If you are reading this speculative pipe dream of a post I will assume you have either seen the Alfheim arc of SAO and maybe know it’s problems or have read my review on the arc, linked here for your convenience, and know where I coming from. It may also help to read my first Revisionist Renaissance, to see where I was going with Aincrad arc and just get a look into my head when it comes to storytelling and directing. Or you don’t care about any of that and are here to consume my words, for which I am very thankful. Anyway with that out of the way, let’s get the show on the road.
So Alfheim is generally considered the worst arc of SAO, though I found GGO to be much harder to get through personally, and it’s not hard to see why. Asuna is made into a helpless maiden in a cage, and her warden wants to rape her to boot. The pacing is atrocious, the characters are usually even worse than they were in Aincrad and of course the new main girl had to be Kirito’s brocon, sister-cousin which is a harem character archetype I don’t understand the appeal of and generally hate. So with all of this against it, what would I do to remake the Alfheim arc? I’d scrap the whole fucking thing. You see there is one thing that could have been interesting if you think about it. Before the Alfheim arc begins Suguha gets into the game while Kirito is still trapped in Aincrad. She willingly enters a VRMMO while a major VRMMO scandal is still under way, in an attempt to better understand the love of her life. While I still hate the fact she loves Kirito instead of being an actual character with her own set of traits and personality separate from Kirito, this is probably the biggest single action she takes and the series just glosses over it because all A-1 and Kawahara care about is how she falls for Kirito (though some fans don’t help). Anyway that would be the story I would focus on if I were making Alfheim, rather than shoehorning Kirito and Asuna into yet another game which is not a really game, it should have been about Suguha and her experiences with MMOs and MMO communities. Alfheim should have been something of a coming of age tale for Suguha, not another barren story designed to show off Kirito’s power level. The point of the story should be to develop Suguha as a character separate from Kirito so that she could actually be a relevant character later down the line.
Also here’s one of the odd problems of SAO. It’s a harem with a pre-positioned “best girl”, none of the other girls even come close to Asuna with regards to their ability in battle or the sexiness of their design. This is bad for two reasons. One, of the few merits the harem genre generally has, one of them is for the audience to place themselves in the main character’s shoes and ship themselves with one of the myriad girls in love with main character. It’s a nice little escape from reality, especially if you happen to be single or have problems with romance in real life. Whether or not this is healthy is up for debate but it is something that makes the harem genre worthwhile. But Two, and more importantly, there is no way I can believe in any world where there is a “best girl.” See the thing with men going after chicks is that we have different tastes, we will never all agree that one chick is the hands down hottest girl in any given population. But for some reason Asuna is always considered the hottest girl in any game she plays and the same goes for the real world. This makes no fucking sense, not to mention I’m a weirdo and I’m actually bothered by how Asuna is clearly designed to be a cut above the other girls in SAO, as opposed to shows with a cast where the girls can better compete with each other. A good example would be Tokisaki Kurumi and Yatogami Tohka from Date A Live, regardless of which you like more I think we can agree that neither is designed to be clearly better than the other, they just appeal to different tastes which is how harem characters should be designed. In this sense Suguha was actually the girl I preferred from a design standpoint because she wasn’t designed to be way sexier than the other girls, she just appealed to tastes more in line with my own. Anyway to make this paragraph have an actual point, the idea is that Suguha should be able to compete with Asuna somehow and since her design is intended to be worse she needs something else to bolster her character, as do all the other girls. So giving Suguha an arc where she can really come into her own, is a crucial step towards making the harem work and it’s just an improvement to the storytelling.
As for where I would take the story, it should focus on Suguha’s guild. For example she gets help from her classmate who also plays the game, Recon, and after adjusting to the game she ends up joining his guild. From there she rapidly improves and as she does, she gains more confidence and independence. Then she could clash with guild leader, which then drives him to try and betray their race at the meeting just like what actually happened in the show, except with Suguha facing off against Eugene instead of Kirito. Hell you could even keep Aincrad’s time skips and episodic structure to allow for Suguha’s improvement to take up a reasonable time frame. The point is Suguha’s story should be one where she not only learns about MMO’s but where her MMO adventures lead her to deeper realizations about herself, and then sees her grow as a character. Suguha should end up a power player by the end, she should bring something to table that makes her valuable later on in the show. What that something is up for grabs, maybe it’s a specific skill set that allows her to stand out in battle, maybe it’s the confidence to go out adventuring on her own so that she can drag Kirito into other conflicts like in the Excalibur arc, or maybe she get’s over her crush on Kirito and hooks up with Klein. Whatever it is, what Suguha needs is something to make her presence in any given arc worthwhile for reasons beyond harem fan service, she should have something that makes her relevant to the narrative and justifies her presence in the story. And in my opinion, she needs her own adventure story to get that relevance. And making the Alfheim arc about Suguha means we never have to see Sugou ever again… so that’s a plus.
Anyway this is about all I have to say on the subject. Sorry if you wanted a more specific re-envisioning like I had in Part 1 of this series. Sadly this arc has so little to go on that I can’t borrow almost any pre-established elements like I could with Aincrad. But at the least I wanted to get my concept idea out there because even among good anime reviews and critiques, I don’t see a lot of this sort of thing. A lot of reviews are too rigid, my own are no exception more often than not, focusing on the same aspects of a show without branching out and looking through a new angle, in particular the directing is rarely talked about when compared to say animation quality or just summaries of the plot that is, not what the plot could be. Hopefully you all enjoyed this and I’ll see you in the next one.