Sword Art Online Episode 4

The Black Swordsman

Alex: With Dusk returning, i’ll be covering this show with her, but since she’s been unreachable today, i’ll be posting this without her. Expect her part to turn up later :L

When trapped inside a world without anybody there to be for you, it’s understandable how much an animal can mean to someone. Progressing onwards in the dungeon climbing, Kirito finds a distraught Beast Tamer, who’s partner, a healing lizard, very died protecting her. When the Beast Tamer looks similar to the sister he left in the real world, Kirito agrees to climb with her so that she can get to the place to revive pets. I don’t know just how much time has progressed, but Kirito “lives” on Floor 50, and he’s got a different breastplate and appears to have grown a fair amount in himself.

The scenario of villains in MMO’s was pretty awesome, actually. I know all about RP’ing on MMO’s and crimes and the like, so I was really surprised to see it becoming a theme in this episode, with the antagonist of this episode being someone who’s rooted into being the villain of the game, and how crimes work online.It also presented a pretty interesting idea that not everyone’s buying into the idea of dying here means you die in the real world. Everyone has an evil streak inside them, and playing as a villain is really fun sometimes…but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to do it.

They don’t waste any time showing the two travelling together, and before you know it, they’ve arrived at the Flower Garden, the place which seems to be the floor for romance in the world of SAO.In that way, this episode is a social jab at how females are treated online. Everyone wants them to join them and party up with them, and even when they don’t, they crowd around females and hog them if they’ve got even a slightly decent personality. I think Silica said it best. “They want me as an idol”. Sadly, that’s how females are treated on the internet…kinda sad, huh?

Apart from being one about females, it was about Kirito developing and growing, and getting over the worries he had in his heart about his sister. I suppose I can appreciate that, how you see someone similar to a person you’ve left behind and use them to make amends. Even though that may not have been his main objective, it was interesting to see him develop as a character, a person with a life left behind, and a Beater, one of the strongest players.

Dusk: So that’s how it is. It ended up being decided that we’ll have both the impressions of a novel reader and a non-novel reader. This time I won’t extend myself too much, for I mostly agree with Alex’s opinion regarding this episode, with it being the less rushed side story adaptation so far.

Silica’s love for Pina isn’t exactly given much time to be portrayed, but her emotions towards its death are really well conveyed, and her reasons are implied and easy to understand. As Alex said, in a world where you can die anytime and don’t know who you can trust for sure, a partner who’ll be by your side with all its dedication and never question you is a priceless presence. Speaking of which, they didn’t exactly explain what a Beast Tamer is. It was mentioned in episode 2 that there are no classes in SAO and that remains true here. Silica didn’t choose to be a Beast Tamer when entering the game, nor is that option available for choosing. In fact, it’s simply a terminology players came up with. There are some kinds of monsters that have a really low probability of joining players rather than attacking them. That happened with Silica out of sheer luck. Unfortunately, she ended up losing it, the event that triggered this episode’s story once she’s saved by Kirito.

One thing that should be noted is how these episodes aren’t about the characters the happenings are centered on as much as they are about Kirito and his characterization and development. Not intending to be repetitive, I’ll just mention how finding out about Kirito’s sister and his regrets regarding what he ended up forcing upon her are an example of that. Just as importantly, we see that Kirito kept playing solo, yet he’s still at the frontlines.

I say that’s an important fact because this episode gives us a lot of information about the world. Despite not being at the frontlines, there are many people who are playing the game and living their lives on medium floors, not putting themselves in the range of the danger of the unknown nor entering despair. Besides that, we also get a grasp of how things are in the frontlines. We know that the one who requested Kirito to capture the members of that “Orange Guild” stood in the plaza morning to night and spent all his money to buy the crystal that could teleport them directly to prison. However, despite the tragedy he lived through and his resolve, no one besides Kirito paid him any attention. That, along with Kirito’s reaction to Silica’s enthusiasm about the frontlines, speaks a bit about the kind of people you have there.

The trip to the Hill of Memories and Kirito’s confrontation with Rosalia and her thugs was greatly enjoyable, with the weak but disgusting monsters of that area getting really satisfying designs appropriate to their description and the display of Kirito’s power when compared to the criminal guild members was masterfully executed. I’d like to have seen them getting through the teleport portal, though, and that was my single qualm with this episodes, as it is a scene I really liked in the novels. Adjacent to that is the knowledge that there is a prison inside SAO. It’s quite some interesting information, with SAO being a virtual reality game, as it means players can really be in prison, even if the justice can only be exerted by other players, which puts the limits and restrictions into the prevalent moral ideologies. I’m not going to refer more about it, such as where it is located and who runs it, for I hope they will reveal that later (they will if they accurately follow the original material).

One other thing this episode excelled in, and what distinguishes it from episode 2 and, to some extent, episode 3 as well, is time management. The way they had the dialog about Kirito’s sister while showing the battles to get to the Hill of Memories was a nice example.

For some reason, this side story that doesn’t seem too interesting got me really rooting for Silica to be able to revive Pina. I know there aren’t many feelings worse than the regret for losing something precious to you solely due to your own mistakes and arrogance, so I wished for her to be successful.

Alex also mentioned the treatment of female players in MMOs. That was something already touched upon in the first episode as something even male players try to take advantage of by using female avatars, hence the amazing increase in the male/female ratio after the appearances changed to mimic the real world. This search for female players as mascots or idols is even more of a reality in Silica’s case due to her “loli” status. Her age was also what let the popularity rise to her head, by the way, but fortunately all ended well thanks to Kirito.

This was a nice episode that made me want to have faith in this adaptation after all, forgetting the mechanics they’re not touching and focusing on the (so far) well-developed characters (bar Asuna in the second episode, though I truly hope they’ll show that as a flashback from her perspective, as I noticed an allusion to such scenes in the OP visuals).

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