Elevens: Aldnoah, Akame, SAO2, Nozaki-kun

This would be me in battle.
This would be me in battle.

Aldnoah Zero 12 is one of those episodes where it’s tense all the time, everyone’s battling, but there’s nothing really to say. All the familiar things happened. the bad guys have pushed the good guys to the brink, the good guys have one more attack ready, Inaho comes up with a cunning plan which frankly seems really stupid to me, but it works … Rayet redeems herself by escorting Asseylum through danger (what an amazing coinkidink that mecha crashing into her prison cell yet still being functional). Oh, we finally see something besides Vers royalty and nobility, some infantry grunts invading the stronghold, and I couldn’t tell them apart from the Earth forces. Maybe that’s a statement of sorts.

In this show, that IS a pretty good trick.
In this show, that IS a pretty good trick.

Akame ga Kill 11 has a lot of fighting too, but this show has the edge of happily killing off characters whenever it wants to. You figured that guy with Sheele’s imperial arms was going to go down, so Mine would get a mourning scene with the scissors, but Leone going down early seriously worried me. The rest of it was underwhelming. Every time a bad guy displayed a new power it was quickly negated by good guys intervening. Then the boss brought in two ringers to make it all meaningless, even Stylish’s leveling-up. Favorite bit for me was Tatsumi and Mine’s reaction when Leone rejoins the fight, seriously pissed off.

I hope Azuna isn't watching this.
I hope Azuna isn’t watching this.

I expected more mayhem when I watched Sword Art Online 2 11, but the damn thing was nothing but talk. Basically, Kirito comforts Sinon some more, and pull some improbable deductions out of their asses to conclude that there’s a murderer in Sinon’s room right at that moment. So the whole killing people in a video game thing is more a setup between the online killer and a real-life one. I’m not sure what to make of this. It’s a mundane way of killing people, and removes the mystical-technological bullshit from the equation, but I don’t see a way the two killers could time things so perfectly. Also, since the original SAO game shows that the series is fully capable of mystical-technological answers, I don’t see why they’re trying to make it more “realistic.”

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun 11’s first half was maybe the better one, since at one point I actually burst out laughing (Sakura sitting on Nozaki, then the romantic flower, followed by the fake hand). And it’s still kind of sweet to see Sakura acting all giggly over this dense lunk. The second half wasn’t bad but there was no Sakura or Seo or even Kashima. Just the boys. Nothing wrong with the boys, and I always like it when the show flips genders and consider the boys’ behavior as if they were girls. But what on earth was that at the end with the valentine chocolate in the fridge? Why doesn’t Sakura recognize it?

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SAO 10, Dandy and Nozaki-kun 9-10

An endless scene begins.
An endless scene begins.

Sword Art Online 10 starts well but falls into a hole, or cave, halfway through. It’s not that they shouldn’t have put that cave scene in the story; it was necessary to clear the air between them, and to allow Sinon to tell her story and make a decision or two about herself. In fact, it’s a good decision. Rather than revert to that terrified girl who shot a bad guy, she decides to toughen up, even though she doesn’t want to. It’s a hard thing to decide. And though she had to go through several emotional stages to get there, they all felt necessary. But then Kirito had to tell HIS backstory for the umpteenth time, with the flashbacks we’ve all seen before. While Sinon needed to hear it, they could have handled it better. Besides, I thought she already knew … And at the end of the episode they were STILL in that cave, talking. I was looking forward to Death Gun showing up, even it it meant more scenes of a shocked Sinon being unable to pull the trigger, which they overdid anyway.

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Space Dandy 9 is one of the better ones. Our heroes visit satellite Grease to win dance contest only to learn that the thing hasn’t been held in 500 years, so they help to revive it. And as luck would have it, a certain native plant or something is ready to reproduce, and there’s a sort of cosmic danceathon ending where everything is reborn, or dies and is reborn, or something. I didn’t quite follow. The show tries to peak on a big funky beat and when it does the episode stops making sense, so to speak. Well, it was great to look at, they had some funky music playing, so who really cares?

Dandy and Scarlet run from Scarlet's ex.
Dandy and Scarlet run from Scarlet’s ex.

