Ita€™s safe to say a large number of works in the shounen demographic focus on wish fulfillment. The pantyshot claims to feed the 12-year-old another piece of that seemingly-eternal puzzle, a€?What are girls like?a€™, while actually telling him very little.
The marriage is an interesting thing: on the surface, ita€™s boring to watch two attractive people fall in love and enjoy it and never fight about anything. But the reality is, the honeymoon was not about a young married couple beginning a future together. Finding that Asuna didna€™t wake up may have been the most heartbreaking part of the story, and it was far less annoying than the typical a€?failure snatched from the jaws of victorya€? twist. Unfortunately, this is the first case of Fairy Dancea€™s tendency to pile on rather than leaving well enough alone. Here, too, is where a lot of people get twitchy because of Asunaa€™s reduced agency and power as a character. Fortunately, at least until the somewhat loathsome endgame, SAO plays it less as a helpless girla€™s rescue than a loversa€™ reunion over great distance. History could look fondly upon SAO as a well-animated fantasy with a love story that goes beyond the first hand-hold, but Ia€™m afraid the Sugu Situation will relegate it to that brief footnote in anime history when everyone was into little sisters trying to bone their onii-chans.
While the inevitable reveal (how did you go without saying Asuna for so long??) was a tightly executed scene, the subsequent real-world monologue was childish, selfish, and despicable, even for a middle schooler. Kirito finally relying on someone else to help him was a pretty minimal concession to character development, but his triumphant climb up the world tree was a decent moment considering how many anime fail much harder at provoking a fist-pump reaction.
I cana€™t find much of anything to like about his in-game defeat of Sugou or the scene leading up to it. The epilogue of SAO was too long and gobbled up more goodwill than the series had ever generated, plus the idea that the SAO alumni would voluntarily jump into the open-source Kayaba code was laughable. For me, it was mostly a distraction from what I wanted to see: the reunion of (barring perhaps Yuuta and Rikka) the only real anime couple of the year. I can definitely see where you are coming from in regards to the relationship, but it just didn’t work for me.
Not to mention that much of what you talk about was done much better with the various couples in Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon. I haven’t really watched horizon and I must admit the insanely complicated world and the enormous cans have both turned me off. The part that SAO did best at inciting rage out of me throughout was doubtless the constant reminder that the story was often only a few tweaks between really decent or even good as a shounen adventure and the stinging bundle of lazy writing we actually got. I can’t help but label the show as pretty awful nonetheless with Kirito getting deus ex machina solutions to even tiny problems (was it really necessary for him to ass pull the power to turn into a giant monster to deal with unnamed jobbers?
Like, I totally could’ve bought the whole surrogate child Yui crap but then they pulled the INTELLIGENT AI thing and then also ass pulled I TURNED HER INTO AN ITEM thing and wow I literally cried from pain at how a perfectly viable plot hook was perverted so thoroughly. The Lover hero is actually just another face in the 12 hero archetypes of the hero’s journey construed by Carol Pearson.
Oh good, that means more opportunities for subpar writers like Reki Kawahara to get their stuff out there while thinking 50% less. After hearing how bad it was, I decided to watch 24 and I totally agree with your thoughts.
I am glad to see though that the scenes leading up to that had some good moments and that the romance was actually likable.
It strikes me now that the type of viewer who plays modern video games often might take much more offense to the frequent flagrant violations of common game behavior and design logic that saves Kirito’s butt so often. As I said to Rieseng, I think possibly the marathon watch method was beneficial in minimizing my focus on things like narrative inconsistencies and Kirito’s hax, sort of a forest for the trees kinda thing.
I’m more of a Something Else and The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society person myself. Kirito being invincible, Asuna becoming another damsel in distress for fanboys to fawn over, the bad guy at the end being a cartoonish villain…deep down, we actually half-expected the wheels to fall off like that. Chaostangent’s article is the SAO post other than this one that outlines my own mixed feelings on the story.

