Review: Sword Art Online II (MEGA SPOILERS!!)

When the credits for the final episode rolled last weekend, I gave it a standing ovation. The last Anime to have garnered such a strong reaction was when I watched Clannad for the first time 4 years ago only that time I was moved to tears. by the way, the pictures above show the cast first in the real world and their virtual world equivalents. By the way yhat’s Sinon to the left of Leafa. She wears glasses in the real world and switches ALO after the events of the first half of the season. Her specialty in ALO is (unsurprisingly) Bows. Those who played the Playstation Network exclusive game SAO: Hollow Fragment for the Vita may recall Sinon makes a cameo appearance in Eincrad as one of Kirito’s possible partners but as her SAO2 Avatar with black hair.

Anyway, the first half of the season closes the door on a little unresolved matter involving a surviving member of Laughing Coffin, which was a notorious and feared PK Guild in SAO. In an intricate plot using real world counterpart, the player known as Death Gun would seemingly kill players at the same time as their in-game Avatars. In truth, it was actually two different people working together. The in-game person took out the Avatar while their real-world counterpart did the actual killings. Kirito entered BoB to lure out Death Gun and with Sinon’s help, stops him once and for all.

Sinon is one of the two new main characters of the season. Sinon went through a traumatic experience as a child and was forced to kill someone. As a result of that trauma Sinon became terrified of guns. In GGO she is able to overcome the trauma association and quickly rose through the ranks as a contender in the PvP circuits. After Death Gun is dealt with, Kirito tracks down one of the people present when Sinon was forced to kill someone as a child. The woman he introduces to Sinon was pregnant at the time and her actions saved the lives of two people that day. Having heard from one of the people whose lives she ended up saving, Sinon is able to overcome and move on with her life.

There is an intermission between the first half and the second half of the season. During the intermission Sinon rerolls on ALO so she can play with the new friends she made. Kirito and Co. raid a dungeon in search the legendary sword Excalibur. If the name sounds familiar, it’s the same sword Kirito summoned at the end of Season 1. This time it’s his for good!

In the second half of the season we meet the other main character, Asuna befriends a powerful swordsman named Yuuki Konno. Known as Zekken to other ALO players, she has never lost to anyone–not even Kirito. After sparring with Asuna, Yuuki asks her to help her guild The Sleeping Knights–more on why they go by this name in a moment–clear a dungeon before their guild disbands.

Yuuki’s guild goes by the name Sleeping Knights for a very special reason: Every single member of the guild is terminally ill. Due to their illnesses, they use a prototype version of the Nervegear Technology to dive 24/7. They can’t feel their body’s pain while diving so…yeah. Yuuki herself has AIDS and already lost her whole family to the disease. Since she spent her whole life in the hospital, the only worlds she’s ever known were virtual worlds.

Until she met Asuna, that is.

Because of her painful her affliction is, Yuuki Dives 24/7. The benefit of course being she is free of physical pain. The drawback, however is she can never leave the hospital. Asuna borrows a device Kirito had been developing for Yui and uses it to bring Yuuki to school. This way, Yuuki can see the world from her hospital room.

 

Asuna and Yuuki’s time together is short but sweet. The scene that stuck out for me was Yuuki’s final moments in the final episode. Thousands of players travel to the island where she and Asuna met to pay their respects. A fitting tribute to a special girl Asuna will never forget.

Overall, I give SAO2 an 8/10.

The intermission for Season 2 would’ve been netter if they spent at least half an episode on Sinon’s transition from GGO to ALO. I also felt killing off Yuuki was a bit over the top but not the sendoff itself. AIDS isn’t a death sentence anymore and based on the circumstances of how she got it (her mother was accidently given a blood transfusion with the AIDS virus while she was pregnant with her and her twin sister), she should’ve been cured by the time she’s introduced. That’s just me, though.

Now we’re at the million-dollar question of will there be an SAO3. I don’t think there will be but I’m sure the story will continue in Manga and Visual Novels. I certainly plan to write a Fanfic set after the events of SAO2 myself so…yeah.

 

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Continuing the Story in Fan Fiction

As I’m sure some of you know, I write Fan Fiction. Click the link to see all of the Fan Fiction I’ve posted online or go to my Fan Fiction Blog to read about what I’m currently working on or planning to write soon.

Being totally honest with you guys, the fact that I haven’t spent much time writing is the main reason I quit MMOs and Online Gaming in general. It is too big of a time investment and for me, I have alot of stuff I know I want to do within the first four months of 2015. I can only recall 4 instances since I got my first game system with online play–the Nintendo DS–that I played online with someone I personally knew. All of them were with the DS, actually but yeah. Playing with random folks or random folks I meet on Gaming Websites has never been my cup of tea. Yeah, it’s the way most folks are able to play online but as older gamers have said to me personally, it can never replace playing with people in the same room as you. It’s the experience that means more than the actual activity.

