Day 2 of the 12 days of anime
This post will touch upon why the rape scene in SAO is terrible, so it will naturally both be negative and touch upon a touch subject. Feel free to steer away, though, I won’t be describing the scene in detail but will still reference scenes from it. This post serves to criticize the inclusion of the scene in a bigger picture.
It’s not often I see a scene in an anime that is so blatantly terrible that I laugh, however, this time I did. I literally laughed at a scene that was supposed to make me shocked and terrified. But it’s not really the execution of the scene that is the worst part about it, it’s the inclusion of it. In this post, I’ll explore why Reki Kawahara included it, and what function it serves. I will also point out why it’s terrible and show that Reki Kawahara had yet to improve his writing when he wrote this part of SAO (This was still written a long time ago, so I’m not ruling out that he can’t have improved since this)
Have you ever tried writing a story with a villain in it? It’s hard, isn’t it? Well, there exists a simple hack that you can employ that will make the audience immediately hate the villain and side with the hero, can you guess what it is? Rape. Yes, it’s easy, make the villain a rapist and they will immediately be hated by the audience. It’s simple and effective. However, the problem with this is that it’s also a very underhanded method and quite an unnecessary and disturbing one. It can easily put off a large audience from enjoying the work. If you go on any writing courses for writing fictional stories, they will probably tell you to never use that method unless you know exactly what you’re doing. Rape can definitely be in a show, look at how Berserk (based on what others say) and Übel Blatt uses it. Both of these employ rape to show us that the setting is dark, however, they don’t use it to make us hate a character (maybe Berserk does, I don’t know).
Episode 10 of Sword Art Online is using this underhanded method, and will most certainly get a lot of flack for it by others as well. However, instead of analyzing why the scene in and of itself is terrible, why not go a step further and analyze why he did it in the first place.
A few episodes prior, we were introduced to two characters that had “the look.” The look I’m talking about is the one that every villain in Sword Art Online has had so far, and is one that makes you immediately feel disgusted by them. It doesn’t take long for you to realize that they’re bad guys (I called “bad guys” when I first saw their design). Anyways, they keep talking bad-guy-talks and then proceed to go away. A simple set-up, already at a point that tingles my “terrible writing sensors.” The bad guys are established, but they’ve got no motivations so far. Well, luckily, at least Reki got us covered there, because these bad guys are actually of nobility, and in a fantasy setting, noble characters usually have more power and can basically fuck around as much as they want. They get high on their superiority and starts belittling others. clap, clap, clap. Reki Kawahara has managed to give a “good” justification that actually took me some thought to figure out.
(Even though they have a “gentle” look in this image, it’s still kinda obvious that they’re villains. I screenshotted this a while ago to make a quick comment on that before they were even shown to be villains)
So far, so good. Now, why do they need to be here? They need to be here because Kirito 2 (Eugio) has to learn how to break the Taboo Index (rule system), so that both he and Kirito can fuck around as much as they want, for justice. It is already established that they can’t break the Taboo Index in an exposition scene earlier in the show (see, sometimes I can actually keep my concentration up, even though it’s boring), so at least there’s a need for something there to break that rule. Good on you, Reki, you managed to write yourself a reason to have a villain. However, what was missing is a way for Kirito 1 and Kirito 2 to actually hate them enough to kill/injure them. How do you do that? Good question, it’s almost as if you read my mind! Oh, wait, I’m the one writing, uhum, back on track. You should start by writing a better villain. That’s my answer to that question.
Yes, I just praised him for giving us good reasons as to why there might be a need for bad guys, however, that doesn’t make them good villains in any way. It’s just justification. The actual question we should be asking isn’t how to make us hate the villain, because it’s not that we need to hate them. Actually, if you’re going in that direction, it doesn’t even need to be human, it could just as well be a goblin.
The question we ask is, how do we make a good villain. Good thing that I know how to Google because that makes this a whole lot easier. So, Google-senpai, what makes a good villain? First of all, make the villain have a lot of likable traits. Instead of showing us bad guys talking about bad stuff, then instead show us a guy that has a lot of good traits, however, that might misunderstand the world. Instead of making them egotistical, perhaps they should be friendly, however, because of their upbringing, they could be shown to only be friendly around others of high status. This matters as we’re then shown that these characters are normal human beings, however, might believe that people of lower status are also of less worth. This bares truth in the real world as well and is something we’ve seen in history. People with high social status oftentimes don’t understand the ways of poor people.
