We open on November 1, 2024. It’s immediately after the end of the previous episode, where a whole lot of NOTHING happen and it ended with Yui having a spasm over poorly written reasons for her existence. But trust me, that’s not the worst of this episode. If Episode 11 had nothing happening, and everything before that was supposedly infuriating, that was all NOTHING compared to what awaits us this episode.
See, the woman from the previous episode (who is strangely enough dressed like a nun while residing in a church, talk about dressing the part) is looking after a bunch of kids who are trapped in SAO much like the rest of the population. I get that kids also got their grubby little mitts on SAO back when it launched, but it does make me wonder how kids as young as the ones seen here (let’s put them around 10 tops, so about 8 when this all started) managed that. A game that had a limited run of 10,000 hard copies and no other way to get it outside standing in line. Did their parents wait in line? An older sibling? It just doesn’t add up, really. A few kids here and there sure, but this many?
Either way, what’s more surprising is that they’ve been huddled into this church and floor for two years since it all started. Kids are resilient buggers, and they aren’t exactly capable of understanding a concept as profound as permadeath even if explained to them. Well, this might just be me talking down, but frankly I’d think most of them would have taken to the game like fish to water. I’m surprise more of them aren’t front runners like Kirito and Asuna; hell if that moronic Silica with her tween idiocies can become somewhat famous and successful, why not these kids?
But I digress, since talking about these nameless kids is far more interesting than what the anime wants us to focus on: Yui.
Yui is a waste of our time. A character written into the plot for no other reason than to pay homage to another series that no doubt inspired series author Reki Kawahara. Except it hardly worked in that series any better than it does here. And on top of that, gives us a reason to want to SLAP THE SHIT OUT OF KIRITO MORE THAN-
Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. I just want to share this so bad I’m tempted to skip ahead to the end of the episode.
Ironically, this is the excuse we’re given as to why these kids didn’t just take the news that they would be playing SAO forever like some godsend and high tail it to the fields with swords in hand. That’s it, really. No other elaboration or explanation, just they suffered trauma and they stayed behind. Did they regress mentally? Did they want to hole up in a room and never see the light of day again? All this would make for interesting character studies, to see a side of the story we don’t get to focus on often because we have to follow our glorious protagonist Kirito as he defeats everything that gets in his way and fucks every girl that crosses his path.
Except all he does is virtually bone Asuna who is somehow still embarrassed about him seeing her in underwear? I guess if she started walking around out of clothes all the time the allure of her timidity would be lost entirely, huh.
Sorry, I’m going off on tangents again aren’t I?
The fact of the matter is the girl who’s playing Mother Theresa has never seen Yui before (naturally), and has no information to give our protagonists regarding her. So the entire last half Episode 11 and the first few minutes of Episode 12 were a colossal waste of our time. Thanks, anime.
Finally we have the arrival of Yulier, a weird name if ever I heard one in this anime, who’s come on behalf of herself and not her guild (the Army) with a quest of sorts for Kirito and Asuna. Because you know, there’s clearly no one else in all the first floor who could possibly help her out. But I won’t harp on this much since at least SOMETHING other than the quest to find out shit about Yui is happening.
Before we hear what Yulier’s request is, we’re treated to a bit of background information regarding the Army, including how Kibaou (remember this stupid fuck??) rose the ranks in the guild and has since caused it to splinter from within. On top of that, he’s also hogging spawn points and other video gamey nonsense that makes little sense to a real gamer but sounds legit for people who don’t play games. Needless to say, he’s become an asshole and a “threat” if one can even call it that to anyone without a pair of balls below Floor 50. And to keep himself in some semblance of power, he also sent the highest leveled members of the Army to the front lines so people couldn’t say he was being a lazy bastard. In other words, the same group of morons that nearly got themselves killed way back in Episode 9.
As a last ditch attempt to stay in power, Kibaou has also caused the Army guild leader to become stranded in a dungeon. And this is why Yulier has come to our protagonists with her problems. She can’t do anything about it on her own, and clearly she can’t ask anyone IN HER OWN GUILD FOR HELP. Because you know, Kibaou is somehow coercing people loyal to the guild leader to NOT go helping him. Convenient, right?
Either way, Kirito and Asuna both ask obvious questions, such as why Thinker (the guild leader) hasn’t used a crystal to get out of the dungeon when shit went south.
So he went into a dungeon not only unarmed, but also left all his gear at home? Thinker didn’t think very hard, did he? I say fuck him, he deserves to die for being a fucking ASS CLOWN.