And episode 10 is more straightforward, where two characters who dislike each other pretend to date only to kind of fall for each other. At least there’s no locket involved this time. We pretty much know where the episode is headed, we just wait to see if they’ll throw us any curveball. Not really, though I didn’t expect the bittersweet ending. I always liked the idea of a Dandy/Scarlet matchup, and since the show can bend time and space and toss other dimensions at us I thought the least they could do was let the pair hook up and explain it away with physics jargon so they won’t have to be a couple next week. Next week it looks like we’re getting a lover from another dimension, so it’s not that the creators didn’t have that idea at their disposal. Kind of cruel.

Tilting the umbrella toward the girl is supposed to be romantic.
Tilting the umbrella toward the girl is supposed to be romantic.

Also catching up with Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun. Odd that I let it lapse because it’s about the only light comedy series I’m following now, unless you count Free!, and I do look forward to it. Anyway, episode 9 had plenty of Sakura in both halves, so it’s a good episode all around. In the first half they explore the umbrella-sharing romantic bits and poke a few holes into the concept, but it’s pretty straightforward. Better is a visit to Miyako to see how she’s holding up with that terrible editor she has, the type who, when Miyako calls to complain about something, makes her apologize for something completely different. And then there’s all the tanukis. Again, predictable but the actor deliveries and reactions make up for it.

Yuu sings--this episode only!
Yuu sings–this episode only!

Better than episode 10, where, first, Yuzuki and Hirotaka go to a movie and enjoy completely different things. Well, it’s more that Hirotaka enjoys the normal things and Yuzuki enjoys the bad guys and the violence. It’s pretty much what we expected until the end, where Hirotaka agrees to go to an amusement park with Yuzuki in order to spare other potential victims, which make me think that this might be a real, though twisted, relationship budding. Naturally the date was partly Nozaki’s doing, to aid in his research, though the characters he’s based on the non-lovebirds have their genders swapped. At least there are no tanukis. The next part is better. Yuu’s attempts at singing bring out a new art style in the show, one suggesting depression and pain. The finding a warm body to play a role in the school play wasn’t bad because we could see Hori interact with various characters via stage combat. The series is always better when it lets the characters bounce off each other, and when there’s plenty of Sakura.

SAO and Aldnoah 9, Barakamon 8

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Sword Art Online 2 9 brings up its questions right at the end. We figured that Death Gun (as opposed to life gun, I suppose) would out maneuver Kirito and Sinon’s attempt to take him out. But I, for one, didn’t predict that DG would be carrying the same gun as the one Sinon used to kill that man. There’s no reason to believe that Sinon’s assailant/victim in RL is in any way related to DG, which means the latter is using the gun as a kind of mind game, meaning he knows about her past. That’s very interesting, just as much as the cliffhanger they have going. Will Kirito rescue her and give himself away? The gunshot at the end could be anyone’s, and since Kirito sucks at firing guns it might have been him announcing his presence. Also, Azuna and Klein have identified DG, so there’s intervention to be expected there, though they might be too late for that. Still, I like the concept of players in one game taking a break and watching players in a completely different game. One more thing: why didn’t Kirito and Sinon go after DG’s intended victim, killing them to save them. It’d probably piss DG off, and they need to put him off balance.

Trying to wrap my head around the motivations in Aldnoah.Zero 9.

Why are you?  That's what I want to know.
Why are you? That’s what I want to know.

Mainly, what the hell was Rayet up to? I don’t believe the princess is actually dead, she’s too important to the plot, and they can explain away the battleship losing power in any way they want, so that’s not important. Rayet was betrayed by her Martian benefactors, swears revenge upon them, but that’s not why she strangled Asseylum. She knows that Asseylum was a powerful tool for ending the conflict and/or putting the Martians in disarray. Instead, she maybe felt angry toward Asseylum’s position of someone very powerful yet above the petty fighting, which would explain that internal “Why?” speech she makes. Or maybe she just flipped upon seeing her former intended victim and her enemies team up. I have no idea.

