Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online
Episode 5

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 5 of
Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online ?

So the whole incident with M turning on LLENN at the end of last episode boils down to this: Pito left a note for M to read at a certain time stating that she'd murder him if he got killed in the game (including by suicide), with the implication that she'd do it in real life. While this just sounds like hyperbole, M thinks the real-life Pito is crazy enough that she might actually do it. Hence he sees killing LLENN as his only way out, since that allows him to become the team leader and then surrender. Whether this says more about how cowardly M is or how intimidating Pito is remains to be seen, but if my theory about Pito's identity is correct, this just puts a further amusing twist on the whole situation. As the end of the episode proves, in-game characterization and reality can be wildly different.

As LLENN decides to go solo to win against the final team, what follows is the most fun demonstration of wall-to-wall action that the series has produced yet. Rather than adhere to tactical guidance provided by others, these battle sequences involve LLENN fully taking charge for the first time and doing what originally earned her the moniker of Pink Devil, as she uses her speed, size, ability to hide, and up-close firepower to bring the fight to the opposing team. Happily, the story finds a nice balance in giving LLENN a chance to shine without portraying the opposing team as pushovers. M coming back into the scene to bail LLENN out when she gets in a tight spot is also welcome, as it returns that feeling of to the event and gives M a chance to shine in the sniper-on-sniper part of the duel.

Many of the action beats in this episode might be typical of a shonen action story, but LLENN/Karen herself makes all the difference. Sure, the cute factor is strong here, but her decisiveness, the way she gets so perturbed about M being incongruously pathetic, and her swift transitions between panic and exuberance are all endearing. So is the way she gets freaked out when she thinks her gun is talking to her, which was one of my favorite moments in the episode. Though the animation isn't perfect this week, LLENN gets some great facial expressions to go with the exciting fight choreography and backs it with some solid musical support too. I also liked how one scene showed the disadvantage of LLENN's size; she's unlikely to wrestle her gun free of the bigger woman's grasp in close combat.

The episode would have been great just sticking to its wrap-up of Squad Jam, but the revelation at the end that the pack of girls Karen had passed were admiring her stature rather than being critical of her height was a good finishing touch. I got suspicious of that gang when they panned across the group and the hair colors matched up to the final team of the Squad Jam, and I was sure of it once their leader admitted that she wished she were taller, as that raised the strong possibility that they were doing the same thing as Karen by playing their diametrically-opposed physical counterparts in the game. This is also the same group of girls we saw at the end of episode 1, so that means we haven't seen the last of them either.

The only major flaw in the episode is that it ends without giving the slightest indication of where the story might go next. This initial arc is setting a tough act to follow, but nothing that's been shown so far gives me any cause for concern.

Rating: A-

Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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