ソードーアートオンライン (Sword Art Online)
Sword Art Online gets a lot of hate, as in, a tonne of it. What I do not understand is why people even bother hating it. Why waste your time? I feel like people have never heard of the saying ‘any publicity is good publicity’. The farthest I go with my disdain for certain shows are 1) if they are brought up in conversation and 2) if my opinion is asked for. Even then I hold back that instinct to tear open boxes marked ‘garbage anime’, instead offering my dislike for a series. Never hate. Hate implies we were wronged somehow.
Anyway, the problem does not revolve entirely around the characters, as many people would lead you to believe, but I will leave that for another time. Kirito and Asuna are the only characters that show any progression. Both have their moments of brilliance, in their dialogue and actions. However, I believe one scene between Kirito and Klien set the stage early for the rest of the series to be perfect.
How well do you remember SAO? The scene I am thinking of was likely brushed aside immediately after watching it in episode one. Do you remember Kirito teaching Klien the basics of the game? Fairly forgettable to be honest, in terms of story and character progression it falls flat. Other than telling us that Kirito knows the bare bones of the combat system, he is still inexperienced. Do you remember Kirito asking Klien if he wanted to continue battling boars? How about Klien declining Kirito because he was hungry? No? That is it; the evidence lies in this scene. It sounds absurd, but bear with my ramblings for a quick second.
Kirito explains eating in the virtual world. When you eat it “tricks your body into believing you are full” without actually eating anything. A trick of the system to convince your body its sustenance requirements has been met. Huh. So does the system stop at the digestive system and other natural bodily functions or are emotions also affected? No, you cannot deceive yourself; you know what emotions you feel at all times… right? Well, I cannot say I am convinced.
This is a game, they live in a virtual reality where everything you see and touch does not exist. You may be thinking of one thing, but the computer could potentially interpret another. Who is to say the NerveGear is not tricking you into thinking you are happy?
That brings me to the emotional spectrum. Since the inside of the game is fake, their bodies and the food they eat are fake anything they feel should be, well, fake. In this case, I bring up love. It boils down to Asuna waking up to Kirito next to her on her bed in episode ten. She tells Kirito of her dream in where she awoke back in the real world to realize all her experiences she had in SAO were not real. Taking into consideration every interaction they experience is through virtual reality, they have been living in this game for almost two years. At some point it must have crossed their minds that absolutely everything about their new lives are fabricated and subsequently should believe nothing is real.
Every time they feel anything, whether happiness, sadness or anger the brainwaves are read and interpreted by the NerveGear. And again I will repeat, their brainwaves are read and interpreted by the NerveGear. Their minds are not physically in the game or connected in any way. Ignoring how on Earth this technology would even work, there could be faults in the system, someone might be feeling happiness, but the machine might read it as something completely different.
You know how you call up your bank and the automated voice asks you for the purpose of your call, you then tell the machine you want to “raise your credit limit” and it informs you it cannot understand the words that are coming out of your mouth? “I’m sorry, did you mean to cancel your credit card”? Imagine that, except during their time in SAO one in ten of all players tried to take a piss and ended up puking. I would find it hard to stay positive in a death game after that, eh?
Each person thinks differently, their brain could give off different signals/frequencies for different feelings. One person’s happiness could be interpreted as another’s sadness by the NerveGear. The easiest way to explain it is through music. Who knows the difference between analog and digital music? In the beginning of sound recording a sound would pass through a machine and the sound would vibrate a diaphragm, which was directly connected to a needle. These old machines looked a lot like record players. When the diaphragm picked up a sound it would vibrate the needle and etch the sound wave into whatever material you wished. That is why many believe vinyl sounds and feels more natural. Now, digital captures the sound and its vibrations and converts them into numbers. When played back the numbers are re-converted into sound.
The point is overloading can happen in digital music when too many sounds are put together. The sounds come back out muddled and distorted. Had anyone that worked on the NerveGear technology thought of the sheer weight of human emotions? These are not sounds to be interpreted by mere numbers; they are complex connections in the brain. Just imagine the stress this NerveGear faces each day with all the sporadic teenage emotions flying about. I am trying to say I do not think any of what happened in Sword Art Online was real. Just like Asuna’s dream both her and Kirito should have woken up and believed the whole two years to be a dream. I still very much enjoyed the progression of love I saw within this series, but I wish they could have taken the discussion of whether their online lives were real or not more seriously.