The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Sword Art Online II- Final Reflections

“It’s okay. I’ll see you on the other side.” —Will Irons

The Mother’s Rosario arc began a little more than a month ago, and what was originally a quest to figure out more about Zekken turned into an emotionally-charged arc dealing with Yuuki’s AIDS and how Asuna’s involvement in all of this leads her to help Yuuki and the Sleeping Knights on their quest to do one final thing in ALO before their time passed. Through this process, Asuna and Yuuki’s friendship allows the two to help one another out: Asuna helps Yuuki experience and understand what life is, while Yuuki helps Asuna figure out what the latter wants for her future. Though the future and life itself is constantly uncertain, both Asuna and Yuuki discover much through talking with one another and find the strength to continue on, and the impact of Yuuki’s presence is ultimately one that brings people together, showing that her continued existence was more than merely a drain on resources and was capable of bringing people’s hearts together.

  • Yuuki Konno (right) is introduced as Zekken, a player whose skill surpasses even Kirito’s. Asuna challenges her early on and befriends her; Yuuki asks her to help defeating the 27th floor boss with her guild the “Sleeping Knights”. Later on, Yuuki is revealed to be afflicted with HIV/AIDS and the Sleeping Knights members are terminally-ill patients. Yuuki’s condition deteriorates as time passes on, and after she entrusts her sword skill “Mother’s Rosario” to Asuna she dies peacefully in ALO, surrounded by over 1000 players from every tribe in the game, including her guild members, Asuna and her friends.

  • I imagine that for the most part, spoilers won’t matter, as the readers coming in are probably looking for a talk on what they’ve finished watching. Here, the Sleeping Knights take on a boss with the hopes of defeating it and getting their name Monument of Swordsmen to commemorate their friendship and time spent together; their illness means that their time together is short, hence their desire to make the most of things.

  • Aside from Yuuki, the Sleeping Knights also consists of Jun, Nori, Siune, Talken and Tecchi. Becuase I had a rough idea of what the Mother’s Rosario arc entailed, the major revelations did not come as too much of a surprise. As such, even through the more emotional moments of the Mother’s Rosario arc, I never teared up once. With that being said, such moments were remarkably well done and captured all of the tenor that such moments evoke.

  • Why do people do things? Because we wish to leave a positive impression of ourselves upon the world. This motivation is what drives the Sleeping Knights, who wish to do one final swan song before their time together concludes. Despite being pressured by other guilds, Kirito manages to buy the Sleeping Knights enough time for one more attempt after their initial efforts fall short.

  • After knowing who the Sleeping Knights really are, their victory and Asuna’s role in helping everyone out becomes all the more significant. The topics dealt with in Sword Art Online predominantly deal with the significance of death in a virtual environment, and through Kirito’s dialogue, Reki Kawahara appears to be reinforcing the idea that as the technology improves, the line between reality and virtual reality becomes less well-defined, making it difficult to tell what’s real and what isn’t. However, whereas Kawahara leaves the implications of this process undefined, The Matrix suggests that people will eventually become complacent if such systems ever became a reality.

  • Admittedly, I was quite surprised to learn that no other blog or discussion out there that was ready to talk about the implications of deploying something like the Medicuboid from a medical or technological perspective. After watching the twenty-second episode, I was wondering if I should do a talk there, but decided against it because I didn’t have enough content to make a proper discussion happen.

  • As such, the main body of this final reflections post will deal predominantly with what my personal thoughts on the Medicuboid are within the context of Sword Art Online and how it may ostensibly tie in with medical technology in reality. While I’m now dealing with computer science and software development, a long time ago, I was an aspiring medical doctor, and though my interests shifted, I still read through some books on medical ethics in preparation for the interviews. Reading through the book made me realise that medicine was something that I might not have been cut out for.

