We open with a view of the Town of Beginnings. The date is December 2, 2022 and Kirito informs us that in the month since SAO began, roughly 2000 people have died. 2000 of the worst video game players and lousy learners in history. In this past month, the first floor of Aincrad has yet to be cleared. This is noob level shit and even then no one has been able to accomplish it in a month. We’re talking 30 DAYS of gameplay. It’s not like they have to stop playing to go work, either. They are stuck here, for better or worse. What else is there to do but learn the game bit by agonizing small bit with boars outside the Town of Beginnings? It honestly makes no sense to me. For normal people sure, but veterans? Like say… Kirito? Come on.
This kind of shit just isn’t plausible. Let me reiterate: they’ve had ONE WHOLE MONTH. One solid month of 24 hour days to reach the boss room of the first floor. Finding the tower that ascends to the next floor isn’t difficult; it’s a literal stone tower that TOWERS over the floor. One need only WALK in that general direction to get there. And once they are there, even if it’s a labyrinth on the inside, they’ve had 30 DAYS! And Kirito has played this game before! He’s done this before! And STILL he hasn’t found it? Either he has terrible memory or he’s no where near as “good” a gamer as he’s claimed.
Kirito just mentioned they haven’t found the boss room, yet they’re discussing HOW to defeat the boss. How about we discuss WHERE to find said boss first, huh?
A meeting is called to discuss how to beat the first boss (which our blue haired knight Diabel claims has been found earlier that morning). I’d like to point out that blue is not a natural hair color, and as stated in the novel this means Diabel went through the trouble of doing a side quest to acquire blue hair dye. These are the same people that took 30 days to reach the first boss of this game. Wasting time on a side quest for vanity. Suddenly the reason behind those 30 days wasted makes more sense.
Admittedly, Diabel isn’t a bad concept of a character. His goal in rallying the meeting is to give the populace a morale boost. Defeating the first floor would show people the game is NOT impossible, which is a noble enough mission. There’s support from the (extremely) tiny crowd, which begs another question: where is everyone? There are about 8000 people left in the city. No one has gone past the first floor. You cannot tell me a group of less than two dozen people are the only one actively caring about the game’s progression. I’ll buy that the majority of the populace is still in shock or denial about the whole scenario. But we have to remember that this was a limited launch of a game. This means the majority of the idiots who bought it were in fact gamers themselves.
This crowd should not be this small. There shouldn’t be 2000 dead players already. Even assuming they were the worst of the worst, they are still gamers of some caliber. To think so many of them dead now is almost an insult, really. I count 27 people there. At this point I wonder if they should even risk their lives for the sake of the 7972 idiots jerking off in the taverns and inns.
Diabel then asks everyone present to join up into parties of six, the maximum allowed per party so they could form a true raid group. Kirito is immediately left out, since he was sitting away from most people and the idiot could not be arsed to speak up and join someone. Why he should care or want to is beyond me, since he was clearly against the idea the previous episode. Did he have a sudden change of heart?
With no one else to join, he teams with Asuna, girl in the hood because she also doesn’t seem to care about being in a party. Begs the question why they should even bother if they were going to allow people to join the raid outside of a party anyway.
And yet you’re not. You might not be in a group but you will be accompanied by the rest of these people. The dialogue in this anime is often just as pointless as the rest of its existence.
Enter Kibaou, further evidence supporting my previous claim. Kibaou exists for the sole reason of injecting pointless drama and strife amongst the populace. After making a flashy entrance on a meeting he wasn’t even a part of, he demands that certain persons in the area “apologize” for the 2000 deaths the game has already claimed. He is of course referring to the beta testers, whom he claims immediately took off after the start of SAO to hog all the good quests and hunting spots. Never mind we established last episode such a thing isn’t the norm for MMORPGs and I maintain it’s still the case here. And even if they did do such a thing, the fact that a whole month has passed and they haven’t touched the first boss just shows how utterly pointless such endeavors were in the first place.