But naturally, the two decide to help. Asuna because she MIGHT be a genuinely good person, and Kirito because he has to play the hero and because Yulier happens to be a woman. Odd how many women are in this game and Kirito just so happens to meet them, huh?
Asuna is a bit smarter than average, though, and mentions that before she goes stepping into any crazy traps she wants to verify that Yulier is being on the level with everything she’s said so far.
How the fuck do you know this, Yui?
THEN SHUT THE FUCK UP!
But of course Kirito says why the fuck not and off they go. Why oh why can’t his fuck all attitude get HIM killed instead of people around him? Also, side note: I like how detailed this “game world” is that even TEARS are rendered in real time. Smells, tears, grass effects; all this in the next 6 years!
Kirito and Asuna plan to leave Yui behind since they will be going through a high level dungeon, but the brat says she wants to go so without much of a fight Kirito and Asuna just say FINE and bring her along.
Worst parenting ever.
We cut to a place called the Black Iron Palace, which is located in the Town of Beginnings. Turns out there is a super high level optional dungeon here, and this is what Kibaou has been monopolizing when it comes to those “spawn points”. Just before they enter, Kirito, Asuna and Yui all have this cheerful little exchange about how Yui is not scared at all despite them about to enter a dangerous high level dungeon.
This is the face of a woman who can’t believe these two fuckbags are bringing a kid who can’t fight into this place. Can’t say I blame her.
While the group explores the place, Kirito has a blast mowing down the monsters solo (because he can), and then presents his would-be wife with this. Not only does it look fucking DISGUSTING, it turns out to be frog leg meat that he wants her to cook. Asuna is naturally disgusted (as we’d all be by that thing) and throws that shit away immediately.
Kirito just pulls out more… I don’t even… is this supposed to be funny?
Yulier, I’m just like you right now. I just want it to be over…
Eventually they find Thinker, who has been hiding out in a safe zone within the dungeon all this time. And with good reason:
Turns out the Grim Reaper is haunting the halls of this dungeon. While the monster design is generic at best and corny as fuck at worst, it does cause our protagonists to panic slightly when they realize the boss’s level is so high they can’t even SEE it. Naturally this means Kirito has to play the badass and tell Asuna to escape while he holds it off.
Uhh…WHY? Kirito can just as easily go into the safe zone with the others, use a crystal and escape. Why does he have to hold this thing off?
Check this, Asuna and Kirito both are no more than TEN FEET from the safe zone! There is NO REASON for him or Asuna to act as decoys when a quick sprint will put them out of the monster’s reach!
But no, Asuna is just as STUPID as Kirito and decides to step forward with him to face this ridiculously overpowered monster. You know what? FINE. Better this way, they can both die together. Maybe now we can focus on the adventures of Klein as he acts like a genuine human being on his quest to save the rest of SAO from certain death.
I like how one attack from this monster took Asuna down to less than half her max HP. Despite the fact that not only was she blocking, but she was doing so BEHIND Kirito and therefore should have taken less damage than him. And yet his HP is still at like 90%. Just how broken is he for the sake of being a badass? Also note the error where Kirito’s HP gauge appears closer to full on Asuna’s menu but above his head is much lower.
Regardless, Kirito cannot move after the attack, and both of them watch in horror as Yui just walks out of the safe zone and up to the monster with the intent to kick its ass solo. She’s got bigger balls than both of them combined, at least. But of course, nothing to fear; she was never in any real danger you see.
Turns out, Yui isn’t an NPC, but something entirely different. Labeled an IMMORTAL OBJECT, it basically means she cannot be harmed by anything; she’s like a piece of decoration that is not subject to the rules of the game. She then proceeds to pull a giant flaming sword out her tiny ass and one shot this super monster. Because you know, she totally can.
If I were Kirito, I’d be more upset that I didn’t get EXP for that kill.
And of course, because she suddenly turned on GOD MODE, Yui now remembers everything about herself. She also donned her white dress again because why not? It’d be weird if she were explaining who she were wearing that tasteless pink sweater anyway.
Prepare for the cliff notes of an exposition dump!
Yui explains to us that SAO is run by Cardinal, the name of the AI that runs the game. Basically, Cardinal is the RNG Goddess, so to speak. Designed to run SAO without help, it’s the reason why no one in the real world has to manage the game. Bullshit, of course, as the servers do need routine human maintenance but this is the anime’s way of handwaving that little bit of nonsense. Shame they couldn’t address this 11 episodes ago and save me a ton of grief. Not that I buy it in the least, but it’s still nice to know. Makes it easier to bitch about things, see.