  • While I have chosen a different path, I do not particularly regret having applied for medicine or have taken the MCAT two years ago. I do not write the passages here to enforce a particular outlook on anime, but rather, the passages are intended at presenting a novel viewpoint (mine) on a particular anime. Thus, while Sword Art Online might not be about medical ethics, I personally find that its depiction within the anime does merit a talk.

  • The environment within the Medicuboid is one that’s desolate, but the fact that Yuuki can interact with people in the real world leads Asuna to make a request for Kirito: to build an interface that would allow Yuuki to view the world through a camera and experience the sounds through a microphone. Making use of a specialised camera and microphone, Kirito manages to configure the camera, allowing Asuna to give Yuuki a glimpse into what life is like at a high school.

  • In the future, broadband internet will probably be so ubiquitous that it would be possible to stream 4K or above video feeds with sound without too much difficulty. In places like Japan, wireless internet is already widespread, although back here in the Wild West, ubiquitous wireless internet is still very much a novelty and requires a small bit of setup in order to use properly

Aside from the trickier topics about life and death, the Mother’s Rosario arc leads to an interesting questions that are worth mentioning, although curiously enough, the this is not covered by any blogger or forum discussion anywhere. This topic relates to medical ethics, specifically, concerning whether or not devices such as the Medicuboid will be realistically fielded as actual means of relieving pain and helping medical professionals interact with their patients in a different means. As an experimental method, the patient and/or the patient’s family must make a choice as to whether or not the situation merits chancing the patient’s life on this technology or treatment. In Sword Art Online, the technology is explicitly mentioned to be not a treatment, but a method of improving the patient’s quality of life by cutting off their pain, restoring their senses in a virtual world and a limited degree of autonomy. Thus, by the Principle of Beneficence, the medical doctors in Sword Art Online are helping Yuuki by making use of the Medicuboid to cut off her pain. Moreover, even if they are unable to treat her AIDS, they are doing their best to improve her quality of life. This is what stands to be gained by taking a chance on the Medicuboid. However, use of such a technology must first be approved, and the ethics for that is more challenging. Assuming that medical professionals hold their duties to the highest ethical standards, and that they will do everything 1) within their power and 2) within reason of keeping the patients free of harm, there is a possibility that Medicuboid-like technologies would be something the public might push for. The medical professionals themselves may digress, as the technology would represent a placebo that does nothing to treat their patients’ diseases, and moreover, medicine is a conservative field, so introducing something like the Medicuboid will succeed only if it can be decisively shown that the technology is able to allow medical professionals to uphold their obligations and responsibilities to their patients. While such a technology was adapted in Sword Art Online, it is reasonable to anticipate more resistance in reality, and anything resembling the Medicuboid may not even make it past ethics approval for clinical trials on human patients unless their advocates propose compelling reasons to make use of these technologies.

  • The reason why I do not consider anime such as Sword Art Online to be “though-provoking” or “deep” (that is to say, insufficient to change my world-view) is because original light novel and anime were not written with the intent of speculating on or providing a commentary on the dangers of virtual reality technology. Instead, the technology is used as a catalyst to facilitate an adventure, and the light novel covered a sufficiently diverse array of topics such that individuals have provide prompts for conversation.

  • Here, Asuna convinces her mother to listen to the former’s side of things and resolves to tell the latter her true feelings concerning the future. From a strictly personal side of things, I’ve been encouraged to find a balance between the idealistic “follow my heart” route and the pragmatic “occupation must be able to help you raise a family and retire”: my dream job is to be involved in mobile software development and eventually, managing the development of these projects.

  • It turns out that Kyouko Yuuki came from a modest family and managed to excel in what appears to be economics or commerce. Desiring Asuna to grow up with privilege, she expected nothing short of the best from and for Asuna, but after a tearful moment, Kyouko concedes that her main wish is for Asuna to be happy, and agrees to let the latter pursue the career and life paths she chooses.

