Sonic Sez: Sexually Assaulting subordinates is NO GOOD!
While trying to find an emotional source for him to unlock his sword abilities, Eugeo is confronted by Humbert and Raios, the former facing him in a sparing duel. To their surprise, Eugeo holds his own in the fight and it is declared a draw, though they make veiled threats to get back at him for this humiliation. Days pass and no attempts at retaliation have been made, though Eugeo and Kirito’s pages, Ronye and Tiese, mention that one of their friends is dealing with some inappropriate orders from her own mentor, who turns out to be Humbert. Kirito gives his take about the idea of morality in relation to the law, including how that while some things might be within the rules, they aren’t morally right, and vice versa.
While neither he nor Raios deny this, their family status allows them to command those from lower ranked families, like his page, however he likes without violating the Taboo Index. Scared that she’ll be married off to someone just as bad as Humbert, Tiese suggests Eugeo rise through the ranks so that she can marry him.
In the next episode, Ronye and Tiese end up missing, with their abused friend coming to inform Kirito and Eugeo that they went to confront Humbert and Raios, who Eugeo soon finds about to assault the two of them. He tries to stop them, but his lower status physically stops him from moving. He still tries, inspired by Kirito’s words and even going against an alert in his right eye that explodes. Free from its control, he mortally wounds both Humbert while Kirito shows up and strikes Raios, with Raios dying from blood loss.
Their actions are instantly alerted to the Integrity Knights, just as Alice’s was years ago, but they are surprised to find out the Knight there to retrieve them is Alice herself.
Hoooooooooo boy. This controversy of this episode has been around since it aired in Japan last December AND it was well earned. Those familiar with this series probably know full well that it has had quite a troubling past in writing its female characters, whether it’s Asuna becoming a damsel in distress (and near tentacle rape) in Fairy Dance or Kirito’s ever growing stable of side-chicks who are then discarded soon after. This is not news, but it’s no less a problem, as this episode becomes the modern equivalent of “lady on the train tracks” but with more rape for the sole purpose of furthering Eugeo’s development to give him the push he needed to break free of the Taboo Index’s restrictions. Ronye and Tiese get basically turned into adorable prizes that end up having next to no character aside from their implied crushes on the two main dudes and then are taken to be saved.
And before it’s mentioned, I am aware that this furthers the goal of the bigger objective to introduce the concept of breaking rules to these A.I., but then why does it need to be attempted rape that’s the ideal situation to make that point? If this is meant to impart the gray area between law and justice, why are we seeing it through mustache-twirling sexual predators who are unambiguously and cartoonishly evil? Why is a topic as delicate and traumatic as sexual assault being put next to exploding eyeballs, glowing sword fights, and an armless guy leap-frogging across a bedroom while he dies of blood loss? Put simply, this is not something this story was prepared to tackle and it ends up becoming a total trainwreck as a result. The only thing that saves this from a lower score is that it is paired with a slightly more palatable episode, if only because that at least doesn’t dive straight into rape and has some interesting things to add about the season’s main themes.
But seems that the lesson has already been learned by series creator Reki Kawahara, as he has gone on record on saying has taken feedback from fans at overseas events about his writing, as well as explaining that his reasons for writing stories and characters that way came from influences from novels he read in middle school that he has since learned from. He’s made promises that Asuna and the other girls will have a more active role in the plot moving forward, so I hope he lives up that. However, we have to deal with this writing for now, so we’ll just have to hope this is the lowest point to deal with for the rest of the season.