I learned from Wikipedia that SAO was actually written a while before Accel World, so perhaps you can chalk it all up to an inexperienced writer with a hyper-case of chuunibyou sneaking some good ideas in there in spite of himself, and we’ll see better things from him in the future.
As for hax specifically developed to turn the 2nd most powerful character into a barely-clothed damsel in distress, I mean sure, I talked about that and it’s the worst thing about it. I supposed it makes more sense when you think about in comparison to how Liz is a blacksmith. One, hyperbole is the blogger’s strongest weapon (Not sure if this statement is true or hyperbolic). Referencing your earlier comment on Liz, when reading the light novel, it’s shown that she can handle her own weight if need be. For me, the first half was much stronger than the second half (as most people have said) and a lot of it was both the desperate struggle for survival (typified by the trump card revealing battle) and the cohabitation of Asuna and Kirito. Shirobako - TVYoru no Yatterman - TVGundam Build Fighters Try - TVYuri Kuma Arashi - TVHappiness Charge Precure!
Power fantasies, gaggles of fawning girls, and realities where your useless skills like video gaming are suddenly necessary to save the world: SAO, of course, has them all. A confession is such a far-flung feat that ita€™s a goal in itself, never mind the kissing-snuggling-fucking-marrying that Kirito and Asuna manage to get done in the space of one episode a€” with whose mechanics even SAOa€™s author is famously and hilariously unfamiliar. Theya€™re impressed with each othersa€™ skills, but not much else comes of it.A Gradually though, over the course of the game, they come to interact more. In fact, I expected their return to the front lines to be the result of their mutual boredom with sitting around and fishing and making sexytimes all day. It was two teenagers playing house in a virtual world, not worrying about the future because they likely had none.
It sets up a strong emotional foundation for the second half using plot rather than character, because Kirito isna€™t compelling enough on his own to generate those emotions. There are plenty of potential reasons to find Asuna still trapped in the game, but a€?rapey guy wants to marry her comatose body because post-SAO Japan apparently doesna€™t have laws anymorea€? isna€™t the first one Ia€™d reach for.
That equal footing that defined her and Kiritoa€™s relationship early on as fighting partners is reduced to hero and damsel at the peak of their love, with her literally locked in a gilded cage. Unfortunately, though I still think the introduction of A a challenger was the right move, the opportunity for Kirito’s love to be tested was mostly a missed one. The beauty of the love story, for a large part of the 24th episode, fell away leaving only the juvenile fantasy at the core of SAO. But the hospital-room reunion was an understated, incredibly welcome moment that came with just about the right amount of tension. My issue was that it produced yet another potential avenue of unexplored thought: what psychological effects did Kirito suffer in the game?
And even if theya€™re stupid enough to jump back into VR games, I was more than happy to join them on the first journey. It wasn’t my intention to really talk much about the subject, I mostly needed a framework that was slightly sturdier than barely-contextual 70s rock lyrics a€” although I do appreciate the comment for those who are feeling less flame-deathy. Then I watched the marriage episode in the hopes of seeing Kirito deposit 2 years of sperm. It pretty much killed whatever strength Asuna had as a character and make Kirito suck even more.
Playing video games is so common in our nerd overculture that certain concrete beliefs and unwritten rules are assumed to be common knowledge.
Engineers can’t stand real robot shows, history-and-politics students are too busy nitpicking LoGH to get its large-scale achievement, and so on. The feeling of relief I got when I discovered there was absolutely no drama of that sort was ridiculous. I also wasn’t expecting such a nice post on Kirito and Asuna considering how much hate there is for the characters. I was left with a lingering bitter taste of missed opportunities by the end, but when the first arc finished I actually felt better about the show and the post I would’ve written (which is currently in Draft Rewrite Hell and will probably never see the light of day now) had a similar tone to yours. Heck, the two protagonists actually progress in their relationship after hooking up – how often does that happen in commercially successful, mainstream adventure anime shows?

Also I preferred Tim’s take of cooking being noted for being a quality-of-life skill, rather than a survival one, which actually adds a little perspective to the concept of being trapped in the game for as long as they were. I can accept the premise of your argument that despite the shows many, many, many, many, flaws the bare bones of a good romance is properly laid. But if there were ships, I question whether it’s the same thing I’m talking about?
Ano natsu got it out the way early, Aquarion had at least one or two of the fifty million or so couples confess by midway through the series. While these video-bytes tend to be an outlet for famous beauties to tell you how often they don’t work out, Vogue have done it a little differently. A classic that any love-starved chuuni in SAO‘s core demographic should be able to get behind. And for all their Mary Sue qualities, these are two characters who interact on an equal footing. Yes thata€™s heavy with pathos, but therea€™s a quiet and sad beauty in the image that transcends the simple wish-fulfillment of the over-arching story. And that fantasy revealed its most puerile side with the removal of Asunaa€™s clothes and more or less netorare scenario. Maybe that was too close to the a€?do video games cause violence?a€? debate that could easily be the focus of SAO if it really was the smartest anime in years (ok, covered the second necessary meme, done). With a marathon I think I was able to focus on it less, but what I really think writing this post did for me was make me realize that the author was maintaining a (somewhat) laserlike focus on the love story angle at the expense of just about everything else.
The Orphan’s journey is about doing away with callousness, cynicism, and solitude and eventually developing interdependence with others. It’s nice to see some thought put into how their relationship fits into the entire thing, since, having not thought about it too hard, it verifies what my initial impressions of the series was.
I suppose that’s what gave me false hopes, so when it reverted back to being fan fodder with all the cliches and lazy writing that it entails, I was brought back down to earth with a bump.
I’d even agree on a wider level that the general concept for the series is not a bad one. We saw Mysterious Girlfriend X which provoked a mature discussion of social norms in relation to relationships with quirky and dynamic central couple. Of course, it was only two weeks, and it was probably the first time either had truly relaxed since the game began (two years of anxiety flowing endlessly). Ia€™d love to think so, but I don’t see much other evidence of that kind of meta-commentary. Why complicate a perfectly serviceable plot element with an incestuous and busty little sister, if not to blatantly attempt to cement yourself as a popular light novel franchise? But the only reason I stuck it out and got worked up about how awful the awful things would get is because the flaws were always ruining something that could’ve been something or good (rather than more poop piled on top of poop). In fact, I’m guessing that my marathon produced noticeably better results than a week-to-week watch would.
Not sure if that’s even a thing that would really happen in an MMO but again, given the situation who would trust their swords to an NPC. There was a weird dynamic between them, but it was a real relationship and it was interesting to watch. To her credit, Asuna never lays down and gives up or acts pathetic, and at one point she does (however unsuccessfully) take matters into her own hands.
The fearlessness of clearing monsters as a loner a€”A or even a pair of loners a€” is replaced by fear for the other half. Asuna admits to being scared for the first time in episode 10, and ita€™s not fear of her own death, but that of being stranded alone if Kirito were the one to die.

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