To put a long story short, 1/4 of this arc was genuinely good, 1/2 was fairly mediocre, and the last 1/4 was god awful. Oh, and A-1 Studios can do a really nice crotch shot.
To put it crudely, this was definitely the weakest pair of episodes so far. I mean for fucks sake, the antagonist is wearing a fucking top hat (and he clearly can’t rock it like I can). While I’m admittedly interested in Sweet Ass Online (although not nearly as much in love with it as everyone else, who have somehow managed to get this ranked within the MAL Top 50), this was not very good. After a surprisingly sweet encounter in the fields between Kirito and Asuna, the whole arc devolved into a complete and total mess.
It’s far easier to talk about what Sweet Ass Online does well, so I’m just going to start off with that. To me, Kirito is at least a pretty fascinating character. As we can see in the beginning of episode 5, Kirito is far more comfortable with his surroundings in the virtual reality of Aincrad. From what I can gather from the beginning moments of the first episode, Kirito is an escapist. During the beta phase, Kirito looked forward to playing Sweet Ass Online everyday, and is at the very least, somewhat socially awkward around other people. However, in Aincrad, where what’s real and what’s not has been called into question, everyone’s place in society has been turned on its head and reversed. Kirito, who at first finds solace in Aincrad, is now the realist who enjoys and treasures his time in Aincrad, while everyone else is running from the virtual reality now turned hell hole. He’s able to relax in a field and nap, while everyone else is being a soppy pussy. To me at least, that’s something that’s something to chew on.
Another boon to Sweet Ass Online’s name is that the world building is generally solid. While they still haven’t addressed how the physical bodies of the players are still alive (I’m guessing life support), they’ve been using the first six episodes to elaborate on and develop the world that the characters inhabit. Through the earlier episodes they’ve been addressing contradictions in the virtual world. So at the very least, that’s been done pretty well.
Also, the butts are nice, voluminous, and detailed. This is pretty critical in a show which is going through a rough patch as bad as this.
Unfortunately, everything else is about this arc is a complete mess. The first offender is the atmosphere. To put it quickly, it’s completely nonexistent. There’s evident effort to create tension, but it all falls through despite the urgency of the matter. One notable scene is the confrontation in the end of episode five. What started off as a somewhat interesting confrontation completely fell apart and turned into a good ol’ Black Rock Shooter screamfest. So much for subtlety! Better luck next time!
Even worse than that is the resolution. So apparently, your spouse becoming braver than you is a valid reason to kill her. Yeah. Really. I’m not buying that crap. Man versus Man conflict is complicated. It’s not like Man versus Nature where Jaws can eat a group of teenagers because he’s the head asshole of the sea. What makes this worse is that they actually did give Grimlock somewhat plausible motivations in the first place, which was that he wanted to take her accessories, money, and make it rain. Shallow as that sounds, I can at least see that happening, but no, we get the sub par reasoning just to give our main heroine a couple of lines and some depth. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. Apparently Asuna would make an amazing lawyer, since she asks the guy one question and he breaks down into a sopping mess immediately. Furthermore, in what I hope to have been a Lone Ranger cross over, the four guild members walk off together into the sunset. Fantastic.
I actually like SAO, despite the amount of initial hype (and by extension, hate) this has gotten. However, since I’m no opinion apologist, I’ll be fairly blunt: episode five could have easily been salvaged, despite an oddly out of place ending. Unfortunately, episode six’s finale was genuinely poor, and was vaguely reminiscent of something brown and pungent which comes out of my ass. Brutal? Perhaps, but I’d rather not downplay my opinions.