Warning Labels and Defeating Taboos In SAO

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 10 Review

With the bullies having escalated their antics in the previous episode, I kind of expected the path this story arc was taking, and the warning label at the start of this episode more or less confirmed it, so there was no real surprise that Sword Art Online Alicization decided to walk down this road. It isn’t even a first for SAO in general though I think most people will agree that Sword Art Online is at its worst when it attempts to deal with issues like sexual assault and rape in general because it just doesn’t manage to get the tone or depth right. Look at Fairy Dance’s Asuna and we can all clearly see that she as a character was stripped of what made her an interesting character in order to deliver a substandard plot that turned sexual assault into a mere plot device at best and was mostly just a strange spectacle of over the top cackling villainy.

Now, given I’m watching both Goblin Slayer and Dakaichi this season, it should be well noted I have no particular issue with rape and sexual assault within narratives. I prefer it when it is dealt with appropriately, can deal with it though don’t much like it when it happens and it at least feels like the narrative wasn’t endorsing it, will put up with it when the story chooses to just kind of have it happen and move on from it (not a great choice for the story), but then there are stories that either play it as a joke (and they are generally dropped) and stories like SAO that include it, but don’t quite manage to deliver it in a way that gives it actual weight.

Sword Art Online Episode 10

So Alicization, episode 10, sees Eugeo’s and Kirito’s female pages (and why do all of these characters have female pages, are there no male wannabe knights left now that Kirito and crew moved up the ladder), being bound and assaulted by the two ‘think they are better than everyone else because every single law in this world supports that theory’ noble brats. The actual terror the girls are feeling in this situation is fairly solidly conveyed, though again you have to question why Sword Art Online insists on building up reasonably decent female characters just to turn them into the victim of the week.

Sword Art Online Alicization Laws

What is also dealt with really well, is Eugeo having to overcome all of the programming essentially that keeps him following the world’s laws and the taboo index. For whatever reason, fighting to overcome that causes his eye to more or less explode and bleed, odd given nothing of the sort happened to Alice when she broke the taboo index, but then he is freed to swing his sword around and cleanly take off the lesser of the two bullies arms.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 10 Eugeo

And this brings us to a number of problems. Firstly, despite Eugeo’s fantastic growth in the last two episodes, clearly Kirito still gets to be hero number one (not that I mind, I like Kirito and all, but it just limits Eugeo’s growth to never being better than Kirito). Eugeo, despite being closer to the bully leader, only manages to disarm (bad joke, I know) the lesser one. It takes Kirito coming in to take on the leader (in a very cool light show style sword fight, just the way SAO is good at them).

However, the other problem, the greater one in fact, is that while bully number 2 is literally gushing blood from a severed arm, his reaction is almost comical in nature and the girls on the bed, bound, traumatised, and now covered in bully number 2’s blood, are more or less inert for the remainder of the scene until Kirito cuts them free. A moment ago they were struggling and crying out for help and now they are just kind of lumps on the bed and genuinely get no further part in the story. Why deal with the victims and their trauma when you can focus on the cool sword fight I guess, but it isn’t exactly a satisfying way of dealing with the situation.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 10 Kirito

Likewise, when the bully leader gets his arms hacked off by Kirito, the scene of him sitting on the ground, arms forward, blood spraying out, just killed any tension in the scene. It was too much, too silly, and just didn’t fit with how seriously the rest of the sequence had more or less been played. I mean, this is the closest SAO has ever gotten to dealing with this kind of issue with proper weight behind it, and they still managed to have these reality breaking moments in it.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 10 Glitch

On the other-hand, the bully leader glitching out before dying, was kind of awesome. Not so much with how they presented the scene or because he is dead (though I won’t be shedding any tears about that), but because of several questions it raises about the game world and the program. 

At the end of the day, this was a fairly decent episode, provided the subject matter doesn’t have you wanting to skip it in the first place. It advances the story, it pushes the characters forward, it raises some interesting questions about the mechanics of the world. Was it a particularly deft handling of the subject matter, not so much, but I think that past experience should have prepared fans of Sword Art Online for that and for the most part this was reasonably executed.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 10

Still, I’d love to know your thoughts on the episode so be sure to leave me a comment below. Did they go too far? Did you like how they dealt with the subject matter?

