Review for Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online Part 2 - Collector's Edition
I know, I’m late with another review, but this time it’s not my fault. I actually started reviewing this set the day the discs dropped on my doormat. It’s just that the review discs only became available a couple of months after Gun Gale Online Part 2 came out on retail. But to be totally honest, I didn’t realise that at all. I still thought that this set was yet to be released, and I was patiently waiting for All the Anime to set a release date. It’s understandable given the way they tend to release multi-part shows, especially if you’ve been collecting Twin Star Exorcists for example. So, if like me, the release of this set went under the radar for you, then there might still be a point to this review beyond my usual obsessive compulsion to write about everything I watch.
Karen Kohiruimaki has a complex about her height. She’s six foot tall in a country where the average height is a lot lower, so she’s introverted, shy, and self-conscious. Naturally she’s a loner, and moving to Tokyo to go to college in a big metropolitan city has made no difference. Returning home to Hokkaido for a visit, and talking to her friend Miyu, she learns about the virtual MMORPG craze, taking off again after the Sword Art Online tragedy, with the new safer Amusphere technology. She can be who she wants to be online; she can be normal.
The first game she tries is Alfheim Online, and the random avatar generator makes her a tall, elegant elf... 37 games later, and she finally gets a cute, short avatar that she names Llenn. It’s only then that she stops to take a look at the game she’s playing. This pixie-like button of a character will have to be a hardnosed gunslinger in Gun Gale Online. It’s time to go to boot camp.
Llenn was introduced to the world of Gun Gale Online by the eccentric and outrageous Pitohui, another rare female avatar in a mostly male avatar dominated game. But for some reason, when it came to the Squad Jam tournament, she insisted that Llenn team up with the enigmatic ‘M’ instead of her. Things started to become clear about Pitohui’s self-destructive nature after the first Squad Jam ended. Now that the second Squad Jam is here, and Llenn is teaming up with her friend from home Miyu, a.k.a. Fukaziroh, winning is just secondary; Llenn has to play to save Pitohui’s life!
The concluding six episodes of Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online are presented across two discs from All the Anime.
7. Second Squad Jam
8. Booby Trap
9. Ten-Minute Massacre
10. The Devil’s Comeback
11. Psycho LLENN
Gun Gale Online gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer, and it’s on a par with the mainstream SAO series. The character designs are appealing, the world design is intricate, and the animation is fluid and energetic. There is a smidge of banding in a couple of scenes, but nothing too overwhelming. Of course with just 3 episodes on a disc, you shouldn’t really expect issues with compression and the like.
You have the choice between PCM 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese with subtitles and signs. I went with the Japanese and was very happy with it. The actors are suited to the characters, the action comes across with impact and the stereo gives it enough space to feel immersive. The music also suits the story well. The subtitles are accurately timed, although there are no translations for the theme songs.
The discs present their content with animated menus and this time around there is no problem with any of my players.
Here you’ll find an audio commentary on episode 8 featuring Tomori Kusunoki (Llenn), Yoko Hikasa (Pitohui), and Chinatsu Akasaki (Fukaziroh). Naturally this is in Japanese with English subtitles.
There are two commentaries here, the one on episode 10 features Tomori Kusunoki, Chinatsu Akasaki, and Ayaka Asai (Eva), while the one on episode 12 features Tomori Kusunoki, Yoko Hikasa, and Chinatsu Akasaki again.
There are also 3:22 of PVs and 1:34 of CMs.
Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online falls down for me in a very important way, one which is only hinted at in the first half, but becomes blindingly obvious in this second half. It’s all about logic and believability when it comes to the characters. To explain further, I’ll have to talk about spoilers, so stop right now if you haven’t seen part 1, and don’t want to know more.
Llenn is introduced to the world of Gun Gale Online by this radical player named Pitohui, a girl who fights with no mercy, and has a seriously sadistic streak. But for some reason, she wants Llenn at arm’s length, and doesn’t take part in the first Squad Jam tournament with her, leaving it instead to her acquaintance M. Episode 6 revealed why when M confided in Llenn about Pitohui’s destructive streak. She missed out on the Sword Art Online incident that claimed so many lives, and she has ever since wanted to play in such a game with real consequences. M tells Llenn that Pitohui will take part in the next Squad Jam tournament to win, and that if she dies in the game, she will die in real life. And that’s where we left the show at the end of Part 1.
Now there is some throwaway chat about this, but it’s never made clear just how this will happen, whether losing in the game will mean that the player behind Pitohui will actually commit suicide, or whether the game is rigged in some way to make it happen. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s nothing compared to Llenn’s reaction. She decides that she will save Pitohui’s life. All well and good you might think, but her method of choice is to beat her in Squad Jam, to ‘kill’ her. Given that this is the condition that will ‘end’ Pitohui’s life to begin with, it makes no logical sense whatsoever. There comes a point where Llenn’s reasoning is explained, but given that she has to explain it to Pitohui, that’s a hell of a gamble.
In terms of content, most of this collection of episodes is devoted to the Squad Jam 2 tournament, which sees teams competing in the gun frenzy team tournament once more, with some familiar faces from the previous tournament, such as the Amazons, and of course Llenn and her new partner Fukaziroh (Karen and best friend from home, Miyu), and of course Pitohui, M and a group of masked minions. There’s some great animated action sequences, plenty of different environments and strategies, and a whole lot of gunplay and fighting action. It looks fantastic. The last half of the final episode takes us back out into the real world for the aftermath, but for five and a half episodes, the focus remains securely online; having set up the characters in the first half of the series, there’s little need to see their real lives for contrast now.
The one thing that stuck with me though, even more than the character illogic, was that once again, a Sword Art Online product just has to get nasty. There are moments during the fights where any semblance of sportsmanship or enjoyment just vanishes. I mentioned already how Pitohui has a sadistic streak. She’s not alone, and there were scenes where I just felt uncomfortable instead of entertained. Thankfully there’s no scope for the implied sexual assault that underpinned the story of Sword Art Online’s Fairy Dance arc, but this series instead showed me that you don’t need that to make the audience wince, and hate a character more than the writer probably intended. Pitohui needs to remain sympathetic for the show’s conclusion to work, and I don’t think she does so in this show.
In the end Gun Gale Online is a very well put together show, the characters are fun for the most part, the action really works well, the drama is good when the logic works, while the comedy keeps it mostly light when needs be. Other than the Gun Gale Online arc of Sword Art Online Season 2, this is the best iteration of the franchise I have seen to date. It has its flaws though, which keep me from recommending it without reservation.