Kibaou’s insistence that beta testers in the audience apologize ultimately goes from pointless melodrama to sheer greed as his only goal was to extort funds and items from these people. People who worked to get those goods. I’m not one to side with the likes of Kirito (given his future actions), but the fact is he like any other player– beta tester or no– worked for those goods. Again, Kibaou and anyone else who harps on this beta tester thing exist solely to drive a rift between our wannabe loner protagonist Kirito and the rest of the populace.
We meet Egil who is honestly one of the least offensive characters of the series. Ironically, he steps in to point out just how stupid the beta tester hate concept it. Handbooks with compiled information are routinely distributed to the players for FREE, which share all kinds of useful information to keep players from getting themselves killed. The novels share that a lot of this information is compiled by Argo the Rat, a character absent from the anime itself. So my point is this: how can the beta tester hatred gain any traction if they’re doing this?
Think about it: you can say that beta testers or even front runners in the quest to complete the game are hoarding quests that cannot run out. But they aren’t keeping the rest of the people in the dark. Anything they learn, they share with people afterwards, FREE OF CHARGE. These people are risking their lives in this pointless scenario of a plot and still people hurl stones at them in the streets if they could. I’m almost tempted to say this would happen regardless but in the context of the story it’s radically inconsistent. There will always be haters, sure. But these people are helping in their own way.
After firmly shutting up Kibaou about the beta tester hate, Diabel further rubs salt in the wound by sharing more information about the boss, taken straight from the guide book. Provided by the beta testers and front runners. Again: what is the reason for the beta tester hate? Contrived conflict to keep Kirito a loner for the sake of the plot.
After the meeting is over, Asuna leaves on her own and we see some silent bonding moments between Kibaou and Diabel (never mind that they clearly weren’t seeing eye to eye during the conference). Asuna is shown eating some bread, and we immediately arrive at the next pointless concept of SAO: food.
First, a little background: food items in MMOs are a thing. Probably always have been. However, these are simply games, and therefore food items in them have practical purposes. From healing HP to providing buffs to the player. They are items with uses, and therefore have a place in the game as such as well as adding to the richness and immersion of the game world itself. So it should come as no shock that food exists in SAO.
However, food serves no practical purpose in SAO. It is never reported to have healing properties, or provide statistical buffs of any kind. It exists solely to be eaten. I wish I could say the novels make sense of this, but sadly they don’t. It’s merely a given that food is needed because the players feel “hunger”. Hunger is a bodily function; the body demands nourishment. However, these aren’t their real bodies. These are projections in a virtual space. Their brain is currently disconnected from the rest of their bodies, if you recall. Therefore, the notion of hunger SHOULD NOT EXIST. They cannot feel hungry if the signals informing them of hunger CANNOT REACH THEIR BRAINS. Food’s inclusion into this story is solely for its own sake. As is the “need” to eat that is mentioned in the novels.
One more comparison to Log Horizon: there, food was a necessity. People had bodies in a living, breathing world. A world with a mixture of video game elements, but a real world nonetheless. And even if it sounds gross or pointless, what went in came out. Bodily functions still happened. No such thing exists in SAO. People do not need to piss or shit in SAO. Therefore, food consumption is useless outside practical effects they provide. And they provide NONE.
While still covering her face, Asuna shares her reasons for fighting on the front line. It’s a simple enough motivation: she’d rather be doing SOMETHING that rotting away waiting to be saved. Really nothing else to it, so she’s fine by me.
I love how condescending Kirito looks as she explains herself, though. Signs of a sociopath right here. He also flat out tells Asuna to not die on him. Guy has no regard for other people whatsoever.
The next morning, the group marches towards the boss at the top of the tower. Kirito informs Asuna what their role in the boss fight is, and tries to teach her the basics of party combat. This doesn’t last as we instantly arrive at the boss room. Diabel gives a weak ass rally cry and they enter.
We meet our boss monster, and get a fight scene. I really can’t say much about the anime at this point. A fight happens as Diabel gives orders here and there. This was the point of the show’s existence, I’m sure. Kirito comments how experienced Asuna is in battle, but we aren’t shown much of her fighting so we’ll have to take his word for it.
