First off, this plot is very plausible from the way it is setup; from how Kirito is the “go to” guy for the mission and the motive of the killer(s) in question. Something that is very important in the sequel of any anime that has seemingly ended completely is for their to be a logical reason as to why it would continue…and it does just that within the realm of reason. Kirito was given an option to do this, whether-or-not he wanted to was completely up to him and it makes more sense that it was done that way (I say this compared to the second arc of the original Sword Art Online where Kirito had to forcibly enter another VRMMORPG “Alfheim online” to save Asuka from the clutches of Nobuyuki Sugou. I was not a fan of this reasoning). The way it was executed was very good initially, but I later had mixed feelings once things were reaching their high point.
The plot unfolds once our protagonists figure out how to solve the incident based off of what is happening, which is tried-and-true for anytime you are attempting to solve a mystery or a problem; gain understanding and figure out a method for finding the solution. Something I liked was how they took an extended amount of time to weed out possible alternative methods to eventually arrive at the conclusion of how the “Death Gun” murders were being performed. It is always good to elaborate on incidents like this to be sure that the protagonist actually has sufficient understanding of the situation before he figures out what is happening, this avoids it looking like they have an arcane 6th sense which is providing them with what they need to know; it is highly unrealistic. The problem, however, comes from how Asuna deducts what is going on and just who Death Gun is during episode 11 “What it Means to be Strong” without ANY information whatsoever and she does not even say that her A.I. daughter “Yui” provided any information either. Just that one little nuance made the ending feel rather “moot” to me, it attempted to force a moment at the end to tug on your heart-strings but instead it just caused severe annoyance due to its illogical plot properties.
Asada, better known as “Sinon”, is the deuteragonist during the series and feels more-or-less unimportant to the entire plot. The problem is that Sinon’s story does not give any significance to the main plot of the Gun Gale Online arc, she just acts as a secondary character that introduces her own problems into the fray. Nothing she does is really too impactful on how things play out, and her own personal issues does not really tie-in as to why things are going about what they are; Sinon merely acts as a link between Kirito and Death Gun and any other faceless character could have easily played the role that she was assigned. While I do think her character is well done (which I will explain later on in the “Character Development & Impressions” section), what she brought to the table did not really enable the plot to move forward at all, it acted as nothing more than a self-contained story that acted as a filler to the main plot.
Overall I think the plot was fairly good and that it was moved along in a timely manner, but some of the inconsistencies in logic during the very end of the arc softened the blow on how good it could have been. I also hate that Sinon had so much described about exactly what she is dealing with and who she is but does not really contribute anything to the story plot wise. Overall, it was not too bad.
Character Development & Impressions
There are a number of characters presented within Sword Art Online II, the main ones being Kirito, Sinon and Death Gun. I feel that these characters were given their fair share of development considering that they each had different circumstances attributed towards them. In the following paragraphs I will take the time to discuss each of them in detail.
Kirito is the main character, as he was in the first Sword Art Online, yet I feel like they are trying too hard to make this character have something to deal with. Right after his first victory in the 1-on-1 qualifier for the “Bullet of Bullets 3” tournament in Gun Gale Online, they introduce the main antagonist and allow him to trigger a suppressed memory from Kirito’s past which followed him throughout the entirety of the series. I feel like this development tool was lazily done and did nothing to really impact the series or his own personal views, it effected Sinon’s perspective a great deal more and seemed like hollowed emotion that was designed without the character in mind. In fact, I do not feel like Kirito really changed much at all, he did most of his growing during the first season of Sword Art Online and this season, if anything, shows how set-in-stone his foundations are.