Anyway, Yui is a part of Cardinal, specifically designed to oversee player mental health. How this is even POSSIBLE isn’t addressed, nor why this system was personified as a little girl. Either way, Yui suffered something of a malfunction (characterized as acute insanity and amnesia on the little girl avatar) when SAO was turned into the death trap it is now. Something about her being taken offline and unable to assist players with their mental health issues. Because you know, AI is capable of this kind of thing.
Do you see how ridiculous this sounds? This isn’t me being unwilling to suspend my disbelief to give this anime a pass. This is sheer fucking stupidity.
I’m being honest here. This is an idea taken directly from dot Hack, only instead of being programmed directly into the game, in that series the consciousness known as Aura was birthed from the game itself; the game became self-aware. That is crazy, but plausible even considering the story. This? This is paying homage while ripping off the plot point from The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya and what happened with Yuki Nagato.
Why did I accept it there and not here? Not because Haruhi came first, but because in that series Yuki was an AI created by beings with far greater technological prowess than humans. Yui is an AI created by one man. Six years from now, roughly. You mean to tell me one man was capable of creating an AI this self-aware and decided to stick her in the middle of a RNG in a video game as a pet project? That’s what I don’t buy.
That’s what I call bullshit on.
Not to mention the fact that after two years of just being idle and unable to do anything, Yui claims she saw Kirito and Asuna being HAPPY and decided to break free of her programming and meet them. And that’s why she has a physical presence in the game world now. Do you see now? How utterly ridiculous this is? You mean to tell me that Kirito and Asuna were the ONLY two players happy in SAO in two years? That NO ONE ELSE was as happy as they were? BULL. FUCKING. SHIT.
It is, but that’s not stopping the shitty writing from happening anyway.
I’m not saying this whole idea couldn’t be salvaged. Surely there’s a way to make it so you could have Yui in some fashion as a self-aware AI born of this fuckfest game. But the way it was written was not going to work. Just doesn’t fucking work. On top of the fact that this plot point wasn’t necessary anyway. We could have done without her and the gaping plot hole she brings with her.
“What plot hole,” you ask?
Being a part of Cardinal, Yui has access to a GM console. That is to say, she has DIRECT ACCESS TO THE INTERNALS OF THE GAME WORLD. At any point during her lengthy explanation about what she is, she could have given Kirito and Asuna direct access to this terminal and everything that entails.
See what I’m getting at?
Yui’s very existence has given Kirito and Asuna a chance to directly fuck with the game. To end this game of death RIGHT THAT SECOND. An opportunity that doesn’t last long because she wasted all that time talking while Cardinal worked behind the scenes to delete her and her access for good. So even as she’s deleted from SAO, Kirito and Asuna have mere seconds to use the terminal and end this game for good.
Thankfully, even Kirito picks up on this and immediately goes to work. Somehow he’ll find a way to force a shut down of the game, or at the very least remove whatever changes were implemented that would cause immediate death to the player in the real world. Frantically he types, hoping to get his work done before Yui’s access is wiped from the system for good.
The race is on. Hundreds of thousands of unintelligible shit floods Kirito’s field of view as an intense HACKING MONTAGE plays. It all rests on his shoulders now. If he can manage this, he can save 6000 lives in one fell swoop.
Just as the process finishes, Kirito is forcefully booted from the system terminal. Did he do it? Was he able to accomplish something, if not a safe exit from the game?
Kirito hands a small tear shaped item to Asuna. This is what he was able to accomplish. This item will surely be invaluable to their escape from SAO. With baited breath Asuna awaits a response from Kirito on just what this item is.
I wish this were some cruel joke. But it isn’t.
In the few moments Kirito had to access the very fabric of SAO, he chose to waste his time converting Yui’s data into an in game item.
Remove the death penalty? Nah.
Force quit the server and end the game? Of course not.
But save the memories of an AI little girl?
THIS IS MORE IMPORTANT!
I just…I can’t…
Bonus round: Yui says this line as she’s fading from existence. Tell that to Sachi and every other person Kirito has killed.
Kirito Death Count: did not rise this episode, but from now on any other on screen deaths can be attributed to him directly. He had a chance to stop this game, and didn’t. All other deaths from here on in? HIS FAULT!