Sword Art Online – Episode 2 – “Beater” – Illusion of Kirito

SAO_E02d

   Episode 2, “Beater” does a good job of establishing just how dangerous the game is…both in how dangerous the npcs and the players are since there are no extra lives and do overs. We also see how the world is politicizing from the desperation of the players and see how Kirito ends up defining himself.

       The story begins a month after the first episode and we see Diavel attempting to unite the players to take on the Boss so that all of them can move on from the 1st level. When he says they will form parties to take them on Kirito joins another loner Asuna as the angry Kibaou attacks the Beta testers, blaming them for the deaths they could have prevented in the game.

The Pros: The Politics – I like that there are those who are angry because they are powerless to leave the game. Kibaou felt believable if misguided and I like how Agil defends the Beta testers and points out how they helped. Diavel is great as the face of the players too and the loners like Asuna and Kirito are a great touch as well.

Illfang the Kobold Lord – This boss is awesome and actually manages to kill Diavel! He has a secret move that isn’t in the Handbook and goes through a lot forms and kills countless players. I liked the design too as Illfang looked like a Demonic Dog.

Diavel – Diavel is the revolutionary out to unite the players and he does a good job too as he is the spark that makes Kirito think beyond himself. He wants to protect the players from their worse natures and free as many as he can. For these reasons his death means something.

Kibaou – Kibaou is the one looking to start a fight as he feels powerless in the game. To this end he targets the Beta Testers and nearly succeeds on a few occasions, the first time he is talked down by Agil and the second time Kirito lets him be the focus of all the player’s anger. He is a good antagonist for this reason as he reasons make sense.

Agil – I really like Agil. He is a large and calm guy who can see the bigger picture. He is also the only person of color we have seen in the game so far. He is really talented too and has an awesome weapon!

Asuna – Asuna is the loner who has trouble connecting to others like Kirito. She is also one of the best in the game and it is her and Kirito who save the day. She holds onto her humanity and reminds herself of what matters. To her the game has a danger of pulling her in and she wants to stop it.

Kirito – Kirito’s arc continues as we see him fear for his life when Kibaou wants to punish the Beta Testers and later see him see the bigger pictures when Diavel dies for the players. It is that helps him see beyond himself and beating the game and he becomes the face that the angry players can hate while he resolves to help the noobs. I really liked his arc in this.

   This was a powerful and fun episode. It was better than the Pilot and did more with more characters. It also introduced a lot of characters I think we will see later. This really showed how dangerous the game really is and that it changes people for better and for worse.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Sword Art Online Pilot – Episode 1 – “The World of Swords” – Forcing People to Relate

Sword Art Online Pilot

    The Pilot to “Sword Art Online” is good at capturing the process of an MMORPG and the negative and positive social aspects of it, and it does a really good job, even though we only really meet 3 characters who get air time. For the start of a Pilot I found it really enjoyable and the animation is stunning.

      The Pilot begins with the release of Sword Art Online and the players entering into the game via NerveGear as the players enter the virtual world of Aincrad. It begins with Kirito helping out a noob named Klein but as he is about to leave he finds himself in the game before long what they physically look likes overtakes their Avatars and Kayaba lets them know they are trapped and could die in the game if they do not win it.

The Pros: The Premise – The idea of being trapped in a game and having to fight to get out is really awesome. Basically making a virtual world real life is a fantastic premise that has unlimited possibilities only limited by the imagination of the author. This is the art of story.

The Animation – The animation is beautiful. It is dark and colorful and also really light making it feel like a game that anyone would want to play, with Kayaba being shown in dark robes and faceless.

The Soundtrack – Kaijura Yuki did an amazing job on this! It has gaming elements in the theme as well as a soundtrack that would fit in any Medieval Sci. Fi. Suffice to say I really enjoy it so far.

Aincrad – Aincrad is a collection of levels and cities with the highest level being the God Realm from the looks of it when Kayaba presented it. It is a cool world with Medieval and modern looks intermixed and the animals are alien colors.

Kayaba – Kayaba is a meglomaniac. He created “Sword Art Online” so he’d have a world within his control that he fully controlled. He is the God of the world and a horrible one at that. I really like this guy as an antagonist.

Kirito – Kirito is a loner who enjoys escaping to “The only reality that matters.” It takes being trapped in that world to remind him that his sister and mother matter. It’s kind of sad but it is real to his character and it gives him a motivation to get out of the game.

Klein – Klein is a bit of a bro and a good guy who compliments Kirito when his Avatar becomes himself and shows that he values what he learns from others. He also cares deeply for his friends and goes back to the Square to get them after Kayaba’s announcement.

The Cons; Faceless Unknowns – A bunch of people are in the square but I can’t remember any of them. None of them stood out as distinct even though there were some younger people, parents, a couple and others…but they were just kind of there.

For a Pilot it is really solid, the animation, the world and the two core characteres as well as the premise make me want to see how this series ends. I’m glad I got to watch it with a fellow gamer too and as someone who has always had a soft spot for Fantasy MMORPGs, this one feels real.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great.