading the expedition. Asuna has a bad feeling the moment they enter the room before the boss area. The party charges in, but the room is empty for the moment. It’s too quiet, of course. Someone has the brains to look above them to find a horrific monster, The Skull Reaper. It’s like a giant skeletal centipede. It’s so powerful that it can one-hit kill a number of players.What’s worse, it appears to have multiple life bars, meaning it has massive hit points and might even require being killed more than once.

If you want to know how the battle ends, you’re going to have to wait for next week.

As this marks the end of the first cour of the series, perhaps it would not be out of place for me to look back at what we have seen so far. The series got off to a rocky start for me. The painful exposition and poorly executed explanation of the premise (seeing Dr. Kayaba’s villain moment, I felt very uninterested in continuing, since it seemed to be entirely vicious for no reason other than to be psychotically evil) and the rough first couple of episodes, which were very heavy in tone, focusing on death, death, and, oh, yes, death, made it very hard going in the beginning. The show slowly began to find its footing later with the mystery episode arc and the comic relief provided by characters such as Silica and Lizbeth, who both, thankfully, didn’t die.

Once Asuna was reintroduced, the show in general has improved, though I’m not entirely pleased by how Asuna’s character has developed. I have taken to calling her Yo-yo Asuna, not out of maliciousness, but because I am not happy with how the writing has basically transformed her from a cool, confident fighter into a bipolar mess, swinging quite wildly from brave and stern to a crying heap of stereotypical female weakness (the kind favored by emotionally-stunted chauvinist males). While it is not wrong to make her highly competent at both cooking and fighting, what feels wrong is her wild emotional swings at times. The writers seem to have created a trap for her personality since they want her to be both Brave Fighter and Perfect Wife (read: doormat) at the same time. It grates after a while.

Still, it was a good idea that they brought back Asuna, even if she is flawed. That is because at least she is somewhat human compared to unemotional, detached, lone wolf Kirito. His character was starting to get a little tiresome, as he was nothing but perfection in terms of fighting, with nothing else to give him any depth. A cardboard cutout of a character. Pairing him with Asuna and having him show something that resembles emotion has done much to humanize him and give him some complexity, even if it is not all that much yet. Any bit is an improvement.

It must be said, however, that as interesting as the developments of the past month or so has been, I think I am starting to get a little tired of the characters being trapped in this fake world. The world itself really does not hold much fascination. I have played a good number of role-playing fantasy games over the years, from the era of pen and paper to the current age of computer simulations (though I have not really dabbled in MMORPGs), and there really is nothing particularly unique about the world of Sword Art Online for me. The lack of magic and the insane difficulty of some monsters makes the world feel terribly unbalanced. The added conceit that death in the simulation means real death takes away all of the “fun” of playing a game. Perhaps that is part of the problem as well, there is a lack of fun since all combat is Serious Business. The attempts at humor to lighten the mood are only partially successful. This episode with the fish was rather lame in that department.

So, for the next segment of the show, I would hope that they find a good way to lighten the mood at times, but much more importantly, I hope they allow the players a way out of this nightmare. Sadly, I doubt that will happen until the next season is complete. I will keep watching for now, but I will hand over the reviewing reins to another.

In Summary:
Kirito and Asuna’s vacation continues, with Kirito joining a laid-back fisherman named Ishida to catch a gigantic fish. Things don’t go exactly according to plan, but fortunately this is all played for comedy, not tragedy. But this is Sword Art Online. We know that tragedy is just around the corner, and we are not surprised when the pair are called back to the front lines to face a horrific monster. The fate of the world may depend on the upcoming battle.

Grade: B-

Streamed by: Crunchyroll

Review Equipment:
Apple iMac with 4GB RAM, Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard

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