Life seems to have returned to something resembling normal for Kirito and Asuna after the events of the first SAO series. The couple is still together in the real world and the digital one. Along with several of their other friends they’re still playing in the ALO world and getting on with their lives in the real world. Of course, there wouldn’t be a new series if there weren’t some kind of problem that they’d get called on to solve.
Before going any further into this, I have to acknowledge that there’s something about SAO that’s bothered me since the ALO storyline began. Basically, I’ve never been able to figure out why anyone who lived through an experience like being trapped in SAO would go back into a virtual world. I could maybe give Kirito a pass because he has a different viewpoint on games, but the fact that so many other people keep diving back into these worlds is truly baffling to me. It’s like people refuse to even acknowledge that there is a danger associated with this behavior.
Anyway, that’s my little rant. I’ll get back to the story now.
Since Kirito’s been in the real world, he’s decided to work toward creating realistic virtual reality technology. What this means, is that he’s now got a better understanding of the technology used to create virtual worlds and to immerse people in them. Despite everything he’s been through, his hope is to create a more realistic virtual world that he and Asuna can use to be with Yui. He has also been, on occasion, working with Seijiro Kikuoka. Seijiro works in the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Virtual Division and is the one who told Kirito how to get to Asuna when he woke up. He’s worked with Kirito to get information about the SAO incident but recent events have given him a new reason to contact him.
There is a new VRMMO called “Gun Gale Online” (GGO) has started to gain popularity. This game is based around guns and character types / attributes. An elite GGO player named Xexeed was recently found dead in his home. Around the time of his death he had appeared on a live stream in the game to talk about an upcoming tournament before he mysteriously spasmed and then logged out. Around the same time a mysterious cloaked figure calling himself “Death Gun” appeared in a virtual bar within the game. He pointed his gun at the character through a screen and shot him at the time of his death. Seijiro talks to Kirito to ask him if he believes that there could be a weapon or person capable of killing someone in real life. Even though Kirito is largely sure that this is impossible, Seijiro asks him to go into GGO to investigate.
In the 2nd and 3rd episode of the show, we are given an in depth introduction to a skilled GGO sniper named Sinon (real name Shino Asada). Despite being very skilled in GGO Sinon has a crippling fear of guns in real life. When she was a child she ended up stopping a robbery when the robber threatened to shoot her mother. During the struggle she shot the robber in the head and is haunted by the memory. Because the VR world doesn’t feel as real as the real world she uses the game as a type of immersion therapy to help her overcome her fear. Her thought process (which isn’t really well thought out) is that if she can achieve a certain level of accomplishment in the game, that she will overcome her fear. However, she doesn’t seem to be close to conquering that fear. Toward the middle of that same episode, Kirito talks to Asuna about investigating the case that Seijiro talked to him about and going in to GGO. After that he heads back to the hospital where he’s met by the nurse who used to take care of him. She’s been given instructions to monitor him while he’s in the game. Meanwhile, it looks like Death Gun has set his sights on Sinon as his next target. So, it looks like Sinon and Kirito are destined to meet up and, probably, team up.
So far GGO hasn’t blown me away. There’s been a lot of jumping back and forth between the VR world and the real world which was my least favorite part of the ALO arc. Even so, there were some decent game combat scenes in the first few episodes, there was nothing on the level of that first boss battle from the original season. Even so, episode 2 is almost entirely a battle scene and it’s nothing to sneeze at. There’s also some differences in the characters (the virtual ones) from the first season but I’m pretty indifferent to those overall. It is interesting that the show seems to be going with a more standard mystery villain in the season but, given the history of this show, who knows if that will be the villain throughout the entire season. So, even though I’m not blown away, this start is definitely more than enough to keep me watching.