That said, let me get to the main topic and this is actually really short: Starting in 2015, I will begin announcing fanfics based on Anime and/or Manga on this blog just as a heads-up. The more detailed info will be on my Fan Fiction blog of course but I will announce the stories here. This will make the blog more personal as I will also give you a more inside look at specific Anime/Manga that I like ^_^

As a bonus to my video game cutbacks: I’m going to ramp up my time watching Anime of Crunchyroll and reading Manga on Manga Tree. This summer and fall I watched some great anime titles–AKB0048 and Sunday Without God Among them. I hope to continue doing this while also collecting Manga and a few more Anime DVD sets I’m looking at.

And who knows: I might do my first cosplay at Anime Boston 2015 =O

The Legend of Korra’s Season 4: Balance gets online release only

Having just finished watching the finale moments ago, I’m starting to suspect low ratings may not be the only reason Nickelodeon chose not to air Season 4 on TV. I’ll get to that in a bit but yeah, Season 4 was released online and via iTunes and Xbox Live. LoK fans should consider themselves lucky Nickelodeon decided to release the final season at all. Seasons 2 had significantly lower ratings than season 1 and there was virtually no advertising for Season 3, which aired earlier this year. Unless you watched Nick.com you probably didn’t even know Season 4 was online only.

Now let’s talk about the Season itself. The theme this time is Balance and if you thought Season 3’s ending was pretty dark, Season 4 takes kicks it up even further. Looking back, it’s easy to make the arguement LoK’s ratings nosedived because many of the things touched on have an older audience in mind. Can’t be helped given Korra was older than Aang when her legend began. Ah, well. Moving on.

The season opens with hints of the eventual showdown between Crown Prince Wu of the Earth Kingdom and The Great Unifier Kuvira. Kuvira was introduced in Season 3 as Su Beifong’s (reminder: She’s Chief Lin Beifong’s younger sister and daughter of Legendary Earthbender Toph Beifong of the original Team Avatar) number 2 and was tasked with safeguarding the Earth Kingdom until Prince Wu was old enough to take the throne. In reality, Kuvira has been conquering Earth Kingdom Provices over the last 3 years one by one, forming an Earth Empire. At Prince Wu’s coronation in Republic City, Kuvira refuses to relinquesh the power given to her by Republic City and the Four Nations and makes her intentions clear: She will eliminate the old Earth Kingdom power structure and unite everyone under her banner.

Now let’s switch to Korra for a bit. The wounds inflicted on Korra were mental and emotional as well as physical. Not only did she lose the use of her legs but she also lost the ability to enter the Spirit World. A chance meeting with Toph in the Swamplands helps her regain her confidence. Meeting Zaheer in prison (with his hair and beard now grown back) gives her the closure she needed to move on fron her near-death experience.

With Korra back in action, the battle against Kuvira’s Earth Empire is an uphill battle from beginning to end. The conflict is personal for the Beifong family: Bataar Jr. is Kuvira’s second and with the unwhitting assistence of Varrick, Bolin and Zhu Li he makes a giant planinum Mecha with an extreme destructive Spirit Weapon attached to the right arm. Alliegeances are tested as Bolin and Varrick realize Kuvira must be stopped. When Kuvira captures Su and her brothers, Opal enlists the aid Korra, Bolin, Lin and her legendary grandmother Toph to launch a daring rescue deep in enemy territory.

Toph’s final line sums up The Legend of Korra pretty well: “The old folks need to step back and leave the fighting to the younger ones.” While yes Toph, Katara and Zuko have all appeared in LoK, when it came to the major fighting they left it to the new Team Avatar. Although it’s not actually said it’s likely Sokka died a few years before LoK began. We already know Aang died at age 40 or rather 140. 100 years locked in the the Avatar State severely shortened his lifespan so…yeah.

The final episode ends similar to Season 3: Kuvira doesn’t die but the final victory goes to Korra. Unlike with Zaheer, Kuvira realizes the error of her ways and surrenders. That is, after Korra shuts down the Spirit Weapon she unleashed upon Republic City and created a new Spirit Portal into the Spirit World.

Now let’s go back to the “other reason” I hinted at above. Now, unlike Aang Korra is a teenager. That said, she had a romantic relationship with Mako in Season 1 and some of Season 2 before having not one but two messy breakups with Mako (the second due to her temorary memory loss in Season 3). Then again, it’s also true Mako also dated Asami and later broke up with her as well.

