Starting with an introduction of the show’s setting within the first virtual reality MMO, Sword Art Online or SAO the protagonist Kazuya Kirigawa sees his younger sister off to Kendo practice as he sets up his NerveGear and enters the game just as it opens to the public.
Being greeted by the vivid virtual world of Aincrad and running through the crowds of players in awe, due to this another player, Klein notices that he’s familiar with it all and deduces that he was a beta tester, asking him for some basic tips. Of course Kirito obliges and introduces how the skills work through a charge time and letting the computer handle the rest, and from this he explains that while there are virtually unlimited skills the traditional magic skill has been omitted. Following this they both sit in awe of Sword Art Online before Klein decides to meet up with some of his friends, offering to introduce Kirito to them but noticing his discomfort he puts the matter aside and they agree to meet up later.
However it’s at this point that things take an unfortunate turn as Klein notices that the logout button is missing, putting the pizza he ordered in jeopardy even if it is just a bug, other than this the NerveGear intercept’s their brain’s signals leaving them with no way of removing it themselves. Things only get worse after this as every player is transported back to the town square where the game designer and one of the main driving forces behind NerveGear, Kayaba Akihiko presents himself as a god and reveals that this isn’t a bug, let alone any attempts to remove the NerveGear or death within Sword Art Online will kill the player in real life. In order to counter this however, the media has been informed and is spreading the dangers of attempting to remove players from the game as well as the battery within the NerveGear and time players can be disconnected, allowing emergency services to act appropriately. Alongside all of this he reveals that the only way everyone can logout is if someone clears the one hundred levels of the game, transforming all of the player’s avatars to match their physical appearances in real life and leaving with the message that his wish was to create and watch the world of Sword Art Online play out.
Knowing that from this many of the players will rush out to grind on the low-level monsters outside the city, Kirito pulls Klein aside and reveals his intention to sneak to the next villiage and avoid any competition and grind unopposed, however with his friends still in the square confused and scared Klein refuses. Putting Kirito in quite a bind as he knows that it would be difficult enough to do this with only two people, however Klein assures him that he’ll be fine with the skills he’s already picked up. To which Kirito turns his back on his first friend within Sword Art Online and runs off, affirming that he’ll do what he has to in order to survive.
“crossing field” by LiSA.
Another fairly mainstream show I know but for something that’s been in my backlog for quite a while now and I’m only just starting to get into (around two thirds into the first novel as I type) this was a good start. As cliche as the idea was I just really liked all the little things in this episode, and while we barely know the characters at this point the characterisation for them was amazing.
Kirito may be kind of generic and to be honest I’m not exactly fond of the unique and special skill he’ll unveil in a few episodes and why he has it, but he’s still someone who provided a nice viewpoint for this episode, he was a teenager looking forward to one of the most anticipated games in the world that the series takes place in and while it wasn’t much this episode managed to nicely express that he has trouble dealing with other people and forming bonds with them. Furthermore establishing an inability for him to accept such, in turning his back on Klein, his first friend within SAO, and selfishly pursue self-preservation over protecting him and his friends. From what I’ve read so far he’s fairly generic and enjoys more than his fair share of luck but I still liked the characterisation that he received in this episode.
Secondly the other character we were introduced to, Klein was pretty good as well, his character seems to fit right into the charismatic-sidekick-bro character but in contrast to Kirito’s selfishness he’s someone who refuses to abandon anyone and gets along with everyone. The perfect foil for Kirito while still being a cool character on his own, he has a few slight eccentricities and in terms of playing style he’s the sort of guy who looks out for everyone on the team and helps anyone he can, it’s really hard not to like the guy and I hope he’ll end up making more appearances than he did in the novel.
Moving on as I’ve already mentioned that the idea of a game where the only way out is for the players to complete it and a death in the game constitutes a death in real life has been over done to hell and back, both comically and dramatically, I still liked the way it was presented in this episode. The vividness of the artwork and the style to it all was simply immersive, and was where these little things that I liked came up, we not only got glimpses of some of the characters before they would be introduced, but even something as small as the papercut Kirito received purely cemented the seriousness of it all. As the episode began he bid his sister off to practice and grazed his finger but thought nothing of any of it, but when he noticed it in SAO his reaction couldn’t have been anymore different. Alongside his recollections of respawning in the beta test there was just an immense weight to it all that anchored that it wasn’t a game anymore.
Now the question is where it will go from here, in the novel there’s a two-year timeskip following this point that presents an interesting spin on this overdone trope, removing the initial shock and showing the characters as they cope with what is now their day-to-day lives instead. But even so there’s a series of side stories that take place in those two years that could be inserted nicely in between,one of my main complaints with the novel being that the author built up a wonderful premise and assortment of characters but didn’t seem to have the time he needed to properly explore them, something that could be fixed by doing this and reaching its full potential. Either way even for this season’s overhyped show this was a nice start and I’m eagerly looking forward to how it will all turn out.