These past few episodes of SAO II have definitely cleared up my opinions on the show as a whole. While I still agree with my opinions that the show is too serious, and Sinon’s character is a little bit strange to find in Sword Art Online, I’ve realized that isn’t the real thing that’s been ruining the past few episodes for me. No, that honor would have to go with the pacing of the show: It’s pretty slow.
Now let me clarify, I don’t hate slow pacing, but it doesn’t fit well with every show. Usually slower pacing is meant for more moody and atmospheric pieces, like Flowers of Evil and Mushishi for example. It’s not really the kind of pacing an action show like SAO should have. Yes, I know that the light novels started off the Gun Gale Online arc this slow too, but with an adaptation changes should be made to better fit the medium it’s working in. What may be entertaining in a dialogue and exposition heavy book, may not be as interesting in an action series. Being a faithful adaptation isn’t always the best route to take when making an adaptive screenplay, sometimes pacing must be changed, and they just aren’t doing that right now.
Since the beginning of this season, the story has been moving along like a snail. If they hadn’t spent so much time introducing everything, they probably could have gotten to Bullet of Bullets tournament battles by episode 3; but nope! We just have to have two full episodes introducing our new main female character! Did we need a first episode filled with exposition? No, we just had it because the light novels had it too!
Of course that doesn’t mean these past few episodes have been completely awful, despite the annoying pacing problems. The story here is continuing to be more intriguing than it should be, and this is mostly thanks to an interesting twist recently implemented into the story. At the end of episode 5 we learn that Death Gun is actually an SAO survivor, and a member of the SAO murderous mercenary group called the Laughing Coffin. After this revelation Kirito goes into shock, since he remembers killing many Laughing Coffin members during an attack the Knights of the Blood Oath orchestrated. While this twist may be generic in retrospect, the genuine terror seen on Kirito’s face is striking, and it’s also nice to see the events of SAO still affecting the story, even when most of the characters from that arc have been completely dropped into the background.
The show then immediately follows it up with a brilliant turn for Sinon’s character. After Kirito’s first BoB fight, she finds him in shock after his encounter with Death Gun. His terrified face makes her connect him to her past issues, and it leads to a tense fight were she loses due to empathy and one false moves. While I’m still worried that her character might fall in love Kirito, it’s nice to see their relationship has more to it than some of the other crap you see with Silica and Lisbeth. Sinon wants to overcome her anxiety issues by becoming stronger, but Kirito shows her that strength is more than just being really skilled with a sniper gun. It’s very cheesy, and it still has unfortunate hints of harem bait in there, but at least Sinon is getting some character progression.
Anyways, I was really happy with episodes 5 and 6, they weren’t great, but I found their twists and turns to be some of the most interesting aspects of SAO II so far. But then episode 7 happened… Sigh… Episode 7 basically is an episode entirely dedicated to ruining all the progress the previous episodes had made with Kirito. Kirito’s regret for killing those members of the Laughing Coffin was good progression for his character, and it was great to finally see an emotion from him that wasn’t just his typical cold and uninterested personality. But of course half way through episode 7, Kirito’s nurse consoles him on his problems, and he gets over his anxieties. Jeez, I knew they were going to have to get rid of this possible imperfection in Kirito’s character somehow, but this was the laziest way they could have done that. You really couldn’t think of another way to do that SAO!?
Otherwise though episode 7 is filled with a lot of pointless cameos from Sword Art Online season one’s harem roster. The biggest and most disturbing one being the return of Suguha or, as I like to call her, Oni-chan Cousin. She was one of the most annoying characters in Sword Art Online season one, and she was only remotely tolerable as her online personality Leifa. In this episode she makes a terrifying appearance in the real world, where she drapes her arms over Kirito to comfort him! Ugh, I really didn’t want her to see her again! Did you really have to bring her back A1 Pictures!?
In the end though, these episodes have still featured the same hindrances all of Sword Art Online II has had so far. The over the top seriousness and slow pacing problems still remain, but it manages to be interesting due to Sinon’s characterization and the twist that rings some genuine emotion out of Kirito. All in all, like all of SAO, it’s a mixed bag, but dang it’s an entertaining one. Despite my complaining the action is still fun and, even though I hate the pacing, I find myself constantly interested in where this mess of ideas is going. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens in the next couple of weeks.