Digibro on Sword Art Online

So I thought his points could be broken down into about three different classes: dude, you missed the point entirely; you’re totally right (which is most of the time); and you really hate some aspects of Japanese culture, don’t you?

The first point that I think flew right over his head was Kirito’s actions re: the incipient anti-beta-tester mob. There was nothing he could have said, as a beta tester himself, that would have diffused the situation: instead, recognizing that the non-beta-testers were looking for scapegoats they could actually do something against (as opposed to the true villain, who was out of their reach), he deliberately focused their anger on himself rather than allowing a full-blown witch hunt to descend upon the other beta testers in the crowd.

He’s totally right about the game mechanics being whacked out. All is easily explained by the fact that the original author is not actually a superior gamer. The MMORPG setting is actually just window dressing rather than being a well-handled part of the show.

Kirito’s insanely high level: he’s presented as literally the best player in the game. Chosen by the madman who locked them all in, in fact. Considering said madman has explicitly manipulated the game to give special perks to both himself and Kirito, it’s fairly safe to assume that Kirito’s nonsensical ability to be totally badass when he really shouldn’t be that high level is a literal case of Chosen One. Sure, it would be a better story if the realities of video gaming were respected, but this is an actual plausible explanation. And Kirito’s constantly saying “There’s a limit to how well a solo player can do”? The first time he trotted out that line I figured it was actually a lie to make the others feel like they were doing him a favor, and potentially discourage any of them from the temptation to go solo, since they aren’t Chosen Ones. (And also to hide the fact that he’s literally the best player in the game. Even if he does make bad choices sometimes.)

Asuna: totally best character? Yup. Sexual relationship with Kirito in the game? What? What anime were you watching, Digibro? They were sleeping in separate beds before Yui showed up, FCOL!

Disliking how Asuna gets “nerfed” in comparison to Kirito: this is a pretty clear case of Digibro evaluating a Japanese story by parochial American standards. Asuna at first glance seems to be the prototypical Bad-Ass Warrior Girl, but she’s written as an actual woman, with typically female emotions and reactions, rather than being the stereotypical Warrior Girl who’s just a guy with boobs and great legs. It was jarring occasionally, because she breaks the American expectations for her behavior. Not that Digibro isn’t totally right about that deus ex machina part 1 ending with willpower overcoming death and all, and how it would be a hundred times better if Asuna and Kirito had taken Kayaba down together. (Willpower enabling one to perform miracles is a staple trope of Japanese animation, though, as far as I know.)

Every female with screentime falling in love with the male lead: basically every anime series in that genre ever written. So yeah, complaining about that is like complaining that water is wet. True but kind of irrelevant. The you’re-really-adopted subplot? Yeah, totally unnecessary. Ah, Japan.

Why don’t Kirito and Suguha tell each other they’re playing a virtual game? Uh, well, this is another case of the point flying over Digibro’s head. Suguha doesn’t ‘fess up because she thinks that after the whole SAO debacle, her brother’s gonna ream her up one side and down the other for getting into a potentially lethal hobby. And he doesn’t tell her because he thinks that she’d go ballistic over him going back into the same environment that killed people and imprisoned him in a hospital for two years. There’s actually a rational reason for the whole non-communication in this case, not just Idiot Ball. (However, I like Digibro’s version where they team up to go after Asuna a whole lot better, because the whole glitch-random-meeting really is pretty stupid.)

The Bad Guys: YES. Oh my, yes. They are insane and it bothered me, too. Rapey Rapist dude was super creepy – but that was the point. Japanese culture does not equal American culture. Of course that guy creeps out Americans to the nth degree… but Japanese culture, from what I understand, has a truly astoundingly high level of “socially acceptable” casual sexual harassment, so I’m truly not surprised that the villain is Turned Up To Eleven. Japanese culture has a really weird relationship with sex, in general – from an American point of view, that is.

So yes, agree mostly, quibble on a couple of points. Pacing definitely could have been better; it couldn’t really decide whether to be slice-of-life romance or action, and the show suffers for it. The ending – where the SAO survivors have a chance to face the environment that was their prison for two years – I actually thought was pretty decent, in a face-your-demons kind of way. And it would give the other players – who now know that their presence was as background players to the drama that Kayaba was scripting around himself and Kirito – a chance to prove to themselves that they could also beat the game. (Of course, after the first two major virtual reality MMOs turn out to be playgrounds for madmen, I’m not sure why anyone would still be playing them in the first place!)

I’ll have to go back to crunchyroll for Log Horizon – I started watching the first episode but haven’t continued it. And, uh, I’m supposed to be reading Hugo nominations not watching anime!

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2 Responses to Digibro on Sword Art Online

  1. Kyle David says:

    “but Japanese culture, from what I understand, has a truly astoundingly high level of “socially acceptable” casual sexual harassment”
    You’ll have to forgive me for not turning 180 degree to “oh, well if it’s JAPANESE casual sexual harrassment then it’ OK”. Casual sexual harassment is NOT ok and I don’t understand ehy you consider it an invaluid complaint to point it out.

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