Sword Art Online II: Episode 14.5

De-briefing

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This is a recap episode told from Shino’s point of view, the break you might need from all the action, explanations and whatnot of SAO II.

There’s a limit to how much you can retell in one episode, so here’s my debriefing for anyone who wants a summary of what happened in the first cour of SAO II.


Introduction to Gun Gale Online & the case at hand

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We’ve had the beautiful steel castle in the sky and another fantasy world with elves and beasts in the previous arcs, so it’s time for a totally different setting. Gun Gale Online (GGO) is set in a future post-apocalyptic world and as its name suggests, players are expected to wield guns. GGO is just like any other VMMORPGs (or in our world, MMORPGs), with one exception, in-game money can be converted to real life cash. This sees a lot of serious gamers in this game and frankly speaking, I won’t mind such a concept in our world if being a serious gamer could earn me enough to get by.

GGO was just another VMMORPG with more serious full-time gamers than others, until a prominent player, Zexceed, got shot at in-game by a mysterious cloaked player and dies in real life. After announcing his name and deliberately shooting at the a TV screen in-game, which was showing Zexceed’s interview, Death Gun became rather famous within a short while. This case caught the attention of Kikuoka Seijirou, a member of the Virtual Division (or  Second Separated Advanced Network Division, Technology Bureau, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications) and he enlisted the help of Kirito to investigate the mystery of this “Death Gun”.


Characters involved & their roles

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Asada Shino (Sawashiro Miyuki) suffers from a post traumatic stress disorder after shooting and killing a robber while trying to save her mother when she was young. Whenever she sees a gun, or even a finger gun, she will go traumatised and start vomiting. As a result, she hasn’t been able to make any friend since she moved to Tokyo, except Shinkawa Kyouji, and has been bullied constantly. On the other hand, when she enters the world of GGO, she becomes the fearless Sinon who is known as the top sniper in GGO. Believing that Sinon’s strength will grow on Shino in real life, she has been trying to get stronger in-game as Sinon and took the upcoming Bullet of Bullets Tournament as her chance to become the strongest player in GGO. Before the tournament, she met Kirito and both of them unwittingly became partners to defeat Death Gun.

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Our hero from the SAO era, Kirito (Matsuoka Yoshitsugu) returns to save the world again! This time, he took on a girly avatar in the violent world of GGO and his sole goal is to find out Death Gun’s identity and to uncover the mystery of Death Gun’s murders. Fortunately for him, he met Sinon right after he entered the game with her help, bought some decent weapon and combat gear. Even in the world of GGO, he still opts for an energy sword; I guess Kirito’s image only allows him to wield swords. From then on, Sinon and Kirito just kept running into each other. Eventually, even though Sinon wasn’t the least bit willing to cooperate with Kirito at all, after finding out about his gender, Kirito defeated Death Gun with Sinon’s help.

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Death Gun, our antagonist of this arc, wears a cloak and speaks with a robotic voice at all times; everything about him just spells ominous. He first killed Zexceed in a rather high profile murder, and continued to kill off other players in a rather showy manner. He entered in the Bullet of Bullets Tournament in order to kill off more players and to become the strongest player in GGO. Shinkawa Kyouji (Hanae Natsuki) is Shino’s only friend and emotional support since she moved to Tokyo alone, he was also the one who introduced Shino to GGO in hopes that it would cure her of her PTSD. Shinkawa was also bullied at school and is pressured to take over his father’s hospital. Although he had been playing GGO far longer than Shino had, his character is inferior to hers, because he had mis-invested his stat points, following Zexceed’s advice.

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Asuna and the ALO gang don’t appear very often in this arc because none of them converted their characters to GGO, but they watched Kirito throughout the tournament and provided the support Kirito needed, when he wanted to help Shino overcome her trauma.


Bullet of Bullets tournament

The Bullet of Bullets tournament (BoB) is a PvP event in GGO, consisting of two rounds. The winner(s) of both rounds will get varying types of prizes, depending on their avatar types and placings. However, as Kirito noted, players who wish to receive their prizes would have to divulge their personal information such as real name and address in order to receive the prizes (episode 05).

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The preliminary round is held in an elimination style, where players are divided into groups and paired up with a random opponent. From every match, on the winner gets to proceed to the next round and the top 30 players will get to participate in the final round. During the preliminary round, Kirito defeated all his opponents with the same technique – by charging at his opponents, slicing their bullets with his sword and finally defeating them with a swing of that lightsaber. As a result, he got a lot of attention from everyone who was impressed with this pretty-faced newcomer with an unusual but effective battle style. Naturally, Death Gun noticed Kirito too and approached the latter, demanding to know if he’s “the real deal” (episode 05). Kirito then realises that he met Death Gun before, in the death game of Sword Art Online, and that Death Gun was a member of the PK guild, Laughing Coffin. Back in SAO, the lead group took on the mission to attack and imprison the notorious guild for the atrocious murders they had committed. The memories of Laughing Coffin made Kirito remember how he had killed 3 members of Laughing Coffin during the clash between the PK guild and the lead group. That made him a little unstable, but it didn’t affect his performance at all and he defeated even Sinon in an almost impossible manner (episode 06).

