Saturday, October 4, 2014

Sword Art Online Confuses "Shock" with "Fitting Climax." Again.

I'm too swamped for the Rewind post I originally planned on. But I started this post after watching episode 13 of SAO II, and it has elements of "Rewind" to it, since I think back to a past arc. So... I guess it's "Rewind, Fast forward, Play: Sword Art Online." Or something like that. Anyway, spoilers and recollections of disturbing scenes ahead. Here you go:

I wasn't a huge fan of Sword Art Online's first season. The first half was mildly fun. I enjoyed the fight scenes. Unlike some people, I didn't mind the fact that Kirito was overly capable. I just had fun watching him. But I couldn't take Kirito, Asuna, and Yui's little family seriously—I felt like the teenagers were playing house with their virtual "daughter."

The second arc centered around a new game, Alfheim Online (ALO), and was harder for me to swallow. At first, my biggest problem was Kirito's sister, who likes him in a way she shouldn't. Also, it's generally more difficult to take people seriously when they have long ears and are surrounded by happy fairytale colors. I know Kirito encountered multiple conflicts before he finally reached Asuna, but I barely remember them. I don't think I cared that much.

Here's what I do remember: A creepy older guy made arrangements to marry Asuna, whose real body is in the hospital, while he holds her consciousness captive in ALO. She's kept in a cage in a tree, like a bird, and he comes by on occasion to harass her (using his King Oberon avatar). Near the end of the season, when Kirito finally reaches her, Creepy King makes him watch while he chains her, runs his hands all over her, and promises to rape her comatose body after he's done with her in virtual reality. Kirito gets strength from remnants of the previous villain and saves her. 

There's no actual rape, but the abuse that does happen—and is shown—is very difficult to watch. The guys in the audience are (I hope) empathizing with Kirito, which would be hard enough. But, as a woman, I empathize with Asuna. My skin gets a sick tingly feeling when Creepy King touches her. He might not completely have his way with her, but he still violates her in a way no woman should have to endure. She is completely helpless to stop it, and her one defender is pinned to the ground with his own sword.

When I think back on the first two arcs of SAO, I don't remember much. The icky feelings from that episode overwhelm everything else, good or bad.  

Fast forward to SAO II and Gun Gale Online. I enjoyed the first 10 episodes of this arc, and looked forward to it every weekend. I appreciated that PTSD had a role in the conflict (although I don't think a diagnosis came into play). Then came the 11th episode, in which all action paused in favor of 1) serious conversations with random shots of Sinon's rear end, 2) serious conversations by people in elf/fairy land, and 3) me telling Kirito to tell Sinon about Asuna. Popular opinion of the show plummeted, and my opinion plummeted with it. The next episode was better, but I was disillusioned, and my eyes were opened to faults I would otherwise miss.   

And so we arrive at episode 13... I've stopped taking the conflict seriously, although I tell myself to try. In fact, in the 13th episode, I laugh during a scene that's supposed to be ominous:

There's an intense battle. Death Gun, an ominous mix of Terminator
and Anikin, rasps out: "It isn't over yet. I won't let it end until they find
out, and—" A cute little text bubble pops up. It's laughably anti-climatic.

At this point, I'm only worried about one thing: will the creators recognize that Sinon and Kirito have been physically close on camera with Asuna watching, or will they continue to play with Sinon's feelings and ignore Asuna's? 

Later in the episode, I'm mildly relieved, because Sinon is back in the real world, and her trusted friend Shinkawa has come to keep her company. I want him to take Kirito's place as her protector, so Kirito can go back to Asuna. I'm pretty single-minded about this issue, and my hope blinds me to any warning signs. 

I don't suspect anything until Shinkawa opens the you-said-you'd-be-mine conversation. The scene begins safe: she's elevated, on the bed. He sits on the ground, so he has to look up at her, and his face is well-lit. Then, his posture changes, and his face goes into shadow.

In this split second, my mind goes from "awkward," to "Oh no,
this is really bad." All because of his posture and the lighting.

I have to give the animators props for the angles and shadows in this scene. Shinkawa becomes downright intimidating as he slowly rises above Sinon. At times, we view him from right beside her, so when he rises, like a wave preparing to break, we feel a hint of the intimidation she must feel. I forget that he's a dweeby high school kid. He's become a brute. Instead of protecting and honoring Sinon's beauty, he wants to take it by force, and he has the upper hand in every way. I fear this kind of thing far more than murder—not in the sense that I worry about it in my daily life, but that the idea disturbs me more. Once again, the shock factor of this scene rules my mind.

It takes a few hours for me to think about the scene within the bigger picture. And once I do, I realize... it is completely unnecessary. I mean, in ALO, "King Oberon's" obsession with Asuna was a key part of the conflict from the beginning of the arc. But this arc would survive just fine without Shinkawa obsessing over and assaulting Sinon. The main conflicts thus far, as I understood them, were 1) Kirito uncovering and stopping deaths connected to GGO, and 2) Kirito and Sinon coming to terms with what happened in their past. Yes, the confrontation with Shinkawa provided a climatic opportunity for her to overcome her victim mentality. However, it would have been far more meaningful if he held a gun like the one she shot when she was little. Less shocking for the audience? Yes. But more genuine.

Further, if the goal is to help Sinon overcome her victim mentality, maybe she should be the one to subdue Shinkawa, not Kirito.

Eh, whatever. I enjoy watching Kirito fight, even when it's not beneficial to the story. Besides, his entrance helps solidify the parallelism between ALO and GGO. There's a third parallel, involving illogical disembodied beings who give pep talks, but I think I've covered enough for one post.

Despite my critical words, I'll watch the next episode of SAO the weekend. I'll probably enjoy parts of it. Unfortunately, if the makers keep confusing "perverts" and "shock" with "well-developed conflict" and "actual climax," I can't hope for more than mild amusement in the coming episodes.

No comments:

Post a Comment

CAREFUL! Read the buttons before you click!

Google decided to put a "sign out" button in the spot that some of us expect a "post comment" button. If you accidentally click "sign out," then you will lose everything you just wrote. I've done that several times right here, on my very own blog. Don't be like me. Pay attention to what you're clicking.

Thank you for reading. And thank you for commenting. Every comment puts a smile on my face. ^_^

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.