Secondly, they should be looked upon as good people by those around them as people that have earned respect. This will also make it a lot more difficult for them to be taken down as if they actually do something terrible and the Kirito gang does something to them, those around might still be on their side.
They should also be convinced that what they’re doing is for the better of the world, that they are doing this to be good. Maybe they believe that the world should be cleansed from weaklings or criminals? Remember Light from Death Note? Yes? Well, he was the bad guy. Both he and L was thinking mostly in the same way. At some point, however, Light thought that the world would be a much better place if there were no criminals left.
Basically, what I’m saying is that the bad guys should also portray a lot of the same qualities as the hero. However, they would have a misunderstanding of the world, which leads them to do foul acts thinking that they’re doing it for a good cause.
Now, let’s explore the rape scene in episode 10. So far, all we know is that they’ve been in the background, talking about being bad and abusing women. This could easily have been rewritten into a misunderstanding of females and them thinking they aren’t worth anything because of something in their past (looking at them with similar views as commoners). We also know that they are of higher ground, so there are other rules that apply to them. They show signs that they are fully aware that what they’re doing is bad, going so far as to show Eugio the deeds they’re doing. They’re exploiting the Taboo Index as well, which furthers the notion that they’re fully aware of the wrongdoings they are performing.
What could he have done to fix this? Simple, instead of having them try to rape these characters, why not make them report them to higher grounds for being disrespectful? If they have the respect of the community (which were later shown they don’t have), they would easily be able to give them a severe punishment for that. However, then Reki’s plan would’ve been broken. Yes, he’s written himself into a hole, and it isn’t the first time he’s done that. He needs to grant Eugio the ability to break the Taboo Index to perform a greater good, however, if he can’t perform a greater good against someone that is technically doing something terrible, but are still within the laws, he can’t learn to do that. This is what a terrible writer does. Instead of figuring out a completely different way for him to learn this ability, he needs to make the villains scummy so that it just makes sense for him to kill them. However, they can’t stop at that, they make them even scummier. Honestly, this scene reminds me of the second arc of season 1, however, even worse. They have long tongues, they’ve got face distortions and they rape because they are of higher grounds. Then, when they are finally defeated, they beg for their lives and are terrified of the hero. Honestly, what I’m describing doesn’t sound like a human being, it sounds like a lesser monster. One of the guys shouted “bakemono” (monster) to Kirito when he chopped the arms of the other guy, however, the irony here is the fact that they are the monsters.
I wouldn’t mind this if they played it off as a joke, or took it to the next level. If they made it so ridiculous that they literally turned into monsters doing the deed, then I’d look at them as an enemy and not a villain, however, they’re set up to be human villains, but that’s not what they look like in my eyes.
Hopefully, you can now see what kind of hack writer Reki Kawahara is, and why there’s more to it than just the scene in and of itself. I’ll give it creds for not being sexy, but honestly, does it matter? I’d rather want a scene where we could see them figuratively turn into animals as they did the deed, just making them as flat as possible. Then, later on, have a proper villain show up. Perhaps a villain that is introduced as a good guy at first, but that slowly shows signs of having a misconstrued look on the world.
Maybe you disagree and think this scene was fantastic? It was definitely “the budget shot” of the last few episodes. A lot of animation went into this, but that doesn’t make the scene good. If you did disagree with me, feel free to comment and tell me why I was wrong. I’ll probably respond to it.
Anyways. Here’s a cute picture of Yui so that we can come out of this on a good note. Because tomorrow I’ll have a long post (4500 words!) about my life and Yui Hirasawa! I’m looking forward to that!
Even Dio Brando wouldn’t resort to rape, and this is a guy who burned a freakin’ dog alive at the age of 12!
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It truly is unnecessary. There’s so many other ways you can create the same effect. Just having them abuse their power by forcing them to do their dirty work is more than enough tbh! They didn’t need to go all the way!
If you’re that desperate to make a character hateable, have them murder an animal. It’s a lot better than using rape as an element.