LLENN is convinced to join in on the Squad Jam, a multiplayer tournament in which only one team can come out on top. Can she overcome all the others?f Remember, if you like this article and 5 Point Discussions, please share it on Facebook or Twitter! It really helps. And if you’ve got any comments or questions, please hit me up @SageShinigami.
1. Continuing our flashback from how Karen got into this game and how she came to play in Squad Jam, this episode gives us an explanation of how the tournament came to exist. It starts out with the origin of the incredibly stupid name Squad Jam (complete with puns about how it sounds similar to Squid Jam), but eventually starts to delve into what transpired in Sword Art Online II: the Bullet of Bullets tournament.
It talks about how someone watched the original tournament from offline and thought it was the coolest thing ever, and so they proposed the next tournament involve team-based play. Because the person who suggested it was willing to sponsor the entire tournament, the people in charge of GGO decided to go for it. But then Pitou goes into detail about who the sponsor is, and it sounds suspiciously familiar: a novelist in his fifties with an almost pathological obsession with guns, which always find a way into his stories. Since the first episode wasted several lines of dialogue going on incessantly about the sounds different guns make and their different names, this is essentially Sword Art Online Alternative poking fun at its own origins under the auspices of creator Keiichi Sig Sauer Siigsawa.
2. Pitou convinces LLENN to join Squad Jam, and at first LLENN believes she and Pitou will be working together…until Pitou points out she won’t be able to appear because she’s got a friend’s wedding to attend. But Pitou still noodles LLENN into going because she realizes how much the two of them are alike. It seems unlikely, but in LLENN Pitou has found a kindred spirit–someone who uses video games as a pressure release from problems that can’t easily be fixed.
One thing I’m loving about this series is how seriously it deals with the different reasons people start playing video games. In the real world, Karen’s started taking GGO more seriously–she nearly says yes to the Squad Jam before remembering she wanted to attend her favorite singer’s concert, she’s started buying guns that look like her beloved pink submachine gun P-chan. She’s not a gamer because she’s obsessed with video games, but her devotion to the game and her skill is no less intense regardless of her reason.
3. After failing to get tickets to Elsa Kanzaki’s live show, she decides to attend the Squad Jam. Pitou sets her up with a new partner, which leads to some awkward introductions between her and M, someone she seems much more confident around once the story gets to episode 1. M is someone who knows Pitou in real life, but it isn’t something they delve into yet because M immediately wants to test LLENN to get a good idea of her skill.
Though moments like this aren’t strictly necessary, they do help us get a better idea of how LLENN is so skilled at the more serious tactics she displayed in the first episode. It isn’t as if she’s absurdly good, but the teamwork and trust LLENN and M seem to have in episode one makes more sense now that it’s been given context. LLENN trusts M to steer her in the right direction when playing in form of the game she’s unfamiliar with, and M trusts LLENN to use her honed talents at gun fighting not to get them both killed.
However, the longer this goes on the more likely it seems we’re going to see all of these characters meet in real life. M and Pitou already know each other in real life, and the story’s never afraid to follow Karen’s story in the real world. Speaking of…
4. Before the game starts, Karen writes a fan letter to her favorite singer. In it, she talks about how her tall height has given her such a complex she’s never actually tried to make friends. But through gaming, she’s starting to try and make steps to change her personality and not be so insecure about her appearance. This is essentially a stealth discussion about the importance of character variety in video games. Karen’s character looks nothing like her–but that’s the point. Her complex is so all encompassing that she’s crap at socializing, and it isn’t until she’s able to find a body she’s comfortable with she’s even able to reach out.
Of course, there’s a long way to go. She only meets Pitou by accident, and is forced into meeting M, but she’s still being gradually forced into widening her circle of friends. But she’s growing even faster than she thinks; gaming has given her the courage to write someone she’s been a massive fan of for years without ever saying anything. But this only makes me want to see her expand in the real world more, as gaming can’t be the solution to all of her problems. Fortunately, the end of episode one hints that she does eventually figure out how to reach out in real life, making friends with the group of girls at her school we’ve seen in every episode so far.
5. The end of this episode puts us at the end of the flashback and the start of episode one. We’ve learned how LLENN got into playing GGO, how she met M, and how she was persuaded into joining the Squad Jam. But one final scene we didn’t get is what happened directly before all of them were sent to the Jam. After already explaining how his guns work in case she needs to use them, M hands LLENN a knife, and starts to go into surprising detail on how to use it and in what situations.
Now, it’s obvious this is simply Siigsawa’s way of enacting Chekhov’s gun knife, but it makes one wonder. We don’t really know what M does for a living. He’s got an obssessive’s knowledge of weapons, and he easily spotted the pro team for what they were before anyone else could. Is he a murderer? A Private Military member? Or just the author’s way of doing a proper self insert and he’s just a weapon geek?
Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.