Sinon is a basket case, developed by her traumatizing event as a child which left her with nightmares and a hellish fear of guns. Normally someone would say this clashes with her playing Gun Gale Online, but it is a strange occurrence this is entirely too plausible (you can argue that Gun Gale Online is a virtual real and therefore nothing there is real). Also, her ambition for wanting to do well in Gun Gale Online is fitting, yet I feel they should have made Sinon use pistols instead of a sniper rifle in order to really show strides in getting over her phobia. This character grew the most during this series because she was so unsure whether-or-not she had did the right thing, and even if it was in self-defense or for the safety of others, Asada had to come to the conclusion that she committed a horrible act against someone (deserved or not). Meeting Kirito and witnessing how he attempted to move forward despite his past inspired her to do the same. By the end of this arc she has not completely changed, but she has built up a basic foundation to begin forgiving herself and carry the burden of her past without letting it hinder her day-to-day life.
Death Gun is a character that is stuck within the “glory” of his past, longing for those days again and having a skewed view of reality since the digital and real world are one and the same to him. I have a big mixture of emotions when it comes to this character because, while they are undoubtedly wrong, I also see the logic behind his insanity. The biggest problem I have with this character design is how the author makes him out to be a complete bad guy without any sensible motivation behind it, but I think he could have possibly been saved during the course of the anime (Which I will explain later in the “Miscellaneous” section). Overall, I think he was an empty antagonist who served his purpose but seemed to be created for the sake of drama. I feel like if they added more depth to his back story he would have been a better character.
SPOILER WARNING! – This section will contain loads of sensitive material that may very well spoil the plot of the Gun Gale Online arc of Sword Art Online II. You are only advised to read this section if you have completed the above listed episodes or simply do not want to start/finish the anime while wanting to read my ideals on what is happening. You have been warned.
Shouichi Shinkawa was responsible for the deaths of many, both in Sword Art Online (Second-in-Command of “Laughing Coffin”) and in Gun Gale Online. I can understand why most would view him as a detestable person, he is one in the rawest sense of the word. Killing is never right, but it is understandable in circumstances in which you have no choice, but doing it for pleasure is something inexcusable to a decent human being. Though, what I want to talk about is something more expressed about his personality in Sword Art Online II, and that is how I feel that Asada’s rejection of his affection directly contributed to his insanity within the Gun Gale Online arc.
Love and affection, obsession and infatuation, they can sometimes work hand-in-hand and can sometimes be mistakenly interchangeable. Shouichi revealed during the end of the series that he was drawn towards Asada because she had actually killed someone in the real world, because he murdered in Sword Art Online, he was rather intrigued that someone had the gall to commit the atrocity without hiding within virtual reality. Though, it seems that he really did care about Asada and wanted nothing more than to be someone special to her. It is only natural to want your affections returned when you love someone dearly, but what happened next might have really been Shouichi’s undoing and I do feel like, while it is entirely his decision to do these things, Asada may have played a small role in it.
It was clear from when he mentioned “him” that he was talking about Kirito because of the incidents that he had witnessed. Shouichi had been rejected numerous times, pushed off of Sinon when he tried to hug her twice, and she even snatched her hand away when he had taken hold of it. In contrast, Kirito held her for a long time during episode 6 “Showdown in the Wilderness”. Not to mention she was seen sitting provocatively with Kirito in a cave during episode 11 “What it Means to be Strong”. Finally, at the end of the Bullets of Bullets 3 tournament in episode 13 “Phantom Bullet”, she hugs him tightly of her own volition and allows a grenade to kill them both to end the tournament as dual winners. Shouichi was probably mad because he had a bad character type because all of his points went into agility because of advice of Zexceed, a topped rank player in Gun Gale Online. Not being able to protect Sinon and make himself out to be a strong player, regardless of the amount of hours he has logged, makes him feel inferior to Kirito and his jealousy got the best of him.
Like I said, I do believe this is all Shouichi’s fault and that Asada has absolutely NO obligation to give his feelings back, but if you are going to hit a guy with unrequited love then it is best to be direct about it. Do not lead someone on when they expect something from you and you are doing nothing more than pretending to meet that expectation. If she would have given him a chance then maybe that would have given his life enough purpose to where he did not need to be involved in the “Death Gun” persona, or maybe if she had shown him equal affection as she had Kirito then he would at least feel that his kindness was worth it. It is easy to see how jealousy could play a factor in his motivation to hurt others, love is powerful and can easily fill someone with hatred if used improperly.