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17 thoughts on “Warning Labels and Defeating Taboos In SAO

  1. The events in this episode were kind of unexpected tbh. SAO isn’t really a show that delves into darker or more uncomfortable moments and topics. It’s always had the potential to be pretty damn gritty just based off of the plot of the main arcs but it’s always stayed kind of light hearted so this episode was somewhat of a treat. The whole sexual assault scene in my opinion wasn’t really too much but it was dragged on for way too long. They really could’ve just cut it short and it would still have an effect, instead they dragged it out and made it awkward. Like I was watching it thinking about how all this time is being wasted yet nothing is really happening.

    The subject matter could’ve been handled better, the gravity that the scene had got taken away several times during the action scenes with the two girls and the other guy just staring as Zezik and Kirito have their duel (hell Ronie was knocked out or passed out just a short while before that yet she woke up just in time). Then there’s the little glitch exorcism that was interesting and funny at the same time especially with the shot of everyone just staring at it. Overall it could’ve been done better, but it was still a good episode.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yea, hopefully they just don’t drop Ronie and Eugeo’s page like every other character in the show because they could be useful and add a different dynamic.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Exactly, at the most I see the red headed one showing up every now and then mainly because of that budding relationship with Eugeo. With the other one (Ronie) I feel she’s like Klein and Agil, to only be seen maybe one more time this arc. I honestly hope they show Leina and the others who were the superiors to Kirito and Agil after a while.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Fr, almost all the characters have a use in the show. When they all actually get together it’s pretty enjoyable. The only real exception us Silica, I mean she’s basically like a character from a side quest that stuck around too long.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. “Look at Fairy Dance’s Asuna and we can all clearly see that she as a character was stripped of what made her an interesting character”

    It’s a sign of how much I otherwise like SAO that I didn’t condemn it after that arc. Passive/damsel in distress Asuna is not Asuna.

    Regarding what the pages had to endure in this episode: I thought Goblin Slayer was more circumspect. And I’m saying that as a fan of SAO! This episode went too far for me. Just a couple of shots would have been enough to justify Eugeo’s decision.

    And what is it with this show’s fascination with evil guy tongues? Criminy!

    I hope we see more of the pages as they recover. I’m serious — I want to see how they do. I don’t care for narratives that build up an interesting character then discard them as a plot device.

    “On the other-hand, the bully leader glitching out before dying, was kind of awesome.”

    The episode started its upswing at that point, I think, for exactly the reasons you said, including “it raises some interesting questions about the mechanics of the world.”

    Seeing Alice at the end was the high point. I’ll looking forward to putting this episode behind us!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I kind of feel like the pages are going to be discarded as a plot device, and I’m not sure I like that. And bad guys and tongues in general, how many of them lick their lips, lick knives, lick blood? I need to do a list on them because it seems like the only way some animators know to show a character is unhinged is to have them do something weird with their tongue.
      The thing with this episode is, whether you like it or not, they did ultimately make it necessary for the plot progress from this point. So while it is going to be an episode that I’m not so fond of, even if I eventually rewatch the series, it isn’t one I can add to a skip list.
      Then again, I saw someone do a comparison video on Twitter with Crunchyroll’s version of the scene compared to another version and Crunchyroll did cut some shots short making it less explicit. Makes you wonder why SAO suddenly decided to go so far and who they thought they were appealing to given that really isn’t why people are watching SAO.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I wondered why they didn’t try breaking the tabboo index earlier if they were trying to find Alice. Then I wondered what the ‘synthesis thirty’ business was about and wondered if they’ve been cloning already copied souls. Then I just kind of figured I’d wait until the show decided to explain itself and figured that meant next week we’d jump back to the real world because they won’t want to.
      The post already got way too long just focusing on the other aspects so I kind of let this part go.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmmm okay. But don’t you think the fact that Alice is still alive, and in fact is an integrity knight interesting?
        There are a lot of predictions to be made aren’t there.

        Like

        1. I kind of assumed she was alive, otherwise there wasn’t a lot of point to Eugeo’s journey.
          The fact that she’s an integrity knight didn’t interest me as much as whether she was actually the original Alice or not.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Heh, just when I was thinking that SAO had really flown under the radar this year and the anime community was falling out of its love (or mutualy sustained hate-boner) for the series. They up and do this. Welp. I hope people are looking forward to all hot take anime videos.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think a lot of people have just gotten over SAO (both haters and fans). It’s been awhile now and it just kind of does its thing. I’ve been enjoying Alicization, and ultimately this episode was good enough. But, I do agree that those that just enjoy pointing out SAO is trash are definitely going to jump on this episode. I don’t know who they are trying to convince at this stage though given most people have already made up their own minds about the show.

      Liked by 2 people

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