Once the boss is down to his last bits of health, Diabel dives in for the kill. Kirito mentions that this is going against the plan, and realizes that Diabel intends to deliver the finishing blow himself to hog all the EXP and items. Ballsy, and I respect that. Fuck everyone else, steal that glory!
Unfortunately things go south for Diabel. It turns out the information in the guide wasn’t entirely accurate, and the boss is actually using a different kind of sword now, complete with different kinds of attacks. Differing from the beta test according to Kirito, it shows that the information from the guides wasn’t provided based on firsthand experience, but prior experience. See, it’s that kind of shit that would merit hatred for beta testers.
Naturally this means Diabel gets REKT and loses all his HP in the process. Kirito moves in and tries to heal him beforehand, but for some reason Diabel refuses to potion? Why? He had plenty of time to accept the potion and keep living. But no, we had to have a death just because, you know?
Kirito momentarily laments Diabel’s death, claiming that the blue haired knight tried to be a leader where Kirito was just a selfish asshole. This isn’t quite true as Diabel was still working for his own selfish reasons, but if it makes Kirito feel better about himself, sure. Kirito then decides he’ll take up Diabel’s mission and moves in for the kill himself. Asuna tags along too, because why not?
I like how the boss’s attack obliterates poor Diabel but only damages Asuna’s clothing. Is this because she’s a girl and disrobing her is sexy or because she’s a girl and we can’t have her die?
Even Kirito takes a sword to the gut and doesn’t die, so clearly Diabel was hated by canon. The rest of the raid party at this point grows a pair and covers Kirito until he’s able to return to the fray and finish off the boss. He claims to do it together with Asuna, but somehow he ends up with the final attack and therefore gains the EXP and rare loot. I think Kirito planned it.
Cheers are had.
Now as much as I despise Kibaou for his pointless existence, he does have a point here. Kirito could have saved Diabel’s life even if the man protested. I think Kirito LET HIM DIE just because Diabel figured Kirito was a beta tester himself. Can’t have the competition running around, can we? So Kibaou’s anger is partly justified; though the anime makes him latch onto the fact that Kirito “knew” about the killer strike ahead of time. Admittedly, Kirito guessed by simply looking at the sword. Which any of them could have done. The sword was CLEARLY not the talwar the guide claimed. But of course Kirito doesn’t point this shit out because it would be the SMART thing to do and prevent Kibaou from labeling him a beta tester.
Of course everyone else immediately jumps on the beta tester hate bandwagon. These people are all sheep. But since Kirito can’t defend himself on these claims because it would be a smart thing to do, he instead does something far stupider and probably immensely gratifying to his own ego.
He claims himself the GREATEST of the beta testers. A bold claim no one can refute, either. It’s perfect, honestly.
And we also get the birth of the term “beater”. I can only imagine it makes some sense in the Japanese tongue, because lord knows in English it only sounds like a term for a chronic masturbater. And naturally Kirito likes this ugly term and adopts it for himself. What was his intention here? We’re lead to believe Kirito did this to deflect hate off others, but why? What does he gain personally from it? He paints a target on himself instead of keeping a low profile. This goes totally against his character from the first episode. He has no reason to give two shits about Diabel or what he was trying to do. After all, Diabel was just trying to be the best as well, only using the backs of these sheep to achieve it.
Regardless, he does it, and adopts his black cloak and walks off like a boss. Or an asshole. Yeah, an asshole fits better.
Asuna chases after him, her mind concerned with how Kirito knew her name. I know in Japan it’s a thing with using first names instead of surnames, but how does Kirito figure Asuna is her first name? Is it a common first name? Even if it is, what’s the point of getting hung up on such a stupid detail in a video game? But I suppose we needed one more interaction between these two this episode. Asuna ultimately laughs it up, as she was just confused on how Kirito had guessed her name in the first place.
The episode ends as Kirito dissolves their group, and informs Asuna that she should join a guild if offered a chance by someone she trusts.
Kirito Death Count: 1 (Diabel could have been saved, but he chose not to, regardless of Diabel’s stupid death wish.)