  • Kyouko’s approach appears similar to that of the tiger mother, someone who pushes their children to high levels of achievement using methods regarded as typical of child-rearing in East Asia. Though the children eventually might succeed in obtaining a financially successful occupation, it often results in individuals who lack emotional fulfillment, and is unsurprisingly depicted as a negative concept in anime (such as in Girls und Panzer). Here’s an interesting aside: compared to the Asian students at my old high school who had strict parents, I managed to perform to the same level that they did (sans the volunteer hours and bewilderingly large array of extra-curricular activity) anyways.

  • Yuuki’s final moments in the world are in Asuna’s arms, under the same tree where the two had first met. The page quote from above comes from Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and has two meanings. The first meaning is “see you when the mission’s done”. It originates from the Apollo 8 mission, when Gerry Carr speaks with Lovell right before the lunar capsule entered the dark side of the moon, severing all contact. For the next 34 minutes, Apollo 8 would become the most alone that humans had ever been. This mission was a success and paved the way for the later Apollo missions. The other meaning, when Will is speaking to Mitchell for the last time, refers to the other side of death itself.

  • Here, the anime does a better job than the light novel: having full access to visuals, A-1 Pictures is able to portray emotional tenor far more effectively than the visual novels could. The Mother’s Rosario arc is characterised by these tender, moving moments that add a sense of immersion, that the characters are human and governed by the same laws despite being exceptional MMORPG players. I think now is a good time as any to note, while Mother’s Rosario certainly does tend to play with the heartstrings, using the impertinent ‘feels’ meme to describe things is hardly appropriate or necessary.

  • Yuuki’s story is spread, and soon, thousands of other ALO players arrive to watch Yuuki’s final moments. This phenomenon is not a fictional one and players in MMORPGs do gather to hold vigils for players who pass on.

  • An Si-eun (Siune in-game) is a member of the Sleeping Knights who was afflicted with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells. Treatments are most effective if the cancer is detected early on, although An experienced a relapse in her symptoms. Shortly after Yuuki’s passing, she recovers and is discharged from hospital, meeting Asuna for the first time.

  • Thus, the Mother’s Rosario arc comes to an end, leading to the question of what happens next in Sword Art Online. There was a two-year gap between the first and second season, so I imagine that Sword Art Online III will come out in 2016, dealing with the Alicization story. This story is the darkest of any of the arcs seen thus far, and will probably require a full cour to adequately explore. However, the Early and Late arc precedes Alicization, and one might reasonably expect this to be a long OVA of 45 minutes.

  • Kirito and Asuna share a conversation during a picnic with their friends, and this post comes to an end. At this point in time, I should mention that I encountered some difficulty with the Tari Tari special and as such, will be writing about that after the New Year arrives. I’m going on hiatus for the next few weeks on a much-needed and well-earned breaks, so regular programming will resume once the calendar reads 2015.

With Mother’s Rosario now over, Sword Art Online II comes to a close, and immediately, I see a series that was much better than its predecessor. Sword Art Online II has solid execution as far as plot and character development goes. The progression of events and development of backstories is sufficiently explored so the audience can relate to the characters at some level, or sympathise with them: instead of crudely-wrought backgrounds, Sword Art Online II takes the time to emphasise that these characters are human, worth showing concern for. As such, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Sword Art Online II, and the recommended audience for Sword Art Online II (aside from the die-hard fans of Sword Art Online) would be anyone who’s looking for something dealing with virtual reality, MMOs and fights with a remarkable choreography. Additional praise must be given where it is due, as Sword Art Online II also manages to raise questions about what could happen as things like virtual reality become more and more possible. While Sword Art Online II is far from being revolutionary, it is well-executed, managing to tell a story that is both moving and direct and kept me looking forwards to new episodes every week, which alone is sufficient for me to say that this is an anime that’s worth watching.

3 responses to “Sword Art Online II- Final Reflections

  1. Matthew October 16, 2015 at 10:49

    Mother’s Rosario was very interesting arc. I enjoyed seeing Asuna’s take the spotlight.

    Like

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