Spoilers. Spoilers galore.
So I didn’t think I’d be writing about SAO War of the Underworld today, but lo and behold, here we are. But to be honest…the reason why I decided to write this is more for just a rant more than anything else so feel free to click away. Because I like episode 18 (aka the return of Kirito), but then I went to read the source material and realized that while the episode was good, it could have been amazing. Let’s talk (I’m going to try to not rant here) about why.
So in episode 18 (goddess if I miscounted and it’s not actually episode 18 of War of Underworld, I’m gonna be so sad), we finally got to see what Anitwt had been hyping up as “Kirito’s Nightmare”. From what I gathered, this scene was supposed to be straight up pain. Which you know? The nightmare included in the show was pretty painful. Kirito, haunted by the mistake he made with the guild he joined in Aincrad–Kirito, killing others in the same game and being just as brutal in other. Kirito, blaming himself for Eugeo’s death and wanting to rip out his own heart because he didn’t think he should be allowed to live. It was a very emotional scene, and I thought it was done rather well–from animation, to voice acting (goddess the voice acting was amazing). After watching it, I felt satisfied and a little closer to Kirito since I saw him truly break down into weakness and vulnerability that I’d never quite seen from him before.
Then I got wind…that the anime adaption didn’t do the nightmare scene justice. Apparently…we saw but one of three nightmares from the SAO light novels and even though I personally felt satisfied with the anime, I got curious. So I did look it up and read the source material…and wow. Just WOW. So…the two nightmares they left out change the scene entirely for me–and to be honest they change it for the better. The anime scene was good, but what it was supposed to be was AMAZING. The two nightmares before showed more of Kirito’s guilt–showcasing two other instances in which Kirito didn’t just fail to save someone–he purposely did nothing out of fear. The first scene shows him in the real world, choosing not to save a boy who he knew from being bullied, and the other a boy from Aincrad who he left to die at the hands of enemies while he chose to do nothing and save his own skin. The two scenes, paired with his guild’s deaths in the dungeon and all the people he killed, totally changed the way I felt about Kirito. In the anime, it seemed like he simply was having survivor’s guilt. However, the anime never really portrayed Kirito as being a coward in any instance. It never showed him making the choice not to save someone. Which is why it hits all the harder in the context of the extra nightmares. Because we do see him not just feeling guilty over surviving and killing–but by doing so by willingly let others die. By turning his back on people he could have saved and choosing to do nothing. It adds a delightfully tragic dimension to Kirito as a character, and it makes a little more sense why he holds so much guilt over Eugeo’s death. Because this was someone he truly cared about–his best friend–someone who he should’ve been able to save but was unable to once again.
So just thinking that the animation studio chose to take this out…kinda bugs me from a writer perspective. But like I also know there was probably good reason to not include it (for one–those instances weren’t shown in anime so it probably was cheaper to reuse animation from the scenes that did happen). Still, it changed the entire feel of Kirito’s guilt–his arc–and his vulnerability that we finally see. It added so much depth to him and would’ve added so much to the episode to make his return all the more impactful. It was such a disappointing choice to not give Kirito a full episode for his nightmare and instead condense into like 10 mins of an episode. The emotional impact on the viewers, the forgiveness he accepts at the end, his entire turmoil, it just would’ve been more epic and it would’ve made a lot more sense. It honestly goes the extra mile to give Kirito such depth that I would DARE someone to say he was too OP or Gary Stu after watching the full nightmare. But the fact of the matter is, the nightmare wasn’t included–for whatever reason it wasn’t. Which felt like an injustice to Kirito’s story overall. I personally don’t like it when adaptions do this–when they leave out these super important details that change the feel of a character or story. And I know that sounds stupid to say because all adaptions need to make sacrifices…but I find so often they take out poignant moments that change so much. It feels wrong. As a writer myself, I would hate for my work to be done dirty like that–to change the feel of a character’s trauma by leaving things out. Not fleshing them out to their full potential just so we could have more action. It feels wrong.
So there you have it. A mini rant on SAO War of Underworld, episode 18. I apparently felt strong enough to write about it…and yet I still don’t think it was a bad episode by any means. In fact, I still really like the nightmare sequence and Kirito’s whole return–I just wish it had reached it’s full potential. Anyway, til next time~!