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We get more from the Martians’ side from Saazbaum, well, his side. During his dinner with Slaine he makes his intentions clear. He wants revenge on the Emperor for sending the knights off to war, where his fiancee died, and at the same time he wants to expand his territory for the sake of his vassals, recognizing that they live in a feudal society and maybe being fine with it. Again, I wonder what the “vassals” think of it. We still haven’t met any martians except the royalty and the nobility. Anyway, by taking part in this battle he seems to be embracing the same mind-set as the man whom he despises does, and he does so with a straight face. Well, they all have straight faces up there. The only grinning martians we’ve met were full of blood-lust. In other words, Saazbaum is just plain greedy for power and revenge. Easy to figure him out. Wish that were so easy to say with Rayet.

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Barakamon 8 has one annoying first half and a sweet second half. I never like it when Handa descends to the level of immaturity that the kids he watches over has, and here he’s even selfish enough to want to give Naru a birthday gift that the boys were already planning to give her. Well, it sort of ends well, and Handa’s immaturity does mean he’s popular with the kids because he can play with them. The second half takes place during Obon, and Handa is sort-of coerced into watching over Naru’s grandma’s grave along with Naru. It could be another “locals have weird customs” episode, except you get the impression here that what the villagers do is the proper way, and Handa has forgotten about it, which he would freely admit. Also, I’m a sucker for anime scenes where people are celebrating at a yearly event. Usually it means the plot takes a break, if only for a few minutes, and everyone can share something. It can be a nice reprieve. Also, I like it when Handa willingly joins in with the fun.

Zankyou and Tokyo ESP 7, Glasslip and SAO2 8

It was suggested to me that Zankyou no Terror 7 was going to have a lot of running around in airports. That proved to be the case, but the show did a terrific job of salvaging what could have been a dire bunch of scenes.

The best part is she's surprised.
The best part is she’s surprised.

The “chess match” business was ridiculous last week, and just as much this week (not to mention ultimately pointless), and so was the searching, but to help the scene out, Nine and Twelve weren’t just running around and waiting for the next move. They had a countermove of sorts, to capture some security camera footage and loop it so that no one really knew where they were. Also, they got Lisa involved, though she wound up as more or less a pawn in this chess match, causing a distraction but then getting captured by the asshole forces and stuck on a plane where the bomb was. Also helping throughout was a terrific, understated jazz piece that worked busily underneath and gently raised the tension without calling undue attention to itself. It actually makes me want to watch all that running around again. Every anime is better when Yoko Kanno is involved.

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The bomb searching, plus the mind games, was as well done as possible. Nothing much else was accomplished except now the bad guys know who Lisa is. But I’m curious about the fallout from Shibazaki and his colleagues interfering in Five’s evil plot, since he wasn’t supposed to be there. Everyone knows now that NEST is destructive and out of control, or at least Five is, but they still have authority. The Tokyo police force does not, no matter how many lives they saved this week. So what will happen to them? On the other hand, the irony of Shibazaki and Nine teaming up prevent a disaster wasn’t terribly effective. I figured it would happen when Five showed up. The bigger irony of authority figures acting without restraint comes when you look at the news from Ferguson this week. Still, a very good episode.

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Tokyo ESP had more training, lots of Rinka getting tossed about by this middle-school kid Ayumu, because he has precognition. So she finds a way to turn the tables by not attacking, forcing him to attack and leaving an opening, or something. So in the rematch he could just not attack, I suppose, but he’s bored and wants to get it over with, and we learn that this over-thinking makes him a slow combatant. More amusing is his anti-esper mother being attacked by an Esper and he and Murasaki taking him down. Amusing because even with his precog he can’t figure out a good end, until he THINKS of a way. Nice job of showing both the strengths and weaknesses of his abilities. Also Murasaki has become a hell of a lot of fun since discovering she can read the history of a weapon and perform its best moves, and her dad is a kung-fu nut. Nothing else in the overall plot happens apart from the inevitable Asuma/Minami scene, which goes no further than all the others.

Another scary premonition for Touko.
Another scary premonition for Touko.

I’ve completely lost track of the symbols and metaphors in Glasslip. Episode 8 had the characters all doing the little things they were doing before and I tried to figure out a purpose for any of it. There was maybe the point of false assumptions, suggested earlier when Touko envisioned Sachi in the hospital and this time with Yukinari not running past the middle school, leading the girls (and others) to assume he’s not running, when in fact he was–at a track team training camp. But maybe that has nothing to do with anything. Instead, Yanagi deliberately runs the same route … at which point I gave up. One or two points that stood out, apart from the strange scene where Yanagi walks around her house naked (with more of those frozen images–WTF?): Sachi and Yanagi are beginning to guess at the secret that Touko and Kakeru share, and Touko’s visions are getting darker and more threatening. So I guess something’s coming to a head, but I have no idea what it is.

