Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online
Episode 6

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 6 of
Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online ?

Last week's episode wound up being pure recap, although the commentary offered by Pito and M was entertaining and vaguely hinted at some greater developments for the series. This episode gets back to business by explaining how things played out from the end of episode one. It brought up several interesting observations, including how I was totally wrong about the hair colors of the girls mostly matching up with their avatars; only one of the girls looks even remotely like her avatar. Also, the gymnastics teams girls were using the game in a similar way to the professionals, as a team-building exercise. At least, that's how it started out, but now they're fully invested in the game and want to win the next Squad Jam, so they came to pick Karen's brain about how she beat them. Afterward, a trip back home to Hokkaido for Spring Break brings Karen back together with her gaming friend, who drops an obligatory reference to the main series by revealing herself to be one of the unnamed duelers who lost to Zekken (aka Yuki) in Alfheim. (This part of the story is happening during the time frame for the Mother's Rosario story arc, so it's a fitting reference.)

However, both the gymnastic team meeting and the brief Hokkaido visit are just setup for the real meat of the episode, when Karen gets a visit from Goushi Asougi, who claims to be M's player. The details he lays out make it clear that he isn't an imposter, spilling just about everything on Pito except her true identity, though nothing yet contradicts my theory that Pito is the singer Elsa. If so, she's got some serious issues behind that seemingly pleasant demeanor, like an obsession with death that runs so deep that nothing short of true mortal danger can satisfy her. She even regrets narrowly missing the SAO disaster because she had a career-defining event that day; her debut performance, perhaps? Her obsession with Laughing Coffin based on survivor accounts isn't a healthy sign either. Now she wants to participate in the second Squad Jam and win or literally die trying, even if that means resorting to suicide. And because Goushi is so head-over-heels in love with her, he's allowed himself to be ensnared by her death obsession, even if it means his own death. He's just afraid of dying first and leaving Pito behind.

Sadly, Pito's mentality isn't as ridiculous as this episode tries to makes it sound. If Pito is indeed Elsa, it also doesn't seem unlikely that she could hide this side of herself from the public by venting through GGO. Whatever stretch there may be to this scenario, it does set up the main plot for the rest of this season, if not the series as a whole. Karen will enter Squad Jam again to set up a 1-1 duel to take out Pito, which is about the only thing Goushi can think of to satisfy Pito in lieu of victory or death. This was blatantly foreshadowed back in episode 2 – and we get the flashback again just in case we forgot about it! This also sets up a stark contrast between the healthier way that the gymnastics club is approaching the game and Pito's utterly unhealthy approach.

The one other interesting detail is the kabe-don scene so classic in shoujo manga. Of course, it takes on a significantly different flavor when the woman is the more physically imposing of the two and – as Karen remarks – the passion involved isn't directed at her. But that's just a small sidelight to the bigger plot movements of this episode. There may not have been any real action this week or any VR activity of any kind, but this was necessary setup for the next story arc. Final prediction: perhaps Karen's friend, who the epilogue indicates will join her this time around, will turn out to be the petite blonde avatar featured in the opener?

Rating: B

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

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