Sword Art Online – Episode 24 – “Gilded Hero” – Gratuitous Tropes

SAO 24

    This episode is the final objectification of Asuna as well as giving us a retreated of tropes that were already covered in the first half of the series. There is very little that is good that can be said about this episode and I’ll get into that more later.

    The story involves Yui and Kirito rescuing Asuna only for Oberon to trap them and begin raping Asuna while Kirito is slowly dying. He must find his inner power and beat the game to rescue her.

The Pros: Oberon’s Death – Oberon gets tortured but Asuna doesn’t get the kill after everything she went through. This character deserved much worse than what he got of being slowly cut to pieces and fully aware of it and experiencing the pain of it all. Was too good for him.

The Cons: Kirito the Hero – He finds his inner power and Kayaba’s echo reminds him that he was there fight and break the game because of his will. We’ve already been here there is no reason to do this again.

Asuna’s Rape – Asuna gets declothed and licked and a whole bunch of other horrible shit while Kirito is trapped because of the gravity and his own sword stabbed in his back. It’s presented like Sansa’s rape scene and is gratioutous and serves no purpose except to victimize one of the strongest people in this show who has been victimized for the entire second part of this arc. Really “Sword Art Online?” What purpose did this serve?

Oberon/Nobuyuki – One dimensional baddie rapes an innocent victim he’s been harassing this entire episode and the entire second half of the series. This is not good writing and this character served no purpose but to victimize Asuna and glorify Kazuto/Kirito. What a waste.

The fact that a character getting tortured is a pro shows just how far down this episode is. The players and Asuna being freed doesn’t even mean anything until the next episode because the tonal shift and rape on screen kind of make that feel meaningless. Serious “SAO” writers, what were you getting at with this crap? It is weak writing that does nothing and is like the writers are actively trying to sabotage their heroes (Asuna) and their show.

Final Score: 1 / 10

Sword Art Online – Episode 21 – “The Truth About ALfheim” – Gratuitous Victimization

SAO Ep 21

    This is where the series takes a sharp tonal shift and where it lost all potential to be great as it went for cheap victimization while downplaying the victimization and stealing Asuna’s agency just as she claims it this episode. Yeah, this episode was terrible and sadly it isn’t the worst example of what happens to her, the worst is yet to come in regards to one of the most empowering characters on this show. Okay, here we go…

     The story involves Asuna’s escape and her discovering the lab where the 300 other players are being experimented on by Oberon. She makes it her mission to free the other trapped players. Elsewhere Kirito and Leafa arrive at the World Tree.

The Pros: The Trapped Players – Seeing them as brains floating over a metal tube reminded me of something out a Philip K. Dick novel so I enjoyed that, shame more wasn’t done with those other trapped players.

The Cons: The Slugs – Who the crap makes their avatar a purple slug? Really? They are already made to look bad and being uninteresting and what come is worse.

The Rape of Asuna – One of the Slug Scientist rapes her with his tendrils…yep, it happens and the only way she gets to fight back and show us the Asuna who is Kirito’s equal is biting the tendril making it drop her and stealing the Admin Key. It is still played off as no big deal by the animators though and even played as a joke given the other slug calls the one who did a perv. God damn it anime…

  There was almost nothing good about this episode besides Asuna stealing the key and managing to fight back at the end. The scene was gratuitous and pervy and did nothing but establish what we already knew…Oberon and his men are bastards. If only this would be the last time this happened…

Final Score: 2 / 10

Maleficent (2014): A Tale of War, Revenge and Recovery from Trauma

Maleficent_Movie_Wallpaper

“Maleficent,” is the retold story (done “Wicked” Style) for the character of Maleficent from Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty.” The story is a revenge tale as Maleficent is betrayed and is out for vengeance on the individual who betrayed her and the Kingdom that has been seeking to conquer her lands of the Moors. She curses Stefan’s daughter (the man who betrayed her) and from there the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment:

The Pros: Angelina Jolie – She is fantastic! She experiences so many different emotions and does so much action in this role and owns it all. She is what elevated this movie beyond the character and story.