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Sword Art Online 8 only gets interesting in the second half as we watch the Bullet of Bullets final melee unfold. After watching Sinon in action for a while she is ambushed in a non-threatening manner by Kirito so he can see the battle below unfold and Death Gun show up. It’s interesting because we see how DG works–stunning his victim first than doing some ritual thing before pulling the fatal trigger. And the show wisely leaves it like that, as a cliffhanger, so we don’t get to see if Sinon or Kirito will interfere in time. I’m interested in why this supposedly overly-powerful character hasn’t seen them yet, or maybe he has. Up to the battle it’s more of Kirito begging the annoyed Sinon for information about the final round and combatants and Sinon wondering what’s up with him, leading to more tsundere moments. Meanwhile, we don’t get to see anything going on in the real world. Just as well, but again I wish they had involved Asuna more. The first series was better when the two of them were together.

Space Dandy 6, SAO and Hanayamata 7

I’m falling behind. Sorry …

I was hoping someone would mention that ...
I was hoping someone would mention that …

Sometimes when I watch Space Dandy I think I’m missing out on the joke. I felt that way through much of episode 6 as I wondered why they had a laugh track going–was this a commentary on modern media, or a reference to another ironic use of that most hated of sitcom devices from my childhood and adolescence? And, for chrissake, when would it stop?! I didn’t find the story itself any clearer. I appreciated the idea of a cloud computing metaphor going on (If that’s what it was. I have no idea), and it was nice to see Scarlet and Honey doing things apart from working. But it bounced from one plot bit to the next with nothing much holding it together. Well, it wasn’t the worst SD episode; I enjoyed watching and trying to figure out what would happen next, and be wrong. I just didn’t understand the point of it all. Maybe I AM too old for this.

In spite of this confrontation, no battle this week.
In spite of this confrontation, no battle this week.

Sword Art Online 2 7 is an in-between episode where both Kirito and Sinon gear up for the big battle that evening. Kirito has the most to get through, and it’s not the idea that Death Gun is maybe the guy who’s been killing people. His failure to notify the people who put him up to this is surprising; has he forgotten his mission? He’s more worried now about the guilt he feels for remembering or not remembering the names of the people (I forget which) that he killed. Maybe it hasn’t occurred to him that taking care of Death Gun might be a good way to atone, at least in part. Meanwhile Sinon gears up for the match by acting tsundere over Kirito, only to have Spiegel confess to her when she’s getting her game face on, showing a clueless lack of timing on his part, proof that he understands less about her than he thinks, or maybe he realizes that there’s more to life than therapy through games.

The girls being sorry and bawling their eyes out moment.
The girls being sorry and bawling their eyes out moment.

Hanayamata 7 clears the way for Yaya to join the yosakoi club full-time. To do this smoothly they had to invent some drama that mostly fell flat. I can understand Yaya’s intense disappointment over her band breaking up and ruining her ambitions, and how she might jealously lash out at the yosakoi club and thus hurt her friends. But it was too routine and led to too many tears–I expected some, but I thought Hana, giving the tearful speeches she gave, felt like an interloper. Naru was the one who should have given all of them. Well, Naru does get her main point across: Yaya’s been there for her for most of her life, it’s time to give some of that love back. And I liked how they lured Yaya to the roof in the first place–by shouting insults at her. Elsewhere, as I said, it was predictable, though I enjoyed the teacher trying to turn them into cosplayers.

Tokyo ESP 5, SAO 5-6, Aldnoah 6

Esper overboard!
Esper overboard!