Throughout the series, fan pairings involving Korra and Asami ran rampant after in Seasons 2 and 3 after several scenes where the care expressed by the two for each other seemed to go beyond friendship. Until now, it was mere fan speculation Korra and Asami would become Nickelodeon’s first same-sex couple.

The final moments of the finale made it official.

Seeing as it was the finale they couldn’t exactly NOT air it and due to the short time between when  seasons 3 finished and season 4 was scheduled to begin,  Nickelodeon had to decide weather to air it on TV or make it a digital-only release. It would have been more powerful if the season was aired on TV (and I’m hoping it is aired on TV at a later time) but at least they released it despite the low ratings.

It’s easy to now say “the signs were there” now that Korrasami is official but honestly, I was genuinely surprised and impressed. After both Korra and Asami’s respective break-ups with Mako I thought for sure all three of them were done with romance for a while. Ah, well. Major props to Nick for having the guts to greenlight the same-sex relationship. I think if it was revealed later by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko (the creators of both ATLA and LoK) Nick made them change the ending, there would have been outrage and accusations of censorship.

While it’s likely the decision to introduce Korra and Asami as a couple has no political agenda attached to it, I’m sure some there are some on the other side who won’t see it that way. Hopefully, Nick is prepared for the fight to come. The fans certainly are.

 

Overall, I give The Legend of Korra a 10/10.

It did its job of continuing the story of the Avatar as well as shedding some light on the origins of The Avatar (Avatar Wan). While it may not have enjoyed the same popularity as Avatar: The Last Airbender, history will redeem it as a wonderful continuation of what’s considered by many to be the the greatest Nicktoon (ATLA) of all time.

As I mentioned in my post about Season 3 a few months back, the next element in the cycle is Earth. If Michael and Bryan decide to give us a new Avatar, they will hail from the new Earth Republic. If they chose to bring back the Korra-era team Avatar (except Korra herself since she’ll be dead) I will be interested in seeing how senior they’ll be. Will Tenzin’s kids play a role? Korra and Asami’s children? What about the Air Nation? The potential for some great storylines is definitely there. Weather the Earth Avatar’s Legend will span all three (or four!) seasons like Aang’s or be a season long like Korra’s remains to be seen. In LoK, there was more of a focus on one person threatening the world (Amon, Zaheer, Kuvira and Unalaq) as opposed to a whole nation (The Fire Nation in ATLA).

Attack on Titan and Inuyasha Seasons 3 through 5 incoming!

 

While I was finalizing my registration of Anime Boston, I also ordered some Anime DVD sets. I bought seasons 1-2 of Inuyasha over the summer and am now getting seasons 3-5. I will get seasons 6 and 7 another time along with the Movies bundled in one Blu-Ray set another time. I plan to have all of Inuyasha on DVD by the time Anime Boston 2015 comes to town.

I want to also pause for a moment and comment on the mainstream opinion DVD/Blu-Ray format is obsoleted by digital media. I disagree with that belief. I actually find it much more convenient to own the physical media in the case of my anime. It’s just more convenient for me.

After I finish Inuyahsa and AoT, next on my DVD Set to-buy list is Code Geass and Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. Code Geass was recently released on Blu-Ray so…yeah. It’s a must have!

Since I’ve not buying video games or playing World of Warcraft anymore, I actually have the funds set aside to buy Manga next year. I plan to eventually finish getting all the volumes in Blue Exorcist, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Ouran High School Host Club, Attack on Titan and Spice & Wolf.

…I’m gonna need another bookshelf.

I am now registered for Anime Boston 2015

 

…Just wanted to let folks know ^_^

I will now begin working on the powerpoints for the panels I plan to do. For now, I will submit applications for the following panels since the powerpoints for them are either done or will not take more than a single night to make or update.

These are the panels that, if I had to do any of them tomorrow, I’d be good to go:

  • Clannad: The Place Where Wishes Come True (90 Minutes)
  • Panels: Best Practices (60 Minutes)
  • Persona 4: Pursuing My True Self (60 Minutes)

My Pokemon Panel is about 15% done and that’s basically the demo itself (LOL!). I haven’t started the Tales of Symphonia one yet. I’m saving doing ALL of that one for Christmas Break. I’m gonna do it all in one sitting this time so I have no excuses later XD

This will also be the last time I do my Persona 4 panel. I got Persona Q: Shadow Labyrinth for the 3DS. I get the sense it was one last game for fans of Persona 3 and 4 so…yeah. Ah, well can’t be helped.

Oh, well.

As an added bonus to those who come to my Best Practices panel: I will announce the panels I plan to do at AB2016 ^_^