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The final round is held in a “battle royale” where the 30 players are teleported to a huge map and the last man standing will be declared the winner. It wasn’t long before Kirito grouped up with Sinon and both of them watched from afar as Pale Rider take Dyne out with his amazing acrobatic and gun skills. Just when we start to suspect Pale Rider as a possible Death Gun, the real deal appears and kills Pale Rider with his signature black pistol (episode 08). Just who exactly is Death Gun, Sterben or Juushi X? After their next encounter with Death Gun in the Abandoned City, Sinon was held at gunpoint by Death Gun and very nearly lost her life irl until Kirito rescued her like the gallant hero he has always been (episode 09). They barely escaped from Death Gun and took refuge in a cave in the desert, where they came up with a new plan with the new information they gathered on Death Gun. Kirito speculated that Death Gun has an accomplice who would sneak into his victims’ houses and inject the victim with a deadly drug at the same time when Death Gun shoots them in-game. Kirito and Sinon then laid a trap for the cloaked gunner in the middle of the desert, where Kirito would act as the bait and Sinon would support him with her sniper rifle from afar. The final showdown between Kirito and Death Gun was intense, and I nearly thought that Kirito would lose out in some way. I think I was partially true, if it weren’t for Sinon’s help, Death Gun wouldn’t have gotten distracted and Kirito wouldn’t have gotten that unexplainable sudden increase in confidence (episode 12). After the exciting fight in-game, Shino logged out and opened her eyes to an empty apartment, to everyone’s relief. However, the fight isn’t over yet. Shinkawa came over to visit her but he turned out to be a part of the Death Gun scheme. A lengthy struggle with intervention from Kirito ended up with Shino bringing her old school bulky radio set down on her childhood friend’s head (episode 13). Finally, it was time to heave a sigh of relief because it is really over now.


Revelation & explanations

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The idea of Death Gun was started off when Zexceed deceived everyone in GGO about the benefits of investing in agility stat (episode 01). Shinkawa Kyouji is the younger son in the Shinkawa family who owns a hospital. His elder brother, Shinkawa Shouichi, had a weak constitution since young and Kyouji was the one whom was pressured to take over the hospital. Shouichi was a high-ranking member of the Laughing Coffin guild in SAO and his character name was Zaza.  After his return from SAO, his stories filled Kyouji with awe and wonder and Kyouji started to invest his entire life into GGO, hoping to create some sort of legend too. However, he mis-invested his stat points into agility, heeding Zexceed’s advice. Because of that, he was filled with hatred for Zexceed. Meanwhile Shouichi had started playing GGO as well, and after getting the cloak which can grant him invisibility, had been gathering real life information on other players in a fanatic manner. Shouichi offered Zexceed’s address to Kyouji and both of them started discussing and building up on the idea of Death Gun. Death Gun’s image was inspired by Shino herself; when Shinkawa heard about Shino’s story, he was so impressed with her (quote: you must be the only girl in Japan who had killed a man with a pistol) that he decided to incorporate the Type 54 pistol into the legend of Death Gun (episode 12).

How were the murders carried out? The Shinkawa brothers stole the deadly drug from their family’s hospital and, just as Kirito had predicted, sneaked into the victims’ houses on the day of the planned murder. The victim will be injected with the drug, which will make all muscles stop working, when Death Gun shoots at him/her in-game with the pistol. After Zexceed’s murder, people still weren’t taking Death Gun seriously enough for the Shinkawa brothers’ satisfaction. They decided to kill off more high-profile players in GGO to make sure that people took the legend of Death Gun more seriously. That explains why the killings felt like publicity stunts.


Resolutions & a new threat?

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One of the main issues of this arc was Shino and her PTSD associated with guns. I was quite glad that they didn’t rush the process of her overcoming of the trauma and make it seem like something magical which happened overnight. Right at the start of the arc, she was chasing after anything and everything in GGO which would make her stronger because she believed that it will make the real Shino stronger too. However, even after defeating the famous Behemoth (episode 02), she still couldn’t overcome her trauma and Sinon continued to chase after in-game strength, believing that it will cure her. Her encounter with Kirito taught her numerous things, including how acceptance is the key to overcoming her trauma. She took her first step in GGO when she pointed the scope-less Hecate II at Death Gun in a bid to help Kirito out. After logging out of GGO and getting assaulted by Shinkawa, she saved Kirito by knocking Shinkawa out with her new-found confidence in herself. All these wouldn’t have been possible for the old Shino. We also got to see her “defeating” the bullies and wiping that arrogant expression of their faces, when she fired a perfect shot from the model gun in front of them. As I’ve mentioned before, I really appreciate how gradual her transformation was. Even though I won’t have felt that something was off if Shino hadn’t collapsed against the wall after her perfect act in front of those bullies, that part added more sense of reality to the entire situation.

Also, with help from Asuna and gang, they managed to track down the cashier lady whom Shino saved back when she shot that robber and the lady, together with her child, came over to thank Shino in person. Having someone whom you saved express their gratitude in your face actually reminded me that what Shino did was more of a heroic deed than something despicable. All along, we’ve been focusing on the fact that she murdered someone with 3 shots, we’ve overlooked the fact that she actually saved not just her mum, but everyone else in the post office.

「もしその銃の弾が 現実世界のプレーやを 本当に殺すとしたら。
そして殺さなければ自分が、あるいは誰か大切な人が 殺されるとしたら。
その状況で、それでも君が引き金を引けるか?」
“If the bullets from that gun can kill a player in real life,
and if you don’t kill him, you or someone you love would get killed.
In that situation, will you still be able to pull that trigger?”

The Shinkawa brothers were of course, arrested and made to confess to their heinous crimes as Death Gun. There is still a third perpetuator out at large, whom I expect we’ll be tracking down in the next arc. Even though he’s being put behind bars, Shinkawa Shouichi left behind a rather disturbing message for Kirito which hints that there is something still going on.

「これが終わりじゃない。終わらせる力はお前にはない。すぐにお前もそれに築かされる。It’s Showtime.」
“This isn’t the end. You don’t have the power to end it, you’ll be made to realise this soon. It’s showtime.”

What does it all mean? We have a new arc for us to find out. So far, the first arc has been quite okay, not terrible but not too fantastic either. I don’t have too high expectations for the second arc and I’m just hoping that they don’t screw it up like how the second arc for SAO was.

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