The past few episodes of Sword Art Online II have been split into two halves, bad halves and good halves. Now for the bad halves of episodes 11 and 12, they were just boring. They didn’t elicit much response from me except the usual, “Wow, this show is slow and exposition dumps you on things you already know, over and over again.” But quite frankly the main reason I’m making this post is for one episode, and one episode only: I’m here to take about the bad half of episode 13. So now, before I begin to complain infinitely, I shall briefly try and go over the positives of the last three episodes.
Firstly, the action scenes here are pretty good. It’s clear a lot of the effort and budget for this show was saved for these specific points, because the fights scenes here are both expertly choreographed and directed. There’s gravitas and tension with every gunshot and sword swing in these final Bullet of Bullets battles, especially with Kirito’s encounter with Death Gun at the beginning of the accursed episode 13. It moves quickly, and the battle is over in seconds, but every moment feels like a condensed fight in itself; and the final swing is just beautiful. During Kirito’s final strike the animation blurs and becomes sketchy, emphasizing the fire in Kirito’s eyes, and making the motion feel visceral and clean. It’s an amazingly directed scene, and holds itself up there with some of Sword Art Online’s best fights.
Secondly, the twists here are actually pretty clever. In these episodes we finally learn how Death Gun is killing off players, and it turns out that Death Gun isn’t just one person like Kirito originally thought he was. In fact it turns out that multiple members of the Laughing Coffin Guild from the original SAO are in on the act. Basically when Death Gun shoots someone in game, one of his groupies is waiting outside in the real world ready to inject the player with a lethal drug. They get this information by using Death Gun’s invisible coat to catch players while they’re signing up for the Bullet of Bullets tournament, where you have the option to give the game your personal information. Not only is this twist clever, but it’s the kind of thing you’d never really think about unless you really examined the story very closely. Yes, it is a little bit ridiculous and quite over the top in a lot of ways, but I still admire the writer’s creativity.
And for my final good talking point, I’ll have to begrudgingly admit they’re were a few good moments of chemistry between Sinon and Kirito. The show’s writing portrayed their friendship pretty well, and their synergy in battle here was excellent. The combination of Sinon lowering Death Gun’s defense by aiming at him leaving him open for Kirito to attack is rather a good strategy. There’s also a pretty great moment at the end of the tournament where Sinon blows herself and Kirito up with a grenade so they can both win the tournament. I know I said before that I hate the romance the show is trying to make between them, but honestly the way Sinon hugged Kirito right before the explosion was not only humorous, but seemed to really sum up the development Sinon’s character has gone through in throughout the series.
However that’s where all my good talking points end, because after that Sinon wakes up her home, afraid that Death Gun’s accomplice might still be there. Too her luck though the house is empty, and she instead finds her best friend Kyouji Shinakawa at her door with a bag of take-out food. Everything seems to be fine, after all Shinakwa’s a good person right? I mean sure, he seems a little obsessive about wanting Sinon, but otherwise he’s fine. He’s just a horny high schooler… Right? RIGHT!?
Well, as it turns out… HE ISN’T! Pretty quickly the show reverts into a bad habit it gained in the Alfheim Online arc, using sexual assault as a plot point to make the villains seem extremely evil. He threatens to kill Sinon if she doesn’t consent to his sexual desires, and he begins to have a cartoonish monologue about his motivations, and how he’s one of Death Gun’s accomplices but he was also Death Gun before the tournament, etc, etc. Soon he’s moving his hand up for body, as his face contorts into a ridiculously over the top stare that is supposed to emphasize that HE’S EVIL!!! But then as Sinon finally escapes Shinakawa’s arms, Kirito comes in and punches him in the face… Hooray???
Honestly I wish I didn’t have to point out why this scene is bad. I mean it clearly speaks for itself on all accounts, but I must say what must be said. This is not only some of the cheapest writing I’ve seen this entire season, but it also is some of the worst stuff I’ve seen from SAO since the Alfheim Online Arc, which featured a much similar sequence near it’s finale. I understand that the show wants to make you hate the villain, but this doesn’t make me hate him, it makes me hate the show. It makes me hate the fact I’m watching it. It makes me hate the fact the show exists. It just makes me hate everything about it.
Sure, while the music here is good, the direction is so cartoony and the content is so edgy and brainless it makes me feel like my head is falling apart. Sexual Assault and other things like it are some of the laziest, and most mishandled plot devices in fiction. I have seen them work in anime a grand total of zero times. If they’re going to work, you have to have everything make perfect sense character wise. Up to this point we have seen Shinakawa has been pretty mentally stable. Sure, there were a few scenes in episode 10 hinting at his villainy, but even then this just feels straight up out of place. It feels like they’re making him do this because they want to make him seem like more of a villain in the eyes of the audience, and overall it doesn’t work become it comes off as tasteless and thoughtless writing. There are so many other ways to make him seem evil! Why isn’t having him be a cunning villain good enough?
This isn’t helped by the fact that throughout this scene, the writers are really trying to push Shinakawa as the philosophical opposite of Kirito. Unlike Kirito he kills people to become stronger, and he also sexually assaults people. Kirito would never do that! KIRITO CAN DO NO WRONG!!! Normally I would be interested in the parallel between these two character, but here it just annoys me. You have a scene where a girl is sexually assaulted, and it’s all to make Kirito look even more amazing in comparison to the bad guy? I CAN’T TAKE THIS ANYMORE!
I don’t really know what else to say at this point, so I’ll just end the post with this: This has been the worse section of Sword Art Online II so far. While the action and character development still interest me, episode 13, along with episodes 21 and 24 of season 1, will go down as some of the worst episodes I’ve seen in any anime. The use of sexual assault to glorify Kirito, and to make the villain look worse than he already is, is some of the laziest and most tasteless writing I’ve seen since Chaos;Head and Wizard Barristers; and in general it’s clear that Sword Art Online II has hit its lowest point yet. It can only get better from here, right?