Looks like Tokyo ESP is falling into a routine. In one episode the bad guys beat up the good guys. In the next, the good guys beat up the bad. Episode 5 falls into the former category, where we’re introduced to another dull villain with a good super power. He calls himself “The Professor,” and his speeches are as bad as the name he gave himself. When waiting for the good guys to arrive he does things like play pianos in the jungle–both illusions, but they show his crappy sense of style. What he wants is for everyone to kneel before him, of course, but right now he wants an esper zone for the city. To that effect he has a tanker floating just off of Tokyo Tower and when the good guys arrive to figure out what’s going on, they’re more or less taken care of. However, I don’t think the villains expected Azuma to rip his hand free from the sword in an effort to escape, proving that the good guys are better at taking pain than the bad guys. We’re also supposed to ponder the Minami/Azuma relationship and their convoluted background, but she could just dive off that tanker for all I care. They’re not handling that part of the story very well.

Let's move along, shall we?
Let’s move along, shall we?

Sword Art Online 2 5 has the inevitable and unwanted “You’re a guy?!?!” scene early on. I suppose it’s good to get it out of the way, just so there’s no further misunderstanding between Kirito and Sinon. I wish, however, that they didn’t have to put it in a dressing room, with an overly long bit where Sinon stands there, shocked, in her underwear. I suppose the show couldn’t resist, but they stretch it too far. I wished for a moment that it was another series, like Love Hina, and Sinon would kick his ass the way Naru regularly did to Keitaro. But afterwards the episode gets much better, when Kirito gets his first round opponent, and the first actual battle he’s had in GGO.

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It’s better because we see what Kirito does best: fight and strategize. We see him at an apparent disadvantage, trying to figure out what to do and using his experience to decide, and his skills to carry out his plan. It moves the plot forward too, as Death Gun (god I hate that name, I hate even typing it) takes notice and confronts Kirito after the match. Kirito realizes then what he’s dealing with, and he goes into a serious funk. This sequence also goes on too long. We didn’t need to see ALL of those people from the SAO game in a flashback. And you would have thought by now that Kirito had come to terms with the killing (in self defense) he did back then.

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But in episode 6, Sinon, his new enemy, settles him down, somewhat. Kirito’s behavior in the next round is nearly suicidal, like he doesn’t realize he’s playing in a game, and then he just snaps. It’s a powerful moment, though I can’t place my finger on why. Was he blowing off steam, or had he come to a conclusion? But we’ve had a lot of Kirito’s problems so far and it’s a relief to kick back and watch Sinon in a match, winning easily, and listening to her thoughts for a change. But I didn’t know what to make of it when the two meet up in the finals. Kirito doesn’t try to dodge a thing, which is fine because Sinon is so flustered that she can’t shoot straight, but still, did he not dodge because he didn’t care, or because he knew she couldn’t hit him? At the end, after the duel within the battle, we get a good scene where Kirito realizes he’s acted rather badly to Sinon in a number of ways, and Sinon realizes that she’s not the only one around here who’s actually killed. So they bond while remaining enemies. So what happens next? Will Kirito go back to the real world and report that he’s got a lead on death gun? Well, probably. After all, he’s not really driven by revenge, or a need to prove himself. Maybe Sinon should kill Death Gun. That would be an interesting twist.

I can't.  I'm too busy laughing.
I can’t. I’m too busy laughing.

I’m getting amused by the alien weapons in Aldnoah.Zero. First, they’re weird-looking. Take a gander at that mecha the woman is piloting, especially the fist-missiles. I kept wanting to say “Robot Punch!” They look absolutely ridiculous. Since I’m assuming the Aldnoah tech they’re using doesn’t have to be in that shape to work, and no two we’ve seen have had the same weapons, the fact that her mecha looks like a fat, golden octopus on legs with fists at the end is her personal style choice. Which means it’s impossible to take her seriously as a fighter or a human, or even a martian. Also, once you get over the shock, and their destructiveness, they’re actually kind of easy to get around. Inaho doesn’t have to think very hard about what to do about them: force them off their course by firing explosives at them.

Sign her up!
Sign her up!

Which brings up a point that Marito makes: these glorious warrior-nobles are just as inexperienced in actual warfare as the humans are. If the humans can continue to think through the problems they can still hold their own. Marito clearly had this idea when he got in that one mecha before the flashbacks got too much for him again; Inaho isn’t the only bright mind around. Meanwhile the Martians are too busy puffing out their chests and acting contemptuous to notice. This is a lot of fun to watch; ragtag underdogs beating back a smug, cocky enemy is appealing. Good thing, too, because I’m still not crazy about most of the characters. I wonder if the show cares. Just so we hate the bad guys.

