Omo’s latest post on SAO captures the feelings I have about the show in its opening paragraph. “Sword Art Online is an enjoyable watch, but I don’t particularly enjoy many aspects of it. I think with a broad stroke I can write off most of the things I don’t like under “this is way too chuu2.”” (I’ll get to the rest of his post in a bit.)
After watching the first two episodes, my brother iconclasm and I agreed that, had either of us seen this show when we were thirteen, it would’ve been an instant favorite. At that age, I loved .hack//SIGN because it was about a video game, and I loved Rurouni Kenshin because it had an unstoppably badass protagonist. This show has both, and it retroactively blew my inner thirteen year-old’s mind.
My inner thirteen year-old, though, is a very quiet voice in my head. It’s a voice that propelled me to watch 43 episodes of Kenshin last year (but didn’t make me like it), and it probably contributes to my ability to read anime magazines today.
However, iconclasm has the voice screaming in his head. Thinking about it, he’s only 19. It’s been five years since Gurren Lagann, and that’s still his favorite anime of all time by a long-shot. He and my BFF have been really into Sword Art Online, to the point that iconclasm thinks it could be in his top ten, and my BFF (who’s 21 btw) went ahead and read the nine or so translated light novels.
When I stayed with ghostlightning for a month in the Philippines, I berated him a lot about being obsessed with, “fail.” He is almost guaranteed to like a show or character more, proportional to how much they fail, in proportion to how badass they are. He argued that failure makes characters and shows more interesting, and that no one likes Mary/Marty Sue characters who do everything right. I argued, “then why are those characters and shows so popular?” He said something to the effect, “because of lamefags.”
I mean, duh. Popular stuff always sucks, amiright? But we get it, nonetheless. I get why my brother and friend adore Kirito (whom, may I remind you, is *actually fourteen years old*), while they both tend to shy away from characters that they, “can’t respect.” It’s because some people really like heroes, who are not human, and not relatable, and don’t fail, and kick lots of ass. Fantasy characters. Should be obvious, really.
Kirito is Mary Sue as all fuck, and as jpmeyer illustrates in omo’s comments, so is Asuna. Kirito is a perfect chuunibyou hero, and Asuna is a perfect complimentary heroine.
The idea behind the word, “chuunibyou” (“second year of middle school sickness”), is that it refers to the inflated sense of self that second-year middle schoolers (age 13 in Japan) have, and how they think they’re amazing and special because of the trivial bullshit they’re good at. Yet, I don’t think you have to be thirteen to suffer some degree of chuunibyou that would make you love Kirito.
Omo points out in his post that the most chuunibyou thing about Kirito is that he’s a solo player in an MMORPG. He claims that, “only idiots play solo.” I want to make an addendum to that, even if it’s just to save my own ass.
I play MMOs solo for the most part, because I don’t, “play MMOs,” the way an MMO player considers someone to be, “playing an MMO.” I got to the level cap in Tera Online playing solo, but I didn’t really do anything after that. An MMO player will probably say, “you’re exempt from the argument being made, because you don’t, ‘play,’ MMOs.” I guess that’s fair to say.
Tera Online is one of my alltime favorite video games, even though I have no real interest in doing endgame group stuff. If it means I don’t play MMOs, then I’m okay with that. But, while I’m not opposed to being called an idiot, I don’t think I get an idiot card just for what I did in Tera. I thoroughly enjoyed the game, so it’s not like I did something sucky. But if we’re saying that Kirito really does, “play MMOs,” and is a solo player, maybe he’s an idiot. Or he would be in real life, but because he’s a chuunibyou hero, he isn’t, and that’s the disconnect which Omo feels. I don’t feel it from his soloing because I don’t, “play,” MMOs, but I still feel it from how he always does everything right and gets all the girls.