The Premise – Is that there are two realms…the faery realm of the Moors and the human Kingdom. They are at war since the humans are trying to take the faeries resources and treasure. Maleficent is the guardian faery and has great eagle wings and horns upon her head. The Premise is great and explains the magic that Maleficent has in “Sleeping Beauty.”

Maleficent – Is great, there are some things in regards to her character I wish they would have done…but I’ll get into those in the cons. For pros though, her relationship to Stefan and her experience of the rape (she gets her wings cut off, it is just that…her power is taken from her by a man she loved)…is powerful. She is a great believable antagonist and you can see her and her people as justified against the humans.

Stefan – Is a great baddy. You see how greed and power overtook whatever feelings he had and how class corrupted him. He is willing to betray and rape the woman he claimed to love to become king. There are few Disney villains as despicable as this guy…and Sharlto Copley does it well. He’s is great at playing complicated bad men.

The Crow – Is fantastic. He gets turned into a man at one point and is Maleficent’s outward morality to some degree. He was the first to care for her after her wings were cut off and he is there to the end.

The Special Effects – Are fantastic. Sometimes it feels a bit too green screen but it is done in such a way that it is supposed to look that way. It exaggerates the colors like a fairy tale.

The Payoff – She heals from her trauma and becomes the mother figure Aurora never had. I actually liked this…I just wish getting here had come at a higher cost for the humans.

Okay/Good: The ending – It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than “Edge of Tomorrow’s” ending, though it wasn’t as good as “Winter Soldier” or “Days of Future Past,” in regards to the end either.

Okay: The Three Good Faeries – They are harmless and comedic relief as usual…none really stand out except for the Pink Fairy played by Imelda Staunton (Doloris Umbridge).

The Faeries – They may look diverse, but they are either stupid good (the three good faeries and others) or Maleficent. I wish they had attacked humans and been more chaotic, faeries usually represent nature and here they represented the ideal of perfect nature rather than how nature actually is (storms, animals, etc.). They weren’t bad, but they were not deep in any way…outside of Maleficent.

Aurora – She’s alright, but the actress who plays her isn’t all that memorable. She could have been replaced by anyone else and it would have had the same emotional effect. She is a plot device with some amount of agency. She seeks out Maleficent and the Moors and she does action…the thing is this is Maleficent’s story though and she functions more at helping Maleficent release her hate and write the wrongs of the curse cast against her. She is there to remind Maleficent of who she was before her wings were taken.

Cons: The Cost – In “Wicked” the book (and implied in the musical), there are consequences to Elphaba’s rebellion. She takes action against the wizard and loses her love…she later loses her kingdom when Dorothy is set on her too. There is none of that in this, it is willing to explore the emotional cost of rape but not the political fallout of having someone as powerful as Maleficent taking action against those who harmed her. She curses Aurora…and that is it. Everything else she does is in self defense. I didn’t find this believable given what happened to her was worse than what happened to Elphaba and Elphaba killed to free the sentient animals and lost her love in the process. Maleficent gets everything back in the end and never goes all bad…her as a villain against the realm was never believable beyond the curse (in which she adds the “True Love’s Kiss” out). This I think hurt to the tone…if you are going to go dark and the revenge along the lines of “Kill Bill,” go “Kill Bill,” “Pirates of the Caribbean series” got violent for much less. Maleficent had so much reason to become the monster, but she never did. It was for this reason I miss the one of old. She did evil for no reason, but at least she actually did evil. Maleficent helps her enemy more than anything else (raising his daughter, uniting his kingdom as he has them attack her after the curse). I wanted her to give payback, but it never comes…She is always the defender except for that single moment of the curse.

There was so much here for a great movie. They actually were willing to use a metaphor for rape and introduce it to kids…the conversations out of that need to happen to help stop it in the future. Storywise it misses so much though. Maleficent should have been more destructive against Stefan, he deserved that. Frollo and Scar faced major consequences beyond their own self destructive paranoia…Stefan deserved the same and worse. I would still recommend this movie and it was really good, worth it largely for the premise Jolie and Sharlto. It is hard to do retellings like this, there is a reason “Wicked” is the only memorable story of that type, and this is no “Wicked,” but is great for what it manages to achieve.

My score is 8.2 / 10.