Tokyo ESP 3, Aldnoah, Akame and SAO2 4

Episode one of Tokyo ESP was dark, episode two was goofy. With #3 they try to mix the two moods with interesting results.

Goofy stuff near the start.
Goofy stuff near the start.

After rescuing a girl named Murasaki while she was trying to rescue the flying penguin (from whom?), Rinka begins to think that there might be something to this superheroing business after all, though I also appreciated her first impulse–using it to make money–it has a Spider-Man vibe to it, as well as the hints of responsibility that, well, you know. At the time we think she might be caught in Azuma’s altruistic, optimistic vibe, but then we see Azuma get down and dirty with another batch of people who kidnap Murasaki, and we see that things aren’t as cut and dried as we thought.

More serious by the end.
More serious by the end.

And by the end you might wonder where the optimism went. Both of them are personally involved, both for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and because having these powers makes them targets. That’s why they’re preparing to storm the yakuza lair. Sure, they might have done it anyway, but it wouldn’t have been so urgent if they hadn’t already met Murasaki. Elsewhere, it’s an effective episode; I’m excited to see the battle next week, and I wonder what that fish Murasaki absorbed is going to do to her. And Kuroi has yet to make her face turn; she’s such a bad person in this episode that I wonder how they’ll do it, unless the others will simply take her in, warts and all, because she’s one of them. … Nah. The show’s too goofy for that, I think.

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We have some shifting morals in Aldnoah.Zero as well. I think Rayet is the one I’m going to pay attention to. She has the most interesting story. She’s basically a traitor, of the willing daughter of a traitor, and when her boss kills her father and the other rats, she does a 180 and joins the good guys, though she’s keeping her background a secret. So first of all it’s kind of fun to watch her interact with people who were enemies a day ago, not to mention a princess her side tried to kill but who is alive and being nice to her, while Inaho tells her that her father are the real enemies. So she’s working with revenge, guilt, and her father’s poisonous upbringing bashing each other around in her head.

Meanwhile, the bad guys blow up the city.
Meanwhile, the bad guys blow up the city.

The other characters’ stances are sillier. So far all the Martian noblemen have proven themselves to be high-talking swine, though I’m still convinced Cruhteo has a face turn coming. Slaine is interesting but his decision to “take revenge,” i.e., screw up the Martian invasion by invading it, feels suicidal to me, which might be what he’s after. The good guys are all basic types right now, except for Inaho, who looks and acts like Robotics;Notes’ Kaito–inexpressive, more going on inside his head then you read on his face, which makes him dull unless he’s doing something brilliant on the battlefield, like he does in this episode again. And I should mention that among all this good and bad characterization this was another fun episode with a lot of good moments, though the mecha battle near the end confused me a little.

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I suppose you could talk about the morality of Akame ga Kill, but I don’t see a point since it’s come down to “We kill them or they’ll kill us.” Not much to say there. Episode four has Night Raid going after Zank the Executioner, who started hearing voices while doing his job and now lops off the heads of everyone he encounters. So Night Raid kills him. Basically it’s all to fill us in on the Imperial Arms, of which there are 48, of which Night Raid owns six, no, seven now. Also it’s an excuse to show Akame in battle, and she doesn’t let us down. Okay, now that they’ve done all that it’s time to get the overreaching plot started again. Apart from a bit with Najenda and a dying rebel, there’s been little going on with that.

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Sword Art Online 2 4 has Kirito logging in to GGO for the first time, discovering he’s a girl here, and getting leers by half the gamers he passes by, an interesting comment on girls in games in general, but it’s quickly forgotten as the gods of convenience intervene and he meets Sinon, who just happens to have the time (though she doesn’t, it turns out) to give Kirito and us an infodump on what goes on here, and a tour to boot. Kirito gets to show us just how adept he is at dodging when he challenges an in-game game for the money, and how lousy he is at firing a gun. I’m probably the 100,000th person to use the “bring a sword to a gun fight” line, but since the OP has him battling with just his laser sword, it seems the show doesn’t care. And it looks like Sinon’s getting interested in him, another discrepancy with the OP. Not a great episode, but I guess we need the information for future use.