12 Days of Anime: Day 11 – And then there was one…

Day 11: Sword Art Online, To Love-Ru Darkness, My Little Monster, and Zetsuen no Tempest

On the eleventh day of anime my waifu gave to me,
eleven Kirito-kun’s,
ten karma demons…
nine sleeping Shiina’s,
eight Furugoori’s,
seven cloudy hues,
six girls a-fawning,
five metal vessals!
four Riki routes…
three Jormungands…
two rockin’ Joestars…
and a chu2 from KyoAni!

I just figured out there were a bunch of shows left (more than was available for the remaining two days, anyway, although I’ve already deviated from the idea laid out in the preamble in my first 12 Days of Christmas post with my last post essentially reviewing Adolf). The plan from here on out is to quickly post about each one and be done with it, since, I have to admit, I’m running out of steam after such continuous blogging. Before I start though, why not a couple of pictures? They might be a bit outdated, but I still find them amusing.

Enjoy the periodic table of anime! Or at least as of a year or two ago. How many characters can you name?

Enjoy the periodic table of anime! Or at least as of a year or two ago. How many characters can you name?

This puts a whole new spin on GATTAI.

This puts a whole new spin on GATTAI.

As long as we're throwing giant blobs of characters up, why not include this one?

As long as we’re throwing giant blobs of characters up, why not include this one?

Well, that’s enough procrastinating from me. Let’s start with the biggie…

Sword Art Online

Oh boy – SAO. There goes my plan for short quick posts – this turned out to be quite longer than expected. Where to begin? Well, to put it succinctly, I liked the first arc and was very fed up with the second. There were some good ideas thrown about during the SAO portion, that then were completely bungled in ALO. I feel Moomba best encapsulates my thoughts in his post on episode 25. I’ve mentioned before that I love wincest, but Sugu’s “fake imouto” cop out (the most annoying imouto-type copout) just can’t compare with the chemistry exhibited between Kirito and Asuna for a good portion of the show. Although their relationship was a little rushed, having an established lovey-dovey couple on (somewhat) equal footing for a good portion of the SAO arc was really what made the show for me. Heck, the simplicity of the vanilla-esque relationship (minus Kirito’s harem, which doesn’t even factor in really) was also what drew me to Chu2koi (sorry Stilts!). Not everything in life is filled with spineless males surrounded by subservient females or unnecessary love triangles, you know? Which then all went to hell in ALO.

What did I want from this series? Like the .hack// series, SAO was immersed in a virtual world and had a lot of opportunity to really delve into what such an experience could do. And, like .hack//, it does succeed to a certain extent, but leaves a lot of potential untapped. The world is instead swept under the rug to move the story along. I’m always a bit frustrated by this – when you introduce a world so different from our own, it should be an integral part of the story, rather than just a cool-sounding/looking backdrop, you know? And then of course there are the deus ex machinas (cmon, you needed multiple in the same series because Kirito wasn’t strong enough?!). Blegh. As a 2nd season is probably almost guaranteed, I’m hoping it’ll return to the style and story seen in the original arc. I’ve heard the next section of the story, Gun Gale Online, is better, so I would have hopes of a decent season two at least. If it’s good, that’ll be great. If not, I’ll look forward to much possible bashing on the anisphere.

As for what I wanted from Kirito, I think E Minor said it best, and so I’ll detail the development I wanted based on the outline from his his post, keeping as much to the original story as possible, and filling in (hopefully from the light novels) when I think it’s necessary:

Kirito is a teen who turns to online games to escape his “harsh” reality – although interested in computers for as long as he can remember, his discovery about his adoption drives an artificial wedge between him and his family and makes him feel isolated. After spending much time online, he develops an ego and becomes more of a lone warrior, a veteran used to being superior to the common masses. Then SAO is announced. For Kirito, this is the ultimate dream – a chance to live out his fantasies in VR and excel at something he is good at. He gets his hand on the game during it’s initial launch and dives headfirst into the world Kayaba Akihiko has created. But then he finds out his fantasies have become “reality” – he’s trapped there, along with thousands of others, unable to log out until they complete the game. And death is real. Here’s where his biggest flaw, his hubris, rears it’s head for the first time – even with lives at stake, he attempts to go it alone, abandoning the other players. However, the game’s difficulty and the gravity of the situation forces him to acknowledge others and work with them. Slowly, he begins to associate with people and make friends. But when he begins to break down his fortress of solitude, tragedy strikes, and his fellow guildmates die. This incident is extremely traumatic, and Kirito emerges emotionally scarred – withdrawn, a lone wolf, a mercenary who shows no mercy towards anyone he deems evil, etc. But then he meets Asuna, finds Yui, forms a family, and slowly changes for the better. But not enough. His hubris remains, and it leads to Asuna’s “death” during the final battle against Heathcliff. His efforts have not been in vain, however, and Kirito somehow manages to overcome the system, finishing Heathcliff and freeing the populace trapped in SAO.

Kirito is devastated by Asuna’s loss…but he learns that she is still alive, just trapped in another online VRMMO – ALO – along with several hundred SAO players. After his discussion with Sugou, Kirito wastes no time – he goes to save her in ALO. Although Kirito doesn’t abandon his ideology of trying to fully experience every world he’s a part of, real or virtual, he frantically works about trying to scale the World Tree, with help from Leafa. After learning of the difficulty of the dungeon, desperation triumphs over his hubris, and he manages to obtain numerous allies to tackle the dungeon with him (his pride doesn’t let this show, however, leading him to maintain a largely carefree image to cover up this careful planning). Thanks to some inside help from Asuna and his new-found allies, he manages to break into the World Tree. There he clashes with Sugou. However, Sugou is a GM, and thus Kirito is rendered powerless – forced to finally confront his hubris in-game. But then some help from Kayaba Akihiko – who had downloaded his consciousness onto the SAO servers and hence was present as an “echo” on the piggybacked ALO servers – manages to even the playing field. Kirito rebels against his previous powerlessness, and again loses himself again to his anger and hubris, lashing out at Sugou with unrestrained violence and cruelty that shocks even the tortured Asuna. After a tearful in-game reunion, Kirito comes back to reality and is forced to confront Sugou in real life…where it actually counts. Here, Kirito realizes the finality of death, something that he now knows he had never fully comprehended even in SAO. And this is where Kirito’s character arc culminates – he spares Sugou, allowing justice to do its job. He finally conquers his flaws – his anger, his desire to be the hero, his arrogance, etc. When he finally meets Asuna, she understands this, and the two share another heartfelt reunion.

After returning to the real world, Kirito and Asuna move on, emerging from SAO and ALO the stronger and better for it. Kirito’s virtual harem turned real, out of respect for his in-game relationship with Asuna and the hardships they both went through, proceed give him a month to rekindle his relationship before they intrude. (Wishful thinking: they eventually move on with their lives.) Kirito and Asuna seem to get along well, and it seems that all that time spent in-game does not go to waste – reinforcing Kirito’s argument throughout the SAO arc, and highlighting the personality that originally drew Asuna (and others) to him.

To be continued…

I think that would’ve made a much better story, anyways. I mean, some of it is present in current animated form, but lots of the development detailed above has to be extrapolated.

The fanart on the other hand has been spectacular!

The fanart on the other hand has been spectacular! Don’t remember where I found this, but happy to image credit if someone knows.

To Love-Ru Darkness

Don’t worry: this one’s shorter.

I’ve enjoyed this arc. Although the censorship is a bit crazy, having most of the side characters of Rito’s super-harem fleshed out in some detail has been a good ride so far, even though it’s ridiculously clichéd (actually, at this point, I’m almost certain TLRD is actually making fun of the entire harem genre). Plus there’s Mea…

Speaking of To Love-Ru (Darkness), Momo's "Harm Plan" is like the best thing ever. Also, SO MUCH DARKNESS. 'dem censors.

Harem King Rito is what I’m waiting for. But alas, it seems so far off…

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun (My Little Monster)

For me, it’s been a bit of a bumpy ride. It seems to have been one for Haru and Shizuku too, if Zanzibas’ graphic from his post on episode 10 is anything to go by.

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun - Large Graph 02

In all honesty, I’ve enjoyed the Haru-Shizuku dynamic a lot (although their core personalities have frustrated me at points), and the messages the show tries to drive home (especially through Yamaken) are things I agree with. The increasing number of love rivals/drama has me scratching my head at the moment though.

I was so bemused by the chain at first. I was like, "Is this a BDSM show? I don't know if I could handle another Nana to Kaoru!"

I was so bemused by the chain at first. I was like, “Is this a BDSM show? I don’t know if I could handle another Nana to Kaoru!” And then it hit me, as it hit Mitty so many times before…

Zetsuen no Tempest

What to say. Well, there’s a lot of dialogue, that’s for sure. It’s been fairly interesting so far, but sometimes it is a bit much and a bit slow. I’ve picked up the manga to speed up the pace, and so far I haven’t been let down by how the plot continues to develop, which gives me hope the anime will do just fine.

Also, Hakaze > Aika any day!

I mean, just look at that. Thank you Bones for such flattering shots of our damsel in distress.

I mean, just look at that! Thank you Bones for such flattering shots of our damsel in distress, and thank you Random Curiosity for taking a screenshot of this wonderful moment!

This season turned out quite well, I’d say. At least, I spent quite the chunk of time procrastinating actual schoolwork and instead watching anime